Monday, 31 December 2012

A road less travelled ... or when to take the muddy path

Hah! Sometimes poets know best.

... take Robert Frost for example and his poem "The Road Not Taken". Had I heeded his advice; had I heeded the advice knowingly tutt-tutting inside my head; had I stopped for a moment to acknowledge the glee on Four-legged-friend's face when he realised I was about to allow him the muddiest bath of his life ...

well! ...

... here's the sorry tale and a muddy tail for good measure -

"Two roads diverged in a wood
... long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth"

The road ahead was shorter. The road behind had two dog walkers, a pair of Labradors (one being an extremely cantankerous old lady, whom we normally avoid at all costs, sometimes with considerable elongation of our walk) and two black bears (Newfoundlands actually, swimming in the stream I had wanted to give Four-legged-friend a dip in, before I worried about him being swept away by the recent-rain-swollen torrent of water, or eaten by over-friendly bears).

So I didn't take "the road less travelled by" - the one with grass and leaves on it. And no puddles. And entirely devoid of mud.

No, I ignored the wisdom of the poet and took the slippery, sludgy, sticky up your wellies and, if canine, between your toes, much travelled path. And as the last line of the poem states "that made all the difference".

Hmmm! Why did we get a puppy in show-up-all-the-dirt-colour?

Why, when I thought of the poem, did I not take the road less travelled?

Had I listened to Robert Frost, I would not now have two dogs and a pair of wellies to clean.

P.S. Before I am ridiculed for my over literal interpretation of a poem that has hidden depth (a bit like those puddles, really) maybe my choice of path was determined more by a desire for the familiar: taking the muddy, much travelled path was safe - the route I had trodden many times before. I could predict the time it would take to get home (significant because I had guests coming to tea); I knew where I was going; even with the need for ablution at its end, it was the secure, unadventurous (who would willingly walk in the footsteps of bears?) and predictable road. Do I opt for the easy path in life? I think we all do. When it matters, we need the security of what lies at the end of our road. But perhaps with a new year lying just over the next hill, I should resolve to "make the difference" and "take the road less travelled by" and then like Frost, "Somewhere ages and ages hence," I will be able to look back "with a sigh"and judge if, in life, as in dog-walks, I made the right choices.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Of ranting, love and jingle bells

Rant alert sirens can be turned off. I did enough ranting yesterday, thoroughly ranted out ... until the next time.

If you want to see what got under my skin, have a look at this

or read the papers. Got to change the subject quick or I'll be off again.

I've said it before, but - you've guessed it - I'm going to say it again, the best three words in the English language are "I love you, Mummy." For daddies, insert Daddy. Oops! I never was good at maths, or even basic counting ... four words! These are the best four words, probably in any language. In my house, they are usually followed by several minutes of "I love you more" and "No, I love you more" and "You can't know how much I love you anyway, but it's definitely more than you love me" and "I love you infinity much" and "I love you infinity-much-times-a-hundred" and "Which is still infinity, so we love each other the same" - by which time Littlest is either so tired that she gives up ... or continues for another ten minutes, conjuring up bigger and bigger ways of loving. If you haven't read Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney then you should, and if you have, you'll understand why the moon usually ends up embroiled in this argument over who loves who the most. And also why ... sorry, I know there's a lot to keep up with here ... if you've read my Jottify entry/rant above, you'll understand that this Christmas if I see the moon, I'll be thinking of those poor parents in America, and cuddling my Littlest very tight.

Littlest accompanied her sister, father and friends at a local carol concert, on Sunday evening - they were the instrumental entertainment between carols. Littlest played the jingle bells.

I wondered if inside her head she was singing the words she composed recently:

Jingle bells
My dog smells
Run and get the soap
He might try to run away
So tie him up with rope


Jingle bells
My dog smells
We must get the hose
Spray his coat and don't forget
The mud between his toes

Afterwards, when the frozen expression of terror slipped from her face, and she smiled, she was allowed to play with an accordion.

Guess what she now wants for Christmas?

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Rejecting the rejection ... and why Littlest isn't an atheist


Being rejected is never easy. But  J K Rowling was allegedly rejected eighteen times before Christopher Little took her on, so my current tally of seven means I have a way to go yet. Ho hum. Can I bear another three months of daily stealing myself to open my otherwise sleepy email account - the one reserved for secret ordering of gifts;  receipt of work related journals and newspaper subscriptions that would otherwise clog up the home account and make the recipient of secret gifts less than happy; registration of my facebook, twitter, blogger and jottify accounts; oh! and agent submissions, of course? Following this stealing activity and relief at lack of a reply, there's the bit where I kid myself - maybe I haven't heard because they're reading it; maybe they like it and are waiting 'til the evening or weekend to phone; maybe someone will finally give me licence to spend all day, every day being a writer ... I tend at this point to drift off into fantasy. Until that is my bubble pops - I get rejected again, and I remind myself that I am probably more likely to win something significant in the lottery than actually get a book published. Where's that lottery ticket ...

Anyway, back in my real world - the one where I get nothing if I don't try - I will submit again. I like my stories-not-yet-books. Another agent, another chance ... another fantasy.

As for Littlest and her nugget of the day

... she isn't an atheist

... because she does believe

... in fairies!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


"I was born to believe in magic."

Thus pronounced Littlest from the back seat of the car.

"After all, I have to, because I've seen a fairy."

She asked if I believe in magic and in a rather oblique way (not wanting to hurt the feelings of the child, off school, sporting a fever, who was distraught to discover that I don't believe her teddies have sensitive feelings too) I replied that there are some things that happen that I don't understand and that if she wants to call that lack of understanding magic then that's fine.

She quickly put me in my place, "Just because you haven't seen something doesn't mean it's not real. Look at God - well you can't obviously look at him - because no-one's seen him. Well he's real. And he's magic of course. Just like Father Christmas!"

Of hopeful time wasting, present lists and planting trees

Written on Saturday 8th December:

"But that would be a waste of my time," I replied to Littlest's request to spend time browsing in shops this morning.

I then listed all the chores I planned to do, when we got home.

She paused, thinking, then asked, "If you did have any time to waste how long would it be?"

And persevered, "Surely you have some time you could waste. I just want to know how long. We could waste time together."

Her idea of wasting time was to browse and add to her Christmas list: the list that she had taken shopping with her ... on a clipboard!

The chores I had to complete on getting home mainly involved the planting of trees. Or to be more precise, the final planting of the final tree in our fruit-pie/apple-crumble-generating orchard - the one that will feed fruity puddings to our grandchildren. This task has not been easy to finish -

It got off to a good start. Garden centre visited, trees selected, paid for (those puddings had better sustain us for years) and holes dug in preparation for their delivery. Then the problems started -

  • England was besmitten by an autumn monsoon and became saturated. The holes dug to receive trees became ponds - small round ponds for pond-dipping: dipping of paws; noses; more paws; tail; all paws; then total ... body ... immersion. Thus was created a muddy, grey-with-blond-highlights friend.
  • ponds later froze and blond friend decided he rather liked ice
  • Littlest liked it too ... until her fingers froze

  • tree plus de-iced pond-now-planting-hole plus compost/soil mixture then hit a snag. Pile of soil was frozen. and excavating it took much, much, longer than planned ... and the light ran out
  • several days passed with ground first solid, then covered in snow, then soggy
  • hence, lack of time, as explained to Littlest.And most definitely no time to waste, even if the time lost is in fact hopeful wasting; wasting with a goal in sight, that goal being loads of presents. Before Littlest sounds grabbing and unpleasant, the intended time wasting was definitely hopeful: the only element of wanting was a desire to guide the rather inept Father Christmas who often doesn't quite get her stocking right - how did he get the size of her fluffy bed socks so wrong last year? 

Littlest spent lots of time helping me to plant and net the trees. She knows the elves are watching to see if she actually deserves any of her listed presents.

And she got into the Christmas spirit