Friday 30 September 2011

Help with the laundry

Bertie decided to help with the washing on Wednesday. I thought he was going to fold some clothes for me but he was busy checking the dimensions of the laundry basket. By the time he had finished doing that he was tired so went to sleep.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Winston and the puppy food.

Those of you who have been following the ramblings of this blog for some time will know that Winston Ocicat Cooke has a weight problem and it is this – he wishes to be heavier than we think is good for him and to that end he steals food whenever he can. If I’m slicing ham or cutting cheese, chopping chicken or fiddling with fish, he is there, stretching a delicate paw to snaffle a morsel – or several – for himself. It is no good putting such delicacies in a dish for him – he disdains them and prefers to pilfer.

I’m sure he is suffering a crisis of confidence lately. When Bertie first came to live with us five weeks ago (feels more like five years!) he was considerably smaller than Winston. Winston was quite happy about that since he had the upper paw. Now, though, Bertie is taller and heavier than Winston and I think Winston feels that he is shrinking and that is not really acceptable to him as he’s not yet four years old.

We have frustrated his efforts to nab nibbles from Bertie’s dish by placing the dish in the centre of Bertie’s pen. Bertie eats in his pen otherwise he would starve through the dastardly depredations of the devious older dogs - and Winston. Likewise, they would lose many of their rations to the eager jaws of a puppy who really, really likes their raw meat – heart, chicken, turkey, tripe – yum! He has small helpings of such delightful dainties and they disappear like snow in June into his champing chops – I fear he may become as greedy a gastronome as Winston, a destiny entirely possible for a Labrador, some might even suggest obligatory.

However, back to Winston and the pressing problem of his portliness. He is a very calm cat, a tranquil (ex) tom, a feline unflustered by the goings-on in his world. He doesn’t care for excessive exercise and soon wearies of workouts, choosing to chill on any one of several posing platforms, preferably in the sunshine which occasionally graces these isles. 

Thus, we ration his food carefully – it’s never good to starve a cat – and he enjoys it and we congratulate ourselves that yes, he is looking slimmer, even svelte, and he is displaying more dynamism – travelling from one lap to another and back again must burn a few calories, surely? What we have not grasped is that in the intricate intellect of this handsome fellow a plan is hatching.

Winston enjoys short sojourns in the garage where he plays out the part of heroic mouse-catcher and guardian of the house. (The garage is integral to the house.) He slips out when someone opens the house door and spends many a happy hour patrolling the perimeter, principally where the up-and-over door almost meets the garage floor (and a mighty draught howls through that gap in the winter!) He prowls and growls and terrifies spiders and ants and eventually he taps on the door to order the humans to let him back into the warmth and comfort of home.

As well as housing my car, the garage is a store for many things we can’t or don’t want to have indoors – ladders, workbenches, chainsaw – you get the idea. Also stowed out there are bird seed, bird fat cakes, fish food and Bertie’s puppy food. The lid of the fish food is usually firmly fitted to the bucket. The other day it had been knocked over and Winston was sampling it with great relish. Fish food smells very . . . fishy. Fish are cannibals!

At the weekend the garage door was not secured and Winston escaped into his own private playground. I thought nothing of it, supposing that he was lost in dreams of SuperCatdom but later, realising he had been gone for some time, I opened the door and out jumped Winston – out of the puppy food bin, that is, the lid of which had not been replaced properly. He was sated, gorged, replete – actually, full up and fit to bust.

So, back to square one!

ABC Wednesday K is for Kerria and Kite

Kerria japonica ‘Pleniflora’

Kerria japonica is also known as Jew’s mantle but is usually simply called Kerria. It is a deciduous spring-flowering shrub whose cheerful bright yellow double flowers brighten dull days and shady spots.  It often has a second lesser flowering in late August/early September. It is easily propagated by cuttings in summer.
In the last year we have been delighted to see Red Kites (Milvus milvus) flying high over our house. 
It is even more delightful when they skim the tree tops and on at least one occasion one has taken food from the bird table – quite a feat in our tree and shrub-thick garden for a bird with a 5’ wingspan.
The Red Kite was saved from extinction in UK by one of the world’s longest running protection programmes. At one time the only place to see them was in Wales but reintroduction to other areas means that many more people are experiencing the pleasure of seeing these magnificent birds soaring in slow circles looking for food. The forked tail acts as a rudder and is flicked to change direction. They are often to be seen at refuse or landfill sites where food is plentiful. They feed on carrion, worms and small mammals.

Click here to see more Ks.

Just a dog . . .

When I opened my Facebook page today I saw that a friend had posted the following message. It struck a chord with me. 

The photo is of my eldest grandson a few years ago with Dominie.
From time to time, people tell me, “Lighten up, it’s just a dog” or “That’s a lot of money for just a dog”. They don’t understand the distance travelled, the time spent, or the costs involved for “just a dog”. Some of my proudest moments have come about with “just a dog”. Many hours have passed and my only company was “just a dog” but I did not once feel slighted. Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by “just a dog” and in those days of darkness the gentle touch of “just a dog” gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day. If you, too, think it’s “just a dog” then you will probably understand phrases like “just a friend”, “just a sunrise”, or “just a promise”. “Just a dog” brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust and pure unbridled joy. “Just a dog” brings out the compassion and patience that makes me a better person. Because of “just a dog” I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future. So for me and folks like me it’s not “just a dog” but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past and the pure joy of the moment. “Just a dog” brings out what’s good in me and diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day. I hope that someday they can understand that it’s not “just a dog” but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being “just a human.” So the next time you hear the phrase “just a dog” just smile because they “just don’t understand”.

In much the same way, when some people ask why we have more than one dog, implying that one is quite sufficient, I occasionally think I should ask them why they have more than one child but they would take offence at that.

Monday 26 September 2011

Saying grace in a restaurant

I received this in an email from my niece and thought it worth publishing. If you’ve seen it before I hope you’ll enjoy it againJ Whether or not it’s true I have no idea!

Last week, I took my grandchildren to a restaurant. 

My six-year-old grandson asked if he could say grace. 

As we bowed our heads he said, "God is good, God is great. Thank you for the food, and I would even thank you more if Nana gets us ice cream for dessert. And liberty and justice for all! Amen!" 

Along with the laughter from the other customers nearby, I heard a woman remark, "That's what's wrong with this country. Kids today don't even know how to pray. Asking God for ice cream! Why, I never!" 

Hearing this, my grandson burst into tears and asked me, "Did I do it wrong? Is God mad at me?" 

As I held him and assured him that he had done a terrific job, and God was certainly not mad at him, an elderly gentleman approached the table. 

He winked at my grandson and said, "I happen to know that God thought that was a great prayer." 

"Really?" my grand-son asked. 

"Cross my heart," the man replied. 

Then, in a theatrical whisper, he added (indicating the woman whose remark had started this whole thing), "Too bad she never asks God for ice cream. A little ice cream is good for the soul sometimes." 

Naturally, I bought my grandchildren ice cream at the end of the meal. My grand-son stared at his for a moment, and then did something I will remember the rest of my life. 

He picked up his sundae and, without a word, walked over and placed it in front of the woman. With a big smile he told her, "Here, this is for you. Ice cream is good for the soul sometimes; and my soul is good already."

Magpie Tales #84 The Cure

Thanks go to Tess Kincaid who organises and hosts this meme J To read more Magpies please click here.
Photo unattributed
Head buzzing, she stumbled away from the noisy crowd to the river. The rain beat down, bouncing off the raging water. She spread her arms, welcoming the lashing downpour, relishing the sensation of wet clothes against her skin, laughing at the crow next to her on the slippery rock.

The next day, nursing a bad headache and the beginnings of a head cold, she realised that standing in a rainstorm was no antidote to too much alcohol, and that bloody crow had crapped on her dress.

Sunday 25 September 2011

I Saw Sunday #54 The weekend

This weekend Gillian and Kiri and Callum came for the weekend. Paul was working on the central heating in their house and thought Gillian would prefer to be somewhere where hot and cold running water were still available! Marnie stayed at home to make sure her father was supplied with refreshments at regular intervals (also her boy-friend is going away for a couple of weeks and they wanted to spend some time together.)

The puppies were delighted to see each other and all the adult dogs greeted each other with pleasure, in Gus’ case, rather too much so. He really seems to be in love with Foxy who is far too soft to tell him off when he gets overly familiar. He became rather possessive and had to be rebuked. He’s a very intelligent dog and learns quickly what is acceptable and what is not.

On Saturday morning Buster, Bertie’s brother, was exploring the garden and went behind the holly tree to find himself on the far side of the pond. I have been working on the pond recently, dragging out rampant water plants. This just ensured that the duck weed had more room to spread itself. To inexperienced puppy eyes the bright green blanket looks quite solid and Buster stepped onto it and through it into the cold water below. He then swam from one end of the pond to the other and managed to haul himself out. Gillian roared with laughter when he went back into the house, dripping wet and with a fetching nasal decoration of duck weed. He was none the worse for the experience and was quickly rubbed dry. So now both the puppies have discovered that they can swim.

We took all the dogs walking in the forest later and the puppies watched closely as their larger friends and relations retrieved tirelessly. Bertie and Buster chased where they could but were both quite careful at the edges of the large pond.

Frodo was very ataxic – some days he’s more affected than others – and stumbled and pulled a muscle in his hind leg. He had to be helped along with a sling but went into the water as he always does. 
Unfortunately, getting out was quite a problem for him and by the time he had managed it, with a good deal of assistance from me, he was no longer a sparkling white Dalmatian with clear, black spots but a strange amalgam of Dalmatian and mud.

Back home he had to have a cold shower in the garden before he could be allowed indoors. He never complains – I really think I could do just about anything to him and he wouldn’t turn a hair. Not unnaturally the shower made him shiver but I gave him warm milk with an egg and a little sugar and he soon warmed up. Then I put one of the Ruffwear harnesses on him, which made me a little sad. It’s not even a year since Buddy was wearing these, but he was nearly fifteen when he died and had rear end weakness. Frodo is not ten until December. Today, though, he was a different dog, prancing along beside me.

Yesterday afternoon we took Bertie to London to see Bethan and Robert in their new house. Bertie was delighted to have another lap to snooze on and thoroughly enjoyed bumbling around their pretty garden.
Today all the dogs were tired, the puppies particularly, but they all enjoyed another romp in the forest. Gillian has gone home to Dorset and the house seems strangely quieter now with just its customary inhabitants.

I am linking to I Saw Sunday here

Saturday Centus #73 He said, she said, they said . . .

Jenny Matlock’s challenge this week is to write dialogue only, the word count not to exceed 156 words, including the six words of the prompt which is "Are you seriously ordering another martini?"  

He said, "Are you seriously ordering another martini?"

She said, “What’s it to you?”

He said, “I thought we were going to dinner.”

She said, “We are, but we’ve got time for another drink.”

He said, “You don’t even like martini.”

She said, “So?”

He said, “So why drink it?”

She said, “Do I have to have a reason?”

He said, “No, but I’d be interested in the answer.”

She said, “It’s sophisticated and I like the shape of the glass.”

He said, “That’s a stupid reason.”

She said, “You asked – I told you.”

He said, “You’re mad.”

She said, “So shoot me.”

He said, “Where’s the gun?”

She said, “Use a bow and arrow.”

He said, “Suppose I hit a bull’s-eye?”

She said, “So I’m a cow now?”

He said, “Bull’s-eye, not cow’s-eye.”

She said, “Same difference.”

They said, “What was the director thinking? This is the worst film we’ve ever seen.”

(153 words) 

Thursday 22 September 2011

The Twelfth Blog of Augustus Lazarus Cooke – Gus

Hello everyone!

I expect Winston’s already told you about our new family member. He’s called Bertie and I wasn’t very keen on him to begin with. My people brought another one home at the same time, just like him! I thought they had gone mad but after a couple of days the other one went to Dorset with Gillian and Paul. He’s called Buster. Bertie had six brothers and two sisters – I’m just glad the Humans didn’t bring them all home.
Bertie smelt different to the rest of us and he had a very loud, high voice. After a while I began to realise that he was just a smaller version of me – a much smaller version – and now I play with him. I’m very careful ‘cos he’s still quite little and I’m so big and strong. I take toys to him and we play tug.
He’s bigger than Winston now but he still can’t go up and down the stairs so Mrs Human has to carry him and she says he’s getting heavier all the time. I’m not surprised, the amount he eats! He loves the food us adult dogs (and Winston) eat but he’ll have to eat his puppy food for a long time, too, to make sure he grows properly. I remember I had to do that, and that wasn’t very long ago. I had my second birthday the other day and although I’ve finished growing up I’m still growing out, I think.

Bertie goes into his pen to eat – that’s so Winston and Frodo don’t pinch his food. The Humans have to put his bowl in the middle, out of Winston’s reach or else Winston reaches in and pulls the bowl towards him so he can hook out the food and he really doesn’t need it, that’s what Mrs H says.
I don’t think Bertie knows that Winston is a cat. He keeps trying to play with him like another puppy and Winston keeps telling him to stop.  Then Bertie goes into his litter tray to use it so he’s really quite a confused little dog. Winston doesn’t seem to mind him doing that.
Now he’s had all his jabs he can come out walking with us and that’s fun. He chases after us but he can’t keep up. He watches us retrieving, Jenna and me, that is. Frodo doesn’t pick up – he just looks elegant and beautiful and lopes along next to Mrs H.
Last week Bertie was chasing Jenna and followed her into the pond. He was quite surprised to find himself in the water but he swam really well for a little chap.
Then he sat and shivered and had to be wrapped up in Mrs H’s jacket – he liked that!
We’ve been to Dorset twice to see Buster. It’s a long way to go just for the day and we’re tired by the time we get home again. Foxy is glad we go ‘cos it gives her a rest from Buster playing with her all the time. They’re all coming here next time and they’ll sleep here, too. I like it when Foxy and Tia come. We charge about in the forest and go in all the ponds. The ponds are really full now, ‘cos we’ve had so much rain and there’s more to come.

Gareth and Nina visited the other day. It was good to see the children again – I really like playing with them. 
Susannah came to see us on Saturday but she wasn’t feeling very well so she didn’t stay long, just enough to make a fuss of us dogs and Winston and cuddle Bertie.

It is fun having a little brother – I know he’s not really my brother, though he sort of is – but it is quite tiring. We all go to bed quite early and he sleeps through the night, most of the time. Mrs H says it’s (almost) like having a baby again.

Hwyl fawr am nawr! (That’s Welsh for ‘Goodbye for now!’) 

Wednesday 21 September 2011

ABC Wednesday J is for . . .

Jonquil (Narcissus jonquilla) in April
Jasmine (Jasminum beesianum) 
This jasmine flowers profusely in June, July and August and is very attractive to bees and other insects. Its sweet smell wafts on warm breezes and combines with honeysuckle and roses to create an intoxicating scent. The flowers are tiny and are succeeded by shiny black berries.
Juvenile robin in June. The trademark red breast is just beginning to develop colour.
Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) aka Eurasian Jackdaw, European Jackdaw or Western Jackdaw – sometimes just known as Jack and named for its harsh ‘tchack’ call.
This year a family of four visited our bird table for many consecutive days to feed on ham fat and dry bread – a feast indeed! Jackdaws are opportunistic feeders and are known to steal eggs and bright, shiny objects. Hand-reared birds are friendly and will not fly off with wild jackdaws.
Landing or taking off?
Jay (Garrulus glandarius) Magpies are handsome but Jays are pretty.
There are many jays in the forest but occasionally we have one visit our garden to feed from the feeders or to probe for insects in the grass.

Click here for more Js!

Saturday 17 September 2011

100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups – Week #10

The 100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups is a weekly meme that provides a prompt. The prompt may be a phrase or a photograph and the response must be made in 100 words. This week's prompt is a picture:-
100 Word Challenge, Luxembourg Gardens,
Culottes were de rigueur this season but Flora wondered if she had the legs to carry them off. She wished she had chosen a different top, too. Red and purple really didn’t work well together. Maybe she should have dressed more formally for her audience with the Queen but she was being recognised for her services to fashion and if she couldn’t make a statement on such an occasion, with the Press watching, what was she doing in the business? She adjusted her hat and her . . . gloves - where were they? Oh rats! Would they allow her entry?
(100 words)

Saturday Centus #72

Jenny Matlock is getting her own back for suffering through a 4D film and has set the task of using the prompt In the autumn in a verse set to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle  - oh, and you should be able to sing it, too. Thank goodness she hasn’t demanded a vlog! J          
The prompt forms three of the 32 - yes 32words we are allowed to use!
Attempt #1:-
In the autumn days grow short,
Nights seem longer than they ought.
Leaves are falling, winds blow cold,
Sun’s still shining, not so bold,
We’ll light fires to keep us warm,
In the autumn that’s the norm.

My first effort took 37, so I tried again . . .

Attempt #2:-
In the autumn, days decline,
Some are wet, others fine;
Fruits and berries, harvest’s gold,
Bonfires keep away the cold;
Winter’s creeping closer still,
This year’s going straight downhill.

29, that’s betterJ

Click here to see better efforts!

Friday 16 September 2011

Sea change

You must be so excited,
You must be awf’lly thrilled,
You must be quite delighted,
You must be frightf’lly skilled.

All too often I write ‘You must be . . . ‘ in comments on others’ blogs. What do I mean by ‘You must be’? Is it an order to be obeyed at all costs? Why do I assume that other people will react to circumstances in the way that I might?

I think it’s because I’m actually a very rather quite officious domineering bossy woman and worked for years in a job where what I said went – admittedly usually over the heads of those at to whom I was speaking. The habit is ingrained and I know think I know what’s best for everyone in my domain.

So maybe I should change my ways (can a leopard change its spots??) and suggest rather than dictate. How would that affect my commenting strategy (I have a strategy?)

Further remarks from me might include, ‘Are you excited?’, ‘Will you be disappointed?’, ‘Is there a chance that you might have had fun?’ or ‘I know how I would feel – how do you feel?’

Watch your comments boxes, dear readers, and see if you notice a sea change. (That phrase brings to mind ‘Full fathom five thy father lies’ which I sang as a school-girl, aeons ago.)

Maybe a sea change would be too gradual. I need a radical transformation. 

Thursday 15 September 2011

In Tandem #10 Raptors

A bit of whimsy for Jinksy’s tandem. Birds have colour vision and can also see ultra-violet but use it as a survival skill – finding food, attracting a mate in order to reproduce, for example - and not to appreciate the finer things in life, so far as we know!

Graphic copyright Jinksy


When raptors soar do they ever look down 
And see the beauty beneath them, 
Or are they programmed only to kill,
Instinct for life overwhelming?

Through the swirling clouds to the lands below
Is their scrutiny concentrated,
Seeking the prey their talons will snatch
That will shriek as the flesh is torn?

Survival of the Fittest

I was reading Rinkly Rimes’ piece on Chance and it started a train of thought. As usual, my trains run on tracks of their own, without much forward planning, so if my words offend in any way, please forgive me.

‘Survival of the fittest’ is a phrase that’s been bandied about for generations but what does it mean in an age when most ills at least can be accommodated if they cannot be cured? Childhood illnesses like measles and whooping cough used to take their toll and those who survived might be left with serious conditions. They still affect children in the developing world.  Diptheria is almost unheard of in the western world. Before immunisation was introduced it was one of the leading causes of deaths in children. (Both my parents were hospitalised with diphtheria, around 1910.) Similarly, tuberculosis and polio were dangerous, frightening diseases, as they still are in poorer parts of the world, though there has been a resurgence of tuberculosis in recent years in UK.

As we fight back against infections, developing vaccines to prevent and medicines to cure, different afflictions become visible. They may have been present already, masked by more urgent disorders, never able to come to the fore. We will never be able to cure all ills for as each new infection is defeated so further previously unrecognised disorders emerge.

There is no cure for life – it is a terminal condition, however fit we may be.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

'If I Could Be Anyone, I'd Be . . . '

I'm a little late (story of my life) but I'm trotting along to Talli Roland's party to celebrate with her the launch of Watching Willow Watts. Party-goers were invited to choose a character we would like to be and after much thought, I decided  . . .
Watching Willow Watts - Out Now!

 . . . If I Could Be Anyone, I'd Be Elmer the Elephant, who is kind and helpful and nice to know. He is different to the other elephants because he is patchwork.

Through the books the author, David McKee, gently shows his young audience the uniqueness of individuals and ways to overcome difficulties. It is acceptable to be funny but not to be unkind. It’s fun to share. 

Elmer teaches – and learns - little lessons that are so important.

ABC Wednesday I is for In my garden, sometimes . . .

Oftentimes in the garden we see Insects – most are welcome, some not so much so. We try to bear in mind that every creature has its allotted place in the universe and is part of the food chain in some way or another.

Our pond attracts Insects, the most beautiful and entrancing of all being the Damselflies and Dragonflies. These beautiful creatures are voracious hunters of all things flying, the raptors of the Insect world, their diaphanous wings catching the light as they dart hither and yon on murderous missions. On land they are helpless, unable to walk.

325 million years ago their ancestors, the Protodonata, with wingspans of one metre, flew the earth and their descendants, the Dragonflies, inhabited this planet at the same time as dinosaurs.

Of the 5,500 or so species of Dragonflies worldwide, around 40 breed in UK.
One of the Damselflies we see most frequently is the Southern Damselfly (Coenagrion mercuriale) known in Europe as the Mercury Bluet (such a pretty name, I think) The larvae take two years to develop.
Another regular visitor, and the first to fly in spring, is the Large Red Damselfly, called the Large Red Damsel in Europe and the Spring Redtail in Ireland. It is one of the three most widespread Dragonflies and the larvae take between one and three years to develop, though they usually emerge at two years. The larvae are territorial, which I understand is fairly unusual, and communicate with what look like three tail feathers but are thin membranes associated with respiration, known as caudal lamellae. The Damselflies disport themselves merrily on vegetation both in the pond and out, mating and laying eggs and then flying off to complete their short lifespan of one to two weeks.

Dragonflies are larger, heavier, more noticeable. The Southern Hawker, known in Europe as the Blue Hawker(Aeshna cyanea) is a handsome creature with blue eyes and apple green and blue markings on an almost black body in the male.  Males are aggressively territorial and fearsome predators, hunting prey as large as butterflies. 
Female Southern Hawker laying eggs in moss
The female is dark brown with brown eyes. She lays her eggs in rotting vegetation or sometimes wood, above water, and they hatch the following year in spring. The larvae take two to three years to develop, during which time they prey on tadpoles and other aquatic organisms. When they are ready to emerge they may walk a few feet from the pond to find an appropriate support for their endeavours.
This is not a very clear photo and I cannot really identify it - possibly it's a Southern Hawker
Emergence takes place well above water level and usually at night so I was delighted to discover one in the throes of emerging during the day.

There are many other insects, of course, but I need to keep something in hand for future letters of the alphabet! 

Click here to see more Is in this worldwide alphabet.

Cats and Rats

This decade is being hailed as the Age of the Brain. Viruses can alter brain activity. A recent example is the discovery that cats carry a virus that can affect rats and make the rodents cat-tolerant. In an experiment, rats were placed in a pen that had the scent of cats in one corner. The rats with the virus went towards the corner, while those unaffected stayed away.

A cat-loving rat is destined for a short feline-rodent relationship!

The virus can also affect humans but is entirely harmless unless the person has HIV, in which case it is fatal.

Otters in Blandford Forum, Dorset

Four otters have been seen in the River Stour in Blandford Forum. Two nests have been spotted which indicate that the otters have been breeding there.

One naturalist has come from Shetland to photograph them for the National Geographic and says there are more otters in Dorset than there are in Shetland - at least, he's seen more!

The next time we go to Blandford we hope we will see them, too. The last ones we saw were on the Isle of Skye. They can also be seen on Dartmoor, if you're lucky!

Talli Roland's book launch

Talli Roland writes humorous romantic fiction and her latest book 'Watching Willow Watts' is launched today as an e-book. The paperback version will be available in November.

To celebrate she is hosting an online party with the theme 'If I Could Be Anyone, I'd Be . . . ' 

You can find out more here.