Monday, 25 February 2013

It's official ... *RANT* warning !! ...

I am invisible.

Proof of my absolute invisibility was confirmed at 7.35pm today.

I had been suspicious before - the daily, school run, single-track rural lane, near misses as I swerve off-road in my diminutive, I-am-most-definitely-not-a-four-wheel-drive, yellow box-on-wheels while the behemoth yummy-mummy-cars (always black) which are designed to climb Ben Nevis, never deign to put a pristine wheel onto the verge ... they might get muddy for heaven's sake! Do they see me? Ever? Or are their bonnets too high/sunglasses too dark/breast enhancements too extreme? Grrr!

Then proof? -  Happy little yellow car taking Eldest along nice wide roads to rail station, unwittingly arrived at the station car-park intersection at 7.35pm - otherwise known as desperate-London-commuters'-dash-for-home time. Clearly, London-commuters are so hell bent on avoiding eye contact with any other commuter on the train that they develop tunnel vision. Which means that when they get into their cars to drive home, they are so tired, hungry, in need of a drink, furious (at noise polluting vermonoid teen who squatted in their carriage all the way from the city and probably earns more than them doing something trendy and interesting in an industry completely alien to their office-anchored businesses) and blind, that the GIVE WAY sign ... Yes!!! I checked - it is still there! ... and the little yellow car with the right of way and signalling to turn right disappear!  They don't see either. They plough on. And when I decide I've had enough and start to turn, they nearly hit me. Aargh!

Rant over.

Yellow car survived. Just. For another day.

Hmmm ... wonder if invisibility would work for that just-got-to-hover-on-double-yellows-and-run-into-the-bank-to-get-rid-of-all-my-Sterling moment?

Recipe for a roaring success


1 adult, woken by usual canine "We're hungry and our bladders are full!" alarm. At 6.40am. On a Sunday.

Several hours pre-Christmas, of back-strain-inducing labour in the garden, moving felled hedge and fallen tree

1 bowl of porridge. Dried blueberries.

1 apple

1 flask of coffee

2 over-excited "Are you taking us for a walk?" dogs

1 Sunday Times newspaper (last week's - the three headline words Vicky, Pryce and Trial, innocently lacking their new running mate, Farce. Hah! Spluttering isn't a sign of old age, is it?)

1 pair of wish-I-could-wear-them-all-the-time Muck boots (Sigh - definitely a sign of ageing - not in the senile I-want-to-splash-in-puddles-because-I-think-I'm-a-little-girl way, but due to the ... arthritis!!! ... in my toes and because Muck boots have memory foam soles and they're all cushiony and walking-on-cloudsy. Oh dear, now I do sound like a senile little girl!)

1 day when the wind is in a SSE direction which means we can be considerate to the neighbours

1 match


Drink coffee

Give apple core to dogs

Rip up newspaper - puzzle dogs who recall me telling them not to do this. If they could read that it is not today's - the one that I rescued from the front-door, before they helped themselves to a bit of shredding practice - they might understand. But they're dogs ... so they joined in my shredding game.

Pile up some dry twigs into a wigwam shape

Push shredded newspaper into base of pile of twigs

Strike match, light paper and step back

Then, remember the need for a fire-break and spend a frantic few minutes clearing one so that the now Blazing Bonfire Number One doesn't leap the divide and begat Bonfire Number Two. Then, spend an anxious morning wondering of the gap is big enough.

Run indoors to collect phone - in case of emergencies and for calling-up cups of coffee and for photos - rapidly ordered back outside by Littlest. She was clutching her nose and pulling her jumper up over her face so I'm not certain what she said, but it was something along the lines of  "Ooh dink, Bummy!"

Try not to barbeque Bertie Baggins or Four-legged-friend

Several hours later - mid-contemplation of how to reduce my massively inflated carbon footprint, smoke in hair, up nose, in coffee (cold), and definitely 'dinking' and definitely fed-up inhaling ash - head indoors; procrastinate for eleven hours and finally write blog.

Procrastination is the enemy of writing.

Procrastination is also the enemy of music practice - in my case, it's procrastination tinged with embarrassment (I'm not ready for a public performance ... of all the notes that I still don't know, strung together in a faltering flow that refuses to resemble what I imagine playing in my head. In Littlest's case, it's a procrastination that walks hand in hand with a song - many songs, and hums, and general musical vocalisations that pertain to music practice, but involve little practice of scales and arpeggios.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Old friends, photo-shoots and vile-dins.

Friendship, to slightly misquote Lord Byron, is love without the wings attached.

It has to be worked at, but if dropped can be picked up again. It sticks around; true friends are there in the background of our lives. It's not fickle, doesn't depend on the vagaries of our hearts and is not thrust upon us by family ties.We choose our friends and they choose us.

But sometimes, we loose them. Sometimes our lives move on; we move away; we make new friends and only a chance happening - a place, or a sound, or a smell, will make us stop for a moment and wonder, "What is she doing now? How has his life turned out?" Usually, unless we make an effort, the answers are as elusive as the moments that made us think the questions and we skip back into our present lives. Maybe, there's a twinge of regret; a fleeting feeling of guilt that we didn't try harder - that something about our friendship wasn't strong enough for us to keep in touch. But still we look ahead, not back.

Then along comes a friend request, on a social media site and suddenly, a school friend is there, in photographs with a child; in a place she calls home and liking all the things she enjoys. You accept the request, say hello, comment occasionally on her posts and something that makes you feel warm inside is rekindled; you're suddenly grasping your past, remembering other friends, other places and you are telling your children about who you were and where you are from.

Social media sites are not perfect - I am not blindly defending them - but for finding old friends and keeping in touch with distant ones, or ones travelling through their own life-adventure, they definitely have a role. And for opening up windows into our past they are addictive, time wasting .... and have my very grateful thanks.

How to link a tale of old friends to a rather out of date one concerning photo-shoots? The out-of-datedness is entirely due to the considerable inconvenience of  the hours and hours and hours of work I had to do this week - a case of touting around for a job; someone decides to upgrade their computer system to one that I unfortunately know how to cope with already; and suddenly instead of the manageable three or four sessions I normally do, I find myself with seven and we're eating ready meals: I'm sending children to school with dirty games kits, and completely failing to Walk the Dog (blog) or walk the dogs (exercise).

Old friends and photo-shoots?

Man's best friend, of course - specifically, Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins:

I thought I would add to my portfolio of dog pictures - in part, this was precipitated, early two weeks ago, by Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins being dropped. Dropped as in cast aside. Not from a height. They were no longer required as aspiring models; their dreams of  lifetimes of free food and comfy beds dashed ... through no fault of their own. Their home - specifically, the utility room - was of insufficient proportion to fit the "long shots" required for their photo-shoot. No heated beds to try; no visiting dogs to chase; no photographer to menace (see Blog entry on 2.2.13); no fee to spend on treats/dog insurance/repairing photography equipment. Instead, lives destined to plod on into their doggy sunsets ... undisturbed and calm, with only myself and a few other besotted family members to pander to their we-want-attention-from-the-paparazzi wishes.

But their family paparazzi aren't professional photographers and for every photo like this

there are dozens of bottoms (my phone camera has a bi...i...i...ig delay between 'click' and 'take' photo)

smudged moving heads

half a dog

and (almost) no dog at all

And while I am on the subject of 'no dog at all' and reminded by the vile-din of my post title - my list of things to do (in addition to the mundane - conquer the Everest-sized pile of washing, that defies the laws of Physics and spontaneously regenerates every twelve hours; iron, iron, iron; and encourage Littlest to practise her piano scales) includes, designing a writer's website (I have started but not finished ... ho hum ... !), rewriting my submission letter (again! ... ho hum ... ) and playing the viola, which is a lot harder than I had anticipated - my brain appears to lack the capacity to remember the names of the notes as written down. And as for where they are on the viola ... ho and decidedly-tuneless hum!

What have any of those got to do with 'no dog at all' and vile-dins? You have probably guessed -

Bertie Baggins lying quietly on the once-upon-a-time-dining-but-now-music room floor:

and after I started to practise -

P.S. Bertie Baggins was called up to model after all - heated bed (not plugged in) and an electric-shocking collar (Nooooooooooooo! Hideous things! American!). And thanks to copious amounts of cheese, he ate neither photographer nor camera equipment.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Bones, bouncing Bertie, beautiful boys and beds

Give one dog a bone = happy dog.

Give two dogs one bone = garden warfare. My fault! But the consequences were quite interesting:

Bertie Baggins knew not what a marrow bone was.
Something smelt interesting, but the butcher's plastic bag was a bit worrying - in a crinkly, why is that being shoved in my face sort of way.

As for Four-legged-friend - he smelt the smell and his rear-end took on an entire life of its own, one that could only be done full justice to by the attachment of a kilt: he could barely stand, it was swaying so frantically (dog kilts - probably do exist, but why put your dog in clothes at all? They're covered in hair. It keeps them warm. They moult several tog values all over the house when the seasons change. They don't need clothes and Four-legged-friend would be confused and stressed if made to wear anything other than his collar - the only kilt he'll ever wear is the one animated onto a photograph ... the photograph inside my head - the one that's making me smile :-) ).

From swinging kilts back to bones ... since Bertie Baggins arrived, he has used his 'wits' to help himself to the warmest spot in the kitchen; to sit in the centre of the remaining unshredded dog bed; to take his uncle's bigger crate (during the day only) and generally, to calmly assert his position as future pack-leader. Four-legged-friend doesn't appear to be remotely bothered. FLF is probably a dog of little brain. FLF is a gentle giant. But put a bone between our gentle, black giant and his little golden nephew and Beauty becomes a snarling Beast. Dog morphs into bear.

At about this point, Bertie Baggins realised that there was something about this bone thing, other than the smell - something that meant excitement. And competition.

As FLF collapsed to the ground, bone between his front paws, Bertie Baggins commenced a frankly distracting, bouncing dance. FLF never bounces; he seldom even jumps, but when he does it is horse-jumping-over-fence like - coiled power driving upwards from his hips, front paws in the air. Bertie Baggins springs ... on all fours. Sorry, but I'm back to animation again - his bounce is so fast that it looks almost as though four rockets have simultaneously exploded beneath his paws forcing him vertically into the air, while his body remains parallel with the ground. The only other time he does this, is when I get home from work and go to release the dogs from their run. So far, he hasn't realised that he easily achieves sufficient height to leap over the fence - luckily, he hasn't discovered that momentum is also possible in a forward direction.

Anyway, he obviously wasn't too sure about the snarling-big-friend-interesting-smell situation, so took to doing mini-springs in a circle round FLF, which was fine - until FLF moved. And Bertie Baggins landed on his back. Perhaps the back straddling was pre-meditated - it certainly resulted in a swift change in ownership of the bone. FLF opened his mouth to protest; the bone dropped onto the grass; Bertie Baggins snatched it and ran. FLF made to follow ... and I guess things could have turned nasty, had I not produced a second, larger marrow bone from the bag.

The moral of this tale - when faced with two males who both think themselves alpha, treat them both.

The solution - give two dogs two bones (obvious really!).

The result - big bear tries to fit them both in his mouth. Realises they don't fit. Gives up. Helps himself to the biggest one (he is alpha after all!). Bertie Baggins ceases bouncing and discovers what a bone is.

The weather was beautiful here this weekend - the sort that lifts the spirits, clears the head and fills the brain with new ideas (I think I've had a touch of writer's block recently, so I needed this).
A long time ago, we spent a year in Australia - lots of people asked us what we missed about home: for me (apart from family and friends) it was those late-winter, early-spring, frosty mornings when you wake with the sun flooding in through the curtains and outside, the air is so crisp and clear that the horizon is stretched and you can see for miles. Days like that never happened in Melbourne; even in winter, there was a slight haze disturbing the clarity of the air.

Today was one such perfect day:

And it was a good weekend for gardening.

"Oh," you sigh. "Ah," you think : the beds of the title are flower beds! What did you think I was going to write about?  Really?! ... 'beautiful boys and beds' ...

The 'beautiful boys' -

And the flower 'beds' ... Spring is springing (as in springing forth ... not BB-bouncing):

Clearing away the debris of autumn and winter is a hobby not understood by Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins ...

Or perhaps, they understand it all too well ... "You'll play chase with us if we stand all over the flower bed - won't you?!"

Monday, 4 February 2013

The clock is ticking

Tick! Tock!

There are a few life skills that are unattainable, like catching up with time, reversing youth and cracking the caffeine habit ... and chocolate habit ... and  I-love-hugs habit ... and procrastinating habit ... with these tempus is always-against-us: tick tock.

There are some that could be attainable with better organisation such as losing weight, getting fitter, slowing down, doing one's accounts on time, sending thank you letters before it gets too embarrassingly late to send them and weakly blaming it on the post, learning something new, getting through the growing pile of must-read-impulse-purchased paperbacks stacked on the bed-side table, washing the car and dogs with sufficient regularity to avoid the dirtiest little car/dog in the county label, learning my grammar better and whether the difference between practice and practise is the same as for advice and advise. Or not. At least, I usually get their and there correct - I also need to relax and not shout at the newspaper, email or blog that get their their and there and its and it's wrong, far, far too often ... ah! too and two and  to ...  too!

And there are a tiny number of skills that are attainable without any effort at all - for example, shall I eat this carrot cake before me? Give me a fork ... it's gone! Done! Ticked the box! Easy peasy! Also, relatively easy to attain is clean, unpolluted air - about ten paces away from Bertie Baggins's farting bottom. What has he been eating?

Pause as I move myself and netbook ...


Move further. Exhale - a long way. Breathe and sigh. Phew! ... where was I?

Ah, yes - boxes!

... As far as ticking the box - time passing - and possibly unattainable challenges are concerned, the viola is coming along scratchily, by which I mean less musically than I'd like, and distinctly less musically than the canine members of this household can bear - it would probably be kinder to put them in their kennel, up the garden, when I practise tomorrow. I've discovered what an alto clef looks like (pictured; somewhat fuzzily, a bit like my viola playing), not that that makes any difference to the noise I make. But my neck hurts less and I think it probably looks less like I'm trying to squeeze a grapefruit under my chin and more like a viola, now that I've got the spacing device - I think it's called a 'rest' - the right way round. I've spent a lifetime nagging my children to practise their scales ... so that's what I'm starting with. C major, two octaves - haven't a clue what most of the notes are, but I go up ... and then back down again, sometimes finishing where I started and sometimes hitting the bow on the ceiling, where it leaves funny little red marks - I'd always wondered what those were. Anyway, it's D and G majors tomorrow - I'll practise (or is it practice?) them and then work out which is which. If I remember correctly the strings are C, G, D, A ... or Call Girls Dance Appallingly, so it will be the Girls majoring first, followed by their Dancing to an impossible to define "tune."

practice = noun
practise = verb

So just like advice and advise!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Fox poo, eating little men, modelling careers and dreaming

Hmm - to post a photo or not to post a photo ... now I've got you worried.

You don't want a picture of fox poo. Really? Fox poo smeared all over Bertie Baggins's front legs, up the right side of his chest and spread thickly behind and sneaking under his right ear. No? The same fox poo that had us running out of the kitchen and eating breakfast with our noses firmly pressed into fists full of sleeve. The same fox poo that proved remarkably resistant to wiping off and only gave up its mission to cling on, when attacked with a car wash brush, its hose attachment reservoir filled with dog shampoo. Sure you don't want to see it? To see a picture of a remarkably happy, dirty, stinking pup. Okay. I didn't take one anyway.

So, what would you like a picture of? How about little brown men? Apart from the purchase of cardamon seeds, instructions re oven use and the washing-up of a few utensils, I cannot claim any significant part in their  manufacture. Eldest and Littlest had a lovely time. And, if the bathroom door-handle is any indicator, an exceedingly sticky time. Mmmm ...

Sticky times got stickier and a lot noisier when Four-Legged-Friend helped himself to an entire family of small ladies and gents. The same FLF who has secured a modelling contract, along with his gold coloured shadow.
Watch this space for the story of their day in front of the camera lens ... with a photographer who apparently dislikes dogs. And the product to be advertised: heated dog beds!!! Dog beds!! For my we-destroy-all-beds-that-are-not-made-of-newspaper dogs. Hmmm ... could be an "interesting" day.

On the subject of interesting days - or, possibly busy, unrealistic, incredibly frustrating and that's-never-going-to-happen days - I've gone and done it again! (Please excuse the poverty of my English grammar) To be precise, I've set myself up for another year of resolution failure.

What are the dreams I dream for 2013?

To publish - something, anything - and continue to write (achievable? Maybe. I hope so.)

To learn some basic, conversational Italian, before our summer holiday (achievable? If I can find the CDs and remember to put them in the car, possibly.)

To raise some money for charity by taking a grade 1 exam ... on Eldest's viola. Have I ever played a stringed instrument? No! Can I read music? Not really! (achievable? ... Are you laughing at me? Go on make me cross! Spur me on with your sniggers. Actually, I know you're all far too kind-hearted for that, so I had better blog my progress ... or perhaps, my lack of progress. I've got the getting-it-out-of-its-case bit licked; holding it under my chin gives me a sore shoulder; the bow grip could do with being a bit less tortured-claw like; but the sound I make is sometimes in tune. And I only started on Wednesday! Eldest will give me a lesson most weekends. And I'm resolved to practice only when the house is empty. That way there's no-one else here ... to hear the dogs howling).