Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Countdown Word Challenge Number 3

Well its time for this weeks Word Game , invented by the marvellous Matt Mascarenhas , you can find details on   http://miblodelcarpio.blog.co.uk/ so do please try it , it is great fun .

This week the words are ;


                                                                   Foiled Again !

Rosie walked barefoot along the beach . The surf foamed around her ankles and her toes sunk into the wet sand . A few yards in front of her, a little girl played with her dog , wading into the sea , the water swirling round her legs , making her dress and panties wet , while the dog swam ahead to retrieve the bright red frisbee the child had thrown .   Sounds of the childish laughter and the barking dog floated on the soft breeze  that lifted Rosies long dark hair and pulled at the skirt of her long , cotton dress .

She walked on past the Summer visitors , lounging in their deck chairs . Past the children , dipping their little nets into the rock pools . Past the headland , away from the pretty curve of the little cove and off towards the base of the jagged cliffs that protruded out into the glimmering , turquoise sea . She sat on a huge boulder ; she was almost in a trance . So deep in thought and worry that at first the sight of a poor , dead seagull impaled on a sharp jagged rock ,didnt register in her brain .  Then she shook herself and gazed down at the lifeless body .
" Poor thing ", she thought , " It was helpless , just like me  ".
And  , indeed , Rosie was helpless  !  Helpless against  the power of Nigel Darnell and his money and wickedness . How could she save her Grandma 's cottage , the cottage she had lived in for the last 3 months  since her parents had died  in a tragic car crash . 

The whitewashed , stone built , little house nestled in a pretty garden , up on the cliffs and Rosie had come to  this idyllic spot every Summer as a child . The days were always sunnier , it seemed and dear Grandma so warm and welcoming .  But things had changed , now poor Grandma was going senile and afraid to leave the house . The cottage was so much messier and she had begun hoarding strange things ........ newspapers , bits of string , jam jar lids !  Rosie knew she had to save the cottage so that Grandma could spend the rest of her days in a place she knew . But how ?  The cottage had a new owner since old Jim , the local landowner had passed away . Nigel Darnell now owned all the land round here and he was demanding immediate payment of the lease . Where would Rosie get  £5000 ?

The evil Darnell had visited recently , he was  not the godliest of men and he had left his stooges to loiter outside while he propositioned the terrified girl .
" You're a beauty and no mistake " he had leered , licking his lips lascivously at Rosies face and figure .
" Come and work in my night-club and we'll say no more about the money " , he breathed .
Rosie recoiled in horror . She had seen the sort of girls that worked in that club and had seen the sort of men that frequented it too . She knew it was a cover for something much more sinister . She knew what she would be expected to do . Darnell lifted her chin with one of his boney fingers , grinned and told her he would give her a week to think it over . Then he would be back for either her approval or the money . And no money meant eviction .

Sighing , she rose from the boulder and walked further along the base of the cliff , treading carefully as pieces of rock often broke away and came crashing to the ground .  There had been a storm the day before and she could see evidence of new erosion . Obviously some large pieces of rock had been pulled out to sea by the raging waves .  Then , out of the corner of her eye , she noticed a small cave entrance . She had never seen this cave before . Carefully she climbed over the rocks and cautiously entered the cavern .  Soft light filtered through and shimmered and reflected on the walls and a small pool glittered at her feet . Rosie looked down and the pool glittered even more . Bending down she carefully put her hands into the cool water and stretched her slim fingers out to reach the shining objects below.

A week later  Nigel Darnell pulled up in his large , shiny car and walked confidently up the garden path towards the cottage door .  A smiling Rosie greeted him and Nigel stared at  the beautiful girl that would soon be his . He was sure she would sacrifice herself to save her Grandma's home .
" Come in " Rosie said  and then , as  Darnell entered , already anticipating his prize , she pointed to the dining table and the huge pile of  Spanish doubloons spread in all their gleaming splendour .


Well, thats my attempt !  But I'm sure that you could do much better . Please do give it a go .

Monday, 26 September 2011

Air Traffic Control


Once  Tarquin had accepted that he had to walk on a lead he decided that he would still be the one in charge and he went everywhere at top speed  !  His first show would be interesting !!

The Scottish Kennel Club General Championship Show is held at  Ingliston on the outskirts of Edinburgh and the showground is located next to the  Airport . The trip down was interesting as hubbys car suddenly developed a major fault and so the journey was made in my sons  Mini  ...... the one that had used a sheep as an emergency braking system !  ( described in my blog " Feeling Sheepish" )  Our party consisted of  our black  Afghan Hound , Cleo , Tarquin , my 6yr old  daughter , hubby and myself  .  Now , two hours in a  Mini is bad enough , but  Tarquin insisted on making the journey perched on my knee in the front of the car , so I was buried under , what felt like , half a ton of hairy Afghan Hound .  We arrived safely and unloaded the dogs and show gear and made our way to the benching tent .  Well , hubby , daughter and  Cleo made their way ......... I was pulled along by  Tarky as he galloped at full pelt , tongue lolling out of his mouth , eager to play with every dog he passed  !

Dogs are  'benched ' at  Championship shows .  This gives them all their own private cubicle , their own little space for the day  .  Nowadays the dogs are usually secured inside large cages and are perfectly safe and comfortable and can be left for short periods of time . But in those days , the 80s , there was a metal ring at the back of each bench on which to secure your dog , using a chain which was then clipped to your dogs collar , effectively keeping them in their own individual areas . Usually dogs soon accepted this arrangement and just lay down and went to sleep until it was time for their class .

After  Tarquin had demolished his benching area and those of the dogs around him at least twice , I decided to walk him round the show ground to  'tire him out ' while hubby stayed behind to rebuild the benches .  Well I walked him and walked him and he was still like a wild thing . poking his nose into peoples show bags , leaping on smaller dogs , licking young childrens icecreams and generally trying to pull my arms out of their sockets  . I was absolutely exhausted by his behaviour and close to tears so hubby said he would take him into the show ring . I brushed Tarquin and got him all ready and he looked beautiful , his thick gold coat glowing in the sunshine and all our friends said how lovely he was .

Into the ring went the Puppy Dog class , most of them jumping and playing and enjoying themselves ! I was pleased as perhaps Tarquin wouldn't look so naughty if there were others misbehaving . There were about 18 Afghan Dog puppies of all colours positioned around the ring and the handlers got them all settled and even Tarquin stood fairly still while the  Judge went along the line , examing each one . I held my breath when it was Tarkys turn , I knew he had excellent conformation , if only the Judge could actually get to feel it ! Hubby was holding Tarquin with an iron-like grip and I watched as the Judge felt all over my lovely boy . Then hubby was asked to move Tarquin round the ring , oh goodness !  Off went Tarquin and off went hubby , hanging on gamely as Tarquin raced round like a greyhound  . He was asked to move again  and I was so excited ...... the Judge liked him !!  This time Tarquin was almost under control and moving well with head held high . It was all going well until an airplane took off from the adjacent Airport . Up went the Airplane and up went Tarquin , like some sort of rocket . He shot skyward , trying to catch the 'plane and the ringside erupted with laughter .  Hubby did not look amused and I tried to hide behind a nearby Trade stand  !!   Well to our amazement , Tarquin was awarded Second place , possibly for entertainment value  !  Ha Ha !  I was in shock and  hubbys face was a picture .  Places are awarded from 1st to 5th and the lucky five have to line up to receive their rosettes .  There was my lovely golden boy , he had done so well despite his behaviour , I was beaming .  The Judge bent down slightly to stroke Tarquin as the steward handed hubs the blue rosette . Just for a few seconds hubby was distracted and in the blink of an eye Tarquin leapt up at the Judge and grabbed his tie , almost strangling the poor chap in the process !!  I almost sank to the floor in embarrassment  and once more the spectators burst into laughter and actually applauded  Tarquin as he left the ring . Oh , goodness , he was becoming famous already  !

We had quite some time before Cleo would be shown as her class was after lunch , so we decided to have a cuppa and a sandwich ; we had been up since 5am  !  For obvious reasons we didnt dare go back to the benching area , so we found a lovely spot on the edge of the showground  , beyond the Trade stands and refreshment concessions .  Cleo , ever the lady , just lay quietly on her blanket , but Tarquin capered about in the freshly cut grass and soon he resembled a hairy compost heap . We were weary of having to hold a lead which had a whirling dervish at the other end , so hubby went off to purchase one of those long spiral spikes that you push into the ground  , we would then be able to fasten the lead to it and have some respite .  These spikes were advertised as being strong enough to hold a Great Dane , an Irish Wolfhound and probably a Sherman Tank , but 6mth old Tarquin had it pulled out of the ground in seconds  !  In despair I looped his lead around a nearby Birch tree .  It was only a sapling but looked very sturdy and at least its roots were secure in the ground  . For about 15 mins we had perfect peace . We sat in the warm sunshine , drinking our coffee and basking in our success . Tarquins rosette was pinned , ostentatiously , on my jacket , I was glowing with pride . We gazed over in the direction of the showring , watching the Afghan classes and trying to decide when we would have to start brushing Cleo.  Just then my daughter gave a little scream and I turned to see Tarquin making his way across the grass with an uprooted birch sapling bouncing at the end of his lead !!!!

                                       Oh , Tarquin !!!!............................................

Sunday, 25 September 2011


A dear Twitter pal  Cheryl  ..... @turtlemoongurl on  Twitter ..... had a sort of  "straw poll"  last week . She was asking her  Twitter followers about their dreams for an essay she was writing .  This started me thinking about my own dreams .  Not my  'aspirations' but  the nocturnal visions that enter my brain when I am asleep.

I dream in colour and , if I remember correctly , some of  Cheryls  Twitter pals dream in black and white . I have no idea which format is the  'norm' , or even if there is such a thing as  'normal' in the dream world , but my world is colourful and mostly happy ; but always very strange !

I can often remember my dreams very clearly and sometimes they appear to be so real that I think they have actually happened .  After one of these vivid dreams I spend the following day in a sort of  'aura' of belief and feel disorientated and muzzy-headed as though I am still dreaming .  Just last night I dreamt that I was in Selfridges  in the Trafford Centre ! Now this is not a store in which I can usually afford to even draw breath , but there I was trying on and actually purchasing , two glorious flowing , floaty , sparkling evening dresses . The sort of dresses that girly-girls sigh for . Goodness knows where I was going to wear these expensive gowns ! Assisting me in my purchases were three very helpful fashion advisors ........ My husband , Colin Firth and  'Inspector Frost ' !!!   I know , I know , CRAZY !!  .....and why  'Inspector Frost '  ???  But this dream was so vivid that I still half believe it happened as I write this  !

I often have these realistic dreams but at other times I am actually aware that I am dreaming . I say to whoever else is in my 'vision'  ,   " Its OK , this is only a dream " .  I find that very strange , do you ?  Then there are the times when I get so frustrated because I cant quite remember a dream ,  but I know its  'there'  just slightly out of reach , like a balloon floating slowly skyward and I just cant reach it . For a moment it seems to hover , inches from my fingertips  and I know that if only I can touch the balloon it would burst and all the  'dream memories' would float down towards me  so I try and try , reaching up on tiptoes , but it floats higher and drifts away and is lost .

Some dreams are slightly recurrent and others have locations that I seem to know and revisit in many different dreams . However , I have no idea where these places are  'in real life' . They seem very familiar to me , as though they are stamped in my memory . Are they half remembered imaginings from books Ive read or films Ive seen  ? I've searched my memory and can find no answer , but when Im in the middle of such a dream I know what is going to happen next, like some TV  rerun of a favourite show . I suppose these dreams could be my security blanket , reassurance after a stressful day .

I do not have nightmares , although I have had some , years ago  . In  Cheryls  'poll' many people reported having nightmares and some were recurring , That must be very distressing and disturbing and my heart goes out to the sufferers as they must be almost afraid to go to sleep  I am very lucky as my dreams may be puzzling but they are mostly happy , amusing and quite often entertaining   There is so much more to write about this fascinating and complex subject and I would like to think I have maybe inspired some of you to think about your dreams and possibly share your experiences .

Meanwhile , I must go , I have a pressing date with  Colin Firth and  David Jason and two  yellow  Selfridges carrier bags ............ if only I could find them !!!!!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

No Knobs on the Washing Machine .

My story about  Tarquin , the Afghan  Hound , was very popular with readers of my blog and I have been inundated with requests for more  " Tarquin  Tales " .  So , you only have yourselves to blame for the following  !

Tarquin was always different .  It was immediately obvious that this puppy was totally wild ; extremely loving , but WILD !! Everything was done at top speed ,including going for walks , once he had accepted the leash ! He lived  his whole life in the  " fast lane "  and I had to " pedal "  furiously just to keep up  ! He was very solidly built , probably due to a feeding regime that included daily fresh salmon , kindly provided by my husbands fishing habit !

It also soon became clear that  Tarquin had no manners . He had none of the characteristic  Afghan aloofness , he was a clown .  He launched himself at any unsuspecting guest and ended up on their knee or over their shoulders , spilling their drinks and knocking over side tables .  One friend , who visited regularly , used to quickly plant himself rigidly in one of our heavy , high backed leather chairs and Tarquin would fly into the room, leap over the sofa and land on our friend , knocking chair and occupant backwards onto the floor and the poor friend would be sat on and thoroughly licked .  Tarquin loved everyone and everyone loved him .

But , alas , he was far too big and heavy to allow him to run freely through the house all the time  and so we had to find some way of confining him when people called  or when we had to leave him home alone !  Our two other Afghans stayed in the large kitchen , curled up in front of the Aga , but  Tarquin leapt on them and made them cross and he ended up with a bloody nose for his pains .  Nothing was safe , as he could jump so high and pots and pans were frequently over-turned  .

Our house was a large , stone built , 6 bedroomed  old building that had once been a private school and had also been the home of the local  Lairds mother . All of the rooms were huge , including the laundry room . This housed a Belfast sink , cupboards , washing machine , tumble dryer  and a large built in , airing cupboard  with huge floor to ceiling  sliding doors  . So , as there seemed to be  nothing that  Tarquin  could jump on or knock over , the laundry room would be  " his " room  when we were out  . His sanctuary when he had to be  " confined to barracks " .  All went well and  Tarquin accepted his occasional  confinement ........ or so I thought  !

A few days later I had a huge pile of washing to do . I sorted it into piles in the laundry room .  The dogs were all outside in the sunny garden , their coats blowing in the breeze  . It would be a great  drying day !!
I put the first load into the washer and put my hand down to turn the control knob to  "hot wash " and ........... NO KNOBS  !! Just the chewed remains of the spindles !  I looked over at the tumble dryer and there were the same chewed spindles and no sign of any control knobs anywhere  !

I didnt know what to do , other than frantically search the floor .  So on hands and knees I inspected every inch of the room  and there between the skirting board and a cupboard was  a tiny gap and forced into the gap was the mangled remains of , what looked like , one of the washing machine controls .   And that was it , no sign of anything else , nothing !!  I can only surmise that  Tarquin had actually eaten them !!
So, for the next few months , I had to use pliers to grip the spindle and turn it to the approximate region of  " Normal wash " ... which was the only setting I was sure of , while the tumble dryer had two available settings ......... On or Off !!  As for the missing controls ;  well he did , indeed , eat them . And he didnt stop there !

We had to spend a few hours in Aberdeen , on business and so  Tarquin was left on his own , in his room , for 4 hours or so .  He had food and water , a radio , his bed  and his toys . He could see out of the large sash window , he was quite safe .  When we returned , I went straight to let him out and was greeted by my lovely boy , thick coat full of small pieces of wood  . The huge 8 feet high , airing cupboard doors were no longer there and all the towels , sheets , etc. were pulled off the shelves and strewn around the room . Pieces of chewed and shredded wood littered the floor and  Tarquin  stood in the middle of all this devastation ..... beaming !

The tidying up process was very puzzling though .  We shook the wood off all the linen and towels and put them in a huge pile to wash . I swept the floor and brushed all the pieces of wood from  Tarquins coat  and we put all the debris into a black bin-liner .  There was barely enough for doors half the size of the original ones . What had happened to the rest  ?

                 We found the answer to that over the next few days !................................

Reasons To Be Cheerful ....... Part 3

My daughter and her husband have two delightful children , aged 12yrs and 3 yrs and my husband and I live in a self-contained flat on the lower floor of their spacious three storey house .  My son and his wife have three equally lovely children aged 13 , 12  and  9 yrs and live just around the corner .  So I see  my  Grand-children on a regular basis .

I find great joy in being a  Grandma  ; far more than I did as a Mother  !!   I just wasn't the maternal type and my children had to fit in with my life-style  ; not vice versa !

But being a  Grandma is such fun . We share giggles and private jokes and dance around in supermarkets . We pretend to be monsters and pirates and sometimes vampires . We do all the things that drive parents mad !  We bake and I let them ice the cakes ........ more icing dripping down the kitchen cupboard doors than on the buns .  We paint and craft , our fingers turning an indelible green and glue in our hair  and Mum and Dad despairing of ever washing it out !  We make cards and spill the glitter and we cut out pictures from magazines and the floor is littered with tiny pieces of paper and the dogs run round with glittery paws  .

We play noisy games of  catch and hide and seek , laughing 'till we are breathless . I make up scarey stories and tell tales of how naughty their parents were and they sit wide-eyed and then burst into fits of giggles when the parent in question suddenly appears .

I learn so much from them too .  I can play the latest Video games ,and know all the latest trends and what colour nail polish I should be wearing  .  I know the latest slang ,  that  " bad " means  " good " and  " sick " means  " fantastic "  and I know whats cool and whats  " SO " not !!!  I even know who JLS are  , though I'm not a fan !

You see its all so much fun because we understand each other , somehow the huge age gap brings us closer together . I have a precious commodity that all children need ,  I have TIME . Time to listen to them , time to play and time to just  " be " there .

The parents have to be the sensible ones , the ones who make the decisions . the ones who have to worry about how to afford the new school uniform and what to have for lunch .

Grand parents have been there , done that  and now wear  the T-shirt  ;  even if it is in a bigger size than it used to be !

And so today , my Grand-children are my main reason to be glad  !! ...................................  That and  the fact that they go home after a couple of hours  !!!!!!

Here is my list of other things that have made me feel glad recently . I hope you  will make your own list ;

                                                      L'Occitane hand cream ,
                                                      The cool side of the pillow ,
                                                      Freshly sharpened pencils,
                                                      Del Monte frozen Smoothie ice lollies,
                                                      Happy memories
                                                      Twitter friends ,
                                                       Unexpected gifts  ( Thank you Lucy )

Monday, 19 September 2011

Countdown Word Challenge .........Number 2

    Well , here I am again having a go at @miblodelcarpio s word challenge 
            This week the words are ;

                staged , shorten , twine , cases , rankle , deaden , singers , coaxes , trained .
    They all have to be included at least once in the story or article .

It was that time of year again , as the days  began to shorten and the air  began to chill , excitement flew round the little town. It would soon be Pantomime time and casting for this years production was taking place in the theatre today ! This year the producer/director , Jason Androv , had decided it would be completely different .... something completely new . Young aspiring actors and actresses sat around on packing cases in the long hallway outside the rehearsal room and discussed the new show .    " Do you think it will be  " Babes in the Wood " ? They havent done that for years " Lucy said , to no-one in particular .
" Oh no , I've heard its to be  something  REALLY  unusual " said a cute little curly haired red-head , who was practising her tap steps on the scuffed wooden floor .  " Hey " , someone further down the hall shouted  , " Deaden that clatter a bit will you ?  Im trying to learn my  audition song here " The red haired girl sat down and pouted . It did rankle a little , all these trained singers  " la la la-ing " . All she wanted was a part in the chorus !

Lucy was now chattering to a tall blonde girl , who was telling her all about the director .  " Oh yes,  Jason is marvellous , no-one coaxes a performance out of you better than Mr. Androv !! I have been in every  panto he  has staged , " Alladin " ;  " Cinderella " ; " Dick Whittington " . Oh yes , I expect I will get the leading role "
" Oh , please God ,let me get a part . Let me be an actress at last " Lucy prayed silently , as she nervously twisted a piece of twine round her fingers .Then ,suddenly , the door of the rehearsal room was flung open and there stood the flamboyant figure of  Jason  Androv .  " Come in . come in !" he yelled  " what are you all doing huddled out here ? "   In they trooped and arranged themselves around the room , glancing at each other , eyeing up the competition .   " Now then ,  'enfants' ",  Jason began , " The pantomime is soooooo over , soooooo last decade . This Christmas we are doing something completely different  ! "

" Oh , a play ? " whispered someone ,  " Or a Musical ? " , voiced another .

Just then a dark-haired girl came out from  behind a screen in the corner of the room .  She was scantily clad in a bright red basque , timmed with black lace  , red fishnet stocings and very  high heels . Her heavily made-up eyes smouldered at the group as she walked  slowly over to a beaming  Jason .
" No sweeties , "  he smiled  , " This year we are doing  Burlesque  , striptease ! So, come on , who's first "


If you want to try the word challenge , details and rules can be found on http://miblodelcarpio.blog.co.uk/     Do give it a try , its great fun !!

Somersaults and Backflips .

           I am often asked for advice on lead training puppies and , indeed , there are a variety of methods . Dogs are so diverse in character that what works for one will not necessarily work with another .

            Over the years we have had puppies that took to being on a lead straight away , but usually it becomes a battle of wills and sometimes every trick in the book has to be tried before the battle is won ; hopefully by you , not the puppy !!

             However , our third Afghan , Tarquin defied every trick . Right from the moment we brought him home at 3 months old , it was obvious that he was going to be nothing like our two other Afghans , Cleo and Cassie . He was more stubborn , defiant , awkward , funny , loving and adorable than any Afghan I have ever known . He didnt have a bad bone in his body , but naughty ? Oh my , he was naughty !!

             He attached himself to me from the first day and became my shadow and very much  "my " dog . And I , in turn , loved him to bits . He was such a beautiful boy , thick gold coat and jet black  "mask". He was royally bred and carefully reared , my future show-dog .

             Now show-dogs need to be trained early so that when they go into the show ring everything is second nature to them . They need to be at ease in their surroundings and know what is expected of them . Puppies are not meant to be too regimented but they do need to be able to move freely and naturally round the ring on a loose lead .  Show-dogs should not be stressed and neither should their handlers !

             So , with all this in mind I began to train him straight away . His first show would be just after he was 6 months old , so I had three whole months to turn a raw puppy into a confident show-dog  . Easy !!!

             Well , right from the start Tarquin hated the lead . I mean  "really " hated it . He screamed and flung himself into the air  , landing on his back with a thump . He foamed at the mouth and made himself sick  and sat rigidly in one place and was pulled along on his bottom like a stuffed toy . He was very strong , even at 3 months old and he resisted my efforts vigorously , even pulling me over at times .

              This went on for weeks . I bribed , I coaxed , I struggled to lift him and carried him away from the house , thinking he would walk back towards home . I took Cleo or Cassie out with him ,  thinking he might walk if he had company . But nothing worked . Every day I tried and every day I was in tears , tears of frustration and tears of despair as the date of his first show crept ever nearer . Hubby tried too  and had the same results , the same screams , somersaults and backflips , the same gagging and the same failure . Thank goodness we had no neighbours nearby , we  would surely have been reported for cruelty as Tarquins shrieks were so blood curdling and yet we never ever laid a hand on him , I would never condone anything like that . Although my patience was being severely tested !!

              One day hubby came in to find me in floods of tears . This time I hadn't even tried the training . I just couldn't face  it anymore . My  beautiful boy had broken my spirit , I was throwing in the towel , I'd had enough  ! Hubby tried to cheer me up and said he would have another try , he could see I was very upset . So , out of the door he went , with Tarquin already trying the choking / screaming tactics .  I went and washed my face and pulled myself together . I knew they would be back in a few minutes , with Tarquin looking triumphant and hubby looking dejected . Thats how it always ended .

              Minutes ticked by and they did not return . I noticed they had been gone for half an hour ! I went outside and there was no sign of them , either on the drive or in the road that ran along the side of the river . Another half an hour passed and I was panic-stricken  . Perhaps they had been hit by a car ; there were no pavements on these narrow country roads . Or perhaps hubby had killed Tarquin , in frustration  and  didn't dare come back and tell me . Maybe Tarquin had snapped the lead and run off , never to be seen again . My imagination ran riot and I felt sick . I couldn't hear the sounds of a screaming , gagging puppy , just the soft sound of birdsong and the distant splash of the river .  I had no way to contact hubby as this was the early 80s and mobile phones were not so popular  as nowadays , so I worried myself sick and wondered where the hell they were .

               I had no idea  in which direction they had gone but I couldn't wait any longer and decided to walk up the road towards Alford and see if I could find them . I had just set out when round the bend , in the distance , I saw my husband  strolling along in the sunshine and alongside him was my lovely golden boy , trotting along happily  like he had been doing it for years . I couldn't believe my eyes and ran to meet them  . Tarquin looked up at me as though to say    " Look at me Mum  " and  continued on , striding out , head held high and tail wagging  . I slowly took the lead from my husbands hand   and we all walked home .

              Hubby told me that when they first set off Tarquin had been doing the usual frothing at the mouth and flinging himself about in protest , but hubby had been loath to return as he knew I was so upset . So he had kept walking and a few seconds later he felt the lead go slack and looked down to see Tarquin walking along quite normally . Poor hubby was so surprised that he had just kept going , not daring to stop or turn round , in case the spell was broken . They had walked  a mile and a half before he dared attempt to turn towards home !!

              He swears that Tarquin must have just decided that he had enough of all the resistance and was now ready to go for a proper walk !!

               It was a week before his first show .................................................... !

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Chalk Dust

 I have to smile whenever I see lines of cars , dropping off children outside all the schools nowadays . We walked to school when I was young . Not for us the luxury of being driven in a nice warm hatchback or " Chelsea tractor " . Back in the 50s not many people had cars of their own and if they did , Mum certainly didnt drive it . The cars were used for Father to " go to business " or kept in garages and only used for a Sunday drive up to the moors or to the seaside , where you got out , walked around for a while , maybe had an icecream and then went home .

 So , from the age of 7 , I walked to my little Junior School , which was over a mile away on the other side of Guisborough . Often I would go alone , but sometimes a group of us from the estate would go together . Skipping along in the Springtime , birds singing and daffodils nodding as we walked past neat gardens and clipped hedges . Strolling along in the Summer in our cotton dresses , boys in short trousers , all wearing our Start-Rite sandals and navy cardigans with the warm sun already smiling down on our backs . Being blown along in the Autumn , with golden leaves swirling round us , in our brand new gaberdine raincoats that had been bought during the summer holidays . We collected leaves and shiny brown conkers along the way and had to run the last few yards before the school bell was rung by a teacher who would be standing in the yard , glaring disapprovingly at our tardiness . In the Winter we trudged along , bundled up in our warm coats , wellies on our feet flapping at our calves and leaving bright red marks around our legs . When snow fell we often arrived at school with boots full of snow  and soaking wet socks . Soaking wet gloves and mitts too , from the snowball fights we held on the way . Often trousers and skirts were wet too after we had fallen on one of the forbidden slides we made along the route .

 The school itself ,  Northgate Junior , was old and quaint . It was built of huge dark grey stone blocks and looked very forbidding with its tall iron railings enclosing a tarmac playground . The classrooms had high ceilings and equally high windows . They afforded no chance to gaze outside and daydream and I had to stand on a chair just to reach the window sills when I was  " flower moniter " which involved changing the water in the many jam jars of wildflowers that  were used in our nature studies . In the spring these same jam jars held tadpoles and in the winter it was holly and various berries .

 Big cast iron radiators warmed the draughty classrooms and filled the air with the steamy , musty smell of hats , gloves , scarves and even socks , drying  after yet another wet walk to school . We sat at wooden lidded desks , as many generations of children had before us . Desks with well worn tops , covered in names,  carved into the wood and countless inkstains , scuffs and scrapes .Every morning we began with Assembly . The whole school together in the Hall singing  " All things bright and beautiful "  and  " Morning has broken "  . In the autumn it was  " We plough the fields and scatter "  and there would be  a display of fruit and vegetables for the Harvest Festival . And , of course , at Christmas time the air was filled with earnest young voices singing Carols and dreaming of Santa Claus .This same hall doubled as dining room , when tables would be laid out ready for lunch . This was delivered in huge aluminium containers , by a man in a van . I suppose the meals came from some central school kitchen somewhere as our school had no facilities for cooking food . We never questioned where it came from , we just tucked in !  It was all plain wholesome food , warming and filling . There were no  "fancy " salads  and pasta and pizza were unheard of !  And there was no choice ! This was the 50s , and we ate whatever we were given or went without !

  Teachers were strict and the cane was still in use . Luckily I was never chastised by cane ....... or ruler , which was another favourite weapon of  headmasters and teachers alike  , but many were  !  We learnt our  " times tables " parrot fashion , reciting them every morning and we had  a spelling test every day . Rules of grammar were rigid and bad handwriting was severely dealt with , the offender being made to write out whole passages from a book until the teacher was satisfied  with the result . Dyslexia was not know about and I suspect many children were labelled   " Stupid " and practically discarded  simply because their problems were not recognised and dealt with properly . But , for all the strictness, school for most of us was a happy ,  safe place .  Playtime was a vital part of school life and we were turned outside to play no matter what the weather was like  .   There were no playing fields or , in fact , any grass at all at our school . Just the cold , hard , tarmac ground . Here we played  Hopscotch and skipping games . The boys played with marbles or had conker matches  . We played tag and  " Farmers in the den " and girls did handstands up against the walls , their skirts hanging down over their faces , displaying their Regulation , sensible blue knickers , complete with handkerchief pocket !

 Sometimes , in the summer , it was so hot that the tarmac began to melt and we had to suffer the wrath of irate Mothers who had to try and remove tar stains from socks and dresses and boys trousers . This playground was also where we held our games lessons and Sports Day . Running and jumping in our vests and knickers , the boys in their vests and short trousers . We all wore our normal school clothes and little plimsolls , there were no special trainers or  any  logo-ed   sportswear  !! If you tripped or slipped and fell you got grazed knees and elbows and the teacher would lick  her hankie and rub the hurt area and off you went !

 Each class appointed Moniters and you got a special badge to wear and felt very important . These moniters were assigned little tasks , which were carried out seriously and diligently . The milk moniter helped to distribute the bottles of milk we had at morning break .  The crates were delivered early in the morning , usually before school had opened and were always left in the same place  . This meant that in the winter the milk was often so cold that the cream had frozen, lifting the little foil tops . However , in the summer the milk had been sitting in the sun for hours and was warm and often had a most disgusting smell . Either way , we had to drink it   ! The Government gave it to us free and we were told there were starving children in Africa !!

One of my favourite tasks was Blackboard moniter . This meant I had to clean the board whenever the teacher asked and I took great pride in rushing to the front of the class and carefully rubbing till every bit of chalk was eliminated . I also had the real fun job of  " banging " the blackboard erasers . Out into the yard I would go and then I  would bang the big wooden , felt covered blocks against the wall to remove all the chalk dust . On windy days the dust flew everywhere and I often spent the rest of the day covered in a white haze that followed me where ever I went  !

 We were taken for  " nature walks " , walking in a neat  " crocodile " , two by two , down country lanes to look at birds and plants .  We were well behaved on these outings , no pushing and shoving or messing about ....... we didnt dare  ! Retribution was swift and harsh and also meant that you would not be allowed on the annual school trip  . These special trips were usually to Whitby or York and were so enjoyable and informative that both places have remained in my heart and I visit them whenever I can .

 I loved that little school and when I passed my 11+ and went on to Grammar School , I knew it was all due to the strict work ethic drilled into me by the teachers  . Yes, we learnt by rote and yes we were dealt with harshly if we transgressed , but the lessons I learnt have stuck in my brain  and I still remember the  " tables " and spelling and  " i after e " !  Good manners were applauded and there was no  " answering back " . we all knew our boundaries and how far we dare push them .  Now , when I look at todays youngsters , with all  " mod cons "  and every learning aid , computers and the world wide web and I see their bored , blase faces and their lack of respect and disipline I ask myself ........ " Were we happier ? " ......................... I think we were , but no doubt you will all have your own opinions .

 Incidentally , on one of my visits to Guisborough a while ago I revisited my childhood . I went to the house where I used to live and then I thought I would retrace my route to my little school . My husband was with me and we walked along in the early summer sunlight and I told him of my many memories  and time seemed to slip slowly into the  past and I was that young child once again . As we turned the corner and approached the school railings I was dismayed to see a huge empty space . The railings were still there but the little school no longer existed . There was a forlorn pile of rubble in the playground that had once been filled with childrens laughter and weeds and clumps of grass poked through cracks where once there had been classrooms . I shed a tear for my lost childhood , now I only had my memories .

 A passer by told us that the school had been pulled down some time ago , it was too small and outdated . A new school had been built , much bigger with huge windows for more light , large integrated classrooms and computer rooms and playing fields and a sports hall , vending machines and a canteen . She kindly gave us directions to this all singing , all dancing , wonder of modern education .

           We did not seek it out  .............................................................................

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Countdown Word Challenge

 This is not one of my normal blog posts . This is my attempt at the Countdown Word Challenge started by @miblodelcarpio . The object of the game is to write a story or article and include all the words from the days Countdown TV programme  at least once . This is my story using all the following words :

            Panties ; Hanged ; Sounds ; mouse ; pleating ; wearing ; love ; quotes ; looter ; borders .

 Tom looked out of his kitchen window and sighed . He gazed over his herbaceous borders into next doors garden . There was his 15yr old son , Josh , leaning up against his bicycle , laughing and joking with the neighbour and his son . Since the new neighbours had moved in 3 months ago , Josh had become best friends with the boy, Tyson and hero worshipped Tysons father , Wayne . Tom sighed again and went out of the back door to put the rubbish in the dustbin ,
 " Hey there mate , hows it hanging ?  "  Wayne shouted , " Still preaching peace and love , are ya ? "   and  Josh and Tyson laughed and jeered . Tom smiled a weary smile and went indoors again .He felt he was losing his son as Josh had turned from a kind , thoughtful boy into a carbon copy of Wayne  ........ a rough, tough , macho , rascist , homophobic bully . Josh was always coming out with the latest bigotted quotes from Wayne and Tyson . What was the latest comment ? .... Oh yes ,  " A looter should be hanged  ! " Charming  !  Tom wondered where he had gone wrong .  His job as a Social Worker  meant that he came into contact with many different religions , backgrounds , nationalities and  " persuasions " and he believed that everyone should be treated with respect .  He and his late wife had tried to instill the same values in Josh and the youngster had known nothing but love and comfort . Why on earth was Josh hero worshipping that monster next door , who delighted in telling tales of his exploits in his job as a security guard at the local Mall  ?  These tales always involved some sort of violence  and rascist comments . Tales of beating up anyone who didnt conform .  Persecution  of anyone that was different .   There and then Tom resolved to have it out with Josh , before it was too late .

 That evening when Josh came home for his tea , Tom began his lecture . How Wayne was a bad influence , how Waynes ideas were wrong  and why he didnt want Josh to hang around next door anymore . Josh reacted furiously ,
 " You are trying to ruin my life " he yelled , " I will do what I want ! Wayne is great , hes  not a hypocrite like you  ! He practises what he preaches , hes tough and wont take shit from anyone !  I want to be just like him  ! You say we should be tolerant  but  then you say I shouldnt go round there  ! You are just a bloody hypocrite !! "   Then he stamped out of the room , slamming the door behind him .

 The rest of the evening was spent in uneasy silence . Tom read the newspaper in the sitting room while Josh stayed up in his bedroom , sulking as only a 15yr old can . They stayed this way till bedtime .  They had both been asleep for hours when Tom woke to the sounds of scratching and scrabbling in the hall downstairs  , " Bloody cat " he thought and pulled the duvet round his shoulders . Then there was a crash and he knew it was the crystal vase on the hall table .  Leaping out of bed , he met Josh on the landing ,  " Tiddles has a mouse " , Josh said  and at that Tiddles pounced on his prey .  The two ran downstairs but it was too   late for the poor mouse , who lay lifeless on the hall carpet .  They both began to pick up the broken glass and Josh fetched a dustpan and brush .

 They were both wide awake by now , on their hands and knees in the hallway . Tom stood up and said  " How about you put all this in the dustbin and I'll put the kettle on ? "    He wandered into the kitchen  , the clock said 2am and it was black outside except for the glow of light from nextdoors kichen window and back door . Josh came through  with the glass and the dead mouse , all wrapped in newspaper and shoved into a carrier bag and opened the backdoor to go to the dustbin . Tom peered , absentmindedly out of the kitchen window as he filled the kettle  ............ And so it was that they were both greeted by the sight of Wayne , standing by his open back door , smoking a cigarette in a long tortoiseshell holder , wearing fishnet stockings , red lacey panties and silk camisole with lace pleating round the neckline .

                   Josh just stood and stared but Tom walked into the living room , smiling .

If any of you would like to try the challenge for yourself please visit     http://miblodelcarpio.blog.co.uk/     I hope you try it , its great fun

Monday, 12 September 2011

Mountains Out Of Molehills.

 When we  left Scotland in 1991 we bought a house on the edge of Shiptonthorpe , a tiny village halfway between York and Hull . The house had 4 acres of land , consisting of Garden , Woodland and a large field where my Daughter kept her two horses , Charlie and Floss . The garden was beautifully landscaped with sweeping lawns and a huge fishpond with  " waterfall " .and  the pond was surrounded by a rockery and some particularly lovely flower beds  .It was visited by families of ducks , who waddled up the garden with their babies  "cheeping " in a long line behind them . Shy Moorhens scuttled behind the reeds and hid whenever we passed and every morning , bright and early , a Heron stood motionless at the waters edge , hoping for a glimpse of breakfast . It was a tranquil haven of cool green grass and shady trees , of the scent of flowers and the sound of birdsong . The field was lush and the horses happily grazed , their glossy coats gleaming in the sunlight . The wood was home to warrens of rabbits and birds of all kinds including cuckoos , owls and a woodpecker . It was nature at its best , everything in harmony ......... blissful !

 Blissful until the arrival of interlopers ........... in the form of Moles ! At first it was charming to see the occasional molehill here and there . Moles are the  " little gentlemen in velvet jackets " ...... the Moley of  " Wind in the Willows " living happily in his subterranean world . But soon it became ridiculous , the damage the moles were doing was unbelieveable . Great piles of soil and huge holes everywhere . I twisted my ankle in one and my daughter became worried that one of the horses would break a leg if they stepped into one of the gaping holes that were appearing all over the field . The lawns were being destroyed and plants dying from being continually dug up .

 It became clear that something had to be done . As animal lovers we were very reluctant to do anything at all but our gardener said that  he would get a trap and show Hubby how to set it as the mole numbers definitely needed reducing . Well I think Hubby was so reluctant to do this that he didnt watch the demonstration very well and consequently the trap was not very successful and only two moles were actually caught . Even this made us quite sad as we didnt like killing things . The gardener also tried smoke bombs but we didnt like that either so that method was abandoned too .The problem was still there though so we resorted to asking everyone we knew at dog shows and other places  for advice . It seemed everyone had a different method for humanely scaring off moles ! Put holly in the tunnels ........... put various foul-smelling mixtures in the tunnels ..... oh all sorts of weird and wonderful things that were all " guaranteed " to persuade the moles to dig elsewhere  ! But of course nothing worked . The molehills multiplied and in desperation Hubby tried the trap again , this time it didnt work at all  ( thankfully ) It seemed that the rabbits had teamed up with the moles and ran around and  " sprung " the trap each time it was set !!  We became the entertainment for friends and family , who enquired daily about the  " mole situation "  and almost cried laughing as we related the latest lack of progress .

 It was our custom to host a barbeque in our garden  after the annual Leeds Dog Show and many people attended . They all thought the molehills were hilarious and some witty chaps sneaked out and put huge heaps of soil on the paved patio , then shouted  , " Oh look , theyve even tunnelled through the paving slabs ! Wow , these moles are invincible !!"  and many guests brought us stuffed toy moles and a "mole" tea-towel and other mole themed objects ! ........  Ha , bloody ha !!!

 Two days after the barbeque we received a letter and newspaper cutting from one of our friends in Birmingham . The newspaper article was about  getting rid of moles by putting a tape player in the garden and playing rock music . Apparently moles dont like the vibrations ! We laughed at this idea , but we tried it  and a couple of days later I wrote the following poem and sent it to our friend :

                   " This is the tale of a fellow called  Een,
                      With a lovely garden and lawn flat and green.
                      He tended it daily and mowed it each week,
                      And when weeds appeared he gave them a tweak.

                      On rising one morning , a warm rosy dawn ,
                      He spied a big pile of soil on his lawn .
                      No time for his coffee , a fag or a cough
                      He just grabbed his spade and shovelled it off .

                      But during the day , when the sun brightly burned ,
                      To Ians dismay two molehills returned .
                      For the rest of the week , well he almost cried
                      Cos each time he moved them , they just multiplied .

                      So Ian decided a hard line to persue
                      And took some advice on just what to do .
                      He bought all the smokebombs , displayed on the shelf ;
                      " I'll get the buggers " he said to himself .

                      He lit the blue touch paper , sat back and waited
                      And then , for a while , the molehills abated .
                      But just a month later saw hills end to end ,
                      I think all the moles had come back , with a friend .

                      So Ian decided to try out a trap
                      The sort that squashes the sods with a snap !
                      So he got a long stick and poked in the ground
                      And followed the tunnels that went round and round .

                      He planted the trap and went in for his tea
                       And soon caught one and chortled with glee ,
                      " Ive caught one ! Ive caught one , now Im in clover
                       Soon all my trouble with moles will be over ! "

                       He caught one or two , or , wait , was it three ?
                       And gained admiration from his family .
                       His wife said , " Oh Een , youre a wonderful man ,
                       Protecting us from moles , as only you can ! "

                       Even the puppies watched Een with pride ,
                       As he opened the bin and dropped moles inside .
                       But soon the grin was wiped from his face ,
                       As molehills appeared all over the place.

                      The moles were too clever to all end up  dead,
                      So around the traps they tunnelled instead .
                      And Ian began to get really glum
                      Cos each trap that sprung was an empty one .

                      And deep in their tunnels the moles all did scoff ,
                      They'd just asked the rabbits to set the traps off.
                       Well the battle raged on for many a day,
                      Those bloody moles would not go away .
                       Ian tried all the tricks with holly and such ,
                       But they didnt work .... well not very much !

                      Then a letter arrived in the post on bright morn ,
                      At first the idea  Een did scorn .
                      But persuaded by wifey to have one last try,
                      He went off to Tesco and proceeded to buy
                      A pile of batteries and a certain tape .
                      The checkout assistant really did gape !

                      Then rushing back home , he plugged it all in
                      And then sat back with a tonic and gin .
                      After an hour of Des O'Connors tones
                      The moles were all packing and leaving their homes .
                      The tape and the batteries were surely no waste
                       Because thankfully even moles have taste .

 I know you are all animal lovers so please allow for poetic license in the poem . No moles  were hurt in the  writing of this blog .

                                               And YES , it did work !!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Half Eaten Hedges

 My Grandad was not my  " real "  Grandad ........ not my  " birth " relation , as they say nowadays . My Nana was married twice and her second husband was much resented by my Mother . But that is not for now , that is for another day . To me he was my Grandad , the only one I had ever known and I loved and respected him and mourned him when he passed away .

 He was one of four children born to a relatively wealthy farming family in North Yorkshire . Apparently , when he was 8 yrs old , he had fallen from a cart and broken his arm in a few places . It was set hastily and inexpertly by the local doctor and infection set in and he almost lost the arm . He was sent every fortnight , at great expense , on his own , across the country to Liverpool for treatment and although this saved the limb it was left twisted and his right hand was turned inwards in a sort of immobile  " claw " shape . The fingers were set in one position and could not be moved .  Of course nowadays he would be registered as disabled and eligible for all sorts of help and benefits , but way back in the early 1900s there was no NHS , no Benefit schemes ; you  just had to get on with it !

 Every brother was given farming land by the parents and my Grandads farm was located where Wilton I.C.I  now stands . It extended   from Lazenby to what was known as the  " Trunk Road " between Grangetown and Redcar . It was a dairy farm and the milk was put into huge churns and taken down the lane by horse and cart . There it was left , to be picked up by a truck from Northern Dairies . Then it was returned ,  bottled and in heavy metal crates ,  to be delivered to households round the town by my Grandad and the same horse and cart .

 I.C.I  Wilton , which had started off in a small  field , was expanding rapidly and office buildings and processing plants seemed to pop up overnight and creep ever nearer to the edge of the farm . Grandad had sold I.C.I quite a few fields by then but eventually they made him an offer he couldnt refuse , the farm was sold , and my Grandparents bought a large Victorian semi in Grangetown . Now at the time this was a prosperous town , full of life , with plenty of work for the menfolk at the thriving Dorman Long Steel Works .This was now the mid 1950s and I often used to visit my Grandparents for the weekend . At night I would look out of the window and see the big red glow of the furnaces way in the distance and see shards of light and sparks fly up into the night sky when the workers were tapping the furnaces and the molten liquid was meeting the cold  " pig " moulds .

 Although the farm was sold , my Grandad was still the Milkman , the only differences being that the horse and cart were kept at a nearby farm on the edge of town and the milk was no longer produced by  " our " cows !  It was now delivered very early in the morning to the rear of the house and kept in a purpose-built dairy in the back yard .  I can remember laying in bed , blankets up to my ears and hearing the clatter and rattle of the crates and the chatter of the men as they unloaded the days supplies . Meanwhile , Grandad would have left the house even earlier to go up to the field and  " catch " the horse and harness it to the cart . Then I would hear the  " clip clop " of hooves on the cobbled back alley  and once again the clatter of crates being loaded , this time by my Grandad with his  crooked arm .  I have no idea how he managed , I guess he had got used to the situation  and ,  to my shame ,  as a youngster it never crossed my mind .  It was something I was used to and I never thought of the impact it must have had on his life , he always coped and I never heard him complain .

 He was not a sentimental man , I suppose farmers cant always allow themselves that luxury . so , although he cared for and ....I believe loved .......his horse , he had no time for fancy names and every horse he ever owned was called  " Peter " !  Well,  the Peter I knew was a marvel . He knew every inch of the huge milkround and could have walked  the route on his own . He knew when to stop and when to start off again and would wait at each place for the designated time . However, this meant that if a customer chatted for too long or needed an extra pint fetching Grandad had to hurry or Peter would just trot off again and be halfway down the street at the next stop  !

 During the school holidays my sister Gill and I would often  go  " on the round " too and we would jump on and off the cart at the stops  and run up and down paths with pints of  " gold top " and bottles of orange juice and Peter would trot off to the next stop with us gaily skipping after calling  " Whoa , whoa " , which of course he ignored .  A couple of customers always made Grandad a cup of tea and if we were with him we went into the cosy homes and were made a fuss of and plied with cocoa and biscuits .  Peter was used to these longer stops and stayed in one place merrily munching the garden hedge till we came out . These generous households could easily be recognised by their half eaten hedges , which were much shorter and sparser than their neighbours  neat , uneaten ones !

 People loved Peter , they came out with apples and sugar cubes and little children giggled as his soft nose nuzzled their palms to carefully take the crusts of bread they offered .  People loved my Grandad too . They gave him cakes and puddings in muslin cloths and sent magazines to my Nana . She , in turn , used Grandad as a courier to deliver Strawberry jam to the lady at number 6 or take a lovingly knitted matinee coat to Mrs. Browns new baby . Births , marriages and deaths were discussed at length and news was carried , along with the odd letter and parcel , from one street to another .

 Milk needed to be delivered in all weather . Pouring rain , scorching sun , sleet and snow and howling gales , there would be my Grandad and his trusty Peter . Grandad , at the crack of dawn , huffing and puffing, lifting heavy crates with his  " gammy " arm , trudging up and down garden paths , his weather beaten , furrowed brow  like leather and the creases and wrinkles of his berry brown face deep set in a smile .  When the snow and ice was too dangerous for Peter Grandad did the round in short spells using a two wheeled handcart that carried 6 crates at a time . This meant that he had to return home many times to reload but he always managed , never missed a day !  Gill and I would sometimes help him , dressed in stout boots and layers of clothes , like two rosy cheeked eskimos . When the round was finished he would let us sit on the empty crates and he would push us back home in the handcart. I realise now that what had been great fun for us must have been hard work for him .  But it made us squeal with laughter and that pleased him .

 When Gill and I got older we used to help him at weekends by doing what was called the  " bottom round " using the two wheeled handcart .  He would load it with 6 crates and the two of us set off to deliver the daily pintas to 4 or 5 streets of houses that all had excessively long garden paths  !! We had great fun doing this even though it was very physical work  . Kids nowadays wouldnt do it I suppose ...... and Health and Safety would have something to say about it anyway , especially as I always let Gill sit on the empty crates while I pushed her home  ............. it was tradition !!

 My dear Grandad worked on , way past retirement age as he didnt want to  " let anyone down "  but eventually he had to give way to the modern world  .  It was no longer viable to deliver milk with a horse and cart . Northern Dairies had moved into the modern age and now had a fleet of fancy milk floats and a team of white coated , fresh faced young  milkmen .  Grandad was a relic of the past and everything was  " rush rush "  and there was no time to linger over a cuppa or let young kiddies feed crusts to the milkmans horse .

My Grandparents sold up and  retired to the country and there are many more stories to tell .  But I think part of him always remained on that milkround  . Peter retired  as well , to spend the rest of his life in lush fields , but , for a while , part of him remained on the round too , in the half eaten hedges dotted here and there .

Friday, 9 September 2011

Reasons To Be Cheerful Part Two

 This week has been damp in my part of the world . In the early mornings mist has clung to the Pennines and slipped slowly down the slopes into the towns and villages . It has taken hours for the sun to burn it back . The trees have dripped with rain and collars have been turned up against the droplets from the branches , still dripping long after the rain has stopped . Saturated ground has squelched under the feet of early morning dog-walkers and the dogs themselves have come home , wet up to their stomachs from the soggy grass .
 Children have returned to school after the long Summer break . Trudging through the golden leaves that have already begun to fall from the trees that line their route . There they go ,shiny faced and eager , in their brand new blazers ...... bought slightly too big so they can  " grow into " them .  Conscious of their new shoes and schoolbags , telling tales of holidays in Majorca or Mablethorpe .

Squirrels race up and down trees in next doors garden , gathering nuts and taunting my dogs and making them bark . Glossy berries drip with dew and russet apples fall to the ground with a soft  " plop " and nestle on the soaked lawn . The air suddenly smells of woodsmoke and that faint , almost indescribable  " peaty " aroma of mushrooms and rotting leaves and dying bedding plants .

 The hands on the Season Clock have slipped off Summer and are slowly turning to Autumn  and my world has turned red and gold .  Autumn :  my favourite time of year !  I love it and always have  !  It has none of the reluctance and newness of Spring , or the brashness and heat of Summer ....... it is quieter and cosier and leads us gently into the crisp cold weather of Winter and the excitement of Christmastime .

 For me it is a reason to be cheerful , something to be glad about . I realise you may not all feel the same so , once again , I invite you all to think of your own reasons to be glad and list them .  Here is my list for today .

                                                            The promise of Autumn in the air .
                                                            Family .
                                                            New notebooks .
                                                            My darling husband .
                                                            Fish and chips .
                                                            YSL Touche Eclat .
                                                            Peanut M&Ms .
                                                            Dark nights .
                                                            BlackBerry Messenger .

               Have a wonderful day !

Thursday, 8 September 2011

A Special Skill.

 Im sure that each and every one of us has a skill , some of us have more than one . Some little thing you are able to do that others may find difficult . Maybe you can touch your nose with your tongue , recite the alphabet backwards or know every joke from every episode of " Frasier ".  My special skill is being able to deal with my clients while keeping a straight face !  Anyone who comes into contact with members of the public on a regular basis will know that many of them have certain foibles and eccentricities that make them unique and many of the people I deal with in the  "Dog Grooming " business are no exception .

 We have a lovely lady with a Poodle , who has been coming to us for years and each time she says the same thing , " You  wont do him too short, will you ? I dont want him to be bald ". Every time we trim him exactly the same as the time before and she is always pleased . But on the next visit we get  , " You wont take too much off will you ?....................."   

 But at least she likes her Poodle to look like a  Poodle  !  It would seem that many people wish their dogs were another breed entirely . We have a lady who doesnt like her Poodle done too  " poodley " ! Now I can hear many of you saying   " Oh, I dont blame her , I hate all those bobbles and pom-poms and shaved bits and puffy bits on their bums !" ,  but NO , I am not talking about  " Show cuts " and anyway show people trim their own dogs . No , she just doesnt want it to look like a  Poodle ! So , we do a poodle  " puppy trim "  and each time she is delighted . Although I do wonder why she didnt just get some other breed of dog in  the first place !!

 One chap likes his West Highland White Terrier to be done like a Jack Russell !  Apparently he wanted a JR but his wife and daughter wanted a Westie , so they compromise . I have no idea what he imagined I could do to make the Westie look more like a PJR but he is always happy with my interpretation ..........I just clipper it rather than hand-strip it and make the hair on the head shorter .  It is a rather uneasy compromise though , as when either the wife or daughter bring the dog in , they ask for a Westie cut !!

Some requests border on the  " very weird " as one gentleman brings us his un-docked Yorkie and asks for it to be shaved  short everywhere except for its tail . The hair there has to be left long and silky as he likes to cuddle the dog in the evening and stroke its tail  !  Hmmmm , maybe we should move swiftly on .....................

 I  find that some dogs can change their persona to suit their owners . One particular Yorkie is a bundle of nerves and insecurities and clings to its owner whenever its brought into the shop . This chap is convinced that his dog depends entirely on him and hates to be parted from him  for a second . He places the dog in my arms and after much petting and kissing ..........of the dog , readers , of THE DOG !!!......   he says , " Now dont worry Joey , Daddy wont be long "  Then he goes to the door , turns , gives a wistful sigh and comes back to Joey and says , " Really, its OK , I wont leave you for long . I know how much you miss me !" . This performance usually lasts about 10mins , with Joey milking it for all hes worth . Then, when the owner leaves little Joey gives a sigh as though to say  , " Thank goodness that idiot has gone " and he becomes a happy , confident little dog , racing round the shop and enjoying a  " rough and tumble ". When Daddy returns , Joey immediately becomes a shy , dependant little dog again  and the owner is convinced that  " darling doggy " has hated every minute they have been apart !

 You must be getting the idea that all my clients and their dogs are nutcases , but really  , I love them all and they never cease to brighten what is often a very long day . Sometimes they brighten the day in more ways than one . Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know about our wonderful , Pomeranian owning " fashion icon ".  This chap is such fun but his dress sense does leave a lot to be desired . He is a fan of tight T shirts and lycra cycling shorts..... but I doubt he ever cycles ! He wears XS on a clearly XXXL figure......bless him ! And I wouldnt be surprised if his colour combinations can be seen from space . He particularly favours magenta and fucshia..............sometimes together , and his footwear of choice is usually lime green socks and bright orange Crocs . But a nicer bloke I have yet to meet .

 These stories could go on endlessly  but I will just tell you one more for the time being . A while ago I had a new client who I only knew from her initial phone call to book the appointment . Well , I always groom the dogs of new clients so there I was waiting  for someone to arrive with a Jack Russell   . Well , arrive she did  and it was , indeed, a lovely friendly JR called Pete ............... and the owner was a lovely , friendly lady who I can only describe as ......... a  " hooker " ! Not even faintly disguised or trying to hide the fact .  With a straight face I listened as she explained that Pete needed  to be tidied up as her  " clients " were getting dog hairs on their suits . I said he probably needed stripping and that I would do it by hand  and she nodded in agreement . Strangely it all sounded like something she would do in her  " job " and I hoped she didnt think I was trying to be funny ! She chatted to me like we were old  pals , all cosy and friendly . She really was very nice even though  her boobs were almost falling out of her blouse and I was trying to avert my gaze . Well Pete was a delight and very well behaved and when she picked him up she gave me a very generous tip and booked lots of future visits . She tottered to the doorway in her tight leather skirt and gravity defying heels and then turned , winked and said ,
" Ya know , sweets, we're both providing a good , useful service for the community ! "

And I still managed to keep a straight face !      


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Roup

 The dictionary gives the definition of  " roup " as a disease of poultry or a word for  " shout ". In the northeast of Scotland it means  " auction ". The  " Doric " dialect of that part of Scotland has many strange words.
 When we lived in Kemnay, Aberdeenshire , during the late 70s and 80s a  " roup " was held every week in the Village Hall . The estate we lived on was very small and all the inhabitants were  " incoming workers ", mostly involved in the oil business . I made many friends but my very best and closest was my nextdoor neighbour , Esther . She was originally from Ireland, by way of South Wales  and was instantly a soulmate and woman after my own heart . We shared the same hobbies and we were both adventurous and full of joy.. Both our husbands worked offshore for two weeks at a time and so we were together for long spells and got up to all sorts of madcap schemes and had enormous fun .
 We started to go to the  " roup "because someone in the village had mentioned it and we were always up for a new activity !  At first we just sat at the back and watched  the proceedings . The roup was very popular and people came from all over the area and the hall was always packed . We had no idea what the heck was going on as most of the dialogue was in Doric and some other strange autioneer language that was spoken so fast it was completely unintelligible. The auctioneer said something , an object was held up or pointed to by an assistant and then hands bobbed up and down to a soundtrack of complete gobbledegook until finally the hammer was battered on the desk ; someone  looked pleased ; some other people muttered darkly and then it all began again .
 Gradually, however, by some sort of osmosis , our brains began to make a little sense of it all and we sometimes  wildly held up our hands ; usually to be glowered at by others nearby . Once I was actually successful and purchased a mixed box of  " objets "  mainly consisting of assorted old knives and forks ......destined for the  " third drawer " !!  My success was probably due to the fact that no one else bothered to bid for the damn stuff !!  Anyway we got hooked and became fairly well known and people nodded and smiled as we took our seats each week . We even started going to the  " viewings " on the Monday afternoon and make a note of anything we were interested in .
 I was keen on restoring furniture at the time and I was thrilled when I successfully bid for two lovely little chairs , fighting off fierce competition from the local butcher and the Ministers wife . Esther and I loaded them into the back of her estate car , already planning what colour I would use to re-upholster them .  We were Professionals !!
 One Monday afternoon we were viewing the lots as usual when Esther spied some kitchen cupboards and a few lengths of worktop . There and then she resolved to bid for them. In her minds eye she could already see them installed in her kitchen  ! I was less enthusiastic , but .......in for a penny....  Evening soon came and we were seated near the front , all the better to secure our prize . To pass the time I bid for , and won , a sweet little hall stand in need of some TLC . The evening wore on and eventually the  "kitchen " was the next  "lot " !  It was a popular lot and the bidding was fast and furious but Esther kept her nerve and eventually won ! We were overjoyed ! It was now about 10.30pm and we  had to get the stuff home ! We lived about half a mile from the village hall so we decided to do it in a few trips  . We loaded as much as we could into Esthers car and then left a chum guarding the rest of the kitchen while we drove home and unloaded . I was sort of pinned to the side window by lengths of worktop  and we had the tailgate half open , secured with my best silk scarf !  Soon everything was piled up in the garden at the rear of Esthers house .  I was quite " tuckered out " by all our activities but after a cuppa in her kitchen and a few scribbled sketches on the back of an envelope , Esther had persuaded me to carry on !
 Her kitchen was a large square with cupboards and sink etc. at one end  and the other end was just bare walls intended as an informal dining area . Esthers plan was to use the new cupboards and worktops to make one large kitchen with an island unit . Simple !!!     Haha !   Well we pulled and pushed and dragged and heaved the units about until we made them all fit . It was like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle with no picture on the box lid ! And Esther kept changing her mind about where she wanted things until finally I threatened her with mortal  danger should she want the damn things moving again !  My patience wears rather thin at 3 in the morning ! Then we had the worktops to fit and make level . By now we had every power tool that our husbands possessed ; and we were not afraid to use them  ! The dust from the jigsaw and drill was very annoying and I foolishly began to vigourously blow it away . It was only when I almost fainted  that I realised I was hyperventilating !!  We really needed some 2ins by 2ins blocks to screw to the walls to sit the worktops on and make a sort of breakfast bar . We had scoured our garden shed and used any odd bits we had found but we were still short . I wondered if we ought to just wait till morning and buy some at B&Q or some such place but Esther was most disappointed as the kitchen was so nearly completed. Then I had an idea ! Whizzing home I grabbed a torch and went out into the pitch black garden and heaved and poked with a screwdriver until I managed to prise the top, decorative edge  off our interwoven garden fence.  It wasnt 2x2 or even the right colour , but it wouldnt be seen and seemed to do the job so long as we put the slightly warped bit at the bottom !  We worked through the night and as the dawn broke over the rooftops and the birds chirped down by the river , we swept away the sawdust and wiped down the worktops . The newly installed cupboards opened neatly, the drawers closed smoothly and the fridge looked great in its new location , tucked neatly under the level counter !  We were women ........We were kitchen fitters......We could do anything !!!!
 I sometimes think of that kitchen nowadays and wonder if  part of my garden fence is still screwed to the wall !
       ............................Incidently, when Esthers husband came home a few days later he had been in the house for 4 hours before he noticed the kitchen !