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Showing posts from 2014

All I want for Christmas

What do I want for Christmas?

Apart from dinner with the cast of Sherlock, prepared by Jamie Oliver, with Miranda Hart, Sue Perkins, Julie Walters, Steven Fry and Ian McKellan as additional guests, serenaded by all-the-kings-men and with a private viewing of the Paddington movie to follow.

Which is not asking for much, is it! Really? Improbable wants, yes - but not absolutely impossible, in that theoretically my dinner could happen, even though it almost certainly won't. Sadly. Although bits of it could ... is the Paddington movie out on DVD yet?

More improbable wants would include a fist edition of my own book under the tree; a Christmas morning not started at a ridiculously early hour because Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins decide it's time to get up; snow - just enough to dust the world with the spirit of Christmas, but not enough to prevent cars from travelling bearing family and friends and presents; an all-you-can-eat Christmas dinner that doesn't leave you fee…

Inner Sheep Dog revisited

On Thursday 19th December 2013, I wrote and posted a blog titled Inner Sheep Dog. It was about skiing en famille. I wish to revisit all that I wrote then, only this time 'with bells on' as I now have an entire family of sheep to worry over and count in safe at the end of every day. Last year, I only had half a flock to round up. This year, the entire flock answered the call to disturb their sheep-dog-protector.



The mother of a friend recently described skiing as "that holiday when the best bit is the journey home." That is just so true. I couldn't have described it better myself. I can think of other activities that would stress my inner sheep dog more - bungee jumping and sky-diving spring to mind and if any of my flock ever think it's a good idea to base jump, I hope they never tell me - not even after the event.

I think the catastrophists who broadcast news of disasters both natural and man-made are largely to blame for the worry-fest that infects those of…

Jack attack

Roughly (or should that be ruff-ly) 7kg of solid shouty muscle, with teeth, the Jack Russell is a small terrier with a furious 'someone-lit-my-touch-paper-and-I'm-about-to-explode' temper and a belligerent 'you-think-I'm-small!-Tell-that-to-my-face' attitude.

We share our home with two not very well behaved but loveable labradors. They are friendly, somewhat lacking in intelligence, funny and gentle. They lie at your feet; lie waiting at the foot of the stairs; lie in doorways; lie anywhere inconvenient and in the way to force some interaction from their human co-habitees; and they also 'lie' about whether or not they've been fed by one of the other human co-habitees. Perhaps, it is all this unexciting idleness that turns some people to the Jack Russell. Variously described as stubborn, energetic and aggressive, this is a working breed used to flush out foxes and definitely not prone to lying around.

But why would you want to welcome into your fami…

On keeping one’s follies intact

The Broadway lyricist E Y Harburg correctly, in my (too rapidly ageing) opinion, observed that even when one’s body is  ‘bent and bowed and cracked, it is too soon to give up the ghost if one’s follies are still intact.’  Does this perhaps mean that as we age, we should ensure that we notch up a number of follies, the resolution and eventual correction of which will be as long and as arduous as it is possible to be long and arduous, in order to keep us going; to keep us young?  Or if not young, then to keep us determined, single-minded, driven and old?  Is this licence for a deliciously naughty, disreputable old age?  Or another anxiety to add to the ‘to do list’ as the years pass?  What about a bucket list of follies? Permission to wear purple and behave badly. Aided and recorded by an overly sensitive finger on the button for taking 'selfies.' In fact, as most selfies are in fact follies, a selfie diary of the elderly years would suffice. Explaining those on social media would kee…

A country mouse lost in the city. And it's the "f***ing news" boys!

Oh dear, let me apologise for the title. Not my usual style. I know. If I shocked you, I'm sorry, but trust me, I was shocked too and not for the reason you might think.

If on the other hand the title made you think "Hmmm ... edgy?!" and brought you here for the first time then apology revoked. Welcome!

Time to explain myself. Perhaps. After a short story of a mouse ...

Remember Aesop's fable about the town mouse who visits his cousin in the country? And finds it all a bit too quiet in a disturbing lack-of-traffic-and-noise-and-bustling-crowds-of-people-sort of a way and backward in an absence-of-theatre-and-cinema-and-24-hour-shops-and-instant-hot-running-water way, well ... whenever I leave my internet and mobile signal vacuum of rural tranquillity and travel to the city, I am reminded of the country mouse whose brief sojourn at the residence of his sophisticated cousin was terminated abruptly when flustered and frightened, he fled back home. Like him, I am happies…

A story of too many legs. And lots of voices. And idioms.

Hello, Four-legged-friend here, hijacking this blog. It is after all about me and Baggins, so in our opinion, it's only fair if we (that we being me, as the founding dog of Walking The Dog) get to contribute sometimes. One small matter that I need to get off my big, barrelled chest, before I continue, is that we (Baggins and I) are, as a pair of dogs, plural, and I have always considered that it should be called Walking the Dogs - unless one of us is perennially forgotten, which isn't the case, whenever we go for a walk.

Ah ... that feels better. As spokes-dog I feel a responsibility to strive for canine correctness in all things writerly and grammatical. It would upset our sensibilities to give the impression that we are a pair of languid, loll-abouts with no regard to proper English. We do understand what you are saying - yes! Even when you are cooing at us in baby-language. Why do you think we look so cute? It's because our brain has gone elsewhere and our eyes and mout…

Does anything rhyme with chutney?

Apart from Putney.

And unless you live there or wish to visit the place and write poems about expensive London suburbs and rivers and bridges, it is probably artificial and contrived to insert Putney into a poem simply to make it rhyme. Why rhyme anyway? Why, indeed. Some modern poetry hasn't encountered a single rhyming word, hasn't flirted with structure, verse or form, and wouldn't know the difference between a couplet and a romantic dinner for two.I exaggerate but I admit to being a traditionalist. "All along the backwater, Through the rushes tall, Ducks are a-dabbling, Up tails all!" - Kenneth Grahame made me smile as a child and he still does today. His poem trips off the tongue and its rhythm is instantly memorable. I write poems that rhyme when the auditory leaps and jumps compliment the subject - but rhyme can equally sound laboured, can force the poem in the wrong direction and for the poet desperately in search of an elusive rhyme can become agonising,…

A bar of soap, apple jelly and an oily ooze

My phone didn't need a video screen, I could see her lips tighten and pucker as she sucked the air through her teeth, "Oooh! It can go from a small crack to a hole big enough to fit your fist in. In just a few hours!"

In other words don't delay. In other words - words like hurry and leaking and oil and no-longer-guaranteed and cost and weekend-rates and call-out-fees and estimates and emergency - this will be expensive.

I tried a few words of my own - "I'll get back to you" and "Phone around for other quotes" and "Goodbye."

The second quote secured the deal - "We'll come tomorrow." Goodbye the gloom and doom merchants and hello to Mr Calmly-assess-the-situation-before-reassuring-the-client-that-all-will-be-well.  Why turn an ooze into an emergency? Why panic? Why guarantee that the client will suffer insomnia worrying that the ooze will increase to a gush and flood the garden with £900 of domestic heating oil? Why indee…

Pessimism and the art of positive thinking

The only way is up



or sometimes not ...




When an obvious, easier and eminently sensible option is to go down, it is unsurprising that Littlest at the foot of Ben Lomond asked, "Why do we have to climb a mountain?"

She went on to add, "Snowdon was fun. Because we all climbed it. This isn't fun because we're not all here."

And a few minutes later, "Holidays were more fun four years ago - when we were all younger." Siblings, flung far and wide, were clearly being missed. This and the days when they were young enough to want to play with her. Growing up is hard ...

Climbing up a mountain is hard too. Grumbling up a mountain is harder still.

Grumbling can be countered in one of three ways - ignore it (the rationale being that the grumbler will soon get bored. However soon is often not soon enough. And the grumbling often escalates before boredom sets in, hence it changes and this fluctuation in volume and tone is enough to divert boredom and as differen…

Marital clichés, a party, vertigo and the possibility of a metaphor

"Marriage is finding that special someone you want to annoy for the rest of your life."  

So proclaimed the wall plaque that I was given on Tuesday 15th July. While being thought of as a "special someone" is good, I don't recall promising to love, cherish and annoy for the rest of my life.

I have a theory that one can only truly annoy those we love, as we first have to know them intimately before niggles and petty irritations triggered by what they do can escalate tsunami-like into annoyance. For us, 25 years of annoying each other have passed. It is likely that we will continue to annoy each other for the next 25 years, or - back to the wedding vows - 'til death do us part. Until then, seeking a state of harmonious annoyance will lighten the passing of the years - here's my recipe for how this might be achieved:

Keep calm and carry on carrying the ball and chain - it might be a bit dinted around the edges but like a vintage car, a judicious polish will …

Foxgloves that squeak and apple trees that squirt

"Me!!!? A thief! - what a scurrilous suggestion. Don't believe anything you've heard.




None of it's true! It's just eating. Not stealing. If it's dangling there, conveniently at muzzle height, or at muzzle height when I leap off the ground, then having a nibble is just ... just .... well, it's being generous! And kind! And charitable! Yes ... charitable: after all, if I fill my belly with lots ... mmm, lots and lots ... of free apples, and gooseberries, and rhubarb, then I won't need the usual never-vast-enough-quantities of dog food that mum gives me. So I'll save her money. And we'll both be happy.

Except, she isn't. She's very not happy, in fact, in a shouty "Leave it!" sort of a way. Which kind of shocks a sensitive young dog, particularly when he's eyeing up a free strawberry.

But the shock of an irate gardener yelling "Leave it!" at you is nothing compared to the shock of discovering that helping myself to t…

Man's best friend

William Shakespeare - “Words are easy, like the wind; Faithful friends are hard to find.”
Friends - noun; plural - 'people' bound by a bond of mutual affection. Origin: Old English freond and German freund, both derived from a common root meaning 'to love.'

How many friends do you have? - not social media 'friends,' not work colleagues, not the casual acquaintances you bump into at other friends' parties, not the butcher who asks after the dogs and wonders if they would like a bit of marrow bone, not anyone whose name you sometimes forget, nor anyone whose partner you have never met. A real friend is someone who knows you inside out, who allows you to be an ass at times and doesn't care, who argues against you but never stops loving you, and who is there to listen when you need to be heard. Humans can be fickle and they change as they age, and with change and passing time, friends come and go. This is put rather better by Alexander McCall Smith - "…

Musings on mice and a walk on the bright side

Sometimes there is satisfaction in discovering research that proves that what we knew all along is in fact correct. Or rather, that what we thought we knew to be correct, and would have argued in favour of, using words such as "Surely, it must be" and "Almost certainly" - neither of which are winners - can now be written in stone. Being proved right vindicates our actions and makes us more evangelical in our pursuit of whatever it is that has been confirmed - suddenly our tenuous opinion is no longer tenuous and we can terminate every argument with the simple, winning statement, "It is!"

I love it! Not that I am an argumentative person nor that I fixate on small victories, more that it just feels good and is a licence to apply confidence to our actions. Whatever and however ridiculous those actions may be.

I love too, that there is funding for this "it's starting you in the face" genre of research. Perhaps, scientists have a sense of humour …

Stumbling backwards into the future one cliché at a time

Cliché - noun:  a word or phrase that has been used so often that it has become annoying. Often regarded as grammatically lazy and revealing of a lack of imagination ... I use them frequently - time after time, in fact.

Some clichés, however, are  worth repeating - which undoubtedly promotes their designation as clichés. But if you think about it, a cliché is a cliché precisely because it states something in a succinct, often poetic and memorable way. We hear the words and instantly 'get' their meaning. I like clichés when used sparingly (I suspect a 'sparingly used cliché' is an oxymoron. But I don't care. In my grammatically challenged world, I also like to wantonly split the infinitive. Wanton splitting meaning to split with careless abandon - gulp! What a lot of words. I prefer a lazy economy of vocabulary and moving on from splitting infinitives, if a cliché fits the bill - as that one just did - then I use it. Why not?)

Deep in the mire of this cliché ridden …