Tuesday 30 June 2009

Winston’s June blog

Winston here . . . p'rrrrr, p'rrrrr . . .

It's nearly two months since I last blogged but there's been a lot going on. A cat can hardly turn round without tripping over another human in the house, don'tcha know.

First of all Mr Human's mother came to stay so there was quite a lot of being shut away while she ate. She's not used to having cats and dogs around so hasn't developed the swatting technique to keep me and Monty away – not that we ever get actually swatted. Anyway we don't beg shamelessly like the dogs and really we only climb on laps to get a closer look and a sniff. What's wrong with that?

Then Paul and John came to do a bit more to the Endless Pool. Me and Monty keep hearing the humans talking about that but we don't know what it is. I think it must be like the pond but indoors. They went home and Gillian came with the children to look after the dogs – honestly, dogs are more trouble than cats! - while Mr and Mrs went to look at a school for Gareth's boys. We haven't seen Nina and the children since we were kittens but they're all coming back in August. Mr and Mrs are pleased about that.

That's how it's been – comings and goings. Well, Paul and John were back last week and again yesterday and Mr and Mrs H were very pleased by the end of the day.

Today they both disappeared into what they call the Pool Room and came back a while later with wet hair and smelling strange. I don't think they'd been playing billiards. Going for another snooze now – it's very hot and sticky at the moment so it's best to do as little as possible and save our energy. Monty and me are good at that.


The Dog Days of My Life: #9 - Cariadd

When Sam died we thought that Daisy would be a comfort to her mother but Biddy was inconsolable. Indeed, Biddy seemed to need something to mother and Daisy had not fulfilled that role since she was weaned. We decided that a puppy would help heal Biddy's heart and we set about finding one. Barry wanted a running breed and we considered an English Setter but breeders advised us that Setters would run off into the next county at the slightest invitation. Whisky had shown us that Labradors were walkers rather than runners (in later years we would discover this not always to be the case.)

After considering and rejecting various breeds we gradually came to the realisation that a Dalmatian would fit the bill. I had always hankered after these elegant dogs but Barry had demurred, thinking them beautiful but stupid. Conversations with many breeders corrected this misconception. We duly tracked down a breeder with puppies almost old enough to go to their new homes. Avril and Bill Bale-Stock were experienced breeders and handlers. Their very successful champion dog at the time was Appaloosa Spring Classic and he had sired a litter of fourteen. The dam was having difficulty looking after so many pups so when they were three weeks old Avril took six of them back to her house to hand-rear them. Before she agreed to allow us to go and see them she ascertained that I was not house-proud. Dalmatians shed short white hairs all year round. The hairs attach themselves to any and everything and are therefore transported across continents. There are people who have never been near a Dalmatian who have nonetheless found a scattering of them. The dogs also shed their black or liver hairs but these are not so noticeable.

With great excitement we drove to South Wales to meet breeders and puppies and dogs - spots before the eyes, indeed. Bethan, then three, went outside to play with the puppies which milled around her, nipping and tugging at her clothes and she loved them. I believe it was her demeanour with them that convinced Avril and Bill that a Dalmatian would fit into our family. Bethan told them that Biddy was sad because she couldn't lick Sam's ears any more. We chose a pretty little bitch and dreamt all night of spotted dogs. Two weeks later we brought her home. We wanted a name that would reflect her Welsh origins and decided on Cariadd, a Welsh endearment equating to 'Darling' or 'Dearest'. Avril had told us that dogs never forget their first owners and indeed many years later when Bethan was at Swansea University Cariadd would always perk up and look around as we crossed the Severn Bridge.

Biddy and Daisy greeted the newcomer enthusiastically, playing with her exuberantly but carefully in the manner of adult dogs with puppies.

Biddy and Cariadd play ball with an old squeaky toy of Bethan's.

Although Cariadd grew to be much, much bigger than the Jack Russells, in her mind she was always a little dog and preferred the company of small animals.At this stage Biddy was much faster than Cariadd

In fact, she was a safe refuge when the cats fell out with each other for they would sit on her, safe in the knowledge that they would not be attacked. A very patient and long-suffering Cariadd with six or seven previously-squabbling Burmese cats crowded around and on her. Biddy is on the left.
Having been brought up with the stick-loving JRs Cariadd developed the dedication to extremes, picking up and carrying huge logs around the forest as she accompanied Barry on his runs. Parts of the forest have gates or narrow openings into further sections and when she came to these she would manoeuvre her tree trunk through with great dexterity. Unlike Sam she never attempted to take them into the car.

Barry and Bethan after running with Cariadd. Barry holds up a typical Cariadd 'stick'. Cariadd is smiling the Dalmatian smile which looks like a snarl but is actually an expression of pleasure. Many breeds of dog smile in similar fashion.

After Biddy died Cariadd and Daisy became closer. Both quiet dogs they demanded little of each other more than companionship. Old dogs sleep a great deal but look for each other when awake. We always wish for our animals, as for our loved humans, that they will slip away peacefully in their sleep. It rarely happens and dear Daisy had to be eased on her way. For such a little, unassuming creature she left a huge hole in our lives and we needed a new focus, for Cariadd too. That's how our next canine arrived!

Cariadd was a very healthy dog but when she was about fourteen she developed a gastric torsion and would have died without surgical intervention. She recovered well and was fit until she was sixteen when she became unable to maintain her balance. It transpired that she had a growth on her spinal column which was not treatable and so inevitably she had to be helped across the Rainbow Bridge.

We have found that the best way to come to terms with losing a loved companion is to haul out the photographs and videos and laugh and cry as we remember the youth and energy and then the all too rapid progression to the final dignity of advanced age. We often ask ourselves why we have these animals that ultimately break our hearts. There is no logical answer but that life would be poorer, less fun, more self-centred. Pets help us to maintain our physical, mental and emotional health. Certainly they restrict our movements – we cannot take off on a whim or decide to stay overnight after a day out instead of going home. We have a responsibility to them but we are so much richer for their company. They give unconditionally and we are privileged to share our lives with them.

Monday 29 June 2009

Carry On Tuesday - The Language of the Roses

'The red rose whispers of passion,

And the white rose breathes of love.'

He circled the back of her hand as he murmured these words. She glanced at him, unsure if there was a hidden meaning. Then he laughed and said, 'Who believes that rubbish anyway?'

The next day he sent her a bouquet of yellow roses and a brief note. 'I'm grateful for our friendship but I can't see you any more. If you want to know why look in the announcements column of today's paper. Please believe you'll always be special to me.D x'

When she had recovered from the shock of reading about his forthcoming marriage she laughed. The irony of the roses was lost on him. He had, despite his dismissal of the meaning of the colours, sent her yellow roses for amity, the Victorian meaning of jealousy having been superseded. However, not only was she French she was also a Muslim and in both those cultures yellow roses signified something less attractive. In Islamic folk lore they represented deceit, treachery and adultery. In France they were a metaphor for infidelity. 'How apt,' she thought as she dumped the flowers in a waste basket.

Thank you to the organiser of this meme.

To read more responses to the Carry On Tuesday prompt please click here

The Simple Woman's Daybook

For today Monday 29th June 2009:-

Outside my window the men are putting finishing touches to the electrical workings for the Endless Pool.

I am thinking about my son and his family in New York.

I am thankful for the love of a good man.

From the kitchen I can hear the washing machine telling me it’s finished its cycle.

I am wearing striped trousers, blouse in stripes of shades of blue, Nike trainers.

I am creating too many projects.

I am going to a Hog Roast on Saturday in aid of 'Help for Heroes'.

I am reading ‘The Islamist’ by Ed Husain.

I am hoping for a cool breeze.

I am hearing tennis from Wimbledon on the television.

Around the house the animals are sleeping.

One of my favourite things is the waft of scent from jasmine, honeysuckle and roses in the garden.

A few plans for the rest of the week: hopefully taking the first of regular swims in the Endless Pool; pickling shallots; making marmalade.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing - it's my first-born, Gillian, 'helping' in the garden. She is now married with three children of her own - 15, 13 and 11.

Thank you to Peggy Hostetler the creator of this meme. Please click here to read more Daybook entries.

Sunday 28 June 2009

Pet Pride - Monty, Winston and a little of Frodo

These two beauties are our Ocicats. They are incredibly gentle and affectionate.Monty is chocolate silver and Winston is chocolate.
Monty (rear) and Winston on the alert.

Winston's hoping for some of what Frodo's got.
'If I sit underneath him he won't see me and I might be lucky . . . '

Monty's approaching with care.
'I wonder if it bites? I'm ready for anything . . . '

The boys have killed it! Now to play toss and catch.'

Click here to visit more of Bozo's friends.
Bozo, please thank your human for organising this meme.

Todays Flowers #46

The heart of the flower . . .
Thank you to the TF team - Luiz Santilli - Denise Gullickson - Laerte Pupo - Valkyrien - for this meme.
Click here to see more beautiful blooms from around the world.

Saturday 27 June 2009

Shadow Shot Sunday

Workbench casts a shadow on the pool room floor.
Click on the 'Shadow Shot Sunday' logo to see more shadows.
Thank you to Hey Harriet for this meme.

Camera Critters - Harlequin ladybird larva

My son-in-law found this little creature galloping across my husband's back. He put it on his arm so Barry could photograph it. Little beastie was desperate to hide and and was moving very quickly. Finally when it looked as if it might sting or lay eggs on him he shook it off onto some clean washing.

We didn't know what it was but thought it might be some kind of beetle. Book and internet searches revealed it as a Harlequin ladybird larva. This is an invasive introduced species and feeds voraciously on aphids but if these are in short supply it will prey on native ladybirds, consuming eggs, larvae and pupae and moth and butterfly eggs and caterpillars. It has also shown cannibalistic tendencies when food is scarce. It has been present in the UK since 2004 and is colonising rapidly.
Very smart in its black and yellow livery though, isn't it?

To see more Critters please click here

Thank you to Misty Dawn for this meme.

Friday 26 June 2009

Haiku Friday - washing

Washing on the line

Dries quickly in the brisk breeze

And smells wonderful.

Visit here to read more haiku

Weekend Wordsmith - Flag

The Geography lesson was over and it was time for Art. The children had been looking at flags and the teacher had said to her class of nine-year-olds, 'I'd like you all to make a picture of a flag or a picture with a flag in it. You can design your own or you can choose one you particularly like and draw that. If you're copying, though, please make sure that you're very accurate, particularly if you choose the Union Flag.' The children giggled at this.

She told them they could use any medium they liked, pastels, charcoal, poster paints – whatever they thought would be best for their individual composition – and that they would have forty-five minutes to finish. Then there would be a fifteen minute period when everyone would display their creations.

A number of hands went up and she pre-empted the question by saying, 'Yes, you may use computers if you wish.' At this several of the pupils eagerly pulled out their lap-tops ready to start work.

'Can we draw pennants?' asked another child.

'Is a pennant a flag?' she countered.

Several of the children nodded.

'Can you think of any other different names for flags?' she continued. 'Think of places we might see flags.'

She was pleased to discover that they knew several terms. Burgee and ensign were offered by one or two who had done a lot of sailing. Offspring of the Parent Teacher Association Committee Members predictably mentioned bunting and banners and streamers. The rather serious son of a serving Army officer suggested colours and standard.

After a lot of murmuring the class settled down. The room wasn't silent but there was a purposeful working hum. The teacher decided that she would not tour the room, looking over shoulders at work in progress but wait for the show. That way her reactions would be as fresh and spontaneous as the children's.

There was an undercurrent of excitement when the time for the art show drew near. Each child was to hold up their picture and comment on it if they wished or answer questions.

There were a number of castles, forts and pirate ships. The Army officer's son had portrayed the Trooping of the Colour with all the soldiers' and horses' legs precisely synchronised. One of the girls had painted a magnificent galleon. The PTA Committee Members' children had sat together and produced lively, detailed collages of the School Summer Fête.

The children had been generous in their appreciation of their peers' efforts but were beginning to get restless as the show drew to its close. Finally, the last picture was displayed.

There were grunts and protestations as the artist held up her water-colour. Even the teacher was taken aback for there, painted against a backdrop of graceful trees and water, stood a clump of wild Iris.

As she drew breath to comment the little girl said shyly, 'You said we could paint a flag we particularly liked and I really, really like Yellow Flags.'

The teacher smiled and the rest of the class said, collectively, 'Ohhhh!'

To read more contributions to Weekend Wordsmith, please click here.

Thank you to the organisers of this meme.

Thursday 25 June 2009

Wednesday 24 June 2009

The Further Adventures of Frodo the Faller – cured?

Well, our boy never ceases to amaze us all, including his vets. After a week on antibiotics and the eventual cessation of the horrible gurgling, wheezing, panting breathing he went back to see Nadia-the-Vet, who usually deals with him. She was very pleased with him; he had responded well and she thought the megaoesophagus had corrected itself. For the time being he will continue to eat minced meat and avoid bones until everyone is satisfied that he is fully mended.

Following a week of encouraging him to stand up at the work tops to eat – which thoroughly confused him as he has always been scolded for scouring the tops – we are now back to telling him he mustn't climb up so he's even more bewildered. Actually, he's not – he's a very bright dog and knows full well how to grab our attention. As he has a tendency to throw himself at his food we make him 'sit' and 'look at me' and 'wait' before he's praised for being a good boy and allowed to dig in. The procedure calms him down and means he doesn't bolt his food.

Feeding times are always a circus in our house. The Ocicats Monty and Winston are given their chicken wings in the conservatory. Usually, Buddy Liver Spots, Frodo the Faller and Jenna-the-Labrador are fed outdoors, the food being apportioned according to fastest absorption. Therefore Buddy Liver Spots, thirteen years old, gets his food first. Once he is established in munch mode Jenna-the-Labrador is next in line. Lastly Frodo the Faller receives and consumes his food in record time. Gentle Dominie, hindered as she is by her not-very-cooperative hind legs, is given her food in the kitchen. After she has finished the others are allowed back indoors and Buddy immediately takes up station at the conservatory door, waiting to clear up after the cats. There is much grumbling and growling but it's all top show – everyone knows that anything left over from Cats' Breakfast (or Supper) belongs to Buddy as of right.

Recently, because of Frodo's indisposition, the regime has changed. Buddy and Jenna go outside to eat as usual while frantic Frodo is kept at bay. He then eats in the kitchen – the cats still eat in the conservatory – and then remains indoors until the outside diners have finished. Bear in mind he will not go out to relieve himself until after he has eaten – his bladder is quite full in the morning! - so there are conflicting tensions. He has to watch while Dominie eats – more tension.

Then comes the Ritual of the Medication. They all have MSM, Glucosamine, Vitamin E, Omega 3 and Magnesium Citrate. Additionally, Dominie and Buddy have Bromelain (for arthritis). Frodo has Phenobarbital and Potassium Bromide which are anti-epilepsy drugs, plus Taurine. They have their pills in peanut butter, though Frodo couldn't cope with that recently because of his affliction so currently has them in Benecol. After that they all settle down for a satisfying and refreshing snooze.

Around 2:30 or 3:00 pm they start creating for supper, after which there's another round of pills for Frodo. His final dose comes before bedtime. Fortunately he's not very sensitive to the timing of his medication so there's a certain amount of leeway.

So, although it seems as if Frodo is back to normal, we will not change anything in his diet until he has another x-ray in about three weeks' time . . . £££ . . . bless him!

The Endless Saga of the Endless Pool – June 2009

P and J came to our house last Wednesday on P's birthday to continue working on the pool. We had selected floor tiles of a fairly neutral colour but with gradations and variations of shades – rather smart, we thought. Indeed, they do look very attractive.
Next came the task of laying the armoured cable. This was not a simple job; much drilling had to be undertaken but finally it was in place. Some electrical circuitry had to be accomplished.

They went home last Friday and returned again yesterday. The pool is now almost full and soon – maybe as soon as this coming Friday – the pumps will be started. I don't think any of us realised what a marathon task this was going to be. My part in the procedure has been to supply beds, food and beverages. Barry has been the 'gofer' and the provider of funds but at last – whisper itit is nearly finished!

Then we have to tidy up the outside – provide a proper step rather than the plank of wood we presently have, resting at an angle on a pile of beaten earth, apply another coat of paint to the pool room exterior and doubtless Barry too, build a wood shelter and move the piles of logs from the terrace in front of the gymnasium. Oh yes, there's work there for another twelve-month! (I do hope not!!)

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Tales from the Academy – Crime and Punishment

In order to become 'leaders of men' officer cadets must first learn to follow orders and adhere to regulations. The motto of Sandhurst is 'Serve to Lead' and the young men and women are trained to do just that. Only by following a set of rules and understanding what that entails can they hope to impose sets of laws on their subordinates.

To that end – and of course it may not be the case now – miscreant cadets could be put in jankers for a short while. This was not as severe as might be expected requiring simply that the offender be marched into the guard house, kept there for a matter of one or two minutes and then marched out again.

On one very hot day when the cadets were parading in number two dress Academy Sergeant Major Jackie Lord took pity on them and said, 'Gentlemen, you may remove your service dress.' This was less an invitation than an order and so around a thousand cadets removed their jackets to reveal that they had already taken measures to keep as cool as possible. Instead of regulation shirts they were wearing what can only be described as 'dickey fronts'. Apoplectic with rage the ASM ordered them all into the guard house. A revolving door would have been useful on that occasion but it serves as an example that orders must be obeyed and they include wearing full uniform when required.

Monday 22 June 2009

Carry On Tuesday - Regrets

'You would have understood me, had you waited.'

Would she have understood if she had waited? She walked through the park, trying to gather her scattered thoughts and emotions. She had believed she knew him so well. She had thought she could guess his reaction and response to any event. She had loved the safe feeling that he was predictable, that he would never shock her. She hadn't expected him to do or think anything unusual. Others might feel that he was boring and unexciting, but she liked his lack of imagination, his ordinariness, his undemanding friendship.

They had not known each other very long, a matter of months. She grimaced, thinking now that they hadn't actually known each other at all. Now she knew she had constructed too much on their relationship, been too eager to encourage greater intimacy. That had always been one of her problems and it had become less easy to ignore as she grew older. Many, though not all, of her friends were married and some had babies. 'Biological clock ticking' her sister always joked whenever she excitedly mentioned a new man in her life. Every time she grinned unconvincingly and wished her sister, with her wonderful husband and three delightful children, elsewhere.

This time it really had seemed that he was 'Her One And Only', her 'Mr Right', her 'Prince Charming'. Thinking in clichés for a few seconds had taken her mind off her situation but the wrenching in her guts, the awful sick feeling that takes away appetite and hope at the same time had returned. She was – what? How did she feel? It was a mixture of loss, sadness and contempt that she felt. She had been betrayed, deceived and humiliated. Deep down, though, she knew she was being unfair. He had tried so many times to tell her. She remembered the instances – over coffee one morning, during an afternoon stroll by the river, drinking cocktails in a smart bar. There were other times as well but on each occasion he had looked straight at her, cleared his throat and started, 'I need to tell you something,' and every time she had interrupted in her eagerness to prolong the happy moment. Once she had said, 'I must tell you something, too – I've never felt happier than I am with you.' Another day she had put her fingers to his lips and smiled sweetly, whispering, 'Not now – tell me later.'

The last time, two days ago, he had changed his words slightly. 'I wanted to ask you . . . ' but before he could finish she had gasped, her eyes had filled with tears and she had murmured, 'Oh, yes please!' thinking that at last wedding bells would ring for her. He looked at her and shook his head slightly. She gazed rapturously at him, thinking how much she loved him. He stared back and said, 'I'm not who you think I am.' She had laughed and said, 'Of course you are . . . 'then paused as a thought occurred to her. 'You're not already married are you? Are you waiting for your divorce? It doesn't matter, we can wait.'

He said slowly, 'No, I'm not married or getting divorced.'

'Well, then what?' she asked. 'Is there a problem?' She was beginning to feel uneasy for he wore such a strange expression.

'I value our friendship.' She winced at this. 'You're a warm and loving woman and I thought you would understand when I told you . . . ' He hesitated and she leant further forward, urging him on.

'I am in therapy, have been for some years.'

She had nodded impatiently at this. Going to a shrink was no news, nothing to get excited about. Hell, she'd even considered it herself once or twice. He was in therapy . . . what had he called it? SRT? She hadn't paid much attention, thinking it was something like STD and yet another reason for his reticence in the physical side of their relationship.

He had regarded her closely. 'Do you understand what I'm saying?'

A child hurtled past on a skateboard. How could life carry on so normally? As she considered the last few months she began to realise the assumptions she had made. He had never attempted to make love to her. She had thought that unusual but rather refreshing. He had never told her he loved her, though she had told him so many times. She had supposed he was too shy to say it and she had liked his bashfulness. He rarely kissed her unless on the cheek. That meant he truly respected her. There were other indicators. She had liked his smooth boyish skin and admired his beautifully manicured hands. His voice was soft and gentle, his demeanour self-effacing. He dressed impeccably in fine cloth and linen and enjoyed going shopping with her. He always complimented her on what she was wearing. He noticed when she wore a different scent and used sweet-smelling lotions. He discussed skin and hair care products with her. He talked of facials and massages. Many men appreciated such things. They didn't all have Sex Reassignment Therapy.
She stopped, aghast. How could she have been so unaware? So great was her desire to be part of a couple that she had built a fallacious liaison without observing or listening to the person she was with. She had really liked him too, as a friend, and now that was gone too.

'You would have understood me, had you waited,' he had said sadly.

Go here to read more Carry On Tuesday stories.

Sunday 21 June 2009

Shadow Shot Sunday - flowers and beasties

Click on the photos for greater detail . . .

Thank you to Hey Harriet for organising this meme!
Click on the logo for more Shadow Shots.

Today's Flowers - Lobelia

Small is beautiful! The tiny delicate flowers of Lobelia growing in our hanging baskets reward close examination.

To see more gorgeous blooms click here

Thank you to LUIZ SANTILLI JR. - DENISE GULLICKSON - LAERTE PUPO - VALKYRIEN for organising this meme.

Pet Pride - Big dog, little dog

Dominie Dalmatian is a big, gentle dog. She loves puppies and would have made a wonderful mother. We didn't dare let her have a litter, though, or we would have ended up with a dizzying number of spotted dogs! Here she is investigating our indoor kennel, a safe haven for small adventurous puppies. Jenna-the-Labrador is about eight weeks old in this photo, taken three years ago.
She lets puppies take advantage of her just as she used to with Cariadd, our first Dalmatian. Seeing a big adult play with a puppy is amazing - lots of noise, chewing and jumping with gentle reminders of appropriate behaviour when needed.
Meet Bozo and his pals here

Saturday 20 June 2009

Camera Critters - ducks and drakes

Our dogs disturbed this pair of Mallards. Often there are two drakes courting one duck. Duck leads off with drake following closely.
No peace for Duck . . . Duck touches down followed as ever by her faithful swain.Though we see Mallards every year we have never yet seen any ducklings . . . strange . . .

Thank you to Misty Dawn for this meme.

To see more Critters click here

Thursday 18 June 2009

Fiction Friday - Forbidden

His new friends were urging him on. What could go wrong? They had all done it a million times before. That was an exaggeration of course, but he had watched them many times from a distance, chewing his lip, longing and fearing to be an accepted member of the gang. Now they had invited him to join them. This was a kind of initiation ceremony though no-one had actually said that. It was just that he knew he would be judged by his reluctance or otherwise. For so long he had wanted to be acknowledged and now was his opportunity to prove himself, to show them that he was at least as courageous as them, even if he was not as strong or clever.
Imagination was his enemy. His brain ached as he tussled with all the doubts and fears that threatened to overcome him. All he had to do was think of nothing and then it would be easy. His pulse sounded in his ears, his veins felt too weak to contain his wildly pounding blood. Could they see his panic? Was it true that fear could be smelt? Sweat was sliding down his back in rivulets, his hands were clammy and cold in spite of the heat of the day, his legs shook.
The boys were becoming impatient. They were tiring of encouraging him and were beginning to jeer. He knew it was a tactic to spur him on, to make the adrenaline pump. He must do it, he must commit himself or they would never bother with him again. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and jumped. His stomach lurched and he screamed as the water seemed to rush towards him. The shock of the cold sea made him gasp as he plummeted under the surface.
When, after a few seconds, he had not surfaced the boys became uneasy, muttering to each other, wondering what they should do. One suggested diving in but the others restrained him. Another boy rummaged in the piles of clothes on the sea wall and found his mobile phone. His fingers fumbled on the keys but at last he punched in 999.
It was difficult for the operator to make sense of the words the caller sobbed out. Quickly ambulance and police appeared at the scene. His older brother, one of the gang members, was pale and incoherent with grief. Now he and his friends understood only too clearly why it was forbidden to jump from the sea wall.

Read more Friday Fiction here

Haiku Friday – English Summer

Blue skies and sunshine
Give way to thunderstorm clouds
And heavy rain.

English Summer days –
All the seasons come at once

To upset our plans.

Barbecues and fairs
Fall foul of the elements,
So too school sports days.

We make do and mend
And take everything inside -
Cramped, wet and steaming.

We do not complain

For our green and pleasant land
Falls soft on our eyes.

To read more Haiku go here

Skywatch Friday - mid-June UK

'Sunny Sunday afternoon . . '

Thank you to the Skywatch Friday team for organising this meme.
Click here to see more beautiful skies around the globe

Tales from the Academy – milling

RC, sadly no longer with us, was a gentle young man and one of the nicest people anyone could meet. He was also a gifted boxer. Terry Downes, World Middleweight Champion in 1961, considered him the best amateur he'd ever seen. He was unusual in that he could knock out with either hand. He had had a lot of experience before going to Sandhurst, fighting in amateur matches and fairground booths.

One day, not long after his arrival at the academy the cadets were milling, practising their technique. The PTI (Physical Training Instructor) looked around for a suitable candidate for his demonstration and his eyes fell on RC. Now RC was well-built, big and strong; he looked and walked and carried himself like a boxer – he was a prime example of a pugilist. The PTI, himself a big man, called him over and said, 'Come on now, sir, hit me.'

RC protested, 'Excuse me, Staff . . .' but the instructor was insistent. 'No, come on, sir, hit me – hit me as hard as you can.'

Once again RC said, 'Excuse me, Staff, but . . . ' only to be interrupted once more by the PTI. 'Come on sir, hit me.'

The rest of the cadets were agog for they knew RC's capabilities. Reluctantly RC did as ordered and threw a punch at the PTI who fell to the floor, pole axed. When the instructor gathered his wits and rose groggily to his feet, he gazed glassily at RC and said, 'You've done this before haven't you sir?'

Tuesday 16 June 2009

The Dog Days of My Life: #8 - Daisy

Daisy was a pretty little dog, long-legged and dainty. She was a very quiet animal, somewhat overshadowed by Biddy and Sam. Rather unkindly we dubbed her Dozy Daisy and said she was the canine equivalent of a dumb blonde (Sorry to any blondes out there, including some of my daughters and granddaughters!)

Daisy (left) with Biddy

She was happy when Sam returned to the fold and it was good to have two puppies entertaining each other. I didn't feel quite so chipper about it when Gareth phoned me at the end of my first day as Deputy Head to inform me that Daisy and Sam had destroyed the seat of one of our easy chairs. The damage was irreparable but the puppies suffered no ill effects. These days we have an indoor kennel to keep immature canines safe.
Daisy was a wonderful running companion for Barry, alongside Biddy, Leo (until he went to live with my parents) and Sam. They formed a pack and brooked no nonsense. One day Barry met some people who had lost a Bloodhound and he promised to look for it as he continued his run. The people said, 'There's one thing you should know – he (the dog) doesn't like Jack Russells. He killed one recently. Do be careful.'
A short while later Barry found the Bloodhound which reacted as he had been warned, approaching the JRs menacingly. Before he could blink each dog had attached itself to one of his limbs and suddenly the Brave Bloodhound was feeling very sorry for himself with a Jack Russell hanging off every quarter. Barry retraced his steps and returned the subdued dog to his relieved owners, telling them what had happened and concluding, 'I don't think you'll have problems with him and Jack Russells any more.'
When Daisy and Sam were about three years old, Susannah expressed a desire for a rabbit. We'd had rabbits before but they fell prey to strange illnesses and didn't live long and prosperous lives. Barry was uneasy about keeping a rabbit in a hutch, even with an attached run as we had done before. He felt they were too restricted. We had tried having them in the house - my mother had a house rabbit when she was a girl, so we knew it was possible – but ours didn't understand the first thing about house-training and also chewed through wires, cutting us off from the outside world. 'How about a cat?' he said and Susannah agreed that would be a fine compromise.

The brown Burmese cat we brought home was a few months old. We were concerned about introducing her to the dogs – Jack Russells are fur-chasers, after all – so we all sat in the dining room, with Coriander Autumn Lady, henceforth known as AliCat, on my lap. We let the dogs into the room and Daisy was so confused that she jumped up on my lap with the cat. Everyone laughed and that was that – introduction completed.

AliCat's son, Herbie, cuddles up to Daisy

In the Autumn we would sometimes have a hedgehog looking for somewhere to hibernate. Daisy always found it and closely inspected it until its prickles made themselves felt and she would yelp and come indoors, covered in fleas. She never minded the inevitable bath that followed.

Daisy 'singing' - many of our dogs have been musical

A very faithful and sweet-natured dog, she rarely strayed from Barry's side when running but one day she disappeared. Barry remained in the forest for hours, retracing the tracks he had run but she was nowhere to be seen. Dejected he returned home with the other two very well-exercised and tired dogs. We went to bed with heavy hearts, fearing we would never see Daisy again, but left the side gate and patio doors open 'just in case.' Around midnight we heard pattering paws and then the sound of a little animal rushing upstairs. A car is the easiest and safest way to take lively, energetic dogs to the forest so Daisy had never walked the route. Somehow she had found her way back.
She had a bout of hysterical blindness once. It didn't last long and the vet was unconvinced but we knew and she knew that she couldn't see for a short period. After Sam died when she was six she came into her own, mainly because she moved up the pecking order. For a while our new puppy was smaller than her.

Monday 15 June 2009

Carry on Tuesday - Barn Dance

A lantern light from deeper in the barn shone on a man and woman in the door

Deeper in the barn
A lantern light shone warmly
To welcome them in.

They stood a moment
The man supporting his wife
And then they stepped in.

Music and laughter,
A caller telling the steps –
They smiled and joined in.

A short while later
He pulled out a stiletto
And randomly slashed.

'No reason for it,'
The police officer said,
'Happily married.'

And the dead victims
Gazing sightlessly at him
Had been happy too.

Thank you to Keith for organising this meme.

See more compositions here

Sunday 14 June 2009

Today's Flowers - Astilbe

Pink Astilbe next to our garden pond still developing its feathery plumes.Astilbes, also known as False Spirea or Meadow Sweet come in shades of pink, white, red and purple and are native to Asia and North America. I have seen white forms growing wild in Derbyshire. Traditionally they are water-side water-loving plants.

Thank you to the organisers of this meme, LUIZ SANTILLI JR. - DENISE GULLICKSON - LAERTE PUPO - VALKYRIEN. Click here to see more gorgeous flowers.

Shadow Shot Sunday - There was a crooked man . . .

My husband is not really a crooked man, in any sense of the phrase. Look at the next photograph to see what he's pulling . . .

It's our old lady, Dominie, who has wheels to help her along when we're out . . .

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Pet Pride - Taking it easy

The boys - Frodo (black spots) left and Buddy (liver spots) right - take it easy. It's a dog's life!

Click here to see more loved and loving pets.

Saturday 13 June 2009

Camera Critters - Jackdaw

Occasionally Jackdaws visit our feeders. They remind me of the Pilgrim Fathers with their sombre attire and pale eyes.
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The Dog Days of My Life: #7 - Sam

Sam aged around 3 with Susannah (left) and Bethan. He had beautiful velvety ears. Click the photo to enlarge.
Sam didn't stay long at his new home. A new baby, two young children and a harassed mother meant that there was no time for a small puppy so he came back to us. We hadn't planned to have four dogs – we'd kept his sister, Daisy - but it was good to see the little chap again.
All went well until Sam began to grow up and started asserting his independence. Leo kept him in order and at first Sam submitted to his father's sharp reprimands. Increasingly, as Sam grew stronger and more determined he and Leo disagreed. They were both strong-minded alpha dogs and struck sparks off each other. It was increasingly apparent that one of them was going to hurt the other though we couldn't be sure which dog would be victorious. Eventually my parents offered to give Leo a home. They had moved to Berkshire from Kent a few years earlier and lived a short walking distance from us. We were relieved and my parents were pleased but Leo kept coming back to us. Previously he had been just a visitor at their house so thought nothing had changed. Perhaps we should have let Sam go to them but Leo was quiet and well-behaved and older while Sam was an energetic youngster needing lots of exercise. When Leo finally realised his new home and people were a permanent arrangement he settled and was extremely happy with them for the rest of his life. He remained always delighted to see Biddy and us but he was a faithful companion to my parents.

Sam brings the stick back to Biddy watched by Daisy. They loved playing in the water - fresh or salt, they didn't mind!
Sam relaxed once Leo was out of the picture. Of the two puppies Sam was definitely Biddy's favourite. She spent hours grooming him and licking his ears and he basked in the attention. For a small dog he had exceptionally strong shoulders and neck and picked up heavy logs in the forest every day. He would not relinquish them until he had reached home so that after a while we had a substantial log pile at the end of the drive. All three dogs played 'sticks' often with one of them going backwards for none of them would give up possession once obtained and naturally they all wanted the same stick. There was a good deal of noise as they each struggled for ascendancy but there was never any aggression.

Play-time over, Biddy leads Daisy and Sam out of the water.

Sam's end came prematurely and sadly. He had a bad habit of following interesting sniffs, deaf to all commands to return. On this particular day, my birthday, he ran into the road next to the field Barry was running round. Barry set off after him and was just in time to see someone throwing Sam's inert body into a ditch at the side of the road. Sam had been knocked down and the driver got in his car and drove away. For four days Sam stayed at the vet's surgery and seemed to be recovering and then one day he simply died. The shock to his sturdy little body had been just too much. He was just six years old. Daisy (ahead) and Sam struggle to reach Bethan to lick her. Barry restrains them.

Once again Biddy mourned but this time with Daisy by her side.