A Secret – Week 40 of the 52 week short story challenge

‘Whose turn is it now?’

Suzie looked round the table and pointed at her aunt.

‘Auntie Carole! Come on Auntie Carole. You must have a secret tucked away?’

Carole felt a cold shiver down her spine and did her best to avoid looking at her mother who was sitting next to Suzie.

‘I might have to think about that Suzie. Move on to someone else while I do?’

Suzie looked disappointed but turned instead to her Uncle Paul.

‘How about you Paul?’

Squeezing his wife’s hand, Paul looked as if he were dredging up a past memory.

‘I know,’ he said. ‘Before I was courting your Auntie Marie, I actually fancied her friend Deborah. In fact I thought I was going to the pictures with her but she never turned up. Luckily I bumped into Marie, invited her to the pictures instead and the rest is history.’

Marie punched him in the arm.

‘You never told me that! You told me that you were going to meet up with some mates who let you down! I didn’t even know that you fancied Deborah!’

He squeezed her hand again and smiled.

‘I did say it was a secret. I didn’t tell you because once I’d spent the evening with you I didn’t fancy her anymore.’

‘Did Deborah ever tell you why she didn’t turn up?’ Suzie asked.

‘She went out with a guy called Tommy instead. You knew Tommy didn’t you Carole? He was in the same gang as you and your friends for a while.’

Another chill went down Carole’s spine and she began to get a sickening feeling in her stomach. It was the mere mention of his name that caused it. That sparked a far too vivid memory of his dark curly hair and his dark brown eyes. She glanced over at her mother and saw the barely perceptible shake of the head.

They were conspirators.

Carole and her mother.

Keepers of a secret that no one else knew about.

‘Whatever happened to Tommy?’ said Paul. ‘He was always hanging around and then, when I came back from America there was no sign of him. I suppose he gave up on Carole when she went off to stay with your Great Auntie Meg in Wales. It would have been a bit of a trek for him – even on that old motorbike he had – but I thought he was really smitten with you Carole.’

‘Ancient history darling,’ said his mother. ‘Come on birthday girl, choose another person with a dark and desperate secret.’

Suzie grinned, loving the attention, loving the fact that she had her family around her on this special day. She looked round the table again.

‘Daddy? Have you got a terrible secret?’

Her father took in a deep breath which made his wife hold hers in fear of what would come next.

‘Okay. I have never told anyone this but when I was a bit younger than you Suzie, I pinched some eggs from the farm next door. There was a stack of boxes outside on a table and a honesty box. Your Grandma had sent me out to buy eggs but I spent the money on tobacco so I had to pinch the eggs instead.’

‘I’m shocked Dad!’ said Paul, trying to keep a straight face. ‘Did you get caught?’

‘No. I had a birthday the following week and I used some of my birthday money from my sister Meg to put in the box. That’s the only thing I ever pinched and I spent the whole week feeling dreadful.’

‘Your turn Suzie? What secrets have you got hidden away?’

Trying not to blush now that the wrong kind of attention was turned on her, Suzie gulped and turned to her Auntie Carole.

‘I went into your room to try on one of your dresses once. I saw a box of letters in your wardrobe and I was going to look at them but I heard Mummy calling me so I sneaked out again. Who were the letters from Auntie Carole?’

Her mother interrupted before Carole could speak.

‘I expect she means the letters that you and I sent each other when you were in Wales Carole. We used to write to each other every week without fail. I got rather lonely without either of my children at home. I didn’t know that you’d kept all those letters Carole. How sweet of you.’

The expression Carole saw on her mother’s face was anything but sweet and she knew that she would have to find a new hiding place for the letters that held her secrets.

‘But then I came along,’ said Suzie ‘And you weren’t lonely anymore.’

‘You were a bit of a surprise but you were also a blessing my darling. Daddy and I had you all to ourselves when you were a baby.’

‘Life in the old dog yet, eh Dad?’ said Paul winking and leering. His wife punched his arm again, a little harder this time and pulled a face at him. He shook his head in bewilderment, but made no more comments.

‘Have you thought of anything yet Auntie Carole?’

Carole took in a deep breath, far deeper than her father’s and squared her shoulders.

‘I do have a secret. There’s only one person in this room that knows my secret apart from me and it’s one that I’ve kept for years.’

‘Tell me?’ Suzie jumped up and down in her seat. Her mother got up from the table.

‘That’s enough now. I need to clear the tea things away, and didn’t you say that you and Marie were going on to friends this evening Paul?’

This time Marie kicked him under the table, and Paul, knowing his wife’s methods of non-verbal communication, nodded.

‘Come and help me wash up Carole dear.’

Now silent, Carole followed her mother from the room. Her father fetched Paul and Marie’s coats, then with Suzie holding possessively onto his arm, walked them out to the car and waved them goodbye.

Paul was quiet at first but once they were clear of the house, he stopped the car and turned to Marie in puzzlement.

‘What was all that about? All the punchings and kickings?’

Marie shook her head.

‘For an intelligent man you are incredibly dim at times.’

‘What? What?’

‘How old is Suzie?’

‘Fifteen. You know she is. It’s her birthday today.’

‘And where were you when she was born?’

‘In America?’

Correct. And where was Carole?’

‘In Wales with  Auntie Meg? She went there to recover from glandular fever.’

‘Glandular fever was it?’

‘I don’t know. I wasn’t here. She seemed fine when I went off to do my gap year in America and then I come back to find that she is in Wales herding sheep and my mother has had a baby. At her age!’

Marie looked pityingly at her husband.

‘Have you never wondered why it is that your parents, you and your sister are all fair with blue eyes, and Suzie has curly black hair and brown eyes?’

‘My God! Are you saying that my mother had an affair?’

Marie raised her eyes heavenwards.

‘You really are slow on the uptake sometimes Paul. Not your mother. Your sister. Carole.’

‘No! Who with? Some Welsh bloke? That would explain the colouring.’

‘Tommy. I saw the expression on Carole’s face when you mentioned his name so I didn’t say anything about what happened to him.’

‘What did happen to him?’

‘Motorbike accident. Well some say it was an accident, others say it was deliberate because Carole had had been sent away. Your parents wouldn’t tell him where she had gone and I don’t suppose he knew about your Auntie Meg living in Wales.’

‘But – but – if the baby was Carole’s how did Mum get away with pretending it was hers?’

‘Cushions, I suppose. People were a little surprised but a late life baby isn’t unusual. Your Mum and Dad went to Wales to see Carole for a fortnight and miraculously came back with Suzie. No one questioned it.’

‘So Suzie is my niece, not my sister?’

Marie nodded and put her hand on his knee.

‘What do I do Marie? What can I say?’

‘Say nothing. It isn’t your secret after all. I think that Carole came close to telling me once but your Mum came in and interrupted us. You love Carole and Suzie don’t you?’

‘Of course.’

‘I expect that they will tell Suzie one day – but it’s up to them. Apart from which I have a secret that I’ve been aching to tell you all afternoon.’

‘Oh no. Not more revelations!’

She took his free hand and placed it on her stomach.

‘This is the best kind of secret. I did a test this morning. I’d like to keep it a secret for another couple of weeks though?’

 

 

 

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Theatre – Week 19 of the 52 week short story challenge

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I may have a long standing reputation as a drama queen.

As a child I was rather good at flouncing; at throwing up when cross or crossed, and at storming out of classrooms when peeved by a teacher. My second and third years at primary school were spent sitting on the swings in the playground, singing to myself.

My big brother called me Sarah Bernhardt. I went to my Mother for an explanation. She said it was a compliment and to be grateful that he didn’t call me Sarah Heartburn. It took a few years and many books before I understood that insult.

In my fourth year I met my match. Mr Williams was a legend. He was stern; he used an old plimsoll on naughty boys, he reduced naughty girls to tears, he loved music, drama, poetry and he was determined to sort me out.

I think I threw one wobbler in that year and it was very quickly nipped in the bud by Mr Williams steely glare.

He cast me as the Artful Dodger in Oliver. I had a top hat and built my part up until it almost eclipsed Oliver himself (cast because he was a sweet looking waif with blonde locks but couldn’t sing for toffee).

I was a hit; Mr Williams was over the moon, the caretaker told my Father that I was ‘a card’ (I had to get a parental explanation for that one too but I felt that it was complimentary).

Our next production was a dance drama about Hell – guess who played the devil! There were hosts of tormented souls writhing rhythmically in leotards and me – clad in pink cord jeans, a black shirt and a fetching pink cord cap with devil’s horns (made by my Mum). It was received so well that we were invited to perform it at a competition held at the local teacher training college – run by nuns and attended by naive young ladies from the Channel Islands. Some of the mothers were a little unsure about how the nuns would take it.

We were supposed to be on first due to our tender years – everyone else was eighteen years and over – but there was a mix up with the time our coach was supposed to arrive and we got there in time to be the last – and apparently most classy – act.

It was my primary school swansong. Mr Williams went off to be a deputy head teacher at another school. I nagged my parents into letting me attend a private school with two of my friends.

It was not a success. The long bus journeys made me throw up on arrival at school every day. At my previous school I had been considered ‘snobby’ because my Mum would not let us speak in the idiom of the estate – ‘I goes to ‘im and ‘e goes to me’. Glottal stops abounded at our school. At my new school however, I was considered to be ‘common’ because I lived on a council estate and wasn’t driven to school by my parents or the au pair – the what?

Half a term later and an interview with the school head, who told my mother that I spent most of my school days crying, being sick and drawing pictures.

Private education was not for me and I returned to the safety of the local education system but to a different primary school as it was felt that returning to my old school without Mr Williams to guide me, would be a bad idea.

Not quite as bad an idea as attending a school where the headmistress and I took an instant dislike to each other. Where Mr Williams had brought out the best in me – she brought out the worst. I came very close to being expelled for my insolence and lack of respect. My Mum hadn’t helped by insisting to all her children that respect had to be earned.

A change in family circumstances meant that we relocated to other side of town and I started at a senior school – for girls. No boys at all. Just girls.

Due to a mix up in education records, I was put in the remedial class in Green or bottom band; Green, Turquoise, Emerald and Emerald (R)emedial. For three days I had a lovely time drawing pictures for my classmates and helping them colour in. Boredom set it then and I complained to my Mum.

Another head teacher’s office interview and the sneering, balloon-like head teacher who said that ‘all mummies think their gals have been put in the wrong class’. A quick call to my previous school and I was promoted to the Red band – not just the top band but the top class of the top band. Colouring became a thing of the past. I maintained my hatred for the head teacher however, and had fantasies about jumping up onto the stage during assembly and pushing her off – just to see if she really would bounce down the aisle. I controlled the impulse however, but did have a book running on which of the usual suspects would faint or throw up during assembly.

Established drama went out the window during my senior school days, and with it a possible career in singing after the miserable music mistress told me that I shouldn’t bother auditioning for the choir.

I concentrated on being a rebel without a reason and a dead loss at games – except for hockey where I was a whizz at the bully-off. My school uniform had reached total anarchy level by the time I was fifteen.

In my final year the games mistress suggested that I should take the opportunity to attend drama lessons at the local Tech College. This meant no more games, no more black nylon leotards and faded red wraparound gym skirts. No more inept tennis, netball or rounders lessons. No more miserable trudging round the 440 yard running track. Thursday lunchtime saw me on a bus to town and a brave new world.

Andrea Morris saved me. She saw something in me that Mr Williams had seen. Andrea encouraged me and instilled a lifelong love of the theatre and of Shakespeare. I lived for my Thursday afternoons and the more adult atmosphere of the Tech College, where I got to rub shoulders with gas fitters, bricklayers and very worldly ‘A’ level students.

Needless to say, the plans for me to attend Girls Grammar College to take my ‘A’ levels were abandoned and I became a full-time (ish) student at the Tech the following September. Signed up to study Drama and Theatre Studies (‘O’ and ‘A’ level), and English Literature and Sociology ‘A’ levels.

Sociology got bumped in favour of Art  ‘A’ level which also prevented me doing any more ‘games’ as Art was considered to be aesthetic rather than academic and took place from 1300 hours to 1800 hours on Wednesday afternoons – when we were supposed to be doing circuit training in the college gym.

I went on to drama school  after the Tech – to Andrea’s old drama school in Birmingham – and the drama queen became an assistant stage manager on every production I could wheedle my way into. I loved doing the lights, building sets, making props and finding things from obscure sources. I did a bit of acting too and some spectacularly bad dancing.

The unemployment rate for female assistant stage managers who couldn’t drive, didn’t have a family connection and weren’t prepared to have sex with an ‘important’ person to get a job and an Equity card, were about 98% at the time I left drama school.

So I worked behind a bar and when that ended catastrophically, I became a social worker.

“All the world’s a stage”

BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

(from As You Like It, spoken by Jaques)

All the world’s a stage, 
And all the men and women merely players; 
They have their exits and their entrances; 
And one man in his time plays many parts, 
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant, 
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms; 
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel 
And shining morning face, creeping like snail 
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

18-3

‘The Peace of Easter’

I put this rant on my FaceAche page just before the schools broke up for Easter.  I must admit to getting just a tad annoyed  by the cacophony outside my kitchen window every weekday morning and afternoon

. It should be pointed out that the local school is of a particular religious denomination and as a consequence many of the pupils and their parents live some distance away – hence the expensive overpowered cars.  The particularly strident parents (some of whom have threatened us for having the temerity to park in our own driveway while they are trying to get their offspring to school or back home)  sound a little bit Scally.

We have been known to take our boys to school by car but when they were small we used to park in the pub car park (with the owner’s blessing – his trade increased hugely on sunny days) and walk round the corner.  When they got bigger and went to high school we were permitted to drop them off and collect them only if we parked in a side road away from the school and didn’t play the car stereo too loud – SO embarrassing.  As the boys are n-n-n-nineteen and almost twenty-one now, those days are gone; replaced by longer and more complicated collections and droppings off.

The school-bound moronic mummies ceased to bother me when I went back to work full-time but now that I am home and not particularly gainfully self-employed, they make me a bit cross – sometimes – at other times I want to dash out there and slash their tyres but I am reluctant to blunt any of my new kitchen knives.

Rant!!!!!! We live on a blind corner. There is a very good reason for 20 mile an hour signs. My breakfast preparations have been marred yet again this morning by the sight (and sound) of screeching brakes and screeching thirty-something harpies in over-powered 4 x 4s who have narrowly avoided a head on crash outside my kitchen window. Oy! Surely it is a greater sin to kill your children, your air-headed selves and to smash up your car than to be a few minutes later for the school drop off? Get up earlier! Drive more slowly! Look where you are going! Oh Brainless Bimbo Mummies! (and Daddies but Mummies are in the majority).  Yes, you know who you are! Your parking is selfish and thoughtless but pales in comparison to your awful driving. Rant over – will eat breakfast now and shut up. The sun is shining and it is good to be alive. Let’s keep it that way eh?

Well, they really are dreadful.  When my boys were small I would often walk them to school and back – when I say walk I mean one in the buggy and the older school age one hanging off the back.  It was me that did the walking. Trying to get past the on the pavement by the school just up the road (not the one my boys went to) was almost impossible. Huge gas-guzzling cars barred my way whilst I ran the gauntlet of gossiping mothers with far bigger, better buggies than  mine, looking down their noses at me as I struggled to get past.  They only used said buggies to transport the youngest from the car  to the school gate; the wheels were spotless and only a matching designer changing bag hung from the handles whilst mine were festooned with carrier bags.

After one particularly frustrating trip which resulted in us taking a detour past the  local shop (once an old-fashioned newsagent with jars of sweets and a man who did bird impressions – now an estate agent), I phoned the council to complain and was rewarded with a set of zig zag lines outside the school.

Not that the mummies took much notice. In some cases they are parked up on the other side of the road as much as an hour beforehand leaving the latecomers to park as close to the zig zag lines  as possible and leave no room for cars to get through the middle – especially when the car doors are wide open as they take an age to lash their little ones into the car seats.

Just before the Easter holidays bestowed peace and tranquility on all our houses; I called the police to have a moan. The woman on the other end of 101 listened patiently and even gave me a crime number.

I was mollified.

Whilst sipping my Vanilla-Latte-Macchiato (no added Valium or painkillers) and idly channel-flipping, I received a call from a very nice PCSO from the local (and very nearby) police station.

She was picking up on my complaint about the speeding and parking.  She was very sympathetic (she’s a local girl) but told me a few facts that make me dread the coming term even more.

  • The 20 and 30 mile an hour signs that have blossomed on lamp posts throughout the locality are not enforceable.  They have been put there by the council as a traffic calming initiative.  This may be why the mummies don’t take any notice of them – or it might just be because the mummies are morons and paid someone else to take their driving test.
  • Similarly, zig-zag lines outside a school are not enforceable and the Highway Code suggestion that you should not park right on road junctions is merely that – a suggestion.
  • The mummies could get done for dangerous driving if caught in the act but with five primary schools and a  high school on their beat, the police are trying to solve real crime – allegedly.
  • The mummies could get busted for obstruction if their god-awful parking barred the lawful progress of an emergency vehicle – no doubt trying to speed through and attend an accident caused by other stupid mummies.
  • The police say it is the council’s responsibility to sort out the parking and speeding issues, the council says it is the school’s responsibility, the school says it is up to the police and hey presto! We are back where we began.

The nice PCSO promised to get a colleague to pop into the school after the break and have a word. I can think of several but I am still mellowed by the uninterrupted sound of birdsong and my dog wuffing at the postman – oh, and the people across the road having a very colourful and explitive filled row – and the man on the other side of them throwing his empty whisky bottles into the blue recycling bin.

Dammit!  Back to earplugs and  ‘Homes Under the Hammer‘ on subtitles next week then.

The heat is on ….

Hola amigos!  Wotcha mates! Or even Aiya luv!  See how proficient I am at this multilingual stuff?

I am still here after my first month and my paws are well and truly under the table – well they would be if it wasn’t for the fact that my Mum, Dad and the Boy seem to use the table as a general dumping ground rather than for eating off.    At the moment it is a mess of paperwork, gloves, hats, books, CDs, DVDs and – ooh drool – I can see Scooby snacks half-hidden by a magazine and just waiting for me to devour them (the magazine is ‘Heat’ – bought by my Mum for the ‘Weird Crush’ article – it seems that she has a weird crush on three-quarters of the weirdos therein).

Back to life   – back to reality – back to the here and now.  What a lyrical pooch I am but before the present a small recap to explain the even greater level of disorder and chaos in this house.

The boiler died.  My dogservatory became very cold at night and as a consequence I was permitted to sleep in the living room  – on the sofa – AT NIGHT and ALL NIGHT  – not just when the Boy couldn’t sleep and came down for munchies and a cuddle.

I hasten to point out that during this period I was very, very good, and didn’t eat or destroy anything.  In fact – since the one-off incident with the stale bagel I have not pinched anything at all.  I’ll say this for my family, they provide me with decent grub so that I don’t have to help myself.  Not that I would take anything that my Boy cooks anyway – he has a tendency to lace everything with lashings of Tabasco Sauce – not good for a  doggy constitution.

Whilst my main meals are stable and of high quality (they got a 10% discount at the pet shop and bought some decent food in bulk) my Mum has been browsing in the pet aisles at various supermarkets to find a variety of healthy and enticing snacks with which to encourage good (i.e. subservient) behaviour.  Anything that smells highly of bacon is good for a snuffle hound like me but cheesy stuff is appreciated too.

I digress.  Apparently my Dad has been intending to replace the boiler – and the entire heating system –  for some time and then Fate forced his hand.  It was going to take two days, there would be no heat or hot water and LOTS of disruption.  Not ideal for an old lag like me who is just getting acclimatised to my new surroundings after eighteen months in the chokie but the alternative wasn’t too palatable either.

So there were quite a few days of dust and disorganisation whilst my Mum and Dad cleared away years of detritus from in front of the radiators (there was some recycling but much of the junk has just been moved from one space to another).  On the Sunday before the work was due to begin I became so excited about the patio door being left open that during one of my mad running in and out moments I made the mistake of revealing to my Dad how easy it would be for me to jump over the six-foot wall by the gate (not that pleasant though as there is a huge Pyracanthus bush on the other side that would have seriously wrecked my lovely glossy coat and left my family picking prickles out of me for months afterwards.)

The patio door was shut firmly at that point and the Dyson brought out in an effort to keep the dust levels down and stop my Mum wheezing and sneezing.

Monday morning and the men (well – big boys) arrived.  I should state here that I now I have my own home again I am just a little protective about it – ask the postman.  I confess to a bit of huffing and growling at first, and due to the number of open doors and heavy metal radiators in the yard, I had to wear my lead and be tethered to a family member.  We spent a large amount of the day huddled together for warmth on the sofa whilst the boiler boyz whizzed from room to room whipping out the grungy old radiators and installing the shiny new ones.  There was also a fearsome and intriguing amount of noise from my Mum and Dad’s bedroom which had a lot to do with the removal of a giant copper tank, several smaller tanks and the collapse of a wooden louvred door that used to cover up the big tank.  There was much wuffing on my part but the growling ceased.

On Tuesday a third boiler boy joined the team and there was even more noise so my Mum and Dad took me for a nice walk in the woods.  There were bunnies but although I was on the extending lead I couldn’t quite catch them (well – when I say ‘quite’ I mean they were some distance away in reality but if they’d been cats ….. who knows?)

The boiler boyz were finished by Tuesday tea time; they cleaned up and took all the old radiators, tanks and packaging away with them so that I could have my yard back again.  My day doesn’t seem right unless it starts with me and my shivering Mum out in the yard playing hide and seek for treats – it is best in the dark but she only does this when my Dad is on a morning shift or she can’t sleep.  Once I’ve stretched my legs and consumed sufficient treats we usually curl up on the sofa together and heckle news readers on the BBC.

The house was warm again – a bit too warm until my Mum read the instructions on how to programme the new heating system.  It meant that my freedom of the living room was curtailed though and I was back in my room at night (apart from the time when the Boy didn’t shut the door properly and I sneaked out once he’d gone to bed).

So a week on and we still have dusty boxes and bags scattered around; the pressure  is off so my Mum and Dad have slowed down on their good intentions – the Boy has his own standards of tidiness regarding his room but as I still won’t do stairs they must remain a mystery – I have heard my Mum yelling at him about clearing up his pit, bringing the rubbish down and putting his dirty dishes in the dishwasher.  He only seems to do these things for reward however – and we aren’t talking Scooby snacks either.

Last Friday was a pretty wonderful day for me.  We had our longest drive over to the Wirral and went on a big sandy beach. My Mum and Dad took the extending lead and I ran.  I ran a lot.  In fact I ran so much that I pulled the lead out of my Mum’s hand and legged down the beach. Hampered by wellies, my Dad came after me but couldn’t catch me.  At that point I remembered the Scooby snacks in my Mum’s pocket, took pity on my Dad and ran back to my Mum’s relieved and ever open arms.  I do like to be beside the seaside.

The Boy was helping his friend move house all day that day and we went to collect him – another car trip.  I LOVE our car especially when I can stick my nose out of the window and drool down the glass.  I was allowed in the new house and after some persuasion and many Scooby snacks, I actually made it up the stairs.  Well, they were carpeted, unlike the clattering wooden slats we have at home.  They let me off the lead and I explored but disgraced myself a bit by christening the carpet in one of the bedrooms.  They all needed to be cleaned anyway.  A dog has to leave his mark.

We went visited again a couple of days ago and discovered that their own dog (an elegant older woman greyhound who I have already approved) and a dog belonging to another family member (a skittish little whippet girl who has NO manners at all) had followed suit and also watered the same piece of carpet.  I had to be relegated to the car on this visit because the intrusive nose of the whippet made me bad tempered, growly and I used the edge of the sofa as a lamp post substitute. Oops.

I’m afraid I am being a bit of a trial to my family at the moment.  My wuffing and growling whilst out has become a bit unpredictable and as a consequence there are now places in the neighbourhood that are no-go areas – sometimes only limited by the time of day as with the local school and the demented mothers who park all over the pavement and have yappy designer dogs that they can’t control.  There is also the road where the mad man with long grey hair lives.  He too has a yappy little dog and allows it to hurl abuse from behind a gate usually but the other day when my Mum and I were having a leisurely stroll, he let the thing out and it went for us.  I out-wuffed it but my Mum had me on a tight rein (so tight that she burnt her hands and ripped off a fingernail – I am very strong) so I couldn’t do much more than tell it what I thought of it.  The mad man grabbed his dog by the tail and tried to get it back on to the other side of the road – not back behind the gates – just to the other pavement where he let go and the dog came charging towards us again.

We turned tail and walked back the way we’d come with my Mum muttering about ‘responsible dog ownership’ and the mad man stating that it was a ‘free country’.  I expressed my feelings by having a huge poop when we got out of sight.  It made me feel better but my Mum, already struggling with the burnt hands and torn fingernail, was not impressed.  The mood lifted when we passed the bus stop and a nice old lady remarked on how handsome I was.  My Mum had to agree and doled out the Scooby snacks as I melted hearts with my big brown eyes.

There have been a couple of other incidents since then; I went for a large black husky-type yesterday – well – when I say went for, I mean growled and wuffed and pulled  – but my timing was a bit off.  I really shouldn’t do that sort of thing when my Dad is scooping poop.  He got a bit cross and stern.  The day continued to deteriorate with the visit from the nice man installing some equipment for the broadband upstairs.  Unfortunately, although my Mum and Dad said he was nice, he smelled very strongly of cigarettes and that set me off with the growling and wuffing again.  My Mum put me on lockdown; on the lead and sitting at her feet, banned from the sofa, stern voice and in disgrace for the rest of the afternoon.  They took me out for a walk later but it was one of those ‘we are in charge and you will walk slowly and nicely or we stand still till you do and there are no Scooby snacks’ walks.  Being an intelligent dog, I latched on quickly, did as I was asked and got lots of praise, hugs (and Scooby snacks) as a consequence.  We were all shattered when we got home though.

So – I need to accept that my family are in charge and that they don’t like me to wuff and growl excessively (four wuffs is okay in the house – that’s part of my guard dog duty).  They need to be consistent however, and harden themselves to my imploring eyes.  I think they understand now that sometime in my past a bad man smelling strongly of cigarettes, with a shaven head,and the physique of a bouncer, hit me and made me frightened.  I know they won’t let that happen to me again but I am only a dog (albeit a beautiful and intelligent dog) and such fears are deeply rooted.

On the upside (as my Mum has discovered by reading one of the many dog books that she has acquired) I am very good in the house, I was very gentle with the little girl and the baby that visited last weekend, I don’t get territorial about food, I am not destructive and I wait to be invited to sit on the sofa where I give excellent cuddles.

We are all shaping up – and considering we’ve only had one month together – not doing too badly.

When can we go to the seaside again?

 

 

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.

‘”Bah, humbug!” No, that’s too strong ’cause it’s my favourite holiday. But all this year’s been a busy blur, don’t think I have the energy’

Well, the PAM has brought new meaning to ‘that’s you off my Christmas List then!’  The list has been cut by half due to circumstances beyond our control.

Not that I’m complaining – she has to sit still with this poor old foot up when she’s writing Christmas cards – and to some extent when she’s wrapping up presents – though she tends to wriggle and fidget a bit more with the latter.

The last two days have been difficult here in V-toe land.

On Friday the teen had to be taken to his Muay Thai lesson as the teacher had no transport (some weird sort of martial art if you must know).  This entailed a trip to the outer reaches but the PAM’s face lit up when she found that these reaches touched on the Trafford Centre.  Truculent teen was dropped off and PAM and the other half hit the TC – she with glee – but not he.

It wasn’t too bad to start off with but the other half had to go to collect the teen and left the PAM in a queue a million miles long.  Goods bought and paid for eventually, she lugged me off to that newsworthy coffee shop where, after some suitably comic moments, she finally managed to heave us all up onto a bar stool with an excellent people-watching advantage and a venti gingerbread latte.

The other half and the teen were supposed to meet her there, they’d go for lunch and have another little spot of retail therapy.

Ha!

The world descended on the TC at lunchtime.

The other half and the teen had a falling-out which resulted in both of them phoning the PAM separately to complain about the other. I sat smugly tucked up under the bar stool (I was wearing one of my little black WWs with sparkly black trim and a white ribbon bow – so cute).

It was a race to see who was the most cross and therefore walked the fastest.  The teen won but in his haste completely overshot the coffee-house and had to be texted to bring him back.

The PAM and I were captive; all the effort that it took to get us up on the stool was sapped by the animosity being expressed to each other by her menfolk ( the rest of the toes and I NEVER fall out with each other – although there have been occasions where we’ve been more than a little squashed and tetchy).

The other half helped her down and the consensus was to get the flock out of there; the TC is no place to be with an over-sensitive toe, grumpy husband and deeply morose son.

Usually the car is a safe haven but not on that day.  It is a large car but not with two miserable men in it.  Food was essential to restore the equilibrium and after a long and winding route back into civilisation, sustenance was obtained from the other fast food place with a drive-thru (not the chicken-y one).

After the morning’s traumas, I thought the PAM would be kind and tuck me up on her cushion whilst she tackled the ominous essay.  No such luck.   Some of the other half’s temper was caused by an achy-breaky back but luckily the physio with the magical fingers had a five o’clock slot and so we were off out into the rain again in the rush hour.  Plenty of over the top Christmas decorations to be appalled at on the way though.

The other half  had his back cracked and was more cheerful but still no chance of going home.  They have run out of food again and a trip to the supermarket is the only solution.

I’m getting used to the cold – changes in temperature will cause the stinging stuff and occasional jab of white-hot pain – but RAIN!  The holy boot I wear is no protection against rain and on the way back from the car, hands full of shopping, the PAM went straight through the water feature that gathers on the paving stones outside the kitchen door.

Cold!  Wet! Pain!  My chic little WW was soaked as was my boot.  Thank heaven for radiators (although not for drying wet clothes on  – you get that horrible rank false-dry odour that often wafts past you in the office, or supermarket, or TC).

Everyone was talking to each other again and the evening was spent in cushion cuddling bliss for me – essay-agitation for the PAM.  Don’t know why – she should be an expert on corporate harm and negligence by now – ooh – controversial!

Up with the lark on Saturday to collect the other one from Uni. Various issues conspired to make us all late – as usual; my outfit for today was the giant Christmas WW which allows me to peek cheekily out of the boot in scarlet splendour and has apparently caused male envy due to it’s size (the one that accommodates me AND the the other four toes).

It was a long drive North but the heat was ON – and I was content.  The PAM and the other half were singing along to 80’s hits and all was reasonably well with the world – especially when it stopped raining.

The other one is in a shared house now but  there was no frantic cleaning of the communal kitchen or washing up flamingo-style this year  – his housemates are tidy ladies and he meets their exacting standards.  There was a huge pile of recycling to take, but the other half likes doing this and the PAM and I merely sat in the still-warm car and made silly comments.

What looked like several weeks worth of washing and ironing, together with enough equipment to supply a small independent office, was packed into the car and we stopped en route for home to have a late but extremely civilised lunch.  We all avoided alcohol – well nearly – the PAM was seduced by a coffee laced with Tia Maria and was therefore a tad merry when clambering back into the car – hey  – it is Christmas nearly!

Homeward bound and the roads weren’t too bad considering.  A slight detour to buy more fast food for the teen – who had been left home in bed with strict instructions to clean up his mess – instructions that were ignored of course.

Getting his priorities right – the other one unpacked his computer gear first and ensured that he had Internet access before he touched  anything else.

I’d like to say that we all had a peaceful night – I’d like to – but the teen was playing with the other kids in America and the yattering went on all night so that it was almost a relief to get up with the other half who was heading off to work at some ungodly hour.  It should be mentioned that his bad back was caused by a combination of crouching ready to pounce at paintball and spending most of Thursday sitting in the jump seat of an Airbus 317 whilst it went to Madrid and back via Valencia.

The PAM was suitably sympathetic and the other half had a nice time despite his back.

Oooooh, time for Christmas wrapping – but not the waitress sort.