Wednesday 28 March 2012

There is hope for mankind . . .

There is hope for mankind when things like this happen. 

Thirty dolphins were stranded on a beach at Arraial do Cabo in Brazil on March 5th 2012. Without the help of local people they would have perished.

Heartwarming stuff!

A Good Egg

A Good Egg

In common and outdated parlance ‘a good egg’ was someone reliable and helpful. I think the term was usually applied to men. ‘He’s a good egg’ people would say but it was rarely said of women. I have a feeling it first arose in Public Schools (fee-paying Independent schools) and is used nowadays in a jocular way like ‘jolly hockey sticks’ and ‘cut along’. Young people today are more likely to use expressions like ‘well cool’ or ‘lush’ to indicate approval.

With Spring in full swing and Easter approaching it seems appropriate to focus on eggs. I think young children must get mightily confused at this time of year when eggs, chickens, lambs, rabbits and flowers are all muddled together to celebrate the new beginning that Easter signifies. Add chocolate and turkey and the mix is bewilderingly complete.

After I bought ‘Eggs for Soldiers’ a few days ago I was surprised to discover another ‘charity’ egg today. The green carton looks very seasonal with a chicken and a butterfly and the words ‘good egg’ in bright egg-yolk yellow. Buying these organic free range eggs will ‘help fund community egg farming projects in Africa.’ 100% of the profit made from selling one eggs goes to the project.

You can find out more about one here and in the following video.

I think the organisers of one are certainly 'good eggs'.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Soft-boiled eggs and soldiers

Soft-boiled eggs and soldiers

I didn’t often play with my food when I was a child. It wasn’t encouraged but occasionally I could dream as I ate. Dipping a spoon into the Lyle’s syrup tin and drizzling it onto a pudding, making sticky patterns with it and watching as it smoothed itself into a golden puddle was one such occasion. I tried to write my name with it but it was too quick for me. I loved the tin and never realised the lion was actually a rotting carcase. I was more interested in the words – ‘Out of the strong came forth sweetness’ - beautiful words to accompany a tooth-aching syrupiness.

Breakfast often featured eggs in some form. My favourite was soft-boiled eggs. First the egg was taken from the pan of boiling water and put in the egg-cup. It was too hot to touch but the urge to open it and reveal the rich orange-yellow yolk within its white coat was almost too much. Tap, tap, tap on the top of the egg (not too hard, don’t want to smash it), slice it off with a knife and spoon out the white from the eggshell – no yolk in the top - a little salt and pepper to taste, if desired, and then the feast could begin. To eat it with an egg spoon was enjoyable but by far the best way to appreciate it was to have soldiers. Buttered toast was sliced into strips and dunked into the inviting gooey sunshine – utter joyJ

All too soon the egg was consumed and the final game could be played. Quickly the shell was turned upside down in the cup, for all intents and purposes to look like an egg waiting to be eaten. It never fooled anyone but it was fun.
When I saw these ‘Eggs For Soldiers’ the other day I smiled at the memories they evoked then quickly sobered as I realised they were being sold in aid of Help for Heroes. I wondered how many soldiers can no longer eat their breakfast eggs without help – and how many will never eat again.

Coming in out of the cold

Coming in out of the cold

It’s not cold outside during the day but the nights are still relatively chilly. Is this why we are seeing outdoor beasties indoors?

A couple of evenings ago Winston Ocicat was sitting staring fixedly at the garage door (the door that leads from the house to the integral garage)  I followed his gaze to find a caterpillar making its way carefully down the door frame. 

It was not yet low enough for Winston to attempt an attack, or, as he would put it, to play with it, but he was observing closely. Obviously he was planning his strategy.

Winston is not often left to entertain himself on his own. As soon as he begins to leap about he is joined by a couple of enthusiastic Labradors who jump on him and rough him up in the nicest possible way. Eventually Winston turns on his back and bats the dogs with his closed velvety paws. He has never had cause to unsheathe his claws and use them in anger . . . yet.

On this occasion, late at night, he had little more than a passing interest in vagrant wildlife – a comfortable bed (ours!) was calling. 
It cast a fine shadow
He watched as I took photographs of the intruder which seemed not to like the close attention and swerved away from its downward route and wavered off to the side.

I have looked in various books and at online sites but I cannot identify the caterpillar from the rather muddy photographs I took. The only ones I think it resembles turn out to be the produce of rare visitors to these shores so not very likely. It disappeared soon afterwards so I didn’t have another opportunity to study it and take further shots.

This morning, as I opened the door to receive a parcel, I noticed a small beetle. 

Obligingly, it allowed itself to be photographed. I have discovered it to be a Vine Weevil (Otiorhyncus sulcatus) a common garden pest! 
The adult beetles eat the leaves and shoots of many plants but it is their offspring that do the greater damage. The larvae destroy the roots of pot plants and do much damage to greenhouse crops. It looks such an inoffensive little creature – how could it be so evil?

Saturday 24 March 2012

Spring has sprung 2012

Spring has sprung, the grass has ris’,
I wonder where the birdie is?

There he is up in the sky,
He dropped some whitewash in my eye!

I‘m alright, I won't cry,
I'm just glad that cows can't fly!

Spring is coming on apace and there has been activity in the pond.
In my Easter bonnet . . .
Look into my eye! See the humans' house. 
We have not heard the great chorus of frogs that has been customary in the past and there are certainly not hundreds of them in the water. They started calling later this year and are still croaking now so something has changed in their world. Overall, numbers have been dropping over the last three years and this spring they are sadly depleted.
Nonetheless, they have laid great swathes of spawn which appears to be developing healthily.
One thing that is really flourishing is the duckweed (Lemna minuta) The plant mass can double in size every two to three days during the summer but in our pond it dies away almost completely in the winter. We keep it under control by raking it off the surface and composting it. I don’t object to it – its little leaves are quite pretty and provide some shelter to frogs and fish.
We have daffodils aplenty and strong, bright grape hyacinths (Muscari) Our first early-flowering tulips have appeared and I noticed forget-me-nots this morning. 
 Nectarine (Prunus persica variety nectarina)
The nectarine on the patio will look stunning if all the hundreds of buds open. Two days ago there was one flower; today there are many more bursting.

A week ago it was the woodpeckers that were most audible, drumming on the trees. In the last couple of days the crows have been extremely vocal. Our feeders are well patronised. Long-tailed tits, blue tits, great tits and coal tits flit in, cheeping and cocking their heads, always keeping an eye open for enemies. The starlings continue to squabble and scream at each other in a friendly sort of ‘we love to hate each other’ way. Wood pigeons stumble onto the fat cakes and magpies and robins and nuthatches fly in to sample the feast. Blackbirds search for wriggly meals and sound their alarm calls at the first hint of danger. After a noticeable absence last year, when I saw just one collared dove, I have already seen a pair this year and hope they will return to nest in the garden.

The fur I’ve groomed from the dogs waits to be collected by the tits for their nests, and butterflies – those ‘self-propelled flowers’ (R.A. Heinlein) - dance in the sun and settle occasionally for a photo call.
The Comma (Polygonia c-album) is one of the first butterflies to be seen, appearing from late February. Much of the males’ time is spent looking for a mate – are the females playing hard to get? It’s interesting to reflect that a century ago the Comma was a rare sight but now is common throughout England and Wales and may soon colonise Scotland. A few have been spotted in Ireland in recent years. It’s good to hear of their success.
seven-spot ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata)
Cobwebby seven-spot ladybird
We have seen many seven-spot ladybirds, too, the commonest in Europe. Perhaps this means a summer full of aphids . . .

This is such a beautiful time of year when all things are full of life and growth and each day brings more treasures to light. The world becomes brighter and more colourful with every passing day and everything, birds included, looks as if it has been freshly painted.

Friday 23 March 2012

Doormats - really.

Reincarnation 2

You may have been asking yourselves what my last post had to do with doormats. I certainly was, in the wee small hours(why it should have occurred to me then I cannot tell. Obviously my life is so full of amazing events that I must relive them when I should be sleeping.) The answer is, it had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with doormats! There was not a single mention of a doormat, so I offer my apologies to all offended articles. I reposted the wrong piece so here is the one I intended to post, slightly reworked.

Strictly speaking, reincarnation is rebirth as a different form of life but I've often thought I might be reincarnated as a door mat, which, though inanimate, sees many events throughout its life. Thinking about it more deeply in the small hours of the morning I recognised that there are many different forms of door mat. Would it be better to be an indoor mat or an outdoor mat? There are pros and cons for each.

Outdoor mats are hardy creatures, exposed to the elements, surrounded by the sights and sounds of Nature, rough, tough no-nonsense characters. External mats are not given to soul-searching and philosophising; they are practical, straight-talking individuals for whom there is no middle way. They lack imagination, it is true, and see all things as black or white. There's no sitting on the fence for the outdoor mat. They are loyal and hard-working and ask little in return other than a good beating now and then, not because they're masochistic but to relieve them of their burden of dust and the extraneous bits of Nature that have escaped from birds, trees, flowers and people's footwear.

Outdoor mats may be made from rubber which is hard-wearing but neither absorbent nor particularly attractive. Metal mats are not quite pukka; they're useful for scraping mud off boots but they are the untouchables of the community of external mats. They look as though they have come from a giant's grill pan and can sometimes be found supporting one of their more appealing cousins. Coir matting looks smart and is the only natural fibre resistant to salt water damage, which makes sense considering its provenance.

Indoor mats are quite distinct from their outdoor relatives. They live in protected environments and are usually constructed from softer, more colourful materials. Often they have messages printed on them – PLEASE WIPE YOUR PAWS (can dogs read?) THE BIG HOUSE, (boasting or ironic?) WE LIVE HERE (and everybody knows who WE are, don't they?) accompanied by pictures of dogs, fish, birds, children. I wouldn't want to have WELCOME written on me; I'm not like that but I suppose I wouldn't have a choice in the matter.

On balance I'd rather be an indoor mat than an outdoor mat. I don't think I'd like to be a shop door mat or one that fits in a car well or sits next to the cooker. I'd like to be either plain but in a pretty colour or patterned with flowers. My favourite situation would be just inside the front door of a really tidy house with no children or pets and considerate visitors who would remove their shoes before entering.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Of doormats and reincarnation

This is the first post I wrote on reincarnation in May 2009

If you consider yourself to be of a delicate disposition you may not wish to read on. However, if you have now or ever have had intimate dealings with any kind of mammal you will understand the rationale for this post. (I'm sure rationale is far too grand a word for this but I like it . . . )

Through the years of bearing babies and rearing toddlers, followed by the decades of teaching young children while at the same time breeding cats and keeping company with a variety of dogs, I have come to realise that ordure has played a significant role in my life. It was not something I had ever considered when I was growing up. My sister's babies were neat and clean and cuddly. I realise now that she was very careful to spare me the truth and only encouraged me to change wet nappies. Fifteen years older than me, she was always protective.

The first days of a baby's life open a new mother's eyes – and nose – to a different way of life. Controlling the urge to throw up over her first-born (second and subsequent babies don't provoke the same reactions) and overcoming the desire to turn away and plead for someone else to take over, she learns the delicate art of cleaning and making comfortable the small helpless being she so rapturously conceived nine months earlier. The rosy glow of imagining a sweet-smelling baby dressed in adorable clothes gurgling happily into the beatifically smiling face of a relaxed and beautiful mother disappears like a hapless, misplaced snowflake in August. The mirage is replaced by the reality of a baby that excretes at least twice what he ingests and 'possets' (that's the polite term for 'sicks up') several times a day and night over his hands, his several daily changes of attire, his bed, the furry toy bought on the day of his birth and any unfortunate adult in the vicinity, usually his exhausted, sleep-deprived, tearful mother.

Matters improve of course as the baby grows into toddlerhood. It's always a good idea to greet your child soon after she wakes and not agree with your spouse that it's lovely when she amuses herself while you enjoy a lie-in and consider the possibility of a sibling or two for her. Undoubtedly she is entertaining herself, undressing herself, removing her nappy, spreading the contents over herself, the bedding and every other thing within reach (no point in hoping the nappy will be just wet). Having finished that task she has set about deconstructing the cot and it is a little disconcerting when you enter your precious offspring's room to wonder where she can possibly have got to until movement under the mattress beneath the base gives you a clue. When the little tot plays in the garden it's quite useful to have a dog about the place which can be blamed for influencing the child to defaecate on the grass. More experienced matrons snort derisively as they explain that all infants do this and follow that information with a knowing and slightly malicious, 'Just you wait . . . ' Sure enough, worse will follow. At least when nappies are still being worn everything that leaves the tiny body is more or less contained. Training pants are the next important stage but it seems that all your infant is trained to do is to treat them as a portable potty. Potties are wonderful toys, headwear being a favourite deployment – not so good after having been used for their intended purpose, though.

Having finally learnt what to do, and where, there is a tiresome period when your little person must visit every convenience in every building you pass. Possibly he is searching for the gold standard in lavatories/loos/toilets. I'm told that the way to teach a boy to aim straight is to put a ping pong ball in the lavatory pan and encourage him to hit it with his golden shower. I have not been told what should happen thereafter. Are parents expected to carry a supply of these white spheres? Apparently not; I've no knowledge of any male who manages consistently to place bladder contents completely in the correct receptacle – there aren't enough ping pong balls in the world.

Cats and dogs present different challenges to humans. House cats that use litter trays are relatively easy. A scoop removes the soiled litter. Fastidious creatures that they are they help their humans to maintain high sanitary standards for, if dissatisfied, they will make their own arrangements and you may be sure it will be somewhere you would not choose. Dogs can be trained to use a particular patch of the garden but the excrement remains where deposited until removed by someone. In our family this job is known as 'de-lumping the garden' and when we had children living at home they could be persuaded occasionally to undertake this task. At other times I did it. Now they are grown and flown but we still have dogs and their leavings must be cleared away. It has fallen to me to take on this duty full-time because as Barry says, 'You're so good at it.' Flatterer!

Thus, after so many years of shovelling s*it I know that, if I were to be reincarnated I would return as a Chinese Night Soil Collector. It is said that every third person in the world is Chinese – and I was my parents' third child. Can't wait!!

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Reincarnation 3

Reincarnation 3 (because it appears this is a recurring theme.)

The idea of reincarnation appeals though I have a simplistic view of it I fear. Considering that I have led a less than blameless life (and who among us can claim to have done otherwise? Saints in the corner cast off your veils, come out from under your bushels!) that is to say, a normal life, probably, full of the petty conceits and narcissism with which we are all afflicted (aren’t we? or is it just me?) I will not be reincarnated as something splendid. Not for me the joys of a privileged life if I return to this earth. In fact I doubt that I shall be as blessed as I am currently.

No, I shall be reborn as something lowly, like a doormat. In fact, I wrote about that some while ago. A doormat’s life can be quite interesting though being ground under the heel is not a particularly pleasant prospect.

However, if rebirth only occurs in animate objects then I think I shall come back as an earthworm - not pretty, not furry, but useful in the garden both as a worker and food for passing blackbirds. Note that I specify worms of the earth variety – I have no wish to be an intestinal worm but I suppose that’s not really up to me.

I should hate to return as a cockroach, universally loathed but a terrific survivor. Nor should I care to be a tick, forever destined to suck blood until bloated only to fall off the victim to fasten onto another once the blood has been digested and a sylph-like form has been regained. To come back as a member of the spider family – ticks are spiders, after all – would be too cruel. As much as I tell myself that spiders are useful I still cannot stop myself shuddering when big, black, hairy spiders scuttle across the floor and whoever mentioned ‘noiseless spiders’ has never heard the ones I’ve encountered.

Maybe I could return as an amoeba – an interesting little organism but mightily overlooked. I’ve always had a fondness for the humble amoeba as it is the only organism I have ever been able to draw with any vestige of realism.

So I suppose that really I’m only in favour of reincarnation on my terms and that’s not really what faith is all about, is it?

Maybe I’ll repost my earlier treatises on reincarnation . . . posts reborn, you might say.

Following Bob

Following Bob
A couple of you wanted to know what happened when the 3½-year-old me followed Bob into the main road. My sister, who was fifteen years older than me, chased after us and grabbed me as I stepped into the road. I vaguely remember a large vehicle but I suppose to a small child any vehicle seems large. When I was a child the roads were not as busy as they now are and vehicles were less powerful.

So, neither Bob nor I came to any harm and I’m sure the lesson of vigilance over small infants and larger dogs was reinforced by our ‘escape’.

The photo is of the five-year-old me squinting in the sun and not looking very different to the younger me, I suspect.

Answers to Kay's questions

Kay from ‘An Unfittie’s Guide to Travel’ met the tagging challenge and posed these questions in her turn. I said I’d answer them – and that was before I’d looked at them!

1: If you had to eat the same thing every day, what would you choose for each meal?
For breakfast I would have porridge with fresh fruit, yoghourt and two teaspoons of a mixture of seeds (pumpkin, sesame, linseed, sunflower etc.)
Lunch would be tomatoes on toast.
For supper I would have salad with new potatoes and chicken or fish.

2. Would you accept an invitation to dinner with the Queen of England, or the Queen of The Netherlands, or both, or neither?
Both – though it’s never likely to happen.

3. Why? (see 2, above)
I’d like to see the differences between them and the similarities. The Queen of England has a vast knowledge and experience of life across the globe.

4. Would you rather own a horse, a dog, a cat, a squirrel, or a skateboard?
I’ve learnt to ride two or three times but never made much progress. My middle daughter once brought a sick squirrel home for me to care for – what faith she had! It died. I was never much good on roller skates and can’t see a skateboard would be any better. If I were housebound I’d opt for a cat since cats don’t need to be taken for walks. Otherwise I’d have a dog (and a cat)

5. How many years in a row did you have speeding tickets? How many years in a row did you have no speeding tickets at all?
I’ve never received a speeding ticket which is pretty amazing as I drive fast.

6. Have you ever had jet-lag? After how long a trip?
I had jet-lag after flying back from Palm Springs. Unfortunately, I was still teaching at the time and found it very difficult to keep my eyes open at school for a couple of days.

7. Can you read music?
Yes. I enjoy following orchestral scores though I haven’t done that for some time. When I see a fragment of music – on a greetings card or in a novel – I have to sing it.

8. Can you sing (i.e. carry a tune so as to entertain your hearers)? Or whistle?
I can sing and often do so. Whether it would entertain anyone is open to debate. My whistling is very basic – I can’t imitate birds or whistle elaborate tunes.

9. Can you play piano or guitar?
I play the piano and can play a few chords on a guitar. When I say I play the piano it’s more that I play at the piano. I can’t play much without a sheet of music and my touch is not light. However, I can murder Beethoven and Bach with the worst of them.

10. Can you play bagpipes?
No. A friend of my husband’s had bagpipes and was required to play every morning outside the housemaster’s window. He got so fed up that he stabbed the bag and that was the end of his recitals.

11. Can you hum the melody of Scots Wha Hae Wi' Wallace Bled: or Bruce's Address to his Troops at Banockburn? Or how about Mull of Kintyre by Paul McCartney?
No, no and possibly.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

I've been tagged!

Mary from ‘In the corner of my eye’ (and other blogs) has tagged me. Thank you, MaryJ

The Rules Are:

1. You must post the rules.
2. Post 11 fun facts about yourself.
3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post, and then create 11 more to ask the ones you tag.
4. Tag however many bloggers you wish.
5. Let them know they are tagged.
6. Have fun!!

I’m not good at approaching other people so if anyone reading this feels like having a go, please doJ and please let me know so that I can post your answers.

11 Fun Facts About Me

1:  I love the smell of coffee but can’t stand the taste.
2:  I once kept soft-boiled eggs warm in the water they’d boiled in and wondered why they’d become hard-boiled eggs.
3:  I sing when I’m in the garden.
4:  I talk to the birds (as well as the dogs, the cat and, occasionally, my husband.)
5:  When I was little I used to go into the shops on my way home from school and read to the shop-keepers. (My parents owned a shop and knew all the local shop-keepers.)
6:  When I was eight I told my parents’ friends that my parents had married on 16th April and I was born two days later. This caused something of a stir as I was the youngest of three.
7:  I cannot make pastry – it turns out like rubber sheeting.
8:  Apart from my husband, who always makes me laugh, I prefer the company of younger people – they’re much more fun.
9:  I’ve never been able to do a backward walkover or the splits – guess I never will now;-)
10: I like eating fish but dislike the sticky feeling it leaves on my lips.
11: Sometimes I have a giggling fit for no reason and laugh till I cry.

1. What is your earliest memory?
I think my earliest memory is of Bob the dog, a black and white collie. My father laid a place for him at the table and he sat up to eat tea with us. It probably only happened once but it’s a fond memory. I was about 3½. Shortly after that I followed him into a busy main road . . .
2.  Who was your FIRST best friend?
Her name was Anthea and we were at junior school (7-11) together. At 11 we went to different schools and lost touch.

3.  When did you first realize you had writing talent?
From the day I learnt to write I always enjoyed writing ‘compositions’ at school. I would have spent all day writing if I could but I don’t know if that could be called talent – more like procrastination to avoid tasks I didn’t like.

4.  What kind of food is your favorite in a restaurant?
Steak, medium rare, with salad.

5.  How old do you feel?  (Never mind how old you ARE!)
For many years I didn’t feel much older than 21 but now I feel more like 35. I’m waiting to see what it’s like to be truly adult.

6.  What gives you greatest joy?
A baby’s laughter and I’ve been lucky to hear a great deal of that. Who can hear a baby chuckle and not join in?

7.  Are you a dog person or a cat person or both or neither?
Dogs and cats are a constant delight. I’d find it very difficult to choose one or the other. I’ve had both all my life and would find life somewhat duller without them. They’re entertaining, wonderful company and they’re always in a good mood and pleased to see you! As I write this Winston Ocicat is sitting next to me having a comprehensive wash.

8.  Do you dream?
My dreams are vivid and usually completely nonsensical. Last night’s dream had me at the dentist and disappointed that the dental nurse wasn’t the lovely South African with the miniature Schnauzer. I dream every night but can’t often recall them.

9.  If you could have dinner with one person you never met, who would you choose?
The children’s writer Michael Morpurgo. His books are so beautifully crafted and full of informed detail. He’s a writer who can make me cry – not so good when you’re reading aloud to children! I’m looking forward to seeing ‘War Horse’ at the theatre some time this year. I shall take plenty of tissues.

10.  In what way are you 'old fashioned'?
I like to hear Ps and Qs and to have doors held open for me in the same way as I hold them for other people. I don’t like obsequiousness but I do like good manners. ‘Manners maketh man.’

11.  What skill, that you do not have, would you wish to have?
I would love to be able to draw and paint. Artists always make it look so easy but it’s not. That’s the gift of the expert, I suppose.

Now, for any brave souls who would like to participate, here are my questions.

1:  If you believed in reincarnation who or what would you like to come back as?
2:  Which organism could you happily live without? (Consider carefully the ecosystem.)
3:  Are you a talker or a listener or are you a nicely-balanced blend of the two?
4:  How much time do you spend day-dreaming?
5:  Have you ever walked in your sleep?
6:  What is/are your favourite quotation/s?
7:  What is the greatest advice you would give an eighteen-year-old (one who’d asked, obviously . . . )
8:  What is your favourite time to get up?
9:  If you could choose to live in a different era which one would you choose?
10: Would you accept an invitation to travel in space?
11:  Would you rather walk or ride a bike (or horse, or skateboard)?

Saturday 17 March 2012

Wake up Lloyds TSB!

I spotted this glaring mistake on a large advertisement for Lloyds TSB in the Tottenham Court Road underground. What other mistakes is this bank making, I wonder?

Monday 12 March 2012

Mag 108 Refuge

Image copyright Uzengia Aleksander Nedic


It was dry in here, deep in the heart of the brambles, a safe place to hide.  He couldn’t tell how long he’d been here but the noise of his pursuers had long since died away. 

He had no idea why he had been targeted.  He was simply going about his business, not bothering anyone, when they’d spotted him and decided to give chase.  There were so many of them and they made a deafening noise.  He’d had to keep a cool head and engage all his cunning to give them the slip.  Being smaller and slighter had enabled him to squeeze through openings they couldn’t navigate.  He reckoned that had gained him valuable seconds and enabled him to outrun them.  He was lucky to have remembered this bolt hole.  He sighed and dozed off.

He heard the girl before he saw her and stared bleary-eyed through the brush.  Had she been sent to find him?  He studied her.  She looked harmless enough but experience had taught him it was impossible to judge people by appearances.  She hadn’t spotted him yet and if he remained stock still she might never notice him.  He just wanted to be left alone.  Couldn’t anyone understand that? 

The girl moved forward, searching the ground, then cried out as thorns grabbed her legs.  He shrank back into the shadows as she struggled to free herself.  Disentangled at last, the scratches on her legs bleeding, she turned and tramped away.  He listened as her footsteps faded and all was silent again, save for the distant calls of birds and tiny insects tracing their busy paths across dead leaves.  A beetle scurried across the packed earth.  He watched it lazily then tucked his nose under the white tip of his tail and slept once more.

Click here to read more responses to Tess Kincaid's prompt. Thank you, Tess J

Monday 5 March 2012

Mag 107 Fancy a drink?

Image copyright Sarolta Ban

 Fancy a drink?

All I did was ask her if she fancied coming out for a drink with me. The way she looked at me, eyes blazing, you’d have thought I’d asked her to sleep with me. I’m not saying the thought hadn’t crossed my mind – sleeping with her, I mean. She was a bit of all right, if you know what I mean, legs up to here and a beautiful figure, everything in the right place and just the right size – you catch my drift? Yeah, quite a looker but classy with it, you know, not your usual bit of crumpet. Real peachy she was but posh – cut-glass accent, lots of bling, nice clothes, skyscraper heels, the lot. Yeah, she was the real thing.
I’m not so bad myself. I mean, you wouldn’t throw me out of bed - that’s what my bird says and she should know. Been round the block a few times she has, but nice with it.

Anyway, this posh bint, she thought she was too good for the likes of me. ‘I bet she’s got some rich old buffer twisted round her little finger,’ I thought. I know the type, you see, bit like an upmarket car. Get a good chassis, tart it up and wait for an old bloke with more money than sense to come along.

I don’t take offence, me. There’s plenty more like her and more generous with it. I was curious, though. Women don’t usually knock me back quite as quickly as she did so I thought her bloke must be something really special. You could tell she was waiting for someone – she kept looking at her watch and turning this way and that to see if he was coming. She looked excited, sort of like she was in love. I thought that was a bit unlikely – women like her don’t have hearts, just safety vaults - so I hung around. She didn’t see me. Women like that, once they’ve rejected someone, they don’t see them any more.

Suddenly her face lit up in a smile - fantastic teeth, all white and even, and she looked happy, radiant even. I looked to see what her bloke was like – maybe I could pick up some pointers (modesty forbids I should say I don’t need any help in that field.)

Well! That’s all I can say. Hurrying towards her was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. Sisters? Best friends? I don’t think so. I sighed. ‘What a waste,’ I thought. ‘Still, whatever butters your bread. No wonder she looked down her nose at me. I’m as much use to her as a bird cage is to a butterfly.’

I went home to my girl-friend. She’ll never turn me down.

To read more Mags click here. Thanks to Tess for the prompt.

Friday 2 March 2012

So what did you do on St. David's Day?

So what did you do on St. David’s Day?

We had a fun-filled, action-packed day. I woke full of enthusiasm for the day ahead. Actually, that’s not true – I never feel like that in the mornings. I’m not a morning person. Annoyingly, Barry is. He’s very chipper from the moment he wakes and still, after four decades, attempts to engage me in conversation first thing. Two of the daughters are larks like him. Gillian is ready to talk as soon as she gets out of bed. Susannah gets up ridiculously early – half-way through the night, really – and is busy and bright all day until she’s exhausted and ready for bed by six o’clock eight o’clock nine o’clock. The son and the other daughter are more like me. Gareth’s approachable but quiet. Bethan has warning signs all over her. She’s polite but don’t push your luck.
As for me I’ve learnt that if I chatter and smile too early in the day I’ll end up in a bad mood. I’m an owl. That’s to say, I used to be an owl, able and happy to stay up half the night. Things changed when the babies came along. What a silly expression that is – ‘when the babies came along.’ It sounds as though they had free will in the matter and trotted into my life as and when the mood took them. What’s that? Gooseberry bushes and storks? Really? You believe all that? Tsk!
These days I’m more of a half-past-two-in-the-afternoon sort of person. I build up to that pinnacle which lasts about an hour and then experience a rapid decline. Then I sleep. At least, I try to sleep. I’m a light sleeper and the smallest sound wakes me. My theory is that I’m alert all night because of the training I received at the hands of the crying babies who became comfort-seeking infants and then trying teenagers. Some days one teenager would be getting up in the morning as another came through the door to go to bed. Barry slept through all of that. I don’t mean he was Rip Van Winkle, just that as a young officer he acquired the knack of sleeping through anything. Army training, eh? Bit worrying, though - if these army types can ignore disturbances how do they know when it would be advisable to wake up and do something? Does part of the brain listen out for stealthy footsteps or differentiate between the insistent cry of a toddler and the approach of a rioting crowd?
Anyway, last night the dogs were restless. Bertie’s tummy was gurgling and whistling and the last time that happened, a couple of weeks ago, he made a hasty and unsuccessful attempt to vacate the house. Instead he vacated himself on the stairs, poor boy, at two thirty in the morning. So, while I was cleaning and disinfecting the stairs Barry and the other animals – no, let me rephrase that, the rest of the animals and Barry - snored through it. That night I didn’t get back to sleep until dawn.
As it turned out Bertie was fine. Frodo was bumbling round and somehow got tangled up in the chair that serves as my bedside table (!! that’s another story!!) and knocked it over. Barry snored!

 It was foggy in the morning but gradually the sun burnt through and it was a lovely day, perfect for a bracing walk with the dogs. I intended to go in the gym and also have a swim. At one o’clock the washing machine and tumble dryer switched on. At the same time the pond pumps came on. A couple of minutes later the internet went down and half the electricity in the house cut out. That’s when we discovered the meaning behind ‘emergency cover’ and that our insurance didn’t cover us because we still had some electricity. We also discovered that the main switch for the electricity was locked on and we could no longer shut off the power.
The electrician who came admitted that he came into the house full of optimism that a solution to the problem would soon be found. An hour later he was less hopeful. Two hours on he was wishing he was a plumber! He checked all the sockets in the house – oh, the shame of it! If I’d known every nook and cranny was going to be investigated I’d have vacuumed every corner and washed all the paintwork and put away all the piles of (Barry’s) stuff.

Eventually, Dave-the-Electrician located the problem in a forgotten and unused socket in the dining room. Sawing noises ensued as the floor was opened to reveal sixty-year-old wiring that had seen better days.  By the time he left, around six o’clock, the dogs were tired from the unusual activity and we called it a day and had supper early.

It was an interesting start to the month. In the summer we’ll have the wiring replaced in the old part of the house. That will be fun!