Thursday, 29 March 2012

Simple Arithmetic

Littlest minus Four-legged-friend equals termination of the "I'm big enough to take him for a walk" attitude. He has other ideas - such as FOOD! and where has that fencing fellow who arrived this morning gone? And have I missed the postman? And did I miss any crumbs under the kitchen table? And might the dishwasher be open? And did I really finish my breakfast - all of it?

Littlest plus Four-legged-friend equals all is forgiven

Glass half ... empty or full

Mini-rant warning - don't read if sensitive to the stink of fish:

I don't mind admitting that I am a glass half empty sort of a person - "realism" I call it. And I think you can be glass-half-empty without being pessimistic - most of the time. Also, I am conveniently balanced by family members most of whom are glass-half-full types, although thinking about it, this appears to be predominantly a male trait. However, there are times when being glass-half-full is wrong. Like when you slop the cooking juice surrounding a side of salmon into an open drawer and declare "it'll be fine" - yes, fine for a few days, or until you open the drawer and reel back in revulsion at the awful pong assailing your nostrils. Then, it would definitely have been better to be glass-half-empty, to have assumed the worst and to have emptied and washed the contents of the drawer before putrefaction took hold.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Failed again ... and again ... and

My to do list is beginning to look more like a wish list - a flight of fantasy jot-it-down-but-know-I'll-never-get-round-to-doing-it list. Every time I look at it, it has grown. But actually, that's a lie because I can't "look" at it since it isn't written down anywhere, unless you count the list inside my head that stretches to the disappearing horizon of my imagination. If my list were a business, it would have collapsed months ago, weighed down by unmet targets and disastrous time management.You might reasonably ask what I plan to do about it. Here are some ideas

  • eat chocolate 
  • drink wine
  • demand hugs from Littlest
  • tackle ironing pile while watching DVD = guilt free filling of time that could otherwise be devoted to items on list = avoidance technique no. 1
  • walk Four-legged-friend = avoidance technique no. 2
  • attack garden = guilt free activity because good for health = avoidance technique no. 3
  • apply self to housework = good for the soul = avoidance technique no. 4
  • work = aaargh! = horrible necessity, good for the purse. Not optional, therefore not an avoidance technique!
  • sort shoes = completely brainless but calming pastime = avoidance technique no. 5
  • blog = best and most enjoyable avoidance technique = the home of the procrastinator, and perpetual list maker, but serial list-ticking failure.

So where do I go from here?

Littlest - hug time?

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Houdini Mouse

Smoked myself and Four-legged-friend today, courtesy of a very fickle wind plus bonfire.

Here are Four-legged-friend's thoughts. Maybe.

It's time for the annual burning of the rabbit house again. Their tunnels were great this year. Going wide and deep below the pile of sticks, just right for poking my whole head into and sniffing that lovely, rich, rabbity smell. But Mum made the pile of sticks higher and and so rickety that the rabbits probably wouldn't have liked it much anyway and then she set fire to it! She spent ages kicking a big pile of leaves around, before chucking them on the fire, too - they smelt ripe and mouldy and delicious and I ate a few - but Mum didn't find any hedgehogs, or whatever it was she said she was looking for.

But she did find a mouse. And shout at it. She disturbed it and yelled as it ran into the fire. Bit pointless, if you ask me, because I've never met a mouse that understands English.

Of course, the mouse ignored her and ran into the fire anyway. Stupid creatures mice! We waited for the smell of roast mouse. Doggy dinner?  But, proving that it is possible to run over hot coals without burning your feet, the mouse ran out of the other side of the bonfire, a bit sooty round the edges and steaming slightly, and bounded across the grass before disappearing under the hedge. I didn't chase it - after its ordeal, that would have been ungentlemanly.

The wind blew the smoke round and round in circles, round our heads, round our coats/clothes and up our noses. We breathed smoke, coughed smoke, sneezed smoke and stank of smoke. Mum went off to have a shower. I had a much better idea: roll in something - hmm? Long grass, that'll do. Lucky for mum the grass was clean. If it hadn't been, I'd have needed a shower too.

After all that bonfiring, all I wanted was sleep. But it's difficult to sleep when Littlest wants to play with my ears.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

From out of the mouth of Littlest

Describing one of her friends earlier today, Littlest invented this completely spontaneous simile:

"She is really nice sometimes, but when she's mean - eurgh! she's like the summer: lovely most of the time, except for the wasps, which are extremely horrid!"

I thought this was utterly brilliant. And gosh - that friend must be mean.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

So long to walk so not very far. Or alternatively ... All the way to Fairyland.

Where eight legs are slower than six:

Add Littlest. Factor in the cross country run she had to do at school. Allow for the fact that hers are the smallest pair of legs out of the eight going for an early evening stroll. And turn the stroll into an amble. Finally, introduce distractions and you'll understand how it took so long to walk such a short distance:

My stick says "This way!"

What way?

"All the way to Fairyland. Probably."

Hmmm ... me thinks probably not. Can't smell any fairies.

But if you were to say that Biscuit-land is beyond the stile, that's an entirely different matter. I'll do anything to make you believe in Biscuit-land and Biscuit-land fairies.

I'll even bow down at your feet. Watch!

Mmmm ... biscuits.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Farty friend

Cows - you have competition.

It's probably not often that a blog starts with an address to a cow, or even to cows generally, but this is the exception. Aside from providing mankind with milk, beef, leather, and other commodities essential to the non-vegetarian among us, cows have that other claim to (in-)fame(y) of causing global warming. But there is another creature whose bowels are determined that he too should contribute to climate change. Cow, meet Four-legged-friend.

Maybe Four-legged-friend's gut is reacting adversely to the lack of good, long walks in recent weeks, due in part to human flu-like illnesses and humans being overworked-because-of-financial-crisis, and also recent ingestion of worming tablets (by dog, not human). However, whatever the cause, today's walk was entertaining. And thankfully outside.

With every bouncing, jiggling, swing of Four-legged-friend's hips, there was a delicate, ladylike, burbling escape of gas. It serenaded our progress along the road - like the loose-lipped, idle playing of a distracted brass-player, marking our pace with gently puffed raspberries.

Looks like I am conducting the trumpet player with an invisible baton.

Four-legged-friend is fast asleep now. And thankfully, given our proximity, is windless.

Saturday, 17 March 2012


Littlest's teenage sister wants another dog. Specifically, a golden retriever, called Wallace.

While I like golden retrievers, if .... very, VERY big if .... we were to get another dog, I would favour one smaller than Four-legged-friend. Maybe a spaniel. Easier to lift in and out of the car; smaller cage required (or could they share?); smaller volume of food consumed; generally easier to accommodate. Not that Four-legged-friend is difficult - he manages to accommodate himself very well, except when leaping into a car boot.

Also, I have a problem with the name Wallace. We often holiday near Stirling, which has the Wallace monument, so it ticks the box for meaningful names. But can you imagine standing in the middle of a wet field shouting his name? You'd feel like a right *****!

And, if we could fit another puppy into our lives, what would Four-legged-friend think?

As long as Wallace hated carrots - particularly the long, drool-inducing, crunchy ones that fly out of the kitchen window -  Four-legged-friend would probably be happy.

But what would I call them? - Four-legged-friend-1 and Four-legged-friend-2 (or is that a bit too Dr Suess?); Old F-l-f and Young F-l-f; Black F-l-f and Brown F-l-f; Carrot-loving F-l-f and Non-carrot-loving F-l-f; or perhaps, Four-legged-friend and Pup.

Hmm - the man of the house allegedly said "Yes" when asked his opinion, but he alleges that this must have been uttered in his sleep. Perhaps it's time to start some groundwork ...

Friday, 16 March 2012


When is a felonious kleptosquatter not a felonious kleptosquatter? Answer: when it's a fiddlee-diddlee-aye. Aye as in pie, as in Scots for yes.

Let me explain:

Our home, like all others has certain quirks - the socks that go missing, one at a time; the kitchen scissors that never reside in the kitchen; the sellotape dispensers that never have a roll of sellotape in them; and the loo roll tubes that leap out of the waste paper bin and roll all over the floor - see yesterday's blog. Now all of these quirks, I blame on our resident felonious kleptosquatter. Which is fine and convenient and makes a good story.

However, certain other quirks have come to light: the dressing table that is never quite as you left it; the bookmark that has crept forward to a new and alien chapter in the book next to your bed; the mobile phone that has somehow changed all its settings, apparently and entirely of its own volition; the newly iced cake with little finger marks imprinted all round its edge; and the rearranged, scattered and dropped earing collection on teenage girl's desk. Nothing is ever missing - so neither felonious, nor klepto and I suspect that the fiddlee-diddlee-aye is a fully fledged member of this family, so not squatter either.

Hmmm ... Littlest?

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Four-legged-friend in the Spring

Love this time of year!

And to make up for the rant yesterday, here are some pics of a Springy theme and Four-legged-friend:

"These match my new collar. But they don't taste very good. And I didn't like the look on Mum's face when I gave them a chew."

"Pleeeease, give me a treat. I'm being good now. I haven't nibbled a plant for at least two minutes."

Early evening walks - back in fashion. 

"Follow me!"

Today's sunset was a delicate, muted, but still beautiful one  ...

But not a patch on this, taken a couple of weeks ago:

Four-legged-friend is back home, curled up on his bean bag, and happily asleep. 

Sweet dreams.

Loo roll fairy - you're fired!

I have fired the loo-roll fairy (aka Littlest). Because she is hopeless.

That is, she was hopeless at her job, which was to replenish the loo-roll supplies and thus avoid the disgruntled yell of sitters, who had gone before noticing the lack of paper. The loo-roll fairy was also expected to gather up the cardboard tubes discarded all over the bathroom floor. I suppose other homes have the same athletic tubes - the ones that jump back out of the bin provided. For that, of course, can be the only explanation of how they scatter themselves to far flung corners of the smallest rooms.

The loo-roll fairy thought she would be good at this job. But she never remembered to do it. And the big house-cleaning fairy found herself picking up the loo-roll fairy's slack.

When told that she had been fired - in a friendly, teasing, non-Sugar sort of way - she replied that she didn't know what that meant. And immediately went to the linen cupboard to fetch replacements.

Is it too much to hope that she might tame the jumping tubes too?

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Rant warning: belittling women

British society. British life. British medicine. All victims of insult, ridicule and damning comment - from time to time. With regard to the latter, and specifically the NHS, currently time to time is all the time. However, there are some things that we take for granted in the UK and in the light of what follows, perhaps we should be standing on the roof-tops and declaring what a fantastic country this is.

Women here - since the sexual revolution of the 1960s - have the right to choose if and when they get pregnant. The contraceptive pill is to thank for a reduction in numbers of women dying as a result of botched, back-street abortions. Yes - I mean dying! Bleeding to death, or dying from an overwhelming pelvic infection, are both horrible ways to go. And preventable. The contraceptive pill is not 100% safe, no medication is, but the newer ones, taken correctly, are over 99% effective in the prevention of pregnancy.

We take for granted our right to choose. And so far the British state supports this.

It should send shivers up all our spines then, that some right wing fundamentalists in America are, not only suggesting that the teaching of contraception be stopped in schools, but are also proposing a law, that would allow employers to penalise women who take the pill for contraceptive, and not purely medical, reasons. They even have a potential presidential candidate who has apparently stated that raped women should be forced to have their 'gifts from God' and be denied abortions. I wish I was making this up!

Maybe, prohibiting contraception is an underhand way of making professional development impossible for women in America and thereby increasing the rate of male employment. Or is that too cynical?

I am scared by this. And I think we all should be. I hope that, in this case, the observation where America leads, we follow is not prophetic.

Apologies to anyone looking for funny anecdotes about Littlest and Four-legged-friend. I'll get back to that tomorrow.

In the meantime, perhaps living in Britain is not so bad after all.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A future blue stocking?

Actually, no - we are NOT pushy parents:

Littlest was just interested in the pictures of polar bears and penguins on the inside back page of the university alumni magazine.

No chains binding her to the bench; the only tiger in the house being the soft fluffy one upstairs in her bed; the only love being kind, not tough.


I, not Littlest, contrary to what the picture might suggest, read some of the magazine. There is an article about pushy parenting and its consequence, which too often is a loss of youth.

I can't comprehend the near-abusive, bullying approach to parenting that tiger mothers, or helicopter parents, adopt. Their stand is blinkered to everything but their child's success. Children, their imagination quashed, lose the ability to entertain themselves - my children love the holidays and hours of quiet downtime, but I know far too many, otherwise rational parents, who dread them and race to fill every waking moment out of school pursuing some worthy activity. Exhausting! Happiness - and a genuine interest in pictures of furry animals - gets smothered. Childhood lost.

If she wants, one day, to be a blue stocking then that's fine and we will support her. But look at what I have written - if she wants - that's the important bit.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Washing the dog

As predicted yesterday, much wetness was shared by all.

"Shampoo without cruelty. Deodorising. Tested on humans first." All well and good, Mum, but pleeeeeeeeease don't get it in my eyes:

Ok, so I'm wet all over now. And I'm being very good. But there's still a dog barking somewhere over there. 

Watch out! I can definitely feel a shake coming on!

Towels? - Who needs towels? These long spikey things, sticking out of the grass, do a much better job.

Mum says they're daffodils. She got a bit upset when I flattened rather a lot of them.

Actually, she was quite angry, so I thought it best to give her my collar and let her play with the water gun all on her own.

I made my damp self scarce for a while. Four-legged-friend knows what's good for him!

And I can always get my own back - Mum hasn't found the fox poo!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Epileptic, smelly friend

Four-legged-friend needs a bath. Desperately.

What is it with dogs and despicable smells; smells so awful that he has to be bannished from the room, particularly when you are attempting to consume something, without gagging?

The honk today is of spectacular proportions. Ours is not a particularly large house, but you can detect the whiff when he is approaching and still a whole room away.

So, is it to be the hose and soap and chewed fingers and soaked clothes tomorrow, or alternatively, a walk via the stream ... and soaked clothes? He is distinctly post ictal in a dreamy, gentle, slightly discombobulated fashion, having had another fit yesterday, so we didn't have the heart to over-excite him by washing today, but ablutions - or home removals to the kennel outside - will have to happen tomorrow.

And I'll have to search the garden for fox poo. Ground into the grass, heavily rolled-in fox poo.


Monday, 5 March 2012

Littlest and the elephant song

Lovely friends to dinner yesterday - I made pudding (slightly odd orange and apple meringue pie on a gluten-free shortbread base - odd as in strange texture - "Different ... but not in a bad way! Maybe try a pastry base next time. Better with rhubarb? What happened to lemon meringue pie?" - so, varied comments, none rude but fitted the puzzling-to-the-mouth experience of eating it. Or was it Littlest's I'm-going-to-be-helpful-no-matter-what-you-say adding of just a little cinnamon to the meringue mixture, which had the colour of sand, and if cinnamon were hot and spicy would have blown our heads off?).

Lovely friends brought everything else. Fish kettle, new potatoes, carrots, beans, wine ... oh, and two beautiful trout, impressively caught by one of them. Yes, very lovely friends indeed!

Lovely friends are also musical friends and Littlest who is reluctant to perform solo was persuaded to play her latest piano piece - one that has, through repeated overheard practice over the past two weeks, become an earworm for most of us. It has words about an elephant and a grasshopper and one standing on the other's toes (obviously the grasshopper on the elephant's toes, as if the other way around, there wouldn't be much of the grasshopper left to sing about!) Anyway, she played while people sang. And her self-conciousness vanished.

Tomorrow, Littlest is due to play the same piece in a showcase concert at school - an hour's marathon of about fifty little people playing very short pieces on assorted instruments. Without the prospect of any singers tomorrow and just a proud mother and sister to please, she fretted all evening.She even threatened not to play.

Perhaps we could go dressed as an elephant and a grasshopper ...

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Elegant. But not in a nightie.

The annual pageant of young beauties is over for another angst-ridden year. School girls and their parents met together for a formal dinner last night; speeches were said; songs were sung; accolades were bestowed where deserved and a pleasant evening was had by all: it's calmness contrasting sharply with the heartache in the days - actually, not days - weeks! - leading up to it.

These weeks were angst-ridden in terms of the tears, frustrations, fretful social networked negotiations and parental begging that precede this event every year. Dozens of dresses discussed. Endlessly. Too long, wrong colour, wrong fabric, too clinging, too Essex, too expensive (parents coffers breath a sigh of relief. Briefly.) but never too short.Strange, I'd have thought that short and Essex perhaps were the same thing, but my knowledge of what's in and what's out is obviously limited.

Even when the dress is ordered, and miraculously arrives on time, the worry-fest is not over. "Will my friends like it? What about shoes? And tights? And - OMG - what will I do with my hair?" Then the world  ends when someone else has ordered EXACTLY THE SAME DRESS!!!! In a different colour. And with contrasting accessories, they of course look sufficiently different on the evening for no-one to notice. But try telling them that a few days ago.

The effort however was worth it - without exception they all looked elegant and older than their years. And I was proud. Which is rather different to the experience at the same dinner only a few years ago - then, the fashion was for nighties.

I remember my mother in the late sixties when Baby-dolls were the in thing for feminine nightwear. She had a pale blue set.The shorter, frillier, more shiny and nylon the better.Worn with a long flimsy gown of equally shiny and frilly and electrostatic-power-generating fabric, these must have been designed by a man with a Freudian obsession confusing little girls and motherliness. And as the saying goes what goes around comes around - at that dinner just a few years ago, baby dolls were back - short, diaphanous and revealing.  I am so glad they have gone - back to bed? Fine. Back at dinner? - not for a long while I hope.

So borrowed shoes returned, dress probably stuffed in a poly bag where it will remain until I narrowly mistake it for rubbish, and comments fluttering all over the social network in a gushy, girly sort of way - parents and their wallets can rest a while, until the next party and the next pressing need for a new dress.

Of truth and lies

When is it good, or acceptable to tell a lie? Seldom, is the answer we teach our children. Note, it isn't never - a child quickly learns through observation that adults sometimes lie, or fail to tell the whole truth - "we were late because we got stuck behind a tractor on the single track road on our way to school" is a convenient and often true excuse for tardiness in our family, but hides the unspoken "we spent five minutes extra in bed, because we are lazy, and then couldn't find both school shoes," which was the fuller version of the facts. That children also eventually learn that their parents have lied for years about Father Christmas, the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny and monsters that will creep out from under their beds and eat them if the won't go to sleep, perhaps underlines the erosion of respect between young teen and parent - "he's spent years lying to me, so why should I tell him the truth about where I'm going?"

Anyway, I digress - I think lying is also acceptable when it is concealed in a compliment - the "yes, you look lovely in that" type of gentle, well meant lie - you shut your brain to the truth and allow your mouth to warble inane pleasantries all on its own. The recipient of course knows that the pleasantries are inane, but is flattered that you cared enough to lie. So, it could be argued that to lie in this instance is both generous and good. However, beware the recipient who actively goes out in search of compliments - they are tiresome people and need to be told the truth - the absolute, harsh truth. Eventually. Expect tears, tantrums and an escalation in efforts to regain those old compliments - but don't give in, be brutal, because honesty is the only way to break such needy behaviour.

Telling lies is complex. But easy. We all do it, several times a day. Hopefully, mostly the good, well intentioned ones. Few of us happily admit to it though.

Telling the truth, conversely, can be really hard.  Whether it is to admit that you have done something wrong, or to break bad news. And how many of us take the time to pay real compliments to others?

To whistle-blow is perhaps the hardest type of truth to tell. Especially, as all to often, it is the whistleblower who is made a scapegoat. But it is always, always right to tell the truth where something that might harm others is afoot. The guilt of watching the fallout from informing is far far less than the guilt of standing by and watching as a bad situation gets worse.

So of truth and lies - what should we teach our children? -

To tell the truth at all times, especially when it puts a smile on someone's face. And only lie when not to do so would be unkind. Be economic with the truth at your discretion and whistle blow when it prevents harm. Always, and in essence - be true to yourself.

Preachy bit over for today - a bit of frivolity, in observational terms, follows next.

So come back in a couple of hours. Smile. Be happy. (I know - I'm still preaching ... sorry!)