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Inner sheep-dog

My inner sheep-dog is troubled.

By troubled I mean unsettled, discombobulated and partaking of a personal worry-fest.

Am I the only human to possess an inner sheep-dog? Surely not.

Sheep dog - the keen dog that rounds up its little flock, coaxes it into a safe pen, then guards it fiercely. 'Over protective' possibly springs to mind but wouldn't be strictly accurate - this sheep-dog is happy to let it's lambs stray, but worries if they wander too far, or into activities that the sheep-dog may not consider 100% safe. I suspect most mothers are sheep-dogs.

Or do you need to be both mother and in possession of an over-active imagination?




Currently, this sheep-dog's concern is that snow, plus slopes, plus planks attached to feet, equals potential hazard. Or many, many, many potential hazards. Skiing like sailing has been spoilt for me by having children. Instinct tells me that I have a duty to get to the end of the day without breaking anything or drowning. After all I a…

Ten things to consider when having a bonfire

Autumn - season of Halloween, Guy Fawkes and bonfires.So essentially a couple of months devoted to burning things.
When having a garden bonfire, there are a few rules one should observe -
never light one before the farmer has harvested the crop on the other side of the fenceavoid days when the wind would blow the smoke into the neighbours gardens or the roadnever turn your back on itand only burn things that were once growing. Leaves for example ...



Then there are the ten things to consider that if considered and acted upon make having a bonfire easy -
1. Don't embark upon bonfire building without friends. And a bench. Not for burning! For resting on. I can't remember when I last had time to sit in the garden, nor when I last wanted to sit in the garden and the bench wasn't covered in bird droppings.




2. The more friends, the merrier.




3. Wear a polo-neck jumper or a scarf. Because if you do the sparks can't fly into the gaping hood of your hoodie, bypass your open colla…

All those little things

Little things - the things that don't really matter, the things we can and do live without, the things we stumble upon and notice only when we're not too busy, the things that may not exist except in our imagination but that if we could capture and hold them would make our lives better - these are the little things I would wish for


intelligent grass (Yes! Getting off to an improbable start.I know. But stick with me, the probability of veering close to reality improves with the other little things below. For now lets get back to this one ...) - grass that senses when it is growing at the edge of a flower bed, aligns itself neatly in the horizontal plane and never creeps vertically down the precisely cut lawn edge and would baulk at the idea of throwing runners out onto the pristine soil between the flowers.( Hmmm ... if only it were pristine.)
bottled kisses - I'm not talking about the full mouth kiss of lovers but the familial peck on the cheek between parent and child - the…

Accommodating the mess

A mess is only a mess to the person who is bothered by it. If another person is not bothered by it, then it is very likely that to them it is not a mess. Therein lies the difference between mothers and daughters and their attitudes towards the daughters' bedrooms.

If you think this is a mess you are a mother. Or have mothering tendencies.




Heaps of books! Heaps!!!!!! Books are for stacking on shelves or reading




And as for older girls - what is it with them and bags? Bags that contain so little - an empty water bottle; the labels taken off new clothes; a crumpled magazine and only ever one sock.These bags are never binned. They're a scented reminder of the shopping experience, scattered in flocks across the bedroom floor.




I moved into Littlest's room with my own bags to gather rubbish and paper. And rubbish and paper. And rubbish and ... several hours later, had filled the boot of the car. Just in time for the recycling centre to close. Grrr!




Anyway ... not too much 'Grr…

An escapologist, friends and Happy Sundays

Escapology is the art of freeing oneself from confinement and an escapologist is one who practices this skill. In Bertie Baggins's case, the skill was practised four times yesterday. We were alerted to the first, when a neighbour phoned to say that he had been contacted about a yellow lab loose in the village and wondered if it was one of ours. It was, and a rather timid, 'I'm-a-bit-lost' and 'Golly!-I'm-so-pleased-to-see-you' Bertie Baggins was led home. Bravado returned on reaching the garden and he promptly showed us how he had escaped under the gate: commando style - belly scraping the ground, as he squeezed beneath the wire.

So we repaired the gate. And he appeared on the drive. Outside the gate.

So Littlest and I walked round the garden and found two holes in the fence. Which we repaired with chicken wire and bamboo poles - yes! it was a bit of a botch, but the light was fading.

We went to pick the last of the apples from a tree near the gate. And Ber…

Dogs in the Autumn-time. And the curious incident of the disappearing music.

Autumn and dogs - I have no idea what Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins think about the changing seasons. I suspect they think very little, their brains being mere slaves of their stomachs, but if they notice the cooler air, the permanently damp grass and the bare earth in recently ploughed fields, the following thoughts might momentarily elbow past dreams of dinner.




Or snacks - 'C'mon, we know that camera is not the only thing you have in your hand.'




Autumn is a time for dogs to


fine tune their getaway skills - escape scenario: apples all over the ground; apple-gatherer, basket in hand; muzzle sneaked between apple-gatherer's legs and apples snatched in quantities that only just defy death by choking.


act dead and extremely heavy when someone needs to access an oven.



practice soft-lipped-thievery when helping to pick brambles.
partake in sprint training in order to run away effectively when yelled at due to overzealous risk taking i.e. the guzzling of possibly poisono…

On appreciating art. Or not.

That Art comes in a myriad of shapes, forms and function is a commonly accepted fact. That what I consider art might be regarded by others as meaningless junk, ripe for trashing, is another. So how do we define art? What is it? And what is it for?

From our early Cro-Magnon ancestors who first painted on the wall of a cave in Lascaux, to the designer of complex computer generated images, people have produced works that some have called art. Art has a cultural, historical, geographical and spiritual past. At its best it transcends all of these. It can pull us together. Or push us apart.

What follows is about last Friday: a day when art wasn't got, then later - via some giant bubbles, a spire of glass and an evening of joyful music -  it suddenly was.



In the Times that morning, was a picture of  a Picasso soon due at auction where it is expected to fetch $1million. I showed the picture to Littlest and asked her to guess how much it might be worth.

"A lot," she replied, sigh…

On going without breakfast and other stories

This is what happens when you find yourself not doing the school-run and think it a good idea to start the day with a brisk walk. And after fifteen minutes realise that a cup of tea was not a sufficient breakfast.




We thought that bread was ours!

Indignant dogs aside, I really should not have eaten their bread - pocket fluff of indeterminate origin does not taste good and the rest of the walk was spent with an even more loudly protesting come-on-!-you-can't-seriously-tell-me-that-was-all grumbling stomach. Plus the pulling out of bits of thread that had become wedged between my teeth.

Before I go on to 'other stories' - at the top of a field sheltered behind a hedge, we found a circle of twigs and dried grasses. The bed of a family of deer perhaps




Or nest of a giant goose (lots of geese on the move today)




Or a dragon cushion - sadly Littlest was at school: I'm sure she would have known - probably a fairy something-or-rather. Whatever it was, it clearly smelt good. Not e…

A farewell to summer

"What wilt thou do when the summer is shed?" AC Swinburne 'Itylus' 1864
In answer to Algernon Swinburne (what a wonderful name) ... remember it; savour it in the sweet bramble harvest and jars of apple chutney; and look forward to autumn - smoky bonfires, early sunsets, the demise of summer flies, and the promise of the crisp clear air of winter. 
Today this blog is a rant free zone - mellow, reflective ... it might even aid sleep. It's heavy on the gardening side of 'Walking the Dog's life. Light on Littlest - unmentioned apart from there. And experiments with a brief amble into literature - the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations to be precise: it has sat forlorn and forgotten for many a long month on a shelf next to my desk. I was feeling generous and thought I might give the pages an airing. Pretentious ... me!!! Nooo. Maybe a little bit. Anyhow, back to the blog in hand -
Memories of a summer past in pictures
My path before it became un-pathable



More blu…

Owning a dog - why would you?

Why do we choose to own dogs?

Why do we welcome them into our once-upon-a-time-dog-hair-free homes?

Why do we tolerate them when they eat Littlest's favourite socks (always just the one sock from each pair)?

And why when the gnomic postman comes with his jumpy, bird-like, nervy twittering to the front door do we secretly wish that we weren't so understanding of his fear of dogs? And that they'd run out and bowl him over and lick him into liking them? Sadly, like a foundling bird handled lovingly but a bit roughly, I think he would die of fright before any 'liking' occurred.

I can think of several reasons for owning a dog and none of them has anything to do with finding the whole postman-being-afraid-of-dogs thing fairly amusing.





First, there's their eyes. Nothing looks at you with that total I-know-where-my-next-meal-is-coming-from devotion. It's easy to convince yourself that it's you they love and to seek evidence for this delusion in the tale of the …

Ghosts and broken water mains

What mimics a torrent of rain, sounds like ball-bearings falling onto a snare drum, makes Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins rush barking out of the house and creates a river that runs down the road?




Littlest spent ages watching this water spout - like a spectator at a tennis match in which the player on the right is stronger than the one on the left, head turning left to right, fast flick back to left, then left to right again, and again. She was 'watching the water drops' - "They start all frothy like bubbles, then go round like balls at the top, before going splat and disappearing like mini-ghosts hitting the ground."

Mini-ghosts! Really?

I wish that I could see things again through the eyes of a child. To me it was beautiful, noisy, something that I had to do something about. To Littlest it was an excuse to get wet ... mainly. And something unexpected to wonder at.

'Mini-ghosts' is inspired and poetic and stunningly accurate. I can picture exactly what…