The End – Week 52 of the 52 week short story challenge

Well.

I did it.

52 weeks of short stories, blogs and the odd poem or two.

I was a little late sometimes – so the gaps between postings is sometimes less than a week – sometimes more – but I did it.

We’ve all been saying what a lousy year 2016 has been  – and to be fair to those who died and those who grieve for them – it has been pretty lousy.

Good things have happened too but as always – we overlook the good and dwell on the bad.

So let’s not.

In 2017 I do not intend to set myself any resolutions – because I invariably lose interest in them or forget about them until April – by which time it is a bit late for this New Year and too early for the next.

Last year I finally settled with my ex-employer and used some of the settlement to join a gym. On our induction day I met a rather wonderful young woman who has become my personal trainer and motivated me to lose almost two stone and improve my fitness to the point that I only need my walking stick for urban route marches – I use the hiking poles for more foot-friendly territory. I’ve also started  Pilates classes – I can actually kneel on my arthriticky knees, and my balance has improved to the point where I rarely fall over – unless Scooby gets under my feet!

Regaining my fitness and losing weight is an ongoing aim – and after the Christmas and New Year hiatus it is back to the gym tomorrow – with a vengeance.

2017 also brings an end to my being a kept woman – I will be earning a crust again soon and able to make a financial commitment to our household again. The best thing is – it still leaves me time to spend with my lovely Hub, get back to editing the stuff I’ve written and continue with the gym. No office politics to contend with and I don’t have to answer the phone within three rings – so ner.

I’ve made some new friends in connection with my re-awakened political conscience – lost a couple too but we are all entitled to our own opinions and I will follow the path that feels most natural and logical to me.

I don’t believe in greed and selfishness – especially when it causes suffering to others.

I want the NHS to belong to all of us – not to big businesses who only care about their profit margins.

I want us to help the homeless, the sick and disabled, those who really cannot find appropriate work and those who have had to come to our country in order to escape warfare and persecution.

I will continue to fight prejudice and narrow-minded ignorance – wherever I find it.

We have a duty to protect our earth and the creatures that live upon it – for our children and for our children’s children – ad infinitum.

That will do for now. The discipline of finding something to write about once a week has taken hold  again – and together with nine years of successfully winning NaNoWriMo – 2017 could be the year that I finally tidy up my writings and look for an agent.

Onward and upward – what doesn’t kill us makes us strong.

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A Strange Small Town – Week 48 of the 52 week short story challenge

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It was a funny little place; lacking the charm of the nearby yachting village or the charismas of the larger and well-know yachting town upstream. As teenagers involved in the sailing scene, we were dismissive of the place. It was ‘touristy’; shops decked out with brightly coloured buckets and spades, inflatable rings and airbeds, rock with a generic county name through the inside and boxes of fudge and toffee bearing pictures of grazing ponies.

It was a place for passing through and rarely stopping. A place inhabited by holidaying grockles and nouveau riche who had bought their holiday homes without realising that the town was quite a way from the sea. Our village, the village where we stayed in the summer, sailed out to the castle and camped in the boat park. Apart from the yacht clubs and the pub, there was nowhere else to spend your money and any other entertainment or supplies good be acquired in the big town – without having to pay over-inflated tourist prices.

I remember one summer in particular. I still have the photographs of us all lounging outside OUR yacht club – there was great rivalry between the two clubs. Hair stiff and bleached from hours sailing, half-worn wet suits (it was easier to leave the bottom half on and wriggle out of the top).  Clutching half pints of rough cider and feasting on freshly made crab sandwiches. Nothing else really mattered that summer.

One of our group had very rich parents who owned a holiday cottage across the road from the pub. We took it in turns to sleep there or in hastily erected two man tents in the boat park once the clubs were closed. We knew that we weren’t supposed to be there but provided the tent was packed away before the morning sailing started, the older members of the club turned a blind eye.

Not that it was peaceful sleeping in the boat park; people ignored the sign ‘Frap your halyards’, and a s a consequence the night was punctuated with the sound of unfrapped halyards tinkling against masts. Hedgehogs and foxes rustled their way round the boats, looking for dropped sandwich crusts and half-empty crisp packets. The sun disturbed our fretful dozing and spurred us on to collapse the tent and stagger across the road to the cottage for coffee and toast.

The summer came to an end – as it always does  – and we departed to our various courses and jobs. That summer could never be repeated anyway. In moving on, we jolly sailors lost touch with each other and other entertainments replaced the joys of sailing.

The village never lost its charm for me; enhanced by discovering that one of my favourite authors had written a trilogy of books loosely based on family life in Little Village and Big Village, with the Island across the sea playing an integral part. I made subsequent visits; with friends, with groups of children I was responsible for, and ultimately with my own husband and family. It became a place of pilgrimage; somewhere to go and lose the troubles or celebrate happiness. There was a stark contrast between the still quiet waters around the harbour and the crashing waves out on the
Spit. Waves that were so ferocious that year in and out, new methods of prevention had to be found to prevent the sea encroaching on the houses nearby.

I found out very early in our relationship that my husband had also sailed from the village – though at a different time from me – and that he loved it as much as I did.

 

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Winding the time clock on, our children became adults and needed less entertaining on holidays, so when the opportunity arose to spend two summer weeks in a cottage in ‘my’ village, we jumped at it. Part of me was worried that the village would have changed, that it would no longer be the magical place I remembered – that we both remembered.

It was like stepping back into a time capsule. The pub was still there – although it had added an extra wing and a conservatory – but the cider was just as good and the sandwiches – made from freshly caught crab – was wonderful. We could see the boat park from our bedroom window; people were still neglecting to frap their halyards, and although we didn’t have the credentials to venture into either of the yacht clubs, we didn’t need to sleep in tents either. I had my favourite author’s books on my Kindle and delighted in spotting thinly disguised landmarks as we walked the dog along the harbour side and around the various beaches.

It was a wonderful fortnight. We caught up with family and friends; the tiny backyard was the ideal venue for a family get together in the sunshine. The dog loved his seaside walks and I achieved a lifelong wish. I had sailed out to the castle on many an occasion – and  came back the same way, but I had never walked the mile and a half along the shingle bank, nor taken a ride on the little ferry boat that tied up at the harbour wall.

The strangest revelation of our holiday was the exploration of Big Village.

It wasn’t full of grockles and holiday shops anymore. Charity shops rubbed shoulders with a wine bar and a delicatessen. The Co-op was stocked with normal food and there was no sign of sticks of rock or boxes of fudge. At the suggestion of friends, we ventured further to the beaches further away from Little Village, and found some beautiful examples of Art Deco architecture along the sea view.

Big Village wasn’t such a bad place.

On our last day we met up with our lovely friends for a long and leisurely brunch in the sunshine at a cafe on the beach. A very happy start to the process of packing everything back into the car and heading North for home.

It was good to go back to Little Village and find it just as beautiful and enchanting as I had found it before. Better to still was to roam around Big Village and find that it wasn’t such a strange small town after all.

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Animal Perspective – Week 36 of the 52 week short story challenge

 

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Hola!

Allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Scooby, I am eight years old and I was born in Valencia, Spain.  I am what is called a ‘random’ dog; you can also use the phrases ‘crossbreed’ or ‘mongrel’ but I prefer random because it suits my personality.  With regard to my parentage, rumour has it that a flat-coated retriever and a German shepherd dog may have been involved but hey – who really knows? Let’s face it – I am one handsome dog.

For the first three years of my life I was a Spanish dog; I poohed over low white walls, had no need of stairs and chased feral cats to my heart’s content.  That’s how we did things over there. My Spanish Mum taught me how to sit, stay, fetch, lie down and use my paw to make requests.  She also made sure that I had a pet passport and all my jabs were up to date.  I believe that she loved me very much.

In 2011 I came to England.  I don’t remember why.  It was cold though and I got into trouble over a neighbour’s cat.  You have to bear in mind that I was used to cats being vermin – like rats and pigeons and squirrels – there are kind people in Spain who try to look after the feral cats but there are so many that most people see them as a nuisance and don’t make a fuss if you remove one or two.

There was most certainly a fuss once I got to England.  I was no longer a bueno perro for doing what came naturally to me. I was the terminator dog. I was in deep trouble. Then I got out again.  Another cat bit the dust. My Spanish Mum could no longer cope with my Spanish ways and she signed me over to the RSPCA.

I was locked up for eighteen months.

My picture was on the website; a nice man did a video of me running around and playing with a ball, and I became very popular with the RSPCA staff and volunteers.  People came to see me and said how handsome I was – especially when I grinned or cocked my head to one side.  But other dogs came and other dogs went; as soon as people knew about my little problem with cats they turned away.  Many of them had cats of their own, or other pets that they thought I might take a fancy to.  I was an unknown quantity and people – quite understandably – were not prepared to take the risk.

There was a boy – well almost a man – who wanted a dog.  He loved animals and grew up in a house full of cats. His Mum promised him that when all the cats had finally made their way to moggy heaven, they would look into having a dog.  She told him to check the RSPCA web pages but not to fall in love too soon because they had to go on holiday first.  She also told him to put his laptop to some good use and do some research on what it meant to be a responsible dog owner instead of playing games where humans killed other humans.

His Mum spotted me on the web pages and pointed me out to the Boy and to his Dad.  His Mum liked my big brown eyes and the way my ears flopped over.  She could see that I had been at the kennels a long time and that I desperately needed a home of my own.  She told the Boy that if I was still there when they came back from holiday, they would come and visit me.

Right from the start the staff were very honest about my cat issues; from the very first phone call the Mum made, she knew what they were taking on but she and the Boy had fallen for my charms already (they had to work on the Dad a bit because he had never owned a dog before).

They came to visit me on the Mum’s birthday and took me for a walk in the wood outside the kennels.  I pulled a bit.  Well quite a lot actually but they persevered and by the time they brought me back to the kennels it was a done deal.  A deposit was paid and before they had even left a yellow sign with ‘Home check’ was put up outside my kennel. Somebody wanted me at last.

They came again the next day; the Boy was in charge because he was to be my new master – aided and abetted by his Mum and Dad.  I recognised them, and as a consequence began to show off my talents a little. I still pulled but they were impressed by the way I responded to basic commands (and the dog treats they bought me).

Each time they visited we got to know each other better and I began to love the Boy.  He hugged me and praised me – well all three of them did – but his actions were the most important.  I stopped barking when I saw them enter the car park and wagged my tail in ecstasy instead. Kind people cared for me and hoped that one day I would find the right family, and they had their fingers crossed.

One of the visits included a walk to a car; the Mum was worried about whether I would be nervous about cars as I’d been in kennels for so long.  Ha!  I jumped up onto the tailgate, sat down on the blanket and gave my famous grin.

‘Take me home now please?’

Unknown to me, the Mum and the Dad were doing things to make their house a safe haven where I couldn’t get out and chase the local cats.  They put trellis on top of the fence panels so I wouldn’t be able to climb over.  They found a dog-owning fence and gate maker who mended their old gate and made a special new one so that I wouldn’t get out of the back garden. They had loved their own cats and didn’t want to put temptation in my way.

They passed the home check and once the gates and trellis had been put up it was agreed that I could come home.

By this time I had my own lead, half-check collar and a harness which the Boy bought with him whenever they came to take me out.  He always had his Mum or his Dad with him when we walked but on this day he took me out alone.

When we got back to the kennels he didn’t hand me back the way he used to.  His Mum and Dad appeared from the office and they were both smiling.  The Boy was smiling.  They lifted up the tailgate and as the Boy strapped my harness to the safety belt, I smiled too.

We went home.  Mi casa.

Adios.

 

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Lost and Found – Week 6 of the 52 week short story challenge

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Lost and Found and Lost Again

Rochelle sat on the rocky outcrop at the end of the beach. Her beach. The beach she had known all her life and the place she sought whenever life became too much. Unfortunately life became too much for Rochelle every day until she could push it aside with her current cocktail of choice. She had been told to avoid alcohol because it could have an adverse effect on her medication but ‘could have‘ was not a definite and there were days when avoidance was impossible.

The youngest of four girls, Rochelle was often referred to as ‘the Afterthought’ by her older and married sisters. They were all in their teens when their mother surprised them – and their father – with the birth of a tiny and delicate sister who was duly fussed over and petted by them all.

Perhaps as a consequence of this concentrated attention, Rochelle was a demanding baby; the toddler who invented new levels of tantrums, and the most sulky and erratic of teenagers. Mercifully for her sisters, they had married and set up their own homes by the time she had reached this most petulant and attention-seeking phase of her development.

Her father was bewildered by Rochelle’s behaviour. His other daughters had seemed so easy by comparison. Her mother continued to dote and spoil her pretty little girl, enchanted by the sweetness of her nature – provided things were going her way.

School was a trial for Rochelle. She made few friends but many enemies due to an unfortunate ability to tell tales with a mask of complete innocence that belied her devious nature. Tears and tantrums failed to move her teachers and she left school without any qualifications due to an extensive sickness record and no ability to apply herself to anything but craftwork.

Expressing a hitherto hidden desire to get away from home and family, Rochelle informed her parents that she wanted to go to college. A college on the mainland. A college far away from home. Puzzled by this desertion, Rochelle’s parents applied a few sanctions. She could go to college but only if she agreed to stay with Mr and Mrs Bullingham, elderly family friends who could guarantee to keep her safe from the wicked world.

It was agreed and having been escorted to her new home by her tearful mother, Rochelle settled into her new life. ‘Settled‘ may not have been the best description of how she spent her days. The college was small, more like a finishing school for young people whose parents were not ready for them to tackle the hazards of big city life. Many of her fellow students paired up throughout their time at college but not Rochelle. Some of the boys – and teachers – found her childish behaviour initially enchanting but the magic wore off very quickly and they soon realised that she was a person to be kept at a distance.

Rochelle learned how to flirt and flutter her eyelashes in order to get others to do things for her. She also developed a taste for alcohol; only to be consumed in her room or when she wasn’t due home to the Bullinghams’ genteel and alcohol-free zone for some time.

The college course came to an end and Rochelle returned home to her island, still without qualifications but possessed of a multitude of manipulative skills. She had made a few friends who kept in touch – perhaps because they felt sorry for the girl who didn’t seem able to grow up. To those who cared for her, Rochelle continued to be sweet and charming. Her sisters loved her but grew increasingly intolerant of her demanding behaviour – especially when she had been drinking.

Gentle suggestions regarding Rochelle finding work were rebuffed and met with floods of tears and prolonged sulking. Employment on the island  was limited anyway but for a young woman with little experience, no real skills and an air of naivete that did not transfer to the workplace, it was impossible. Rochelle’s parents came to the conclusion that she was unlikely to ever make a financial contribution to their household.

Being of a sensitive and rather sentimental nature, getting Rochelle involved in voluntary work for animal charities on the island may not have been the wisest of choices but it kept her occupied and her craftwork earned small amounts for the darling animals. She felt that she had found her true calling at last and was quick to tell her friends of her new purpose in life.

Her sisters however, grew increasingly concerned about Rochelle’s mental health, especially when she was at home or attending family events. She screamed and cried; retreated to her room when she couldn’t have her own way and had to be rescued from bars when her cocktail consumption got her into peril with men who were less scrupulous than her college chums.

There was a spell in hospital during her mid-thirties; life had become too much after Rochelle developed a crush on the much-married manager of the seal sanctuary. She stalked him and bombarded him with handmade cards containing coy messages. He succumbed to Rochelle’s childlike charms but panicked when she announced that she was with child herself. His wife found the bag of love tokens when emptying out his recycling and after talking to her repentant husband, contacted one of Rochelle’s sisters who in turn spoke very sternly to her parents.

The problem with living on an island is that the only strangers were tourists; everyone else knew each other and in order for Rochelle to escape the laughter and mocking glances, her parents had her admitted to a small private hospital where she was kept under heavy sedation following her ‘operation‘ and  caused her to retreat further into the safety of her fantasy world.

By the time her doctors felt she was well enough to go home, the manager and his wife had been relocated to the mainland, and another scandal had replaced Rochelle’s assumed shame. She made more friends whilst in the hospital; women who had been damaged and made vulnerable by life, women who saw Rochelle as an entertaining child, a willing drinking-companion, and a person unfazed by their own bizarre behaviours.

As the years passed, Rochelle’s sisters gave up on the idea of ever finding a man patient enough – and wealthy enough – to take their sister away from their aging and increasingly frail parents. They did their best to try and encourage some element of maturity in their baby sister, but she remained that – a child-woman who was incapable of doing more than making chocolate-box cards for animal charities and stamping her foot when life failed her.

Through one of her old college friends, Rochelle became acquainted with Trudi, a woman who had spent some years recruiting people for a demanding religious sect. As a consequence, she was adept at spotting those who life had left open to exploitation. She honed in on Rochelle; showering her with compliments, feeding her ever-hungry ego and grooming her as a useful source of information as well as a potential mouthpiece for Trudi’s opinions.

Trudi had a lucrative business selling email addresses to companies who used them to spam and intimidate people who had no interest in their services – especially the elderly. Several of her friends had become wise to this misuse of their details and Trudi found herself needing a new method of obtaining information.  Rochelle fell for Trudi’s explanation of needing email addresses to raise funds for charities – animal charities of course – and was quick to use her volunteer status to find mailing lists of anyone who had ever made a contribution. Trudi was ecstatic, and clever enough to get Rochelle to use her own email address when sending on the information. She paid Rochelle a token amount and kept the rest of the money  to herself.

Rochelle watched the police car draw up outside her house with some curiosity. At 53 years of age she had never seen a police car at her house before and idly wondered if her parents were alright. She turned back to the sea again and barely registered the crunching of police-issue boots on the shell and gravel beach. Rochelle’s mother had tried to persuade the police that her daughter had mental health problems but some of the people on the lists sold via Trudi’s dubious transatlantic contacts were from old and very influential island families who objected to being inundated with emails peddling Viagra, funeral plans and weight loss products.

One of Rochelle’s sisters met them at the police station and acted as her appropriate adult. Rochelle didn’t really know what to say in response to the questions. Tears and eyelash fluttering failed to move the stony-faced female detective and her equally impassive male colleague. After hours of questioning, Rochelle’s sister requested a break and took the opportunity to give Rochelle the kind of talking to she had badly needed all her life

Eventually Rochelle was persuaded to give up Trudi’s details and tell the version of events as she understood it. The detectives weren’t convinced that anyone could be as gullible as Rochelle but had little choice to let her go with a caution and a very stern warning about getting involved in this kind of scam in the future.

Unable to trust Rochelle, the animal charities she had previously supported made it clear to her parents and sisters that her services were no longer required. Her computer had been taken away by the police and her parents stated that they didn’t want it returned. Those friends she had kept in touch with via social media wondered idly what had become of her but no one cared enough to find out. Trudi was tracked down and despite blaming everything on Rochelle, her past track record gave her away and she was exposed as the force behind many other such scams.

Rochelle spends most of her time on the rocky outcrop; lost again but unlikely to be found this time.

 

 

‘The End of the Pier’

 

 

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Thirty days of blogging.

Stories, memories and a very small poem that crept into my head in the night.

Dominated somewhat by the saga of the Krappy Kitchen and the process of acquiring the food preparation and dining area of our dreams.

Over the past day and a half we have watched the last vestiges of the Krappy Kitchen disappear.  I let out a small cheer as the lump hammers hit breeze blocks that have dominated the middle of the room for the past fifteen years.

The electrician was the last of our visitors to leave today, having drilled out the holes for my brushed chrome spotlights (I had a choice between white, shiny or brushed chrome).  My mind scurried back into virgin kitchen mode when asked to make that choice.  Then I asserted myself and after opting for brushed, was strangely proud to be told that I had made the right choice.

Hub and I wandered around after our visitors had left today. Our kitchen is an echoing shell now, with dangling wires and the huge double RSJs lurking in the ceiling.

We have found out a few things about our house.

It’s a miracle that Gap Boy hasn’t fallen through the floor when stropping in his bedroom because the existing RSJ only went across half the ceiling – the bit where he sleeps, not the bit where he regularly shouts, guffaws and giggles on his computer.

It’s another miracle that we haven’t all been killed in our beds due to the shoddy wiring put in by the first owner – who was (surprisingly enough) a qualified electrician.  Perhaps he trained st the same establishment where the subsequent owner did her artexing course. There will be no more skin scraping artex in our kitchen either .

The builders have sorted out the dodgy building bits and an inspector is coming to check it all  out tomorrow. Another stranger at the door.

The nice electrician is going to have a look at the rest of the wiring when he’s finished in  the kitchen.  He very gently told me that progress will slow down a bit now because the plasterer is coming in and it will take a couple of days for the walls and ceiling to dry out.

I smile that silly smile and remind him that after waiting fifteen years to be able to afford this kitchen a couple more days won’t worry me.

Talking of compromises, the work top won’t be quite as sexy as planned.  With the wisdom of Solomon I had to make the choice between waiting another three weeks for the Star Galaxy worktop or cancelling the order and getting the slightly more down-market black granite with just silvery bits in it which can be delivered when the builders need it because it has been sourced locally.

It is still a sexy worktop and with any luck, my kitchen will be done much quicker (and a bit cheaper too!)

Washing up in the downstairs bathroom is a bit challenging but having the temporary kitchen on the dining room table is easier on the legs.

After rebelling about the use of plastic cutlery and paper plates, we bought GB a set of his own cutlery and unearthed some plates.

More compromise.

I was in a bit of a quandary about the old gas cooker yesterday.

It had to sit outside all night until the big lorry came to collect the rubbish. I really should have given it a bit of clean before the builders came but it is being junked anyway and we ran out of time.

Trouble is, it sat in the garden in full view of the manic mothers on their school run (they slowed down to have a look – not quite to 20 miles an hour but not bad).  Now they all know what a dirty  cooker I had.

GB has been quite sweet today but that goes hand in hand with his lecturing and hectoring about every single subject under the sun.

My idea of snoozing gently with Scoob whilst Martin and Lucy wax lyrical about three-bed semis in Clapham has been shattered  due to the fact that GB cannot sleep upstairs whilst all that banging is going on. So he talks and talks and talks.

Mind you, he told me about the hose incident last night.

Apparently one of our elderly neighbours was watering his garden yesterday evening when someone drove up the road at speeds in excess of 60 miles an hour (I doubt it) , so my neighbour remonstrated with him.  The neighbour remonstrated back and my neighbour hosed him.  More naughty talk and another shot of hose.  I expected to hear the our neighbour had been bopped but apparently the drive chose to zoom off instead.

Perhaps it was the sight of my neighbour’s hairy, brown and extremely pregnant-looking belly that saw him off.

I know it’s been warm over the last couple of days but that belly would certainly frighten the horses. Put it on!

Poor Scoob had just got used to the chaps who chipped of the seventies brown and white tiles  yesterday when there was a change of personnel and he had to come to terms with three more of them.  Luckily the poor young boy in the hoodie who got so badly wuffed at yesterday was off on another job today.

They are a smashing bunch though.  I can hear their conversations through the wall and the range of topics is impressive and very informative.  GB asked me if I minded all the swearing. I hadn’t actually noticed it.

The kitchen singing is even better than the banter though.  The lads brought along their old, dusty, paint-spattered ghetto blaster and they sing along to Radio One. – although they may have wandered into Radio Two yesterday afternoon when I heard one of them singing falsetto to ‘Too shy, shy’.

My attitude to our builders is very positive therefore.  They don’t seem to mind the awfulness of the tea I make them (being allergic to tea makes this a very hands-off process and the fumes make me retch a bit). The biscuits I sent Hub out to buy have been a great success, and the fact that I really don’t mind them using the downstairs toilet also went down well.

“I don’t mean to be cheeky but can I use your loo/have a cup of tea/ smoke in your garden/ eat these lovely biscuits?”

They are such polite boys.

I have a feeling that today’s blog won’t really be the end of the pier as planned thirty -one days ago.

Making the effort to write something every day is a discipline I learned when participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which is held every November. http://nanowrimo.org/

It may not be easy to stop now although I’m not sure if I’ll continue to blog every day.

I have a kitchen to dress in the next week or so (that’s what they say on DIY SOS isn’t it?)

 

 

 

“Only Lazy Gods make snakes”. I’ve liked this as a title ever since I watched children using Play-Doh.’

For my big brother – a wonderful Grandad. 

 

Harry sat in the middle of a grassy lawn.  He was surrounded by beautiful flowers and fantastic insects.

He frowned with concentration as he picked out the colours and shapes.

Every object had to be different, and he smiled as he placed them on the grass and watched them come to life.

Other small gods occupied the lawn, each intent on their own marvellous creations.

The Big Benevolent One smiled as he wandered past looking at their labours.

His fingertips touched Harry’s head.

Harry looked up and smiled back.  He was very happy.

“Good job Harry.  You can move on to something bigger now.  Some animals and birds perhaps?”

Flushed with pride at such a compliment, Harry collected more materials and set to work.

He started small; a mouse and then a brightly coloured lizard.

Placed carefully on the grass, the mouse shook his whiskers and scurried off to make a home.

The lizard took his time. He stretched and let the sunshine warm his shimmering skin.

“Time for something bigger now.  I shall call it Dog and it will be my friend.” Harry said to himself and was just putting together the items he needed when he heard an unfamiliar sound.

The Big Benevolent One was standing in the corner of the lawn staring down at Milo; a slightly larger god who had put together some especially clumsy-looking cactus plants.

There was an ominous rumbling.

“You can do better than this Milo.  Look around you. Look at the colours and the shapes. Move on to something beautiful or you’ll have to spend time making rocks.”

Milo frowned. He hated making rocks. It was boring, hot and the other larger gods shouted at him.  They had only a few more days to finish the Earth after all. and everyone was working as hard as they could.

Except Milo, who just wanted to lie under the trees and watch everyone else working.

The Big Benevolent One moved on to admire someone else’s work and Milo sulkily picked up some brown clay.

He rolled it idly between his hands, then on a piece of flat stone until it grew longer and thinner.

He started another, and another until the stone was covered with a number of long thin brown snakes of varying sizes.

Harry glanced over at the snakes; all blind and hungry and dull.

He got to his feet, picked up a handful of pieces left over from the lizard and walked over to Milo who felt that he had done enough and had fallen asleep.

The snakes were given jewel-bright eyes and long forked tongues.  Harry striped their brown skin with green and white, red  and blue for the big ones, and for the last he covered the brown with yellow and white stripes.

Stroking the warm skin as it came to life, Harry smiled.

“You will be a corn snake and your name will be Dave.'”

Hearing the sound of the Big Benevolent One approaching, Harry got up and returned to creating Dog.

Milo woke and looked at the fabulous snakes slithering around happily in front of him.

“Well done Milo!  Take a little break now.  Usually only lazy gods make snakes but you have done well. ” The Big Benevolent One patted Milo’s head but looked across at Harry and winked.

Harry was happy, especially when Dog came to life, wagged his tail and licked Harry’s face.

Milo snored in the sunshine.

corn snake

No one gets hurt if they don’t act funny – aggressive dogs,chatty women,cold callers, joggers – and cats!

Ey Up (that’s Northern speak for Hola)

Week two in my new home and I’m slowly getting my humans sorted out.

I confess – we have all rather fallen for each other – my Mum because she gets up first and plays silly games with me in the garden and is actually beginning to understand what I want.  My Dad because he runs fast with me and makes me grin and I am SO pleased to see him when he comes back from this thing they call work.  My Boy because he laughs when I do funny things, he gets up in the middle of the night and hugs me when everyone else is asleep, and because he is MY BOY.

We’ve done rather a lot of stuff this past week.  After the adventures at Spike Island, my Mum and Dad took me to a local park where they knew there would be lots of dogs, geese, ducks, swans and those funny little black things – coots and moorhens – I think.  There were also some disreputable characters smoking whacky baccy under the railway bridge but we’ll draw a line under them.

We did running – me and my Dad.  My Mum was in charge of the Scooby Snacks; I get them when I sit, stay, lie down and don’t pull anyone’s arm off.  I growled a bit; only at dogs that looked a bit dodgy (and the chavs under the bridge of course). Some of the other dog walkers we encountered put their dogs back on leads when they saw me pulling a bit – very considerate.

We were all enjoying the walk when this woman  with a very wet black labrador came up to us.  The labrador was a bit lippy so I barked a bit  – back atcha Soggy Snout!  My Dad took me over to the pond and gave me a hug so that I stopped barking.  The lippy labby shook smelly canal water all over my Mum, and the woman said she recognised us from the RSPCA.

The woman said “Isn’t he socialised?  I didn’t think they were supposed to be homed until they were socialised?”

Pardon me?  All I did was growl a bit.  Your dog has been chasing the wildlife, jumping in and out of the canal, making people wet and smelly by shaking himself all over them, and actually – he growled at me first!

My Mum was trying to get away from this mad woman who had now gone on to complain about the park and how she hated bringing her dog there because he always jumped in the canal, frightened the ducks and made people wet when he shook himself.

Oh for heaven’s sake woman – put him on a lead then!  Or don’t bring him to the park! And most of all don’t accuse me of not being socialised when your own dog wouldn’t win any prizes for grace or charm. I’m the one that’s been incarcerated for the past eighteen months after all.  Woof!

She went in the end and we walked on through the park, ran a bit more and then I got to stick my nose out of the car window and drool all the way home.  I love fresh air!

By comparison the next day was a bit quiet; my Dad was off shooting things with paintballs and my Boy was off shooting things with little white pellets.  There are a lot of these pellets in the garden but you can’t eat them.  I had a quiet day with my Mum, although she did take me for a walk round the block after I woofed at the United Utilities man outside.  My Mum and I were both very pleased when my Dad and my Boy came home though.  There was much excited tail wagging and grinning – on my part – my Mum doesn’t have a tail but she smiles a lot.

There have been other incidents this week; nothing terrible really but my family now know that in addition to cats, aggressive dogs and mad women, I don’t like joggers either.   Someone knocked at the front door the other evening when my Mum and I were dozing on the sofa/watching Pointless.  Oh boy did I bark!  Whoever it was had vanished by the time my Mum had calmed me down – Hah! Another cold caller bites the dust.

Oh, I have a new bed!  I still have one in the dogservatory but this one is furry and fluffy and takes up quite a lot of floor area in the living room.  I still like getting up on the sofa to have hugs but this new bed is good to crash out on and keep an eye on everyone at the same time.

I’m gradually getting introduced to my family’s favourite places too.  Yesterday we went down to another place on the river by the big bridge, no dogs but a dangerous looking jogger who got the benefit of my most menacing growl.  He passed us again but my Mum was sneaky and spotted him first; she sent me and my Dad up some steps into a lovely smelly wood and by the time we got back the jogger was just a dot in the distance.

I was a bit muddy when we got home and my Boy decided that I should have a bath.  My Mum and Dad were dubious.  Bear in mind that for the past two weeks I have been firmly told that the bathroom is out-of-bounds; it also has a clattery floor that makes my nails slip and it smells of flowers.  My Mum put a towel on the floor and with the generous dispensation of Scooby Snacks managed to get me to acquaint myself with the bath.  I got one paw in it and my snout but that was all.  I think she understood that this bath thing was a non starter so she filled a container full of warm water and we all went back into the living room where I had a fairly decent wash and brush up of the undercarriage area.  Hah! Managed to avoid the bath AND got lots of hugs into the bargain – not  to mention the Scooby Snacks.

Tonight we went up to the Monument to watch the sun set.  It was a bit chilly for the humans but I loved it.  The whole place smells of rabbits and other dogs and even more rabbits but no cats.  I had a really good sniff around, we watched some buzzards circling and a couple of planes and helicopters but the humans wimped out eventually and we went back to the car.

So I am a happy perro.  Life is full of food and snacks and sleeping and running and walking and games of hide and seek in the garden with my Mum, but best of all are the hugs.

Steamy windows, coming from a doggy heat ….

Hiya! (I said I was bilingual).

Well, I’ve been here a week now and I have to admit, this is better than kennels any day.

I have been very good – well – apart from the slight accident with the edge of the settee when my Mum spoke rather harshly to me and I had to stop mid-pee.  I held on though whilst she scrambled into boots and coat, found my lead and took me outside.  No accidents since.

The gates are a bit of a nuisance; although I tried to get through them the first night here, especially the old one, no chance.  I like the old gate best because I can see the car and the road and maybe even  – CATS.  I can smell them.

I have my own room; it used to be called the catservatory but now it is most definitely the dogservatory or Scoob’sRoom.  It has a bed where I can keep my bones and toys (and sometimes sleep when they put me here and shut the door).  It has blankets that smell of my Boy; he had them on his bed for a week before I came home so that when I’m shut in here I can smell him.   I like that.

They’re pretty quick on the uptake, my Mum, my Dad and especially my Boy. They can tell the difference between me being happy, wanting food, wanting to go out, needing hugs and wanting to go out again.  I like going out.

The first night I was here I did a lot of sniffing; they’ve had cats in this house and I can smell all the places that they used to go but it’s an old smell that doesn’t set me off now I’m used to it.

My Mum is an early bird who comes downstairs when it gets light and takes me out to the garden for an early morning sniffle and wee.  She has learnt that before she lets me out of my room, she should unlock the patio door, get her boots and coat on and be ready for my excitable greeting – a couple of circuits of the living room with my tail wagging madly should do it and then a BIG HUG.

Then we come indoors and she tells me how wonderful I am and gives me more hugs.  I sit patiently by the kitchen door whilst she makes her breakfast and I flump on her feet  whilst she eats it.  I am mellow – for a while.

Stairs – I don’t do stairs.  I can manage the first step but the stairs are made of wood and I don’t like the sound my toenails make when they clatter against them.  My Mum and Dad don’t mind about the stairs but my Boy would dearly love to have me up in his room and keeping him company. That’s where I’d be if it wasn’t for the stairs but as it is I have learned to sit at the bottom, look sad and wait patiently for the humans to come back down to me.

I don’t do chairs or sofas either.  I’m a dog and I like to keep at least two of my paws firmly on the floor and if I’m really tired I like to lie down on the carpet (oh carpet – after eighteen months of concrete floor  – I SO love carpet) and if I can put my snout or my paw onto the foot of one of my humans then all the better.  They are mine and they are tethered to me.

I don’t whine.  I don’t bark much either.  Now that  I have taken possession of  my humans and I’ve got used to my new home, I am proving my worth as a guard dog and I like to think that my basso profundo woof would put off the most enterprising intruder.  I am very pleased to meet visitors however – a bit too pleased as apparently not everyone likes having 30 kilos of happy dog in their face.  Why?  I particularly like to have a standing (or a sitting) hug with my paws on my human’s shoulders, grinning happily with my mega-tongue lolling inches from their face.  What’s not to like?  My Mum has told me that we’ll have to turn that down a bit for visitors though and she’d quite like it if I tried not to knock her over with my happiness.  No problem with my Dad and my Boy – they are taller and more steady on their feet.

The food here is good too; the Boy did research on his laptop thing and I have the best doggy food there is, no cheap tinned stuff or dried stuff full of fillers that gives you the runs and makes you windy (well – I am a bit but the humans just wrinkle their noses and turn this fan thing on for a few moments – a dog’s gotta do what a dog’s gotta do).  I get treats too; lots of hugs and nice things said to me but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the treats.

The walks are the best though.  When I was at the RSPCA, my Boy and my Mum walked me up the road, through the woods and back by the field.  I got excited when I saw the kennels but more excited when they took me round for a second circuit and then once we’d got to know each other better, a third.  Now I’m home – well that is a totally different matter.  After my early morning bounce round the garden I wait patiently till my Dad gets up ; sometimes he has his breakfast first and sometimes he can see that I need to go out NOW!  We run.  He likes to run because it is good for his back and I just like to run.  He is still getting used to walking me because he’s never had a dog before but he says lots of nice things to me and doesn’t mind me sniffing for cats.  When my Mum walks me she doesn’t like me to pull so she slows down and stops until I get the message.  Our walks take a long time as a consequence and we don’t go very far.  My Boy is the master when we walk.  He is in control.

Nappy sacks (scented and biodegradable) are much better than pooh bags which have a nasty habit of tearing when you scoop da poop.

The car is cool.  It has big windows and now that my Dad understands that I like to put my nose out of the window, snort and drool horribly at the fresh air (baby wipes are good for drool removal) I am very  happy in the car, so happy that the windows steam up from my happy heavy breathing – zero visibility – good job we have air con.  My humans talked about putting me in a cage for car journeys but bought me a special harness instead.  I would prefer to be free to leap around in the back but I suppose the idea of being hit by a jet-propelled pooch if the car stops suddenly isn’t a very good idea.

My Mum and my Dad (the Boy was still in bed) took me for a long car drive to the seaside.  It was very windy and there were loads of other dogs (including one that was so small I though it was a cat and started to get excited, then it did a little woof and I relaxed).  My Dad and I ran, and ran and ran and ran until my Mum sat down on a bench in a huff.  We came back and my Dad and I gave her hugs as she explained that running was good but it was better when we turned round and ran back to her again.

What is this thing about day and night?  Apparently humans have to go to bed when it gets dark and that’s when I get put in my room.  If my Boy can’t sleep he comes back downstairs and lets me out for a while and we sit on the floor together and watch ‘Mythbusters’ and films about guns and war. We have good hugs when everyone else is asleep. This worried my Mum a bit but she did some research on HER laptop thing and discovered that us dogs are polyphasic – which is a difficult word but it means that we don’t have day and night in Dogworld – we just sleep when we feel tired and wake up again when we want food, walks and cuddles – and when the post man calls – Big Woofs.

Yesterday I took all three of my humans for a walk to a place called Spike Island – loads of sea and woods and old concrete buildings that looked as if you could have a good sniff and wee round them but my Boy said there was broken glass there and kept me away.  My Boy smiled a lot and my Mum and Dad held hands and looked happy too.

So, at the end of the first week, I think that we can agree that I’m here to stay.  These humans are shaping up quite nicely and what they lack in experience they make up for in enthusiasm and big hugs.

Adios or Ta Ra Chuck  – whichever you prefer.