Sunday 30 September 2012


Hello darlings

I arrived home about an hour ago, greeted by a wine-bearing Sage who went to run me a bath.  I'm now wet-haired and dressing-gowned, about to go and sit in front of the fire with my feet up while he cooks my dinner.  Which I'll eat sitting by the fire with my feet up.  And then I'll have an early night, I should think.  I've had a fabulous few days, seen Ziggi, Mig, Barney (and most of their family) and Tim, Dodo, Wink, the Bod and his mum and met quite a few delightful cats and dogs, all of which received a cuddle or at least a stroke.  I've eaten a lot of delicious meals and a fair few cakes, as a result of which I hardly fit in my clothes any more (but it was worth it). And I've driven at least 600 miles and been driven quite a few more and now I need a bit of a rest.

See you tomorrow


Z xxx

Thursday 27 September 2012

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Z is in Wiltshire

I say, the M25 has come on a bit in the last couple of years. There were great swathes of speed limits for ages, but now we all sweep along at the national speed limit and not an mph more, of course, natch, hem hem, for miles and miles. Anyhoo, I managed 230 miles in less than 4 hours which, considering the total buggerdom of actually getting out of Norfolk is quite an achievement.

And I arrived at Wink's - ooh, the weather really turned nasty after Stonehenge and driving wasn't at all nice for a bit - and picked up the key from a neighbour and then changed shoes and went to the shop for lemon and ice - I'd brought gin and tonic - and since then we've had a very jolly and slightly drunken evening.

The Sage is fine, and do bear in mind that he was invited to come along, and actually I asked him to and made it clear that I really would like him to. So if he implies that he is little boy lost at home, that's not down to me but to him. But, to balance the books, he was so sweet this morning. As you know, it was Elle's birthday yesterday, but her sister's present hadn't arrived yet. So the Sage went down on the bike to the Post Office this morning to pick up the mail before she went to school. Her sister's package hadn't arrived but another one had, so that was good, and ... ooh, I slept in rather badly. I was awake, as so often I am, for hours in the night and the alarm went off - the radio, that is - at 7.15 and I listened to the news and then I thought I'd just sleep for a few more minutes.  Yeah right, as the young people say. An hour later...

And I've been rushing round like a grizzly bear on heat, if you'll excuse the expression, and it is honestly better than sitting around because that makes me miserable. But it's good to switch off and do other things. So that's what I'm doing. 

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Z clears the to-do list

Dear oh dear, I've only just finished the things I droned on about yesterday.  And there were various others I didn't remember to mention, as well as an unscheduled visit to Norwich - well, it involved Pugsley's birthday presents (bought and wrapped) and Elle's birthday present (bought, wrapped, given and unwrapped).

If I have a few minutes, I'll put up a few pictures in the morning, but I've got a meeting first thing and am off to visit Wink around lunchtime.  I'm hoping to visit Zig, Mig and Tim (no, darlings, not Tig) while I'm away, as well as Dodo, the centenarian, on her birthday.

One of the photos is of me wearing my wedding dress.  Not on the day itself, I'm not sure where those pictures are and haven't seen them for years.  But I carried on wearing it for some years afterwards.  You can't see all of it, I'm sitting with a baby on my lap.

Posting will probably be intermittent for the rest of the week.

Monday 24 September 2012


I have been thinking I've been doing quite well, but now I have remembered several things that have to be done before I go away. The two most important are to find someone to do my Meals on Wheels on Thursday and to phone the letting agent to find out who to send a copy of the gas check document to, because otherwise they'll get it done again and bill me for it.

Otherwise, I have to send some receipts, email two guests coming to a meeting, send an agenda to the clerk (I've written the agenda, yay), buy birthday presents for Pugsley who will be 6 this weekend - he's having a brilliant party and I'm devastated that I won't be here for it. Someone is coming with a snake and bugs and a tarantula and so on and will show them to the children and let them handle them.  Isn't that the best party?  And make a birthday cake for Elle, whose Happy Day is tomorrow.

Apart from the birthday-related things, that's all a bit boring, isn't it?  Sorry.

Right. What can I say that's interesting?

Oh, I've remembered something. Not interesting, just peculiar. I mean ... well, let me tell you and you decide. I went into the card shop to buy birthday cards for Elle, Pugsley and Dora, all of whom have their special days within the next week and, as I came out, the mother of the girl Elle is going to stay with while I will be away was coming in. That is, Elle is staying with the whole family, of course. So we had a chat, agreed on dates and so on, and I said how much we love having her with us. I added that we hope she's enjoying it too and that there were a dozen of us to supper the other night - Saturday, it must have been - and it was fun because I didn't know about it until 2 o'clock and I had to get the meal on the table by 6 because of the five children. And I chattered on and I said Elle probably finds us a bit odd.  Well, the Sage anyway, I added cheerily, but by that time she (the mum) had already agreed.  A bit too quickly really, I thought.  I mean, I'm not odd. Not even a bit. I'm quite remarkably sensible and entirely conventional in every way. Except for the ... Well, you know. We don't talk about that any more.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Chester - 5 - ticking off

Our friend Sally (Simon W's sister, Mike) used to have a small flock of sheep.  She had been brought up on a farm and it was her link to a life she'd enjoyed.  We had a field going spare and, for a few summers, the two (flock and field) were put together.

Chester's first surprise was the electric fence.  He was so shocked - though not at all hurt - that, after a couple of attempts he kept well away.  However, one day we went on to the field - I think it was to group the sheep into a smaller area ready for the shearers - and I took him with me so that he would have a chance to be with the sheep and get used to them.

He thought it was great fun when they ran away when he moved towards them and started to chase some lambs.  Before I could call him back, one of the ewes moved in, stopped in front of him and looked at him.  He halted.  And, within a minute, that ewe had, by the power of her look, literally backed him into the corner of the field.  He'd glanced at me for support, but saw it wasn't forthcoming and he went into the corner and sat down.  She looked again.  He lay down.  A few minutes later, I called him towards me and he got up - and the sheep shot a look and he lay right back down again.  When I finally went over to fetch him he came with me, but kept close to me for protection.

They were feisty sheep, full of character.  The most characterful of them all was called Longlegs, because - well, work it out.  She was the only one there with a long tail, too.  Usually, a rubber band is put on a lamb's tail and, as it grows up, the blood supply is cut off and it withers and falls off.  Yes, I know, sorry.  But sheep are inclined to get any sort of ailment under the sun, including fly strike, and a tail hanging down is more likely to have crevices where the flies can lay ... okay, that's enough of that.   Anyway, Longlegs, even as a lamb, had managed to avoid the rubber band.  She was too independent to be a leader - egregious, you might call her (outside the flock, if the faint remains of my Latin don't play me false).  They were not afraid of dogs and Chester learned manners from that particular sheep (which didn't have a name, only Longlegs did).

At the end of the summer, Sally took the sheep off to her own paddock and the electric fence was taken down, and Chester had the run of the field again.  Unfortunately, sheep don't only get footrot, black udder and fly strike.  They also attract ticks, and there were thousands of them in the grass, all waiting to climb on to Chester.

I can dispel a few myths.  There's no point in using a burning cigarette or a hot match to kill them.  Apart from it scaring the dog and leaving little holes in his fur, the tick is still there, clinging to the skin.  It doesn't let go.  Meths doesn't make it let go.  I bought a spray of tickicide from the vet.  The sudden puff of icy vapour from the aerosol scared Chester and I couldn't make him stay still.  The only thing that worked was picking them off individually with tweezers.

It takes quite some while - overnight, in fact - for a tick to latch on firmly enough that it breaks through the skin, and in that time you can simply pick it off, making sure you get the head so that the mouth isn't left in the skin, risking infection, and kill it.  But Chester had dozens of them on him and I had to run my fingers through his coat to find each one and then make him be still while I picked it off.  And when I'd done, he went outside again and picked up another batch.  Honestly, it was a bugger and it went on for - I don't know, it seems in my memory to have been weeks, and I suppose it was at least two of them.  Once, I remember he came in with tiny ticks fringing his ears.  He got them between his toes, everywhere.  The trickiest to get off, because he disliked the tweezers near his eyes, were on his face.  The most disconcerting for both him and me to remove were, I'm sorry to say, on his scrotum.

It was a bonding experience, I will say that.  He learned to stay still and stand or lie in the position I told him.  But it was one of the more unusual situations of my dog-owning life.

The sheep came to us for two or three years, but the first year was the worst, as far as ticks were concerned.  In due course, Sally got a job in Norwich and didn't have time for all the care the sheep needed, so she sold most of them.  Longlegs had a home with her for life, of course, and she kept a couple of others so that they would be company for her.  Sheep are flock animals (the exception would be a bottle-fed lamb brought up by humans without other sheep) and she'd have been miserable on her own.

Saturday 22 September 2012

Chester - 4 - pack leader

I've so many stories of Chester, they're tumbling about in my mind, wanting to be told.  And I'm going to be away for a few days from Wednesday, so there will probably be a hiatus.  Still, here's one about Chester testing me to find out who was boss.

You're not wondering, are you?  Come on, who do you think?

Once he had learned the boundaries, he generally stuck to them and rarely ventured near the road.  Of course, like all dogs, he loved to be taken for a walk and if he saw one of us going out on foot he ran along, hoping to be taken too.  And if it was convenient, I'd pick up his lead in the porch and, when he appeared, take him with me.  However, if it wasn't then he was expected to go back home.  He found this quite hard to accept.  But he did learn to stay to my command and, although sometimes he'd give up and go back to the house, quite often I'd return to find him lying at the fork in the drive, waiting for me.

My mother walked to the village shop every day with her dog, and of course Chester wanted to go too. But he was crafty.  If he appeared when she was still in the drive, she would bring him back (my mother lived in the granny annexe next door to us) and shut him in our house.  So he waited until she had gone with Bruce, her black labrador cross, round the corner and he judged that she wouldn't want to turn back, and then appear at her side.  She often used to complain about this, but it was only if she came and told me that she was going out that I could call Chester in to the house.  And he didn't get away with it with me, anyway.

Even so, once in a while he had a go.  He'd suddenly appear, bouncing up to me with tail wagging, joy in his face.  But I'm hard, darlings, damn hard.  I'd take him back to the garden gate (the drive is some 100 yards long) and tell him to go home.  His ears would drop, his tail droop and he'd trail along, looking back every few yards, and I'd just point.  When he got to the fork, I'd tell him to stay and start walking again.  Then I'd nip back to see if he was still there (I made sure he didn't see me) and, if he was sneaking down the drive again I'd reappear to point sternly.

The thing was, if I'd once relented then my job would have become way harder, so I never did.  If I was going to take him, I'd say at once, otherwise I'd not give in.  And so, though he did keep testing me for some years, he did accept that I was the leader of the pack.

Tomorrow, Chester and the sheep.  

Friday 21 September 2012

Chester - 3

My children tell me now that Chester was quite naughty.  I never noticed that.  He was just right as far as I  was concerned, although he was a determined rabbiter and I had to search for him daily, usually having to haul him out of a rabbit hole, where he was digging enthusiastically for bunnies that had long vanished through their boltholes.

I remember an autumn when he was a couple of years old and the farmer was cutting the maize crop behind the house.  He started from the outside and worked in,  so rabbits got trapped in the centre until finally they couldn't stand the suspense any longer and made a run for it.  Chester ran too, caught and killed a rabbit and then chased another.  I still remember the look of bewilderment on his face when he caught up and realised that he couldn't hold two rabbits in his mouth.  He let go of the first, caught the second, and then was quite disgusted when I'd not only laid claim to the original rabbit but insisted he gave me the second one too.  We cooked them both for him to eat, mind you.

Towards the end of his life he became much more indulgent, by the way.  He used to sit watching a family of baby bunnies play in the sun.  And he never went for the chickens, he understood that no bird was fair game to him.

It was my friend Jackie who trained him more than I did, however.  She used to walk her dogs on the field behind ours and Chester went to greet them.  He tagged along on their walk and, when they got back to the road, Jackie produced some dog biscuits.  All dogs sat and received their biscuits.  Then she told Chester to go home.  He was quite reluctant, but she persisted.  And, finally, off home he trotted.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Chester - 2

We brought Chester home a week before Christmas.  That is, we brought the puppy home.  I can't remember the exact point at which he received his name.  I suggested Zebedee, after the springy "time for bed" character from The Magic Roundabout.  That went down well except that Weeza wanted it shortened to Zeb and I only liked Zebedee.  So, unable to agree, we looked elsewhere.  I can't remember the alternatives we came up with, but it was Weeza who suggested Chester and we all liked that.

We made up a bed near the Aga and set up barriers so that, whilst he had plenty of space to move, he didn't have the run of the kitchen.  And the first night, he cried.  So I went downstairs, cleaned up, cuddled and comforted him and went back to bed.  Several times.  The second and third nights, the same.  And then we dismantled the barriers and let him have the run of the kitchen and there was no more crying.  He was quite happy.

Christmas was quite special that year.  We devoted our time to the puppy.  We wrapped presents for him, probably a few toys, a few biscuits, a couple of hide chews and so on.  He loved unwrapping his presents.  He adored seeing us unwrap our presents.  He loved the excitement.  He wasn't too bothered about the contents of the parcels and we soon realised that all we needed to do was wrap one of his presents in another piece of paper (as soon as something was unwrapped from it) and give it to him again for it to be received with total joy.  He was excited about Christmas every year, he loved it all his life and enjoyed opening the same presents over and over again.

We used to weigh him every week, in a shopping basket.  The weights are still on the tall scales in the porch, written down by the Sage.  He was duly registered at the vets and received his vaccinations and was eventually cleared to be taken out for walks in public.

Ro was at the village school and we walked there every day.  Chester loved children, right from the start.  My friend Bobbie (whom Mike, Ann and Tim stayed with over the time of the blog party) also had her children at the school and she took Figgy, a few months older than Chester.  We often took the two dogs for a run across the fields.

Our garden is surrounded by fields and Chester had to learn where our boundaries finished and, in particular, that he mustn't go on the road.  It wasn't possible to fence the whole place off so, if he was not to be only walked on the lead, he had to be taught good enough behaviour.  Good enough is the key.  It rather sums me up. Here are the boundaries, do what you like within them.  It's not that I don't have limits and it's known when they've been crossed.  But I'm very relaxed up to that point.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Chester - 1

It took the best part of four years to get the Sage to agree to have another dog.  Mind you, there's an 8 year gap between Al and Ro, so it can be seen that patience (mine) pays off.  And then I relaxed, feeling that the right puppy would find us.

I put the word out among friends.  I wanted a mongrel puppy, wasn't too fussy about the parentage, though it had to be good with children.  And one day I was invited to a coffee morning by my friend Denise.  It was a charity thing - one person invited 8 people, each of them invited 4, they invited 2 and they invited 1, each host paying something, can't remember what, to the designated charity.  Bridget and I were the 2 - I simply paid my amount to the charity, I wasn't going to invite a single friend round and ask her to pay for it.  Anyway, I told them about my puppy-hunt and Bridget said that the delivery driver who brought their horse feed had said that their bitch had three week old puppies.  She was a Bearded Collie, the father was an Irish (Red) Setter.  It sounded ideal.  Bridget and her husband were interested too, and I asked her to give the driver my number.  And the next day, his wife Zoë phoned.

She invited us to see the puppies and we were off within minutes.  On the way, I said to the Sage that, if there was a blond boy, that's what I'd like best, but I thought we'd know the one.  And he agreed.  And Zoë took us in to her back room and there was the mother - crumbs, I can't think of her name ... Finty?  No, but I'm not miles out, I'll come back to you on that.  Rusty was the father, that I do remember.

There were 8 puppies, 3 blond (all boys) and 5 black (some male, some female).  They wanted to keep the biggest blond boy but we had the pick of the rest.  I picked him instantly but didn't say and the Sage said the same one.  He and his brother were exactly the same except that ours had a faint almost heart-shaped white mark on his head.

Zoë was very welcoming and didn't mind us bringing the children to visit the pups at the weekend.  She and her husband had two sons, the elder Ro's age and the other (who was, tragically, killed in a car accident three or four years ago) a couple of years younger.  Have you ever handled young puppies?  That puppy smell?  Oh, it's marvellous.  Milk-fed puppies, warm and cuddly, with puppy-breath and soft paws, wriggling in your arms and squirming round to lick your hands.

I had to stop and go away for a few minutes then, too much longing.  Pulled together again.

Anyway, they had been born on 17th October, so they'd be old enough to leave their mother in mid-December ... a puppy is for life not just for Christmas?  We wanted this puppy too much, we agreed with the children that we'd have a quiet Christmas and give plenty of time to the dog.

It was so tempting to go round every day, but we resisted and visited once a week.  They were so adorable.  Bridget had a black boy, by the way, who grew up looking like his mother, shaggy.  They called him Harvey.  Chester had long hair but it was straight and sleek, like a golden retriever or a red setter - in colour, as he grew up, it was mid-way between the two.  Sort of orange, actually.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Z sees her friends! Some of them, that is. Not blog friends

I had a rotten night but a really good day.  I was so tired I went to bed early and was wide awake soon after midnight.  I had less than an hour's sleep after that.  In the end, I cried.  Honestly, darlings, I was that pathetic.  I had to go to the bathroom for some tissues because wiping my eyes on the pillowcase wasn't good enough and even I'm not going to blow my nose on the sheet.

Anyway, things improved once I gave up and got up, and I texted Ro to see if he'd like to take me out to lunch.  And, dear boy, he said yes.  So off I went to my Nadfas lecture, which was jolly good.  Really excellent.  The lecturer is not a young woman - well over 70 at the least, but I've heard her several times over the years and she hasn't lost her touch one bit.  This time it was about Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes.  And it wasn't just the lecture that was brilliant either.  I arrived, signed in and was heading off to the auditorium to find a seat when the new Chairman came along.  Her face lit up and she came to hug me and I felt so welcome that, in my overtired state, I nearly got weepy again (but didn't actually, because I'm not a girly) and I wished her well (because it was her first time as Chairman) and then the last Chairman before me came along and we all had a happy few minutes.  I saw several other friends too after the lecture and can't think how I was daft enough to put obligations before enjoyment over the past year and only got to one lecture.  Do remind me, won't you?  Fun comes first.

We went for lunch at the new J@m1e 0l1ver Italian restaurant.  I had spaghetti with vongole, Ro black spaghetti with scallops, both very nice.  We were amused by the waitress's spiel and by the group of yummy mummies that came in, but it was a good cheerful atmosphere, if a bit "hi, my name's Laura and I'm your new best friend and these are our specials" formula - but better than being slapped in the face with last week's kipper and, as I say, the food was good which is the main thing.  And it was my birthday (you know, the one I decided to ignore) treat, so Ro paid, which was jolly generous considering he's got to find a deposit to buy a house within weeks.

I still have to go back and finish my dog posts.  I nearly got as far as Chester, didn't I?  Tomorrow, darlings.

Monday 17 September 2012


We've had a young sixth-former staying with us for the past ten days and I'm not sure for how much longer. She's daughter of friends of friends, lives in Berlin and, in Germany, they have the most enlightened option that students can opt to take their A Level equivalent in three years instead of two and spend half of the first year abroad, attending school and living with a family. This all worked out famously except that I didn't know a suitable family. So, if she finds someone she would like to stay with and the parents agree, she will move out, but she's welcome here until then.

It's a lot of fun, having a teenager in the house again. And the Sage and I have upped our game considerably. Instead of eating breakfast on the hoof, we sit at the dining table (I'm putting on weight already) and we sit longer over dinner, chatting, as well. She's delightful company and kindly overlooks our elderly, dull demeanour. She helps with the cooking and is no trouble at all.

She has her own laptop, but unfortunately it's rather an old one and the DVD player doesn't work any more. So she borrowed my Mac at the weekend to watch the films she had bought. Which was such fun that she appeared hopefully at my elbow an hour ago ... "um, Z, can I ask you something?" "You'd like to borrow my computer again?  Okay, give me five minutes to finish this, then I've got several Scrabble games I haven't played for the last three days."

So I'm back on the iPad.

In fact, I'm going to be away for a few days soon because a friend is celebrating her 100th birthday and I have been invited for tea - she doesn't want to have a party. Her younger sister died last month which is a great sadness for her, of course, and she would like her friends and family to call in a few at a time. She still lives by herself in her own home and is remarkably well and totally together mentally. So I'll go and stay with Wink, visit Dodo (yes, really) and maybe see if a blogger or two in the Wiltshire and way home from Wiltshire direction might be available for a visit?  The birthday is the 27th and I'll stay for a day or two after that.

And all we have to do is find Elle a place to stay while I'm away. Obviously, she can't stay here with the Sage. There is a possibility though, and whilst Elle is speaking to the daughter, I will drop an email to her parents, whom I know. 

Sunday 16 September 2012

What, Z brood? Never!

It's been quite busy here for the last few days what with guests staying and the Sage's sale on Friday night. So I'm sorry I haven't been around - actually, I lent my computer to one of our guests, who is still here and I must tell you all about it soon. I'll have it back tomorrow, at least for a few days, so I'll be able to catch up with things.

Actually, I'm having a great time. Ro and Dora came over to supper last night, it's all been very sociable and you do know how much I like being sociable. Several weeks of meetings start on Wednesday, and you also know that being busy is good for me. Because otherwise I worry, even if I have nothing to worry about.

I haven't read any blogs for a few days, so I do hope that all is well with you. I have at least been dipping into Google + and Facebook, so I've seen a few of you. I've just check Google Reader though and there are 295 unread posts. Oh dear. It'll take a while to say hello to everyone individually, so it'll have to be HELLO from here instead for now.

Tomorrow, darlings. Love you lots, as the young people say xx

Thursday 13 September 2012

When the Sage turned detective

I don't seem to have told you about the time that the Sage enabled the police to apprehend a burglar.

Those of you who have visited us know that we have various outbuildings.  Hardly anything of mine is in any of them, but the Sage has them piled high with Stuff.  I've no idea what most of it is.  Years ago - at least 15 years, I should think, when they were more useful buildings because you could get in the doors and do things once you were inside, the Sage had taken a pair of oil paintings down there because he was going to take them out of their frames because the glass was dirty on the inside and he wanted to clean it.  Having taken them there, he left them for a few weeks, as you do, and when he went and looked again, one was missing.  He looked around and was quite sure that a few other things were missing too.

So he went off and had a think, and checked every day after that, and a few days later some other stuff went missing from the same workshop.  He'd carefully inspected the padlock by then, which appeared undamaged - well, it was undamaged, but he discovered that the screws holding it to the door had scratches by them: evidently, someone was removing the padlock without undoing it.

Our house is well off the road and there didn't seem much likelihood of the police catching anyone in the act, so the Sage set a trap.  It took him a few days to plan and implement it, and in that time we were burgled again - it seemed that it was always on the same night of the week.  He didn't want to physically catch the person, of course, just to be alerted, and please excuse me if I don't tell you just what he did, just in case we ever have occasion to do it again.

The next week (there was still plenty of stuff in the workshop) we were woken by the alarm, which didn't alert anyone else.  The Sage phoned the police and said he'd meet them at the road, please don't drive to the house.  I sat by the open window and listened.  This guy was pretty good, I can tell you.  It's a gravelled area and I never heard a sound except once, when there was a crack of glass breaking (which turned out to be the glass in the other painting, which he'd accidentally knocked against something).

The Sage was gone ages and I was really quite anxious.  Eventually he arrived back again and explained that the police car had arrived with one person in (to make sure we were all right) but that he wasn't allowed to go off in search of the burglar without reinforcements.  Just as well that the reinforcements included a dog, because the man had long gone.  Indeed, he was back in bed and asleep when there was a knock at his door.  The Aladdin's Cave cliché comes to mind - we weren't the only people he'd been stealing from and he'd got all the goods piled up in the caravan where he lived.  He'd walked across the field and got into our garden from there.

In due course, we were invited to the police station to identify and reclaim our stuff and the man went to prison - he had a lengthy police record.  We heard that he spoke respectfully of the Sage to someone he knew.  He had no idea how he'd been found, but quite admired the person who'd outwitted him.

There's a follow-up to this story.  Several years later, he went for a few drinks at a pub in the town and afterwards phoned for a taxi home (he lived in another village five or six miles away by then).  The taxi didn't arrive so he decided to walk.  He'd walked the mile to here, then a couple of miles along the main road before turning off towards his village - it's an unlit country road and it was late at night.

Sometime later, early next morning, he was found, victim of a hit and run accident.   Whoever accidentally (no reason to think it was anything else) killed him was never found.  

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Z talks to the police

I don't know how to make header pictures smaller, that's a startlingly large cockerel (I didn't abbreviate, I don't want to disappoint people looking for interesting photos through a search engine).  But I'm hoping to encourage the chickens.  Not that our chickens read this blog as far as I know, but I'll tell them about it.

The chickens are moulting and we're hardly getting any eggs.  Those which do lay are hiding their eggs so successfully that the Sage can't find them.  The only ones whose eggs are available are the young pullets, a few months old who are coming into lay - the eggs are small but gladly received into the Z kitchen.

Ooh, I just saw a policeman outside, so went to investigate.  And I say, what jolly good service!  He and a colleague are going round the entire village to tell people that there have been some burglaries - we'd heard about them actually, it's not major crime but a spate of sneak thieving, opportunistic stuff.  So the police are handing out letters with advice and having a word to advise locking up tools and so on.  We do, actually, all our outbuildings are kept locked with substantial padlocks because at one time the Sage's parents had some trouble and they made everything secure and we've kept it that way.

Anyway, this extraordinarily young police officer - I swear he's young enough to be my grandson - says that they're doing extra patrols, day and night, and making every effort to catch the thieves.  Really, isn't that awfully good of them?  I mean, obviously they should, but to come round and tell us about it too.  This is an area where there's very low crime, so obviously they want to keep it that way.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Of Mice and Z

Yes, mice.  We don't get great problems with them, but we do have to be fairly vigilant.  I'm afraid we don't go down the live trap route.  They're mice.  There are thousands of them, quite a number killed by owls, stoats and so on in the fields around us every night and I have to admit that we harden our hearts and set traps.

This isn't to say that I'd kill a mouse personally.  Is this hypocritical?  I don't know.  Anyway,  I have caught a few personally, with my own bare hands (and then had to wash rather thoroughly afterwards because mice smell of mouse wee and so do you after you've handled one).

Before my mother lived next door to us - goodness, I'm going back nearly 30 years now - she lived in a lovely Georgian house with a conservatory along its length.  There was a raised bed against the house wall and geraniums grew in it, that flowered nearly all year round.  Once a mouse set up home in that bed and you could see the little paths it made.  It wasn't really doing any harm, but mice don't stay single for long and it was sure to find a wife and raise a large family, so it had to go.  And one day, I saw it scurry along its little path and I cornered it.  It waved its front paws at me, though not in a cheery way, and I grabbed it.  It closed its eyes tight and bit my finger, which was quite good really as it meant it wasn't likely to try to get away and I stalked out into the garden, through the kitchen garden and into the paddock beyond and let it go.  There were little bite marks on my finger but it hadn't broken the skin.  I still washed with disinfectant.

Some years later, at about this time of year, we'd left the side door open as we tend to do a lot during the summer.  That is, we used to.  Now we're more likely to shut it so that we don't get taken over by chickens in the house as well as out of doors.  And I spotted a mouse scuttling in the door, round the corner and into the sitting room.  I pursued it - well, I took Tilly with me and suggested she might like to catch it, but the little dog didn't notice the mouse and, well, she was not much use.  The mouse was still running along the skirting board, so I took a big soft cushion off the sofa and dropped it on the mouse.  Then of course I had to reach under the cushion to find it.  I felt quite brave at that moment actually, though really it was no contest.  In a head to head confrontation I was going to win, frankly.

And so I picked it up, took it across the field and let it go.

This isn't very dramatic, is it?  I've also caught a few incautious ones that found themselves trapped in receptacles, such as Sunday's paper bag incident, but the end of the story is always me releasing it unharmed.

Once, Al was in his garden when he saw the ground move. As the mole's head emerged from its hole, he whisked it out with a broom, scooped it into a bucket and - well, he walked down the lane, over the bridge to the other side of the river before letting that one go.  He reckoned that if there was deep enough water between it and us, there was a chance it wouldn't return.

Monday 10 September 2012

Tour de Lowestoft

Our guest needed to do a bit of shopping yesterday and we decided to head for Lowestoft and take a stroll along the beach afterwards.  When we arrived, people were standing all along the side of the road.  So we parked, went to join them and asked what was happening.

It was the Tour de Lowestoft!  Or at any rate, the first leg of the Tour of Britain, and we were told the leaders would be along any minute.  And so they were, preceded by a lot of police motorbikes.  Four cyclists went swooping past - I was too busy clapping to take any photos of them as they went past and my friend said they were so fast that she didn't catch them - and a few minutes later a whole lot more police motorbikes came by (we wondered why so many were required) followed by lots of cyclists, and then a whole lot of cars with spare bikes and bike parts on the roofs.  I've no idea why the four were several minutes out in front.  Anyway, it was brilliant, quite exciting and particularly as we hadn't realised it was happening.

I did take pictures of the approach and also of the main pack of cyclists, in between applauding them.
 The first four approach

 The spectators were nearly all on the same side of the road as we were at this junction because of the curve of the road.

Later, we paddled in the sea and shared a tuna salad and a plate of chips.  Excellent.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Three things Z could have done without

I spent Friday evening babysitting for Phil and Weeza so that they could go out to celebrate Phil's birthday, stayed overnight and then hung around the next day because I was picking someone up from the station in the afternoon and it hardly seemed worth coming home.  A bit of a mishap in the morning, however.  I'd forgotten to take my contact lens cleaning solution, so left it in a little dish of boiled water overnight and, putting it in the next day, it whisked itself to the back of my eye and there it stayed.  It wasn't painful but it was uncomfortable and there wasn't a thing I could do to get it out again.

Fortunately, wearing brown-tinted sunglasses helps my eyesight enough to enable me to drive (I'm slightly short-sighted, borderline for driving in the day) because I hadn't taken a pair of glasses with me - I must remember to put my glasses in the car for emergencies, because I never use them at home.  The lens reappeared within minutes of my arrival home.  Bothersome thing.

In the night, the Sage got out of bed, which woke me as the burglar alarm going off had not, although I could hear it in my sleep.  "It'll be a mouse," we agreed resignedly, and certainly we were not being burgled.  The alternative possibility is a spider running over the sensor, but a mouse is the more likely.

And then I was sitting in my study at about 7 am when I heard rustling behind me, and recognised the sound of a mouse.  Another mouse probably, the door is shut overnight and there isn't a sensor in here.  I decided to ignore it for the time being.  But it kept on and on rustling and in the end I investigated.  I turned on a torch app on my phone (I don't bother with a torch, a compass, a map, a diary, a wristwatch - there's an app for everything) and peered into the corner, but couldn't see anything.  Then I noticed a gift bag on the floor which contained a carton of Celebrations chocolate.  I can't remember when we were given them, but they hadn't been opened.  That is, they hadn't been until recently, when a dear little mouse had gnawed its way through the bottom of the pack.  But the inside of the bag was too smooth for it to eat its way out and it was stuck.  We looked at each other and it cowered.  I picked up the bag, fetched my handbag and my bike and cycled off to church.  I let it out in the churchyard.  I'm sure it will be happy, as a church mouse.

This house is by no means overrun with mice, but it's impossible to keep them out all the time, though we're not bothered by them in the summer.  There are little crevices, small gaps they can creep in through and this is the time of year when they're looking for a safe home for the winter.  I'm afraid they won't find one here.  

Saturday 8 September 2012

Accepting Zness

I've made myself sound like an ungainly freak, haven't I.  I didn't feel any self-loathing at the time, but looking back I see that I lived in my own little world.  I seemed quite normal, just was shy and quiet.

I've said this before - it was when a teacher mentioned that he had been born middle-aged that I realised that it's not necessarily possible to feel comfortable at the age you are, you may just not have reached your natural age yet, and this was quite reassuring.  Maybe this feeling that I was older than my years, in combination with the sudden death of my father when I was 16, prompted my early marriage at the age of 19.  I did feel, when my father died, that I suddenly grew up and wasn't carefree any more.

Then, once I had a child to look after, I had to push myself to do things that I'd previously been too shy to do, contact people rather than wait for them and so on.  I was still uncertain though, if the Sage and I wanted to invite people round for a meal I made him telephone them.  I was sure they'd not want to come to see me, or that I'd be interrupting something with a call.  I did have a mild phone phobia for a long time, actually, that took ages to get over.

It wasn't until I reached the age of 30 that I finally felt that I was comfortable in my skin.  I remember feeling that I'd grown up.  Not long after that, we moved to this house.  Ro was just 2 years old then.  I had to make a new circle of friends, and I was determined to do so.  I was lucky in fact, the mother and toddler group was just relaunching itself and I quickly met someone who was holding a coffee morning for mums to meet each other and to raise some money for craft equipment and so on, and she asked me along.  "Next Tuesday," she said.  This was a Sunday.

Afterwards, I wondered which Tuesday she had meant.  Two days later or a week and two days.  I was very anxious about turning up at all, but I was determined to be brave and went along to her house on the first Tuesday.  And no one was there.  So it was the next week.  I felt even more nervous that time, but it all went fine of course, and Ro and I joined the group and I quickly made friends with several people about my age and with similar interests - I was lucky indeed.

What stopped me being shy was the realisation that I wasn't lacking a sense of self-worth but actually had too much of it.  I convinced myself that I was proud, arrogant and that was the trouble, that I was afraid of making a mistake or not doing something well enough and that made me not try it at all.  And it was a sudden joy to realise that I didn't matter at all, most people don't judge you, many of them are shy too.

So, I do have a fair bit of self-confidence, but actually it's self-acceptance.  It's not that I think I do things particularly well, though I do sometimes, but I'll generally have a go and not be afraid to fail or make a fool of myself.  And if I do, just get over it.  The other thing was that I realised that feeling too awkward to engage with people just made me look as though I wasn't interested in them rather than believing, as I did, that they would not be interested in me.

I can see myself in the young Z and she in me, but there are so many differences that sometimes it's hard to believe we're the same person.

Friday 7 September 2012

The child is father to the Z

Well, mother.  That is, childhood shapes the adult, of course.

And yet, I have changed hugely, I'm very different from child Z.  My childhood could almost be defined by my shyness and general bewilderment.  I never understood how others could seem so confident, make friends easily when I had such little self-confidence that I never, throughout my childhood, referred to anyone as a friend.  Pathetically, I was afraid that the person might correct me, would scoff at the thought of me calling them friend.  Even more pathetically, I very rarely called anyone by their name, just in case I got it wrong.  Susan might have decided to be called Sue, or her name really be Sarah and I'd forgotten.

Yes, I know.  Two things - one, what a drip/poor confused idiot child.  Two, blimey I've changed.  You're right in both respects.

My mother told me that I was a normally outgoing toddler until someone called at the hotel - she was a sales rep for china and glass and lived in a flat on Bournemouth seafront.  Although their connection was originally business, she and my parents became friends and on this occasion she came to lunch.  Apparently, she burst into the room where I was sitting and came to sweep me into her arms.  I was terrified and, to the embarrassment of the friend and my mother, cried inconsolably and had to be given lunch in another room as I wouldn't come to the table.

And my mother said that I never got over it.  Now, looking back, I can see that she shouldn't have let me get away with it, that this behaviour was allowed to get embedded and it became impossible to alter, but it was understandable that she did.  I was sweet and biddable and we adored each other and it was probably only too easy to baby me a bit too much.  I was also, however, very strong-willed at the bottom of it all.  There are various childhood anecdotes about my father and Al is the same - good-natured and willing to go along with a great deal, but when you get to the sticking point, we don't give in.

At home, I was happy and confident, if rather solitary and bookish.  Wink is several years older than I am and I was used to my own company.  I did have friends, usually two or  three rather than a bigger group.  I can't have been very rewarding to teach, once I went to school.  Although I could express myself eloquently on paper, I contributed nothing verbally to lessons.  I was afraid of getting it wrong and being laughed at and, later, too selfish to contribute to a discussion, reckoning that I'd get more credit for writing an idea down than offering it to the group.  I tended, and still do, to come up with a quirky angle on a subject.  I would talk to a teacher one-to-one, but there were usually a couple of people bursting with ideas in a general discussion and, even if I'd have been willing to offer anything, I'd not have bothered to try to assert myself.

In the way of shy people, I was confident when acting a part - what a pity that my secondary school didn't do much in the way of acting.  It could have done me a lot of good.  There was a certain amount of musical performance, but I loathed that.  I played the piano reasonably competently, but tended to fall apart if anyone was listening other than my teacher.  I couldn't sing in public, if I thought there was any danger that anyone might pick my voice out among the others then I would mouth the words and make no sound.  I was no good at games.  Small, not very fast (I wonder now if my undiagnosed hip-socket slight malformation had any effect on me being a poor runner), short-sighted though not enough to wear glasses all the time, poor at aiming, no competitive or team spirit, all I was reasonably good at was long jump (the length of the run was just about my distance), throwing a javelin (Mike can tell you how keen I am on cold steel) and I wasn't a bad tennis player.  I could even extend my meagre teamliness to doubles, though I got bored after a few deuces and reckoned that, if the other person was that desperate to win, fair enough and I stopped trying.

It was daft, I was so distant from things, not just people.  I was more likely to read about wild flowers than to go out and look at them.  I had a lot of armchair knowledge but little practical experience.  I was an odd child.

Thursday 6 September 2012

The doghouse - Fire and its works

I'm not sure if I've ever told you about the fireworks at Oulton Broad.  There was a week-long Regatta in the summer, with yacht races every day and amusements on the park.  Our house was right opposite the park, on the other side of the Broad.  On the Thursday and the next Monday, which was the Bank Holiday, firework displays were held, and the bottom of our garden was the ideal place for them to be staged.

It was also, of course, the ideal excuse for a party, and so my parents held one every year.  In due course, I might as well say now, the Thursday firework display was discontinued on grounds of cost, but I expect the Monday one still takes place, though I don't know the arrangements nowadays.

On that Monday evening, to celebrate the end of the Regatta, there was the burning of the Golden Galleon, and this event caused me some nervousness for a few years in my childhood.  You see, once someone told me that the way the Golden Galleon was selected was that they looked for the scruffiest boat on the river and chose that to burn.  We had a rather dilapidated boat at the time, and I was sure it would be picked.  We did lose that boat in the end, in fact, during a storm it broke loose from its moorings and was swept down to the lock gates where it crashed and sank.  I don't know if it was insured, let's hope so.

Of course, the Golden Galleon was actually a raft piled with wood, a floating bonfire, and I suppose it was towed down the river once it was aflame, but it was quite a spectacular sight.

I can't at this moment remember the name of the firework company, but the man who set up the display and let them off was called Fred Faithfull.  He came with a colleague, not necessarily the same one each year, but it was always Fred and he and my parents were quite friendly and exchanged Christmas cards.

It was a spectacular display, back in the old days.  There were two or three set pieces, one was Golden Rain, where there was a wire set up between two poles and the sparkles dropped like rain.  I know, a slightly different connotation nowadays, perhaps? - it was a more innocent time.  The final display, on the Thursday, said "GOOD NIGHT" and on the Monday, "GOD SAVE THE QUEEN" - which I very much doubt is the case now.

My mother held coffee mornings and garden parties for charity, they were quite big events.  The garden was big enough for lots of stalls and games.  I usually, at these garden parties, got roped in to do something when I was little, which I didn't care for at all, being terribly shy.  Winsome little girls were either sent out with baskets of posies to sell or else had lots of handkerchiefs pinned to their dress, which the ladies could buy and unpin.  I remember twins a year younger than I who were always up for this sort of thing, which was a good job because, although I was generally quite biddable, I'd do nothing at all as a sales pitch and buyers had to search me out.

I've mentioned before how hard my mother worked, but she didn't do it all on her own.  On the day before the event, or sometimes on the same day, a group of her friends would come along and get stuck in and help finish the preparations.  It was known as 'the party to get ready for the party.'  It was a lot of fun, you know.  I'm still not entirely sure whether these memories are making me happy or melancholy for what's long gone.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Up with skool

It's the first day of the new school year, for the high school pupils, anyway.  So I spent half the morning in school, first at staff briefing - there are a good many extra staff and the room was quite crowded - and then at the whole-school assembly, which took place in the sports hall.

With the closure of the middle schools and the country running out of money, we gained several hundred more pupils but were not able to do any building to accommodate them.  So we took on our town's middle school and have turned it into a sixth form college (still part of the school with the same teachers) and took the younger pupils in to the main school building.  We're still overcrowded though.  Not only are there more children in school but they all are being taught for every lesson, whereas the sixth formers have a lot more study periods.  The meetings rooms are going to have to be used as classrooms quite often and we'll have governors' meetings at the sixth form centre.

Standing there in the hall looking at them all was quite something.  They fitted in quite well at the end of last year (they joined the school for the last two weeks of term) but some of them have grown during the summer.  It'll be very crowded by next July.  I felt a twinge of pride, I admit, not that I can take any credit - but then, there have been enough people saying how proud they've felt during the Olympics who were armchair viewers, so plenty of you know what I mean.  "You didn't sign up for this," I murmured to the Head - there were about 950 pupils when he started here, now it's around 1,300.

I'm going to be busy this year.  That is very good for me.  I need a spur, things in my diary, deadlines, a feeling that I'm useful.  My mother used to say, in her later years, that she missed feeling useful, although by then she had neither the health nor the inclination to take on voluntary work any more.  I suppose that will come to me too, if I live as long as she did (which was 79, far longer than anyone else in the family, so odds are against).

The Head and I took a stroll round the school and came across a member of staff on her own in a room folding curtains to take to another room.  She is over 7 months pregnant with her first baby.  "You aren't going to hang those, are you?" asked the Head suspiciously.  "No, of course not.  Well, not while anyone's watching."  He eyed her, hoping she was joking.  "Are you still running?"  "Yes, not far, only about 4 miles a day."  This is the woman who (and I'm sure I blogged it) took part in a charity marathon a few years ago.  When she got to the end of the course, she still had a fair bit of energy left, so she went and jogged round it again.  

Tuesday 4 September 2012

A pair of Kippers

I know, darlings, you thought the Royal Mail had cancelled the second daily post.  Well, I'm not royal and I'm not male, so it doesn't apply to me.

And here is a picture of Martina's standard poodle pup, Kipper, named after Kipper Catchpole, brother of Huckleberry and beloved dog of my childhood.  Isn't she adorable?  Martina sent another couple of pictures too, one with a toy and one looking very puppyish and cute.  I've added them to my folder of desktop photos, which changes randomly every 15 minutes and which gives me a lot of pleasure.  I have far too short an attention span to have just one background photo.
And here, to remind you, is the original hound, holding a bone and being cuddled by my mum.

About 50 years separates the two pictures.

And since a couple of you seem to see a resemblance between my mum and me, I've just taken a picture of myself on my phone.  I'm a lot older now than she was then, of course, some 20 years.

Okay, I'm making excuses.

Oh, and I see some of you have already read the previous post.  I've added a link to the Birth of Ro.  Not gory, honestly.

The Midzed

The Sage was giving a talk on L0west0ft Ch1na in the town of the same name this morning, so we drove over fairly early, to allow us time to find the venue.  We both used to live there and knew it extremely well, but in the last 25 years they have done so much road building, and made so many streets one-way or cul de sacs that it can be quite tricky to find your way about.

As the club members started to arrive, we saw several people we knew from way back, which was an unexpected bonus.  Then a woman introduced herself to me and said that she had been the midwife when my daughter was born.  A few checkings of dates and I corrected her to son, which she queried (honestly, Ro, you've been a boy since day one), but I was so pleased to see her.

I wonder if I've described the day Ro was born?  I'll have to look*.  Don't worry, I don't do gory details unless I'm having my hip bone removed.  Ooh, that reminds me, I'm having an operation before too long, I hope.  Not on my hip.  I'll tell you about it in due course, no problems at all, quite trivial.

Anyway, I said that, although I hadn't recognised her face, I did remember her and her colleague clearly because they were both so lovely and made the occasion such an unstressful one.  I said I was so glad that I'd had two midwives and not seen a doctor at all - doctors do think that childbirth is a medical matter when a straightforward birth is not really any such thing.

The Sage quite wanted me to stay and I felt rude in leaving - well, I suppose I was - but I had a very unsettled night, awake for 5 1/2 hours and catnapped either side, the room was not small exactly but rather boxy, with a lowish ceiling, no curtains or anything to absorb sound and a lot of chatter was going on, and I felt too hot and a bit claustrophobic, so I said I'd be back in an hour.

So I pottered around Low'stoft for a bit and bought cherries, Victoria plums (I doubt they were English, the crop has been poor this year and these were large and luscious) and the first Kent cobnuts of the season.  Woo-hoo!  I know plums and cobs mean autumn, but in a good way.

The success story of the summer, by the way, has been the new flowerbed by The Wall.  Thanks to the rain, I've hardly watered it at all and the chickens have largely kept the weeds at bay apart from nettles. I'm enjoying having flowers, having grown vegetables almost exclusively for a number of years, and I'm wondering if it's worth the bother of growing many veggies next year when I've got such a good greengrocer in town.  This hasn't been a good year of course, but I've lost heart anyway and don't enjoy it any more.  I love having the flowers to look at out of my study window, though.  I must be getting soft in my old age.  Though slightly too soft in one way.  I weeded it thoroughly yesterday and, although I wore gloves (I rarely wear gardening gloves, I'm the down and dirty type), I had a lot of nettle stings.  Anthisan cream doesn't work on nettle stings, by the way.  I'm still a bit tingly.

*I looked.  Of course I did!

Monday 3 September 2012

Z's dogs - Simon again

One thing that's always been a plus is that every dog we've ever had has been completely trustworthy around children - all people, in fact, but they all loved children and were very good with them.  When we lived at the Old Rectory we were very close to the sea and, although dogs weren't allowed on the beach in the summer season, Simon loved a run on the beach during the rest of the year.  I remember him running ahead, dashing down the path - it was a broad slope suitable for maintenance vehicles that we usually used, although there were steeper steps down from the cliff too - and running along by the water's edge.  There were often fishermen and you had to keep an eye on him so that he didn't annoy them by running into their line, rummaging in their bait-box  - or worse, finding a stray hook with some bait on it.

It was lovely to have a dog again, I'd really missed it.  Having always had dogs sleeping on my bed before I got married, however, I wasn't going to have that happen again, I put my husband first!  Simon had a bed (a dog bed, darlings, not a full-size one) downstairs.

He was always very good when we were out, didn't misbehave ... that we knew of.  However, one day I got up late for some reason, maybe I wasn't well, and the rest of the family went off out in the car.  I heard a howling sound and got up and peered round the stairs.  There was a half-landing with a big window into the porch five stairs up and Simon was sitting on it, looking out of the window and singing.  Yowling.  "Ahem," I said and he jumped and looked extremely embarrassed.

He was very pleased when Ro was born, enjoying having a baby in the house.  He must have been at least ten years old by then, maybe twelve and we moved to this house two years later and so there were no problems with him wanting to run off across the fields chasing rabbits, old boy that he was.  I don't think he lived more than about another year here though, as he developed prostate problems and eventually we had to call the vet in.  The Sage and I both cried when he died, and I remember apologising to the vet for bothering him, oddly enough.

The Sage didn't want another dog.  He said that it was so painful when you lost him.  I pointed out the benefits of the ten or fifteen years in between, that it was no argument against having a pet that one day it would die.  You could say that about any relationship.  But it took four years for him to give in and agree.  Well, three and a half.  And then I put the word about that I was looking for a puppy and waited for Fate to call at my door.  As it were.

Sunday 2 September 2012

Z's dogs - Simon

I have written about buying the Old Rectory, though I might say more at some time, whilst I'm on this full-time looking back jag.  It was in July 06 - Wendz, we were already friends then, though you used a different name to blog with. Pat, you left a comment too - you were my first ever blog friend, of course. Here is the post if you'd like to look it up, though I don't blame you if you don't, I only occasionally follow links.

So, Simon.  He was a fairly large dog, a short haired black coat with tan markings - not unlike a Rottweiler, but much less heavily built.   He was a very easy, good-natured dog, rarely misbehaved, and this led me to assume that he would never do so.

One Christmas Eve, we were invited to my mother's house.  I went first with the children (this would have been before Ro came along) and the Sage was due to arrive at a certain time ... he didn't.  He was very late, over an hour late and I was quite anxious.  Finally, he turned up and I didn't get cross.  I asked.  Good move, darlings, I recommend.

Because he had arrived home to change and found a touch of chaos in the hall.  We had a great big Christmas tree, you see, that reached up to and beyond the top of the banisters in the landing above (does bannisters have one or two n's?  Both seem correct, according to the spellcheck, but one n looks right to me), and I'd put the presents we'd received under it.  And evidently, one of them was a sizeable Stilton cheese and Simon had smelt it and thought, jolly good, that must be my prezzie and surely no one will mind if I open it just a few hours early?

He'd scoffed the lot.  Apart from what he'd mashed into the rug, which was a fair bit.  He'd probably eaten two or three pounds of ripe blue cheese though.

Anyway, the Sage spent an hour washing the rug - which is the nice Turkish number that's in our present hall, for those of you who've visited and then he came on, so it was a good job I hadn't been cross.

The aftermath ... we shut Simon in the back scullery for the next three nights in case of repercussions. But there were none.  No squits or sickness, just a happy and healthy dog with a remarkably glossy coat.  Stilton.  Good for dogs.

Sorry for another Christmas story, BW.

Saturday 1 September 2012

The doghouse - a couple more stories

Before I move on, I've just remembered something I meant to say about Cleo, which was that she was allergic to fleas.  The dogs rarely caught fleas actually, only Simon and Huck went out of the garden except on a lead and the only animals in the garden with fleas were hedgehogs.  I remember one time opening the window to let Huck in and he seemed to have a football in his mouth.  It turned out to be a huge hedgehog covered in fleas which he put down on the rug.  One of us had to go and find a box, it was rolled in using the poker and shovel and taken right back out again.  Then we had to de-flea Huck.

Anyway, Cleo had some irritated-looking (yes, they frowned and gnashed their teeth) lumps on her stomach and we took her to the vet, and it was a flea allergy.  We were given a powder to put on her to soothe them which had to be mixed into a paste with water.  And then there was a bottle of Gentian Violet to paint on her too - fortunately, she was a black dog so it didn't look too awful.

A year or so later, she started to show signs of another attack, so we went to the chemist for the Gentian Violet and dabbed it on her.  She got up and had a good shake and it went everywhere - all over the floor and the kitchen cabinets.  A drawer of the dresser was partly open and it covered everything in there.  We wiped it all up of course, but we carried on finding spots of violet for several years.  In the end, she didn't get better and we had to take her back to the vet and it turned out that there was something else in with the Gentian Violet to do the good.

As I said before, several of the dogs had died by the time my mother sold Seaview, the house in the photo, but five still seemed too many.  We took Simon (the second Simon, that is) and Wink took Sam and my mother and stepfather moved to Wrentham with Muldoon, Bassington and Izzy - Isobel, that is, who was blind.

So at last the Sage and I had a dog of our own.  We lived in a lovely house then.  I first saw it soon after Al was born and we were staying with my mother and stepfather.  The Sage suggested a short outing to see a house he was selling at auction the next day.  I walked in the door and staggered slightly.  "Can we buy it?" I said.  So we did.