Thursday, 30 September 2010

Farewell

The last weekend of September was very pleasant. Gillian and the children arrived on Friday evening – Paul had a lot of work to do so didn’t come with them, unfortunately. On Saturday Gillian and Barry went walking with five of the dogs and Kiri and Callum took Buddy Liver Spots for a short stroll along the road. Marnie and Gillian decided to give him a nice warm bath later because he was rather grubby. Despite his reluctance to enter water willingly I think he rather enjoyed himself, particularly when he was dried with soft towels and my hairdryer.
Later on I went to babysit when Nina and Gareth went out but it wasn’t a late evening and Gillian and Barry were still awake downstairs when I returned home. We all slept well that night!
The next day Marnie, Kiri and Callum took Buddy out again for a longer walk around the neighbourhood and he appreciated all the sniffs he encountered. 
The other dogs were exhausting themselves in the various forest ponds, apart from Frodo, who only ever goes in for a leisurely bathe. The house seemed suddenly quiet when Gillian and her family left on Sunday afternoon. Barry and the dogs and I went late to bed, though I’m not quite sure why. Buddy was fairly restless and after I’d tried unsuccessfully to settle him a couple of times I took him downstairs eventually in the early hours – he wanted a pee. Then we all went back to sleep and didn’t wake until quite late on Monday morning. As ever all the animals were keen to have their breakfast and thoroughly enjoyed their raw chicken.
The day passed peacefully, Buddy waking and wanting to go out approximately every two hours – the established routine. As was his custom he divided his time between Barry in the conservatory and me in the sitting room. He was not interested in supper at 4 o’clock and unusually for him didn’t attempt to drink any water.  In the early evening I noticed that he was breathing quite rapidly. His paws and ears were rather cool to the touch so I heated a pad in the microwave and tucked a blanket round him with the hot bottle on the outside. He was soon warm again but he continued breathing fast and it became clear that he was dying. Barry and I checked him frequently and knew he was not feverish or in shock. He was not suffering any pain and after a couple of hours it was obvious that he was unconscious. Jenna and Gus were perturbed and kept going to him, trying to lick his nose, but there was no response from him. Around eleven o’clock his breathing assumed a different pattern of deep infrequent breaths. Finally he arched his back and stretched his legs, a couple of deep shudders seized his body and he died. He went so gently that we were not sure at first that he had left us but with a mixture of sorrow and relief we soon realised his time with us was over. There were no cries or distress – he simply travelled on peacefully at 11:15. We were glad that he had died in his own home surrounded by his family.
We wrapped him in his bedding and put him in a dog bed, ready to go to the vet the next day. Buddy was a big dog and although Barry was willing to dig a grave in the garden large enough to accommodate him we decided to have him cremated. We went sadly to bed and spent an almost sleepless night. When we went downstairs on Tuesday Frodo immediately went to Buddy’s bed and nosed aside the coverings until he could lick Buddy’s face. It was almost as though he were trying to wake him up - it was very affecting. We kept covering him up but Frodo was most insistent and repeatedly unwrapped his old friend. Later in the morning we put Buddy in the car and Barry took him to our vets. Frodo, Jenna and Gus were very subdued.
Released from the necessity for one of us to stay with Buddy, or to keep our outing short if we went out together, we took the dogs for a long walk in the afternoon and returned home with lighter hearts. The rest of Tuesday passed in a strangely disjointed and other-worldly way. None of the dogs seemed to want to jump onto the settee that had for so long been Buddy’s accustomed bed, though they had been keen to sleep with him when he was alive. The return of his dog bed and harness caused great interest and by Wednesday they had begun resting occasionally on ‘his’ settee but it is still not their first choice. Upstairs it is a different matter and they are quite content to sleep on his bedding.
Buddy was a very determined dog, strong in mind and body, and had come through an attack of meningitis that nearly killed him three years ago and a life-threatening gastric torsion operation in June this year. It seems such a short period since then but he enjoyed his life and deserved the extra time the surgery gave him.
The tiny green-eyed puppy we brought home fourteen years ago and who gave Dominie such pleasure as she expressed her maternal instincts with him grew into a beautiful, steady, stubborn dog. He was really Bethan’s dog and when she came home he only had eyes for her. She trained him and exhibited him at dog shows for a while until they both grew bored of the ‘beauty parade.’ She also did some agility work with him and he surprised the collie owners with his speed and aptitude. Principally, though, he was a wonderful and amusing companion. 
He sat in chairs as a human would, back pressed comfortably against the cushions. When our first grandchild appeared Buddy was not sure what to make of the noisy little bundle with its strange smells and would go upstairs for some peace and quiet, as if he didn’t quite trust himself. Once she had grown a little and started feeding herself he became very interested. 
The sticky, sweet smell of her encouraged him to approach her gently and when two siblings arrived later and also seemed closely associated with food, any ambivalence he had felt disappeared completely. 
He was a friendly boy, a thief when he could get away with it and very affectionate. When we returned home he would greet us by gently nibbling our fingers – we shall miss that. We are glad to have known him.
RIP Buddy – Master Brown  26.03.1996 – 27.09.2010

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

ABC Wednesday K is for Knock Knock

Denise Nesbitt and her Keen team use their Killer instincts to Kickstart this weeKly meme. Thank you, Kids;-) Click here for more ABC Ws.
K is for Knock Knock – prepare to groan!
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Mara
Mara who?
Mara, Mara on the wall
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Olivia
Olivia who?
Olivia, so get out of my house.
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Kenny
Kenny who?
Kenny come in, it’s freezing out here?
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Beezer
Beezer who?
Beezer black and yellow and make honey
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Venice
Venice who?
Venice your mother coming home?
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Isabel
Isabel who?
Isabel really necessary on a bicycle?
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Voodoo
Voodoo who?
Voodoo you think you are?
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Klaus
Klaus who?
Klaus this door, will you?
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Kareem
Kareem who?
Kareem of the crop
Knock knock
Who’s there?
Kay
Kay who?
Kay sera sera 

There are many, many more but I’ll spare you . . .

Monday, 27 September 2010

Microfiction Monday #50

Lovely Susan from ‘Stony River’ organises and hosts this weekly meme. Thank you Susan J She provides a picture to prompt imagination and the challenge is to create a story in 140 characters or less – including punctuation! Click here to read more marvels of microfiction – and perhaps join in. It’s fun!
Here is this week’s picture accompanied by my story.

Pat watched the tanker’s slow swift progress. The illusion of non-movement bothered her. What was it called? Google would work hard tonight.
(140 characters)

Friday, 24 September 2010

Underneath the spreading chestnut tree







In the forest the sweet chestnuts are ripening and falling to the ground, there to be collected by children and squirrels. The nuts are soft and sweet and worth the considerable effort required to remove them from their prickly outer casing and then the closely-fitting shiny brown shells. There are many hints and tips for releasing the chewy nuts but whichever method is used is fiddly, sticky and results in sore fingers (or is that just me?)

Some of the chestnut trees are getting on in years and have spreading canopies to provide welcome shade on September days that can still be very warm. Yesterday I took some photographs and they are here together with some macro shots of chestnuts that Barry captured a couple of days ago.
PathĂ© News presented a review of 1939, part of which showed King George VI and other members of the Royal Family at the Duke of York’s Camp for Boys singing ‘Underneath the spreading chestnut tree.’ Apparently, he didn’t seem very comfortable performing the actions, but it was a favourite of his and was chosen for the 1948 Royal Command Performance.
It was also a favourite of mine when I was teaching music and many are the children who learnt the actions and enjoyed performing it. I wonder if any of them remember it now?
The lyrics, inspired at least by the first line of the poem, ‘The Village Blacksmith’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1832) were written by J. and H. Kennedy and were set to music by Hal Kemp. The song was recorded by the Glen Miller Orchestra in 1939 with Marion Hutton. It’s delivered rather speedily and I can imagine that anyone attempting to fit in the actions would be somewhat breathless by the end!
I’ve added the ‘actions’ to the words, as clearly as I can. Remember, practice makes perfect ;-)

Underneath the spreading chestnut tree         (spread arms above head, then touch chest, head and lift arms up)
I loved him and he loved me.                                     (hands on heart, then hug)
There I used to sit upon his knee                         (hands on knees)
‘Neath the spreading chestnut tree.                    (as before)

There beneath the boughs we used to meet     (spread arms, then clasp hands)
All his kisses were so sweet;                                       (kiss fingers)
All the little birdies went ‘tweet- tweet’          (fingers make bird beaks)
‘Neath the spreading chestnut tree.                        (as before)
                                          
I said, ‘I love you and there ain’t no ifs or buts,       (hands on heart, shake finger)
He said, ‘I love you' and the blacksmith shouted, 'Chestnuts!'     (hands on heart)

Underneath the spreading chestnut tree              (as before)
There he said he’d marry me,                                         (mimic placing ring on finger)
Now you ought to see our family                               (hand indicates heights of children on ‘fa-mi-ly;)
‘Neath the spreading chestnut tree!                         (as before)


Thursday, 23 September 2010

SkyWatch Friday September full moon and a stormy sky

The September full moon is known as the Fruit Moon or the Harvest Moon, both appropriate names for a month in which Harvest is celebrated.
Maybe this was the moon which inspired Alfred Noyes (1880-1958) 
'Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!'

Last night we had the full moon in all her glory. Today we had heavy rain and then it cleared to a fine late afternoon. This evening's sunset was couched in roiling, boiling clouds of incredible hues.
There were one or two raindrops on the camera lens

. . . and please forgive the indulgence. I love this song and I so enjoy watching Laurel and Hardy. I shall be singing this song for a day or two!

Thanks go to the SkyWatch Friday team who organise and host this lovely weekly meme. To see more wonderful skies please click here.

Seahorses!

Seahorse (Hippocampus)
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Susannah has just sent me this link. 
http://www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo/news/aquarium-celebrates-first-time-seahorse-success,748,NS.html
I've always been fascinated by seahorses and now the London Zoo's Aquarium has 918 short-snouted seahorse babies, looking like the ones below!
Short-snouted seahorses at London Zoo's Aquarium
Image courtesy of London Zoo

Magpie Tales #33 Acqua di Parma

The other day I was thinking of my grandmother, a gracious old lady who was an important part of my young life. She lived a short distance from our house and I visited her every day. Sometimes I was allowed to sleep in her guest bedroom, a pretty room decorated in lavender and white.

I enjoyed the bedtime ritual in her house. First I would have a bath in the claw-foot tub in her huge, chilly bathroom and then wrap myself in one of her large soft white towels and go through to her bedroom where she would brush my hair – one hundred strokes counted out in her soft voice as the bristles swept smoothly through my long straight locks. Then my grandmother would give me her box of talcum powder and I would dust my body with the sweetly scented puff, loving the feel of the satin ribbon between my fingers.

Whenever I stayed with her she would give me a sprigged nightgown that had belonged to my mother when she was a child. It had a high neck and long sleeves and fell from a smocked yoke to my feet in gentle folds. There was plenty of room in it to tuck up my feet later until they were warm enough to make contact with the cool bed linen. 

Then we would go downstairs to the sitting room, a room full of curios and books and plants. The subdued light in this room made it welcoming and comfortable and though I must have stayed with my grandmother at different times of the year it is the winter evenings that I recall most clearly, a log fire burning brightly in the grate and casting flickering shadows on the walls and ceiling. My face would grow hot as I leant forward to push the long toasting fork ever closer to the coals. Crumpets dripping with butter and honey – ‘As many as you like’ she would say and I would hug myself with glee at that possibility. At home such treats were strictly rationed and my sister and brother and I always longed for more than we were allowed. Strangely, at my grandmother’s house I could never manage to eat more than the two we were given at home, but it was the thought that I could have more if I wanted that gave me more of a warm feeling than hot food ever could. 

After the crumpets my grandmother would read to me as I sipped hot chocolate. When the story had finished, always at the same moment that I drained the last sweetness from the dainty china mug, my grandmother would hold out her hand and together we would go upstairs and she would tuck me in to bed, pulling the sheet and blankets firmly round me so that I felt safe and contained, much as a baby must feel when wrapped snugly in a blanket. She would kiss me – ‘Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite. God bless.’

I would turn on to my side and draw up my knees and gaze around the room, lit by a night light – my grandmother knew I hated the dark. The pictures on the walls were of flowers, primroses, honeysuckle, bluebells, that my grandmother had painted and framed. The curtains and bedspread were made of the same floral material – tiny pink rosebuds entwined with delicate violets. On the bedside table, next to the water carafe and glass, was a small charmingly decorated tin of sweets more treasured for their scent than their taste. They smelt like my grandmother – or should it be that she smelt like them?

The next morning I would go home, happy to join my family once more and knowing that I would be seeing my grandmother the next day. I thought I would see her every day for the rest of my life but of course that could not be so.

My granddaughter lives nearby and visits me most days. Sometimes she spends the night in my spare bedroom. Yesterday she burst in excitedly. ‘Look, Grandma, look at these. Aren’t they lovely? Mummy put them in a special box for me. She said you’d like them.’ She thrust a tissue wrapped parcel into my hand and hopped from foot to foot, impatient for me to open it.

The first thing I saw was the lid with its painted flowers and I knew, before I removed it, what was inside. Slowly I took off the top and there, nestled in shreds of lavender paper, were Parma violets. The released scent seemed to fill the air. I offered one to my granddaughter. She sniffed it then put it in her mouth. ‘Ugh!’ she said and I smiled. I don’t like the taste, either, but the smell reminds me of my grandmother – it was the cologne she always wore.
Thanks go to Willow who organises and hosts this meme. To read more Magpies please click here.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Bethan's violin


Rebecca from 'The Dusty Cellar' organises and hosts this meme. To see more blues please click here.
Bethan's violin nestled in its blue-lined case.

ABC Wednesday J is for Jezreel's Tower

Jezreel's Tower
Image courtesy of Martin Smith
Jezreel’s Tower, near the top of Chatham Hill in the south-east corner of Kent, UK, was the largest religious building ever to have been built in Britain. Sometimes known as Jezreel’s Folly, it was designed by James Jershom Jezreel, formerly James White. It was to be the headquarters of his sect and a sanctuary from the Last Judgment.
James White enlisted in the British Army in 1875 and was based in Chatham, where he soon became interested in the teaching of Joanna Southcott, a seer and prophet. She wrote prophecies in rhyme and announced that she was the woman spoken of in Revelation 12: 1-6
 v.1: And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
Her most startling claim was that she was to give birth to the new Messiah, Shiloh.

White joined a Southcottian sect of Christian Israelites and soon took over the leadership. He wrote ‘The Flying Roll’, a message to the scattered tribes of Israel, a favoured 144,000 of whom would achieve true immortality.
In 1881 White was discharged from the army and began to expand his following, finding sympathisers in the USA and Australia as well as locally. He established several businesses including a print firm, a bakery and a grocery store and invested the profits from these and money that had been donated. By the end of 1884, Jezreel decided that work could start on his Sanctuary.
Architect's drawing - provenance unknown
It was to be constructed of steel and concrete with yellow brick walls and eight castellated towers. He had wished to build a perfect cube but was persuaded that such a design would be technically difficult and prohibitively expensive. The walls were to be decorated with symbols of Jezreel’s sect, featuring the Flying Roll, the Trumpet (he considered himself to be the Sixth Trumpeter to sound the alarm, following Richard Brothers, Joanna Southcott, George Turner, William Shaw and John Wroe), the Crossed Swords of the Spirit and Prince of Wales feathers to signify the Holy Trinity.
Building began in 1886 and was proceeding well when Jezreel died, quite unexpectedly. His wife, who styled herself Queen Esther, took over the project and by 1887 the exterior of the tower was complete apart from the roof. The ground floor was finished and furnished with steam printing presses that were producing the sect’s publications. On the first floor many steel girders were in place ready to construct the hall, which was intended to hold 5,000, balconies, hydraulic choirs and a revolving platform for the preacher.
The money ran out in March 1888 and work ceased. Jezreel’s huge tower lay surrounded by scaffolding, roofless and open to the elements. Queen Esther died in June of 1888 and without her leadership the sect split and eventually lost ownership of the tower. In 1905 demolition was begun but the building was so strongly constructed that it proved impossible to destroy. It remained as a monument to man’s folly and vanity for more than fifty years but eventually, following the local council’s refusal to adopt it as an historical relic, it was scheduled for demolition in 1960.The job was expected to take three months but took thirteen – the tower built to last was finally reduced to rubble and the landmark beloved of many and seen from as far away as fifteen miles was gone.  
All that remains now is a bus stop called Jezreel. When I used to catch the bus from school there was sometimes talk of the curse of Jezreel’s. It was said that those called to work on the demolition would suffer injury or death. Indeed, one company was put out of business and one demolition worker was killed. Strangely, I can’t remember ever seeing the Tower, but I suppose I must have done so. Barry recalls it quite clearly.
Thanks go to Denise Nesbitt and her Jolly, Jovial team members who organise and host this weekly meme. To see more Js please click here.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

English for the unwary.

The following pronounciation poem is attributed variously to T S Watt or Richard Krough
 
I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you
On hiccough, thorough, laugh and through.
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?
 
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead: it’s said like bed, not bead – 
For goodness’ sake, don’t call it ‘deed’!
Watch out for meat and great and threat,
They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.
 
A moth is not a moth in mother
Nor both in bother, broth in brother.
And here is not a match for there
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear.
And then there’s dose and rose and lose – 
Just look them up – and goose and choose.
 
And cork and word and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart – 
Come, come I’ve hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive,
I’d mastered it when I was five.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Camera Critters #128 Spiders


 Thanks go to Misty Dawn who hosts this meme. Click here to see more camera-worthy critters.
The European garden spiders (Araneus diadematus) are busy everywhere spinning their delicate death traps for unwary insects. Are they stocking up their larders or preparing packed lunches for a day out?
This very common orb-weaving spider is also known as the diadem spider or cross spider. Its colouring varies from very pale yellow to extremely dark grey but all members have mottled markings on their backs with five or more large white spots forming a cross. They have been known to stridulate when threatened and while they are not aggressive, a bite from them is a little unpleasant but quite harmless to humans.
The female spins the web and rests head down waiting for prey to stumble into her sticky silken snare. Quickly she captures and wraps her victim before consuming it. 
Every night she eats her web with any remaining small prisoners - this takes about two minutes - and the next morning she spins a fresh web. On fine September mornings it is a joy to walk in open spaces and see hundreds of dew-bejewelled webs shimmering in the sun.
Araneus diadematus will die in late autumn. Before this she will have mated with one of the much smaller males - they must approach carefully at risk of death - and build a silken cocoon in which she lays her eggs. The spiderlings will hatch the following May.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Buddy is a teacher

A belief that Barry often reiterates is that teachers will not, cannot be told. This is a direct result of having been married to me for harumphety-humph years. A teacher is autocratic, accustomed to controlling his or her own small universe – the class! For my husband, teachers are a caste apart – they are poor listeners (I’m not!!), think they know best (obviously we do!) and never allow adverse criticism. This is why OFSTED inspections are so painful!

Parents who tell us we’ve done wonders with their child/ren are welcomed with beaming smiles and open arms. Those who are less happy are clearly deranged. To be honest, it is challenging for teachers working in isolation (apart from 20 to 30 pupils – and I used to have nightmares about the whole class revolting – no, some of them were repulsive ;-/ – rebelling against my feeble attempts at order and discipline . . . )  - I repeat, it is difficult, nigh impossible to be objective about one’s performance.

So, okay, the infants have ignored your instructions/advice/tutelage to refrain from licking each other, your shoes, the windows, the floor, but you’re doing your best. They won’t sit down, they keep sitting down, they won’t talk to you, they won’t STOP talking to you – in short, they won’t do as you ask/ cajole/bribe/order them to. You might as well be talking to yourself. It’s my belief that retired teachers of very young children are easily spotted because they chatter away to themselves, regardless of other people. You know they’re not using mobile phone earpieces –teachers are accustomed to the sound of their own voices and are not really interested in what their fellow humans may have to say.

Having exhausted all avenues of communication and feeling extremely foolish after trying to demonstrate what is expected – the infants, mildly interested for a few seconds, stare bemusedly with fingers in mouths or noses or other orifices, their own or another’s and then wander off to pursue different activities - a few teachers give in and let the children play all day, claiming that some spurious research validates this method of teaching. Others decide to leave the profession and take up a formerly despised nine to five job where the work can be left behind at the end of the day. Yet more will never give up – it’s the long holidays, you see.

If you are one of the stayers you cannot admit that the atmosphere in your classroom is NOT GOOD ENOUGH so you blame the weather – too hot, too cold, too wet, too windy. Then you place a layer of guilt at the parents’ feet – too strict, too lenient, too inexperienced, too old to cope, too pushy, too complacent – but that doesn’t work. Next to assume the mantle of culpability are the rest of the staff – Mrs H lets them do as they please, Mr K shouts at them, Miss W doesn’t like them, Ms Y works them too hard. No, no good there so the last one almost the last one to blame is the headteacher – she doesn’t know half the children, he never comes into the classroom, she babies them, he patronises them, why can’t she take a class occasionally? When you finally accept that none of the aforementioned can really be responsible for the absence of harmony and authority in your room (all the other rooms are deathly quiet or have what teachers like to refer to as ‘a working hum’ – the hum is often not just in the noise, either, but that’s another story!) there is really only one person whose shoulders must bear the burden of condemnation and that is yourself, at which point, according to your temper temperament, you weep, shout, laugh, swear (but not in front of the children) or storm out, never to return.

Now I had not meant to go off at this tangent, or indeed, any tangent at all. Suffice it to say that I should never have gone into teaching. I’m not very good with children. I couldn’t do anything with the four I gave birth to so expecting to cope with other people’s offspring was a given no-no. I should have been a librarian or a shelf-stacker or a postwoman – healthy life that, with all the walking and the heaving about of heavy sacks in all kinds of weather.
I said that Buddy is a teacher and maybe he was one in a former life. His attitude is that of any this teacher. He’s very independent and quite fastidious and definitely always knows best. He’s an old boy now and needs a little assistance to go up and downstairs. Sometimes his back legs go into a position, parallel to his body, where he cannot use them to lever himself to his feet. During the day he alternates between garden, sitting room, kitchen and conservatory. I don’t need a keep-fit regime – I’ve got Buddy. When he’s in the sitting room his chosen bed is the three-seater settee, suitably draped in a succession of colourful throws, for ease of cleanliness. He prefers to have a clean couch. Whether or not he is able to ascend his throne is governed by a number of factors:

1:  Has he had a sufficiently long run-up stagger-up?
2:  Are the settee cushions settled firmly on the support? (they should be, I put them in place a hundred times a day!)
3:  Is there a mat next to the settee so that his paws don’t slip on the wooden (laminate) flooring?
4:  Has he got the balance right so that he can lie down where and how he pleases? (This morning I heard him grizzling and when I investigated he’d pushed open the patio door with his super-strong nose and attempted the ascent of the sofa but slipped and landed half in and half out of a dog basket. He was stuck there like a stranded beetle, though not on his back, so not really like a beetle at all.)
Sometimes Buddy cannot quite manage the last push and a gentle touch on his harness gives him the confidence to continue the clamber onto his bed. That is quite acceptable to him – after all, we both know he’s done most all of the work himself. On other occasions, thinking to help, I will lift him onto the settee and settle him down. As soon as I leave his side he’s climbed off again and determined to do it all by himself – and he does. Just like a teacher, see? Won’t be told, won’t be helped – I’ve just realised why, actually, this very moment. He was born under the sign of Aries, just like me, so he shares with me all the characteristics of that stubborn animal. So, Buddy isn’t a teacher – he is a Ram!

Friday Flash 55 Morning rituals

Friday 55 Flash Fiction is brought to you by G-man (Mr Knowitall). The challenge is to write a story in exactly 55 words. If you want to take part pop over and let G-man know when you've posted your 55. 
Cat miaous.
Dogs whine.
Time to rise.
Too early!
Help old dog downstairs.
Let old dog out.
Younger dogs out.
 All in. 
Dogs watch every move.
 One day they’ll trip me!
 Feed cat in one room.
 Feed dogs in another.
 Noise recedes.
 All dogs out again.
Then daily tablets and medications.
All animals sleep.
Peace!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Magpie Tales #32 Eggs


In the days when I could still eat eggs without them causing discomfort – it's not an allergy that developed but an intolerance – I cooked them in many different ways. I loved to have cheesy scrambled eggs on hot buttered toast but was never particularly fond of omelettes - they always seemed rather rubbery but that was probably the way I overcooked them. 
Fried eggs were tasty but cooking the white while keeping the yolk soft was a knack and one I still strive to acquire when I prepare them for my family. Poached eggs were easier though inclined to stick to the pod. Putting them straight into boiling water avoided that but resulted in messy looking eggs with globular yolks and untidy straggly whites. They still tasted the same on toast with ground pepper and perhaps a little salt.

Shrove Tuesday was always fun – I was an expert pancake tosser and none of them ever landed on the floor or stuck to the ceiling. Lemon juice and sugar made them tangy and sweet and I made piles of them until everyone was sated.

Soft-boiled eggs with soldiers were always welcomed by all the family – there aren't many occasions when playing with your food is acceptable. Tapping the shell with the back of a spoon and peeling the top off to reveal the treasure within felt naughty but was allowed. How else could you reach the glorious food inside? Removing and eating a slice of white disclosed the sunny yellow. Crisp toast fingers were dipped into the golden runny yolk within its firm soft white and finally the whole of the rest of the egg was scraped out of its shell, every mouthful to be savoured. One boiled egg was wonderful but two were a prize that would keep even the most active child feeling satisfyingly replete until lunch time. The concluding joy was to reverse the eggshells in the cups and pretend that they were as yet uneaten. No-one was ever fooled but it was a harmless ritual that always made everyone smile. I learned the hard way when very young and not yet married that soft-boiled eggs cannot be kept warm in the water they've been boiled in!

Hard-boiled eggs were a different experience, the yolk now firm and crumbly, like cheese though tasting quite different. They could be sliced into salads, mixed with cress into sandwiches, curried, coated in a mixture of breadcrumbs and spices or simply eaten whole, a small and satisfying snack.

Eggs to be hard-boiled must be watched carefully for the water can boil away very quickly. One day I had set eggs to boil and then been distracted. I was upstairs and had forgotten all about them until I detected a rather strong odour and almost instantly heard a loud report. I hurried down to the kitchen to be met by a new style of home decoration. Blobs and gobbets of yellow and white adhered to all surfaces adjacent to the cooker. Even the ceiling was attractively transformed into a miniature depiction of stalactites.

I've never attempted soufflés!

Thanks go to Willow who organises and hosts this meme. To read more Magpies please click here. 

blue's coloured thursdays - black

This colour-linked meme is challenging and fun. Thank you to the organiser! To see more for this week's blacks please click here.
A tapestry of Toucans, made by my late mother
A Jackdaw stamping about on the bird table
A Magpie about to land on the bird feeder
Another Magpie enjoying the fat cake
 Crows visit the feeders too . . .
. . . and so do Blackbirds . . .
. . . and Great Spotted Woodpeckers . . .
. . . but the Labradors prefer different treats!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A Plumber’s Tales #3


Paul was fitting a copper roof on the Heritage Centre at Lulworth Cove in Dorset when he noticed an old chap on the ground looking up and shouting something. Paul waved and smiled at him but the elderly fellow kept on yelling. Paul stopped to listen more carefully and was amazed to hear the old man hollering, 'Horse piss, horse piss.'

He wondered if this was a comment on his workmanship and trying to ignore his audience continued his work. Still the comment came, 'Horse piss, horse piss.'

Eventually Paul climbed down and spoke to the old gentleman. He didn't quite know what to expect but the man was an experienced workman, used to working with copper and told him, 'Use horse piss to cure the copper. It turns it green.'

In that way a new roof can be aged quickly to fit in with its surroundings. I don't know whether Paul took the advice – I rather doubt it as he's only usually on nodding terms with horses - but I imagine by now, several years later, that the roof will have weathered naturally, particularly in the salt-laden air of Lulworth.

How big?

The National Health Service (NHS) is one of the biggest organisations in the world after the People's Liberation Army of China and comparable to the Indian National Railway System. The INRS daily transports 20 million passengers and 2 million tonnes of goods.  


While not denigrating the immense good done by the NHS in emergency situations, one wonders why  £330 million were spent on management consultants in 2009, a sum almost as great as that spent on combined lung cancer and skin cancer treatment and research. 


There are certainly great savings to be made in this unwieldy service.

Cattle and TB



The scrolling caption at the bottom of the television screen stated that 25000 cattle were slaughtered after contacting TB. This led Barry and me to ponder how they managed to communicate.


Did the head cow, the leader of the herd - there doesn't seem to be a bovine equivalent of bellwether - pick up the phone? Rather difficult for a hoofed animal, but they're cleverer than they look, those cows. Maybe she was an independently minded modern heifer, not allowing any glass ceiling to prevent her advancement, and texted Mr TB. Perchance she used email. Whatever the form of exchange, did she then regret it, fearing she may have sealed her fate and that of her friends and relations?


Ms Heifer to her compatriots: 'Sisters, I have this day spoken to Mr TB and if I may quote Mr Chamberlain, "I believe it is peace for our time ... peace with honour." We shall prevail.'


The cows ceased their cud chewing to moo loud and long at her encouraging words. When it became apparent that there would be no amity and that she and 24999 of her extended family were doomed she was deeply saddened. Hearing the piteous lowing of her companions she addressed them once more, her beautiful dark brown eyes shining with unshed tears.


Ms Heifer: 'My fellow cows, it is with a heavy heart that I have to tell you that Mr TB has reneged on his word and that consequently this herd is at immediate danger. You can imagine what a bitter blow it is to me that all my long struggle to win life has failed. Yet I cannot believe that there is anything more or anything different that I could have done and that would have been more successful. I know that you will all play your part with calmness and courage for the sakes of your relatives far away who have been spared this terrible burden. I beg you not to blame the badgers - they are innocent of any evil motive.'


Ms Heifer quietly lowered her head and pulled a mouthful of sweet grass and began to ruminate, physically and meditatively. Her peers followed her example, listening all the while for the rumble of cattle lorries.

ABC Wednesday I is for India

Thanks go to Denise Nesbitt and her Indefatigable team who organise and host this meme each week. To see what other players have posted please click here.
Barry and I have spent many hours recently compiling memory books for my mother-in-law, Dorothy. The albums contain a little information, including names for each photograph, to jog her memory. We hope they will stimulate her failing memory and help her to remember happy moments. Some of her fondest memories are of India, where she lived  with her husband and children for three years after the war.  
Dorothy with Trevor and Barry, New Delhi, India
Barry with his father, mother and younger brother 
A copy of 'The Onlooker' from September 1946
A page from 'The Onlooker' with the following caption.
Her Highness Rani Sahiba Kusum Kumari of Mandi, who was awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind Gold Medal in the Birthday Honours list for outstanding social services.
Dorothy and her family were in India when Gandhi was assassinated on 30th January 1948. She saw the crowds passing by on the road below her flat.