Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Birthday Party.

My birthday falls on  New  Years  Eve  and so I am always guaranteed a party atmosphere the whole day long.  Last year I hosted a  Fancy  Dress  party --- well,  it was more of a  theme night --- the theme being  'Gangsters and Tarts ' !  Not very original,  I know , but nevertheless great fun .
Everyone entered into the spirit of the theme and all the guests turned up looking suitably sleazy in wonderfully  authentic outfits.  In fact I didn't recognize some of my girlfriends,  I think they had put their makeup on with trowels.
There were  'Mafia' bosses and  'strippers' and  'ladies of the night'  in every corner of the room and the music blaring out was seductively sensuous.
It really  was one of the noisiest parties I have ever had and all the movers and groovers on the dance floor sounded like a dozen  earth pounders as they stamped their way through tango after tango.
I had forced my ample bosom into a tiny red satin basque,  teamed it with a  tight black skirt,  split  almost to the waist and was draping myself around a guy in a white  1930s suit and black shirt -- very  ' Robert de Niro' -- funnily enough he was  Italian .  Well we were having the usual playful slap and tickle and attempting a rather steamy Argentinian  Tango when I noticed things were getting rather heated on the other side of the room.   I extricated myself  from   ' De Niro's'  grasp and sashayed over to see what was going on .
One scantily clad lady,  slightly  rounder and more 'blowsy' than any of my usual friends , was propositioning my neighbours husband and my neighbour  was having none of it.
''No-one barters with my bloke ,''  she screamed , '' Take your filthy suggestions back onto the street,  you wh..............''
  Before she could say any more the  gate-crasher,  for that is what she was,   flew at the indignant woman and  what can only be described as a heated  'cat-fight'  broke out.  Soon other women joined in, taking sides and screaming like banshees,  pulling hair and ripping bodices and scratching with their crimson nails.  It was mayhem.

There is very little  more depressing than hearing the chimer ringing   in the  New  Year,  while sitting in a cold police cell.

So,  for those of you who may think my  Countdown Challenges have become a little too  'fluffy',  this was the second storyline. Still following the same Rules and words,  details of which can be found on  Matt's blog page /  . The words included are ;

Noisiest,   Hosted,   Pounders,   Movers,   Chimer,  Trowels,   Draping,   Barters,   Rounder,  Ample,  Long .

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Countdown Word Challenge Number 12

This time of year is so busy in the grooming business and I am constantly playing ''catch up'' . However , I am reluctant to forego all my hobbies and I try to keep everything going along as normal , I can collapse in January !!! So, bearing that in mind I have been composing todays  Challenge entry in my head and am now typing it during what I laughingly call my ''lunch break'' . Now thats dedication !!

Todays words are ;


I notice that the laptops spell-check doesn't like  POUNDERS , but what does it know ?


" This part of the market really is the noisiest '', thought  Susie , as she wandered down the  long aisle between the stalls . The  Christmas  lights twinkled  and the festive music blared out of countless  CD players  and all around people hustled and bustled in the chilly December air .
She wasn't really sure how she had ended up in this part of town , it wasn't one of her usual haunts . But her friend  Mimi  had hosted a rather wild party earlier and  Susie hadn't been to one of those before . It was a sort of  Christmas  'get together ' for many of the local residents and  Mimi had guided her through the streets to the venue . Susie had tried not to show her disappointment  , but these trendy warehouses were not her idea of  a party location .  She found it all rather scruffy and dirty and had wrinkled her pretty nose in disgust  and after the food and drink had been served  she told  Mimi she wanted to leave .  It soon became obvious that her friend had no inclination to leave so soon , she was busy gossiping in such a catty way , so Susie had decided to find her own way home .

She walked slowly,  wending her way through  fast-food containers, chunks of discarded quarter-pounders and squashed fizzy-drinks cans . All around her the  movers and  shakers of the  City were rushing about ,almost trampling her in their haste to catch the  tube, bus, taxi, train , whatever , as the  chimer  on the  clock began to strike  6pm .... home time !!!
Susie paused and watched as the stall holder beside her packed up the  trowels and screwdrivers and various other tools and hardware that he had for sale  and loaded them into his van,  draping a tarpaulin over them when he was done.  Soon he would be homeward bound,  home to his family, work finished for the day .

Susie sighed and wished she was home , far away from this confusing place . Away from the rushing feet , the last minute shoppers trying to secure a bargain with frantic  barters and good- natured banter .
The lights began to dazzle her and she sat on a wooden fruit box and sadly surveyed the rotting tomatoes and bruised apples lying under a nearby stall . She felt sick and  wondered if that  sardine pate had been past its  'use -by' date .  She was hopelessly lost , what was she going to do ?
Suddenly she looked up and there was a figure she recognized , a lovely friendly figure , much rounder than anyone else nearby .  Susie was lifted up and pressed into an  ample bosom and she purred contentedly as her owner said ,
'' Oh Susie , what are you doing here ? I 've been looking everywhere for you ,you silly cat . I was so worried when I saw you running off with that naughty  Mimi  from next door , she's no better than an alley cat .  Come on ,lets go home ''

So that is my effort for this week , although now that I have typed it out another storyline has popped into my head . Ah , well , there is always another day .  If you would like to try this challenge  you can find details and rules on Matt's blog page  . Do try it , its great fun . Now back to work .

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Favourite Poetry. [ An Occasional Series ]

I have always loved poetry . Even as a very young child I was fascinated by the rhymes in childrens books and as I grew older I was captivated by  a poems ability to perfectly describe my feelings . To make me laugh , cry or simply to think more carefully about the world around me . Unfortunately my own feeble attempts at poetry have never lived up to my expectations and  I am in awe of  anyone  who can master the art.
However, I still love to read poetry and , with that in mind,  I have decided to share a few of my favourite verses and maybe inspire some of you to do the same . And so I start this series with a poem by the American , Robert Frost , for no other reason than it came to me during the rainstorm last night.

                                                      Acquainted with the Night

                                                            by Robert Frost

                                        I have been one acquainted with the night
                                        I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.
                                        I have outwalked the furthest city light.

                                        I have looked down the saddest city lane.
                                        I have passed by the watchman on his beat
                                        And dropped my eyes , unwilling to explain.

                                        I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
                                        When far away an interrupted cry
                                        Came over  houses from another street,

                                        But not to call me back or say goodbye;
                                        And further still at an unearthly height,
                                        O luminary clock against the sky

                                        Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
                                        I have been one acquainted with the night.

This poem has kept me company through many sleepless nights as I often suffer from insomnia , but there are many reasons for wandering the streets , or rooms of a house , when it seems that all the world is asleep  !

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Freewriting Exercise.( 2 )

Well, I'm having another go at this freewriting lark but goodness only knows what will come out today . Its been a weird sort of day , all drizzly and grey but I have been in an extremely good mood as though nothing can bring me down . this is my usual outlook on life and I must admit it does drive people mad > I can see how it must be annoying to have this Pollyanna   character  whizzing around , all sweetness and light and you are feeling ill or hungover or just plain miserable , but thats how i am and I guess I'm too old to change now . What do I do thats so annoying?  well, I sing , dreadfully out of tune , I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket but I do so love to sing and in my head it sounds absolutely perfect . Of course those around me are all wincing and leaving the room and I am  warbling away like some erstwhile Renata Tebaldi and this is made all the more frustrating due tio the fact that I find it extremely easy to learn lyrics  I usually only have to hear something a couple of times and I know the words , always provided I can hear the words in the first place of course . unfortunately that is not always the case with some of the groups or should I say bands , yes they are called bands nowadays aren't they ? heavens i remembered to insert a question mark , wonders will never cease . Anyway I was talking about singing , oh yes , well I have always found it easy to learn words of songs , poems , dialogue and passages from books  . Passages , that reminds me of Alan Bennett and his Mum or Aunt scooping up some of the burning coals from the fire in the kichen and rushing down the passage to deposit it in the hearth in the best parlour . My gran used to do that , we all had to  stand clear while she did this and the smell of smoke used to linger in the passage for hours afterwards . I wonder what health and safety would make of that nowadays . They would probably have a fit . Oh another annoying thing I do is dancing  . I dance around all the time and  jiggle about to any music , even the music on the tv adverts . I also do silly exercises , this are a particular annoyance to my OH and my daughter as both suffer from back problems while I can stand with straight legs and place the palms of my hands on the floor , they wince when I do that too , in fact it seems to be my mission in life is to make people wince  . Wasn't there a weather girl called Wincey  ? Or have I made that up . And dont even get me started on playing silly games  I do that all the time with my grandkids  . I dont think I want to grow up, all the grownups gets so boring and forget to have fun  and give me those disapproving stares and whisper to each other and askif Ive been drinking and look at the level of the Gin bottle  . haha , well I actually don't drink very much at all , well when I say drink I mean alcohol , why do people always mean alcohol ? I mean you would get blooming well thirsty if you didn't drink something  , water or such . So, I dont drink very much alcohol , I don't need to be drunk to lose my inhibitions . I'm really prattling on tonight and I fear that this may be a bigger load of rubbish than normal and I am so aware that there are certain things that i am deliberately blocking from my thoughts because they might slip down to my fingers and end up on this page . Its very hard to have a sort of  Passport control area in my head . Acceptable thoughts pass straight through the green channel and unacceptable thoughts have to wait in line to be  investigated and  strip searched and have their passport stamped 'entry refused ' .They are the terrorists , they have the potential to self destruct and blow everything apart so they must stay away and not be allowed to appear on this page  . And why do I keep thinking about Goa , perhaps its because I saw it on Tv this morning , that chap who cooks fish was there and he came all the way back to England to cook lobster , stupid man , I would have stayed there and never come home . Oh yes  Rick  Stein , I think thats who I mean . Well Rick Stein you are an idiot .  Perhaps thats why I'm dreaming of Goa , and I think that must be time  . Is it , yes it is .

I tried not to correct my typos and punctuation quite so much this time ,  but it does upset my ''tidy'' mind .

Never Trust Someone Who Says They Know The Way !

I have a fairly good geographic knowledge of the UK . and have travelled to all but the most remote regions of our lovely island . I have lived in the  South and the  North , including  Scotland and have rarely been lost  as I always have my trusty map  ( and , nowadays , a  Sat-Nav )  and I am not afraid to ask for  directions   (males please take note !).
Having  'Dog Showing ' as a hobby means that I have travelled the length and breadth of the  British  Isles , often on my own , as my husband frequently worked away from home . And so , during the  80s and 90s , most weekends  you would find me driving along the highways and byways to some venue or another with a car full of dogs and  2 children.
Finding the towns was the simple part, but often the venues were slightly more of a challenge . However, the various  Dog Clubs and  Societies  anticipated this problem by printing a very basic map on the back of the  Show schedule . Just a sort of quick outline of the main streets with the  Sports   Centre ,  Village  Hall,  Playing  Field   , or any other venue , highlighted . X most certainly marked the spot !  And so all was rosy in my world and I continued happily driving to shows , where the only stress I encountered was whether or not  Terrible  Tarquin was going to behave and just exactly when my daughter was going to say , in a little trembly voice ,
" Mum,  I feel sick ! "

We were living in Scotland , 15 miles  North of  Aberdeen  and I guess it must have been the mid  80s  when I first heard about the  Ladies  Kennel  Ass. of  Scotland 's  Open  Show . Someone told me it was a great show and that they had lots of  Afghan Hound  Classes so I thought I would give it a try .  It was to be held late in the year in  Johnstone , which is about 12 miles  West of  Glasgow  and part of the largest conurbation in  Scotland . I phoned for the schedule and duly filled in the entry form , enclosed a not inconsiderable cheque and that was that .  The schedule was filed away and I thought no more  about it  until a week before the show when , to my consternation , I realised there were no directions whatsoever  to the venue  !
Well,  I knew how to get to  Glasgow,  how to negotiate the ring road and avoid the  City  Centre and I knew the general direction to go after that ,  But  Johnstone  itself was a mystery to me  and I had no map of the town . Remember, this was before  Google maps or  Sat-Nav !!
My first instinct was to just  'go for it' . I have always been intrepid with an optimistic outlook and things usually worked out , but my husband , who was on an oil platform  140 miles  out in the  North  Sea , informed me that all was well .  Apparently he had a work-mate who was born and bred in  Johnstone and knew exactly where the  Community  Centre was  and that detailed directions were winging their way to me  courtesy of  British  Airways  Helicopters  and good old  Royal  Mail !!  Sorted  !!

And so the day dawned , a chilly but dry Sunday  morning . It must have been about 5am when I loaded up  my trusty old blue  Cortina   Estate and pushed my two sleepy , sluggish offspring into their seats and off we went. On a cold, clear morning the drive from  Aberdeen , down the A90 towards  Dundee is a lovely , picturesque journey . Startled deer run out and hesitate before hurtling across the road and vanishing into deep forests and every now and then the  North  Sea looms beside you , still and grey and oh so cold  and  supply ships and tankers glint in the distance as the first light of dawn  reflects off their radio masts . Pretty little white-washed cottages  are dotted along the road side and  rolling hills lie  like petticoats around the higher mountains .
And then, after  Dundee , the glorious stretch of the   A92 as it hugs the silver  Tay  and snakes through some of the most fertile land in  Scotland . Through  fields of  raspberry canes and  logan berries and  Tayberries , all hung with a frosty mist in the early  November sunshine .  Then the road rises slightly as it nears the lovely  city of  Perth that lies , nestled in a huge bend of the river . The grey towers and turrets of the old buildings taking on a pink glow as the dawn light moves ever  Westward.
On we went , onto the  A9 and down through more forests and fields , dropping ever downwards, leaving the hills and mountains behind us . Past the huge , sombre castle , high up on the cliffs at  Stirling and down to the  Clyde valley and the giant sprawl of  Glasgow , far in the distance . It really was the most glorious morning , God was in his heaven , all was right with the world .

Just after Cumbernauld there used to be a long steep slope down to some traffic lights . I think it has changed now , but , anyway, back in the 80s thats how it was ! So, we were pootling along , my daughter , in the back seat , whining about being sick and me saying that if she was she had better be sure  not to get any on the dogs  ( I'm all heart ) and my son , aged 17 , flopping in the passenger seat , resenting the fact that he had been forced  to give up his  Sunday  'lie in' and come to a  'bloody dog show' when disaster struck !
The car started to pull to the left in a most alarming way and then we had to stop at the traffic lights .  I told my son,  an apprentice mechanic , about the cars strange behaviour , but he just grunted in the way teenagers do and so when the lights turned green , off I went . Or ,at least , I didn't !!  The car sort of juddered and lurched and made the weirdest drumming noise and I stopped and my son said ; calmly , I thought , seeing as we were in the middle of a junction ,
" Oh, I think we have a flat tyre !"   Marvellous !!!

Of course the spare tyre in the  Cortina  Estate was under the floor of the tailgate , so we had to unload all the show equipment and carry it over to the pavement and get the two Afghan Hounds onto the backseat with my car-sick daughter . Thank goodness it was still early on a  Sunday  morning and traffic was  still very light .
Out came the spare tyre , out came the tools , out came the jack ........ oh dear , NO JACK !!  We hunted and searched and then hunted again , just to be sure , but no , we had no jack  ! Bloody hell !!
Across the road , about half a mile in the distance I could see a branch of  Halfords and so I piled the dogs and show stuff  back into the car and , leaving my son in charge , I set off , hoping to buy a jack .  I was almost there when it dawned on me that it was only about   7.45 on a  Sunday morning , in  Scotland . Halfords would not be open for hours , if at all .  And so I traipsed  back to the car and decided to phone the  AA . At least I had one of the early mobile phones , the ones that were like half a house-brick !!

We waited for what seemed like hours , but was actually only about 30mins , for a grinning  AA  man to rescue us from the junction, change the wheel and  admonish me for not checking my tool kit , yada, yada, yada !!  Then we loaded up again and set off . I was increasingly sure that we should abandon the trip but , damn , we were not far away now and we could still make it if we got a wiggle on.  I was so intent on trying to make up some of our lost time and still rather shaken by the whole experience , that I didn't notice that I had gone past the sliproad for the bypass .  It was only when  I found myself surrounded by taxis and buses and busy streets that I realised I had driven straight into the centre of  Glasgow and the dreaded  'one way ' system ........... and I had no idea which  'one way' I should be taking !
Using some sort of weird second sight and  'bat like' sense of direction . we eventually found ourselves emerging from the city , entering the suburbs and actually on the ring road  !  It was going to be alright !!

We hurtled along the  M8 and onto  the  A737 and into the outskirts of  Johnstone .   My son unfolded the directions , so carefully written and sent from the middle of the  North  Sea and began to read them out to me ,
" Enter Johnstone and you will see a pub called , whatever , on the right ......"
Ok , we all looked for the pub .....nothing  . Plenty of pubs but none with the correct name .  I drove a bit further ......still nothing  . Ok , read the next bit ,
" Turn right at the church ,"
Hmmmm, well a church , in  Scotland , is a fairly easy thing to find . There seems to be at least 6 on every street  and they all look pretty similar , so that was not really very helpful , but we bravely ploughed on . The directions went on in a similar , very ambiguous , non-specific manner , but we followed them as best we could  , zig-zagging across the town for about 20mins until we finally ended up in a row of back-street garages . At this point I was almost  suicidal . I had two restless  Afghans  , one bilious daughter , and a son who was being yelled at because I was so stressed .
We stopped beside the row of garages and I grabbed the bloody directions , tore them into a dozen pieces and  flung them out of the window .  Sorry  Johnstone !!  Then I decided to trust my own instincts . 
We were horribly lost and I had no idea if we were even on the right side of town , but I sat and calmed down and thought ,
" If I was a town planner , where would I put a  Community  Centre ?"
Then I started the car and drove first right and then next left and there in front of me was a car with dogs in the back ! I took a deep breath and decided to follow this car.  For all I knew they were on their way to a park for a walk , but they could also be going to the show .  I had nothing to lose , if I didn't find the venue soon I would miss the classes so to heck with it .
I followed the car as it wended its way down road after road , I was  Steve  McQueen in  'Bullitt' !   Then , suddenly the driver indicated left and  pulled onto the drive of a large house . I lost the will to live and wanted to cry with frustration , but I was still watching the people we had followed and they  were getting out of the car and walking up the road  with their dogs  instead of going into the house . Why were they doing that , I wondered  and then my son shouted ,
" Look there , Mum . Is that it ?"
And , oh yes,   just a few yards away , was a large building and car park full of cars and lots and lots of dogs . Dogs on leads , dogs in crates , show dogs excitedly pulling their owners towards the  Community  Centre !!  Salvation !!
I parked the car in the only available space and my son poured me a coffee from the flask.  I held it with shaking hands and vowed  to never ever again come to blooming  Johnstone .

Incidentally , Tarquin actually won his class  and went  Reserve  Best of  Breed , although he did do a few  cartwheels  and jumped over my shoulders .
Our beautiful black and silver  Cleo won  Best of  Breed and went on to be  Best in  Show  !!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Countdown Word Challenge Number 11

The week seems to have flown by and here we are at Monday again . How does that happen ?  So my regular readers  (all three of you !!) will realise that it's time for Matt's Word Game !
Lets have a little look at the words for this week ;


If any of you would like to have a go you can find the rules and words on Matts blog page    . So without further ado here goes ............................


I knew the day was going to go badly,  it would be like pleating  gravy .  Everything I had planned was going to fall apart and  sooner  or later the shit would hit the fan .  This was the biggest , most high profile , event  I  had ever  organised and I knew I had done an amazing  job .
I had finally arranged the seating and  chased  up the specially requested , exotic blooms from the Phillipines . I had made sure that the pearl white , monogrammed balloons had all been  secured , tied , ligated ,whatever you care to call it , to the huge silver arch , beneath which the  bride and groom would stand .  The special , romantic arbour where they would hold hands and make their vows and kiss .
I had  rounded  up the most talented orchestra and given them  the long list of requests ,  the brides favourite tunes  and the special arrangement of the  'first dance'.
I had booked the most fashionable caterers and risked the chefs disapproving stare when I gave him the recipe for the special  malted  dessert , apparently a favourite of the brides  mother !
I had even given the waiting staff a  pointer  or two about etiquette  and made sure that every uniform , from hat to apron to  glove  was perfect .
This  wedding was going to be legendary in its beauty of design and decor ,  its  leafy ,  rose- petal strewn, crystal sparkling ,  fairy- lit ,  pink -cloud  filled  perfection .
So why was I so worried ?  What on earth could possibly  creep  in to spoil such careful  planning , such meticulous arrangements ?  The  bride and her formidable  mother would be here in an hour to inspect the room and give me the praise I so richly deserved .
However , when they arrived , I would be sitting in a soft topped sports car , hurtling towards  Gretna  Green with the groom !!!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Countdown Word Challenge Number 10

I'm sure you are all familiar with Matt's Word game by now , but if you have been to deepest ,  darkest  Peru or somewhere equally remote , and have missed all my other entries , the details and rules can be found on Matt's blog page at ;  .

Well here are the words that must be included today ;


                                                      Paperchains and Tinsel .

Round about this time of year my thoughts always turn to  Christmas  and this year is no exception .
I have always been  soppier and more sentimental than the average person  and  so the  Season appeals to my romantic side and I have always loved  Christmas time .
The shops are already full of all the modern requirements for todays idea of  Christmas . All neatly packaged in shining boxes . Everything is  'all singing , all dancing ', with bells and whistles and readymade splendour . Plastic trees and  drip-dry baubles  and fibre optic lights .  Some trees even come ready decorated , all you have to do is stand it in an appropriate place and  'voila ' ... instant  Christmas  !!
But I hanker after a more innocent age .  I have been chatting recently , via the wonderful  BlackBerry  Messenger ,  with my dear friend  Lucy  Greenfield  and we  found  ourselves  reminiscing about the old  Christmases of our youth .

Nowadays , my taste in  Christmas decor tends to be understated elegance . All garlands of  holly  leaves  and  red  satin ribbon  and artfully wrapped , colour co-ordinated gifts  beside a perfect tree dressed in tiny white pea-lights and silver baubles .  Nothing garish , no clashing colours ,  all maybe a little too contrived . I insist on doing it on my own , no children allowed , the effect is everything .
But the  Christmases of my youth , especially the ones when I was  10 to 12 yrs old , were full of homemade , homespun joy .

At the beginning of  December we would begin the preparations . The main sitting room would be  cleared  in readiness for the decorations and the all important tree .  We children would sit for hours making long paperchains from ready cut strips of coloured paper .  These strips had adhesive at one end , which we would lick and link together  to form garlands , which were then hung from the picture rails in all the  rooms .  It was quite a competitive exercise and my siblings would  taunt each other ,  claiming that their chain was the longest and there was much playful pushing and shoving and frantic measuring !  We hung garish paper baubles and bells from the ceiling and put tinsel around all the pictures on the walls . Every table and window sill and mantlepiece  held painted ornaments and faded ribbons and wooden  Nativity scenes with  3 legged sheep and Magi with missing heads  and every wall had strings of bright  Christmas cards from all over the country .

And then there was the tree !  On  Christmas  Eve we all waited , full of excited anticipation as  father brought in the best he could find in the local market .  Dense and green with that glorious , unmistakeable  'pine tree' aroma of deep woods and fresh air and  Christmas !!  It was always far too big  and we squealed with delight as it was put in its bucket of soil  and placed in a corner of the room .  Then out came the huge , dusty box of decorations , which had been sleeping up in the loft all year . Decorations that had been collected over the years and handed down from generation to generation and added to piece by precious piece , all full of memories .  Decorations made from china and wood and real glass , not much in the way of unbreakable plastic in those days , all carefully wrapped in tissue and bits of the  'Times' .  Sparkling orbs and silver bells . Strings  of beads and little  Santas and  angels and rocking horses and  Nutcracker  princes .  And tinsel , masses and masses of multicoloured tinsel .
We children piled it on until there was barely a bit of green pine needle to be seen  and then the remains of the decorations were spread around the crepe-paper covered bucket at the base of the tree.  Finally , the  fairy for the top !!  As the eldest , I was given the honour and I balanced precariously on a side table so that I could reach the top of the tree . My mother always had to avert her gaze as I stood on one leg and stretched and the table almost toppled as I placed the sequin-covered vision on the top  branch , usually at a jaunty  slant.  Then we would all stand back and admire our handiwork . The lopsided , haphazard way it had been decorated only seemed to make the whole thing more charming , more in the spirit of the  Season.

As I  think about it now , I  have decided to break with my habitual routine and allow my  grand children to help this year and as we decorate the tree I shall be remembering those  Christmases so long ago , with all of us working together , as a family , in harmony , rivalries forgotten . Singing  Carols  as we hung the baubles from the branches . Giggling and dreaming , safe and loved . Isn't that really what  Christmas is all about ?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Freewriting Exercise.

The following will probably be a load of gobbledegook as I am attempting 'freewriting' . you will probably be wise to Google it as that will explain it far better . I am trying to type carefully as I have painted my nails , well not painted them , obviously as that  would be silly . No what I mean is I have put nail varnish on them . I dont usually call it nail varnish I generally call it nail polish but thats silly too . Well what was I thinking about , oh yes I was thinking about nail colours this one is called black cherry chutney . Oh chutney , I used to make a green tomato chutney years ago , that was when I used to do crazy things like pickle peaches and make damson jam and be a proper domesticated housewife. Or at least try as domesticity doesnt really sit well on my shoulders and I always feel as though I am just playing the part like in those old Andy Williams Christmas shows years ago when everyone was smiling and mother would appear with a huge plate of homemade mince pies , not a Mr Kipling box in sight . and if mince pies are so blooming marvellous how come we dont have them the rest of the year . Same goes for the cake too really . all this sounds as though I dont like Christmas , well actually i love it and look forward to it for weeks . I suppose I always hope that this year it will be different and I actually manage to achieve the sort of Christmas portrayed in those Andy Williams shows , with log fires and robins , no not robins as I am afraid of birds , so shall we just have cardboard robins on yule logs , oh and carol singers that sing the whole carol and not just two words and then rattle the letterbox or ring the bell  and stand with hands out waiting for a pound coin . I am really rotten and make them sing at least one verse and the chorus , that deters the buggers . Now where was I , oh yes , the perfect Christmas with no Mother-in-law complaining that the sprouts are too hard and the kids squabbling over the latest video game and grandad getting drunk and insulting the next door neighbours new wooly pully . I never manage to create the scene that is in my mind and every year I promise that next year it will be better . My family moan at me and say I am a perfectionist but Im not , I just like things to be perfect hahaha . And this nail polish will get chipped if Im not careful and oh yes thats what I was talking about  , I like OPI polishes best . They do this really fabulous colour called 'Im not really a waitress' and I was going to put that on but Ive had the damn stuff for 2 years at least now and there is only a little bit left in the bottle and its gone all sort of gloopy and sticky ,  I suppose that I should buy some more or maybe wait and see if some kind soul buys me some for christmas . But we are not going over all that again are we , Surely thats the 10 minutes now and there the fireworks have just started up , I wonder what for this time  . Its past Eid now isnt it . Maybe its someones birthday . I dont like fireworks , they frighten me but I  have blogged about that on my Hallowe'en blog . You know I think I am paying too much attention to punctuation and stuff , I am trying not to correct any typos but I find myself doing it before I even realise Ive done it . I shall have to read some more of Matts freewrites, he is the expert . When I tell him I have started doing this he will probably laugh and say Im mad ! lol  There I go with twitter-speak  , its a wonder I dont say 'hashtag' before I make a statement  . It really takes over your life . I am finding this freewrite strangely liberating , actually thats probably the whole idea and , aha thats 10 minutes now . Shame really !

Saturday, 12 November 2011

The Dream Team.

I'm afraid I have neglected my dog related blog posts recently . I rather felt you may all have had an overdose of sentimentality and canine capers with my  'blogathon'  during the  Pedigree Adoption Drive Campaign .
However , it seems that enough is never too much for some of you and so , due to popular demand , here I am again . I thought I would do a serious post and share my first experience of the joys and pitfalls of   '  Having a Litter '.
I do not believe in churning out puppies. Good homes are difficult to find and  Afghan Hounds are not the easiest of dogs  and so we made the decision to only have a litter when we particularly wanted a puppy ourselves . Therefore we have only ever had two litters of  Afghan puppies and three litters of  Maltese . This is the story of our first  Afghan litter , which turned out to be something of a baptism of fire .

We tried three times to have puppies from our beautiful black and silver showdog , Cleo , but each time we were unsuccessful and we just couldn't go through the trauma again . Perhaps one day I will share the story , but it is sad and very upsetting and maybe better left in the past.

                                                                  Joe and Sophie

After the heartache with dear Cleo we almost gave up, but friends persuaded us to carry on and so we decided to mate our lovely cream coloured Sophie to the stunning silver brindle Joe .
You would have thought that , as we owned both the dog and the bitch , this would have been an easy task .  Unfortunately , nothing is ever simple , dogs don't read reference books and mine have rarely behaved in any way that could be called  'normal' ...... whatever  'normal' is !
We tried every day from the ninth day of  Sophies season and every day the two dogs either completely ignored each other or tried to kill each other . Sophie was always particularly fiesty and was determined to kill either us or Joe and I don't think she cared which !
Bitches are in season for approximately 21 days and are usually mated successfully somewhere in the middle of that time and so you can imagine that I had given up all hope as I let the dogs out to play on the morning of the 21st day . It was January and very cold and the damn hose was frozen and so I had to carry buckets of water to fill up the dogs bowls . I was busy doing this and cursing the fact that icy water was slopping out of the buckets and freezing on my legs and I  was so cold that I couldn't feel my fingers  , when I noticed  Joe and  Sophie getting quite amorous . I screamed out for help and , with much slipping and sliding on the icy ground , we managed to get the dogs as far as the garage before the inevitable happened .  I will leave the rest to your imagination  , but suffice to say , I didn't hold out any hope for a successful conclusion to this union.

Bitches are pregnant for 9 weeks and during the first 4 to 5 weeks they don't really give much indication of any change to their bodies.  Sophie was more or less the same as usual apart from the fact that she suddenly rejected all food ...... I mean everything ! Of course , I tried all the tricks and tips I knew . Afghan  Hounds are notoriously difficult to feed , preferring to starve themselves and worry their poor owners to distraction . They have only been domesticated since the early 1900s and so are still very wild , and in the wild they would not neccessarily eat every day . Vets have always said  , " Oh, they will eat eventually, no dog will starve itself "  Well all I have to say to that is  , " You have clearly never owned an  Afghan !"
So, because of the refusal to eat , we needed to know if  Sophie was ,in fact, having pups .  With this in mind we set off to our wonderful vet  Jill  and requested an ultra-sound scan and there on the screen was the evidence .... Sophie was indeed pregnant and it was estimated that there were about 4 puppies  !  We were astounded , shocked and excited all at once  . Wonderful !!
It became a matter of urgency to get Sophie eating if she was to give birth to healthy pups without damaging her own health .Luckily I hit on the very thing to tempt her when I was cooking a chicken for dinner  . She started to show great interest in the roast chicken and so for 4 weeks  Sophie had a whole roast chicken every day . But of course it was not that simple , oh no ! It  had to be straight out of the oven , piping hot , burning my fingers as I cut it into pieces for her . I tried cooking two at once to save time and reheated the second one the next day , but this was rejected with a sneer and a look that would have frozen boiling water  !

The preparations began . Ian made a super whelping box and I collected blankets and towels and surgical equipment , the study was emptied and made ready for  'D' day ; or should that be  'P' day ?  My friend  Cheryl , in Birmingham , phoned daily and as she had some experience with litters of puppies , a  'hot-line' was set up . No-one was better prepared , or so we thought !
The fateful day arrived , Sophie began to pant and look anxious , it was Saturday the 28th March , would we end the day with  4  lovely puppies ?  I was nervous and excited , I had devoured every book I could find on the subject and everything was ready . And so it began !
Ian proved to be absolutely marvellous , especially when things were a little tricky and eventually the first puppy arrived at  1pm , a dog weighing  1lb 2oz . We rubbed him with a towel and examined him and put him with Mum , who licked him and nuzzled him and looked smug .

After that it went ..... 2,20 , a bitch.  2,45 , a dog. Another dog at  3,30,  then a pause in the proceedings while we caught our breath and looked at the babies . Three dogs and a bitch , wonderful !  But I felt Sophies abdomen and thought I could still feel something , oh maybe there were  5 puppies instead of  4 ; no problem .
At  4,25  came a bitch , followed swiftly at  4,45  by another wee girl ...... Ok , can we stop now ?  But, no ! We had a dog at  6.30  and another two dogs at  7.00  and  10.00pm.  Surely that was it , Sophie settled down and we cleaned up and tidied the room and even managed to get her to leave the sleeping pups long enough to stretch her legs and spend a penny and eat her piping hot roast chicken .
By now it was  1,30  on Sunday morning and we were exhausted .  I decided to stay with Sophie and the pups , to make sure everything was well and that she didn't accidentally lie on one . Then suddenly she gave out a little whimper and at  2.00  am the last dog arrived . Ten puppies , oh my goodness, we were overwhelmed .We realised we would have to supplement the feeding and rotate the pups ,  10  is an awful lot for one bitch to feed properly. Ah, but we would manage , feeding one or two pups will be no problem !

Well, next day all the puppies were making a most unhappy noise , we couldn't get them to suckle and poor  Sophie was becoming really distressed .  Jill , the vet, visited to check everything was OK .  She praised our  'maternity' ward , was pleased with the size and health of all the pups , in admiration of our midwifery skills, but expressed concern over  Sophies milk supply , perhaps it would appear soon .
Oh no , dear reader, no such luck . Lovely  Sophie was a diligent mother , washing the pups and snuggling up to them to keep them warm and give them comfort , but , she had  NO  milk.  That meant only one thing .  If the pups were to survive  we would have to feed them with bottles , every two hours for the next three weeks until they could lap by themselves  ! This was a huge commitment .

A mattress was dragged into the study and so began the marathon undertaking . For three weeks I slept in the study with the pups and Ian and I took it in turns to stay awake with them . The room was heated to almost tropical temperatures to ensure they used no energy keeping warm . I became expert at feeding pups with a baby bottle . A skill that has stayed with me and proved quite useful in helping other people in similar situations . I found  the best way was to stretch the pup out along my arm so that there was less chance of choking . However, this meant that my arm was continually scratched by the razor sharp claws as they  'kneaded ' with their little legs.

My days became a constant round of puppy feeding and trying to catch some sleep . Ian and I rarely saw each other  and I don't think I ventured outside that room for days on end , other than to shower etc.  Ian and the kids did  all the other chores and shopping and such and the pups thrived , as I grew more and more exhausted . Then fate dealt another blow .  The special powdered milk became difficult to obtain locally , we were using it by the tubful every day as the pups drank more and more . We tried an alternative but the pups refused anything but  the original .  Panic ! Luckily , Cheryl was friendly with the manufacturers and so salvation came in the form of   Dugdales wonderful  Area  Manager   , Mike , who ferried huge tubs of  'Instalac' across the  Pennines . Our knight in shining armour ! In fact the pups became the subject of an advertising campaign in  Dugdales newsletter .
The puppies continued to thrive , as you can see from the photographs , and we began weaning at 3 weeks , which is early but under the circumstances was vital for my sanity !!

We nicknamed them  the  'Dream  Team ' and all of their registered names had the word  'dream' included  i.e.;
' Dream Warrior' , 'Perchance to Dream'  , ' Dream Machine ' etc.,. This was because we had always dreamt of having them , but when they arrived we had no time to dream !
The puppies grew strong and healthy and beautiful and all went on to have wonderful homes . Some went into the show ring , with great success . .Our young daughter , Louisa , chose a lovely silver brindle , Fletch , who had a very successful show career , gaining his Junior Warrant and many other accolades . Some went to racing homes and had great fun at the Afghan race events and a couple went to loving pet homes . They all became  an important  and much loved part of their respective families and no breeder can ask for more than that . We still receive  Christmas cards from their owners  even though the dogs themselves have sadly gone to the  Rainbow  Bridge . I still remember each and every one and will always be proud of them .

I would like to be able to tell you that our second litter was easier , however, we had 13 puppies the next time....................................................

Monday, 7 November 2011

Countdown Word Challenge Number 9

Well lovely readers , its that time again ! Time for another word game . As you all surely know by now , this is the invention of my friend Matt and you will find all the details on his blog page  .
So , without further ado , lets look at the words ;


The usual mixed bunch but , here goes ;

                                                          A Suitable Case.

I have never been much of a gambler . Well , not for real  money . Oh, the odd game of  'Strip Poker ' at parties  when I was young and reckless and didn't give a damn ,  The occasional flutter on the  Grand National ...... well everyone does that !  Even  Monopoly , with the kids . Hopping round the board as a  'boot' or a  'top-hat ' and getting  roasted everytime  !  But surely that doesn't count ?
Even when we went to  Las Vegas , I spent the days sightseeing . Sniggering at the silly outfits  of the tourists and the fake  'Elvis' at the  Graceland  Wedding  Chapel . Taking helicopter rides over the  Grand  Canyon  or hanging around the pool at the  Bellagio , trying to relax and swatting the midges. And my evenings were spent watching  Tony Bennett or  Billy  Joel  while the others gambled their life savings away at the casinos .

But when  Mr. Murdoch began carrying a large briefcase in to work , the speculation was wild . It was a huge affair too , not one of those slim, hard bodied cases that are all chrome and flash . No, this was a glorious old , well worn , leather one . One of those capacious bags that opens like an accordion , with buckles and straps and  lovely stitching detail . The sort of bag that has such a  wonderful  scent , the same luxurious aroma that fills the air at  Louis Vuitton .
Mr. Murdoch was a curmudgeonly cove , whose default expression was a severe frown and he kept himself to himself  . The sort of chap who frightens small children with his steely gaze , just like the  Child Catcher  in   'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang '.
Office juniors quaked in fear when he did his rounds , tutting and scowling at any file not  'filed' , any untidy desk or vacant chair . Not for him the morning  'water-cooler' moment , or the sneaky  'Twitter' fix on the office computer.
Every morning at exactly 9 am , he would stride in , wearing his old Burberry overcoat , hands in his pockets , looking like a  fusion of  Ebeneezer Scrooge  and  Fagin . Then he'd go straight to his office , like a bee to its hive and start work on his computer .
But , the day he turned up with that huge briefcase , clutching it carefully to his chest,  we all stared in amazement ....... this was something new .
Lucy said he probably had a hoard of coins in it ,stuff he had  looted from some poor widow . We laughed and wondered if that could be true . But surely he wouldn't bring it to work ?
Thats when Matt had the idea of taking bets . He was always the smart one in the office , the IT whizz kid , and he knew every way of making a fast buck , but we always fell for it . Soon we were coming up with all these wild ideas about the contents of  Murdochs case . Its amazing what a group of supposedly intelligent people will do , just to relieve the boredom of office life !
I thought maybe it was his sandwiches but, as Lucy pointed out , he always ate his lunch in the canteen . so that was out .
 The ideas got wilder .Someone suggested  toy soldiers for one of those war games , You know the sort , where you fight ancient battles . But surely Murdoch was too miserable for that ?   What about ladies underwear ?  Perhaps he was a cross-dresser  ?  John said he had suspected that all along and swore he had seen the glimpse of a silken stocking beneath Murdochs tweed trouser leg .
Well this went on for two weeks . Everyday Murdoch would creep furtively in with his bulging briefcase and slip swiftly into his office and then  close the door firmly .. The whole office block was involved in the betting and the person who guessed correctly stood to win a pretty penny and Matt was set to make plenty too .  Even mean old  Pete had a bet . He usually cadges money from me but this time he actually put his hand in his own pocket ........ I wish I'd had a bet on that !!
Anyway , soon everyone had made their wagers and we were wondering how to resolve it , how to find out what was actually in the flipping briefcase. Murdoch never left his room and we had no reason to enter and sneak a peek . Then , suddenly Murdochs door opened just a little and his  head poked round and he called to me
"Rosie , could you spare a moment please ?"
Well, as you can imagine , everyone looked at me and willed me to go . Matt whispered ,
"Try and look in the briefcase , but be careful , it could be anything ! Maybe a bomb ! "
Thats how ridiculous it had become , everyone was so tense .
So, anyway , I sort of smiled ; well it came out as more of a grimace . Then  ,crossing my fingers behind my back , I slipped through the half open door and into Murdochs office .  The leather briefcase was lying on its side on the large , neat desk . It was completely empty . I stepped forward slowly and there on the floor was a heavily pregnant cat , sitting on a fleecy blanket and looking up at me pitifully. Murdoch  glanced at me shyly and muttered ,
" She's just about to have her kittens and I'm really at a loss what to do.  I've been smuggling her into work for the past two weeks , I don't think anyone has noticed . I just didn't want to leave her on her own . You know about animals , would you mind helping ?"
Six kittens later, Murdoch and I were the best of friends .  And  Matt was considerably richer  .

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful Part 6

It's been a while since I wrote a  'Glad list' .  I have been so busy . Time seems to pass so quickly and I find myself paddling furiously just to keep my place in the stream . As I am generally a happy person  and my glass is always half full , I have been thinking hard about my subject for this blog entry.
Family and close friends are naturally a source of great happiness . They are a constant in an ever changing world and I am infinitely grateful for their love and support . My wonderful grand children bring me great joy and help to keep me young at heart.
I am lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of the country , with endless vistas of rolling hills and wild moorland , where I can walk in glorious solitude ; places that restore my soul .
I live in comfort and have enough food to eat and enough warmth when it is cold . I am blessed with good fortune .
I have wonderful canine companions , who love me unconditionally and give far more than they take .
Fabulous  Twitter pals , always there with a witty comment or a supportive  'virtual' hug .
I have happy memories and few regrets .  I am the most fortunate of women .
But even more important than all the above , I have my health ! I am fit and healthy and   I am well aware of others less fortunate than myself . People who live with illness or disability on a daily basis . I have such admiration for the brave souls who take it all in their stride and cope  with dreadful diseases and sickness and remain so cheerful  . There but for higher intervention  go all of us .
And so , today , my  main reason to be cheerful is the fact that I am healthy and able to enjoy to the full this beautiful  World of ours .

Here is my short list of the other things  that have made me happy recently ;

                                                            Late  Autumn sunshine ,
                                                            Email ,
                                                            Dark nights, 
                                                            BlackBerry messenger ,
                                                            Lucy and Matt ,
                                                            Natural yoghurt ,
                                                            Looking forward to the future .

I hope you are still making your own lists and finding at least one thing to be glad about , however small . We all deserve that !  Have a wonderful day !!