A new definition of ‘dry’

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See, I always thought that ‘dry’ was the opposite of ‘wet’. That is; without moisture, or at least with a very low moisture content.

But I bought a pack of Morrison’s ‘Dry Cure’ ham a few days ago which was anything but dry. It was covered with a sheen of moisture, and there were actually droplets of water1 on the surface of the meat.

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So what on earth is up with that? It says ‘Dry Cure’ quite plainly on the label and yet when I opened it up, there it was practically sitting in a puddle of water!

Dry cure? Pull the other one.

Morrisons, please explain. I’m listening. Meanwhile, the only one who’s going to be eating this crap is Sid2.

1 Well. I say ‘water’, but in fact it is probably a kind of chemical soup composed of preservatives and salts.

2 Which is why there are a couple of slices missing. I didn’t eat them, Sid did – and with every appearance of enjoyment. But then, he can’t read.

So many things …

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You know how it is. There are so many things to do, so many places to go, and so many blog posts you mean to write. The last is particularly true, and I’ve made a lot of notes, and then .. the ‘so many things to do’ and the ‘so many places to go’ went and got in the way.

I really want to start blogging properly again, but it seems I don’t have much time to craft the sort of posts I used to do, so for now, I’m going to be putting up brief snippets of this and that, starting with something I usually get into at this time of year; macro photography of wildlife.

The little creature up at the top is a tiny bee, less than a centimetre in length, which at first I thought was a wasp on account of its tiny waist. It’s called Hylaeus communis, which I’d never have known if it weren’t for the freely offered expertise of a Swedish guy called Göran Holmström, who belongs to the same ‘bee and wasp’ group as I do. Facebook can be a wonderful thing, when used wisely.

This next picture is one of our commonest hoverflies, and one of the most frequently photographed. I adore hoverflies, but these little guys annoy the hell out of me because when I’m trying to get a picture, they hover motionless about half a metre in front of me, poking their tongues out and taunting me, then when I slowly raise the camera to their level, they dart out of sight – only to return seconds later in a slightly different spot!

Episyrphus balteatus (also known as the Marmalade Fly) meet your public.

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While I was out photographing bees and hoverflies a week or so ago, I noticed this day-flying moth on a daisy. It’s called ‘Mother Shipton’ because it has a little witch’s face on each wing.

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Now, you all love ladybirds, right? Can’t get enough of them, I bet. Even people who hate ‘bugs’ and ‘creepy-crawlies’ like ladybirds – I mean, they’re not really beetles are they?1

How about this then?

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That’s the larva of a Seven-Spot Ladybird, in the process of pupating. Only its mother could love it. Well, it’s mother and me, and lots of other insect fans, actually.

Okay, let’s finish with something cute. Here is a Mullein moth caterpillar eating my buddleia. Considering the number of them, and the size of them, it’s amazing there isn’t more damage, but in fact I can hardly see where they’ve been!

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You don’t think that’s cute? Oh, well. Can’t please you all .. but try this.

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That’s the Seven Spot Ladybird that the weird-looking larva you saw up there will one day turn into. Well, one like it, anyway!

If you’re interested in insects, no matter if you know very little, try joining one of the Facebook groups. The people there are lovely and willingly identify things for anyone who asks. I am a member of UK Hoverflies, Insects of Britain and Northern Europe, and UK Bees, Wasps and Ants.

1 Actually, yes. Yes, they are. They are absolutely 100% beetles.

Sad news

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It’s been a while, and that’s because I have been feeling wounded. I guess my way of dealing with emotional wounds is to stop communicating, because I remember doing it when I lost two dogs at once, and also when my mother died. It seems to be my way.

Oh, I function, on a day-to-day level, and fulfill my commitments – those that can’t be avoided – and after a few days I smile and carry on, but when it comes to putting myself out there, I don’t. Not after telling those who are in the know, as it were. Then after a while I peep outside my little shell and do non-personal stuff, like Facebook games and the wildlife pages, and that phase can last quite a while.

This time it was my lovely, sweet old Jeffie – the dog I didn’t want to keep. The dog I tried to send back, but nevertheless fell in love with (as you do) and who became my friend, my clown, my daft old clumsy, barker-at-doorbells and runner-into-things. My lovely Jeffie had to be put to sleep a few weeks ago, just shy of his thirteenth birthday. We’d had him three years.

He was called Ranger, when we met him. And he was smart enough, when we went to visit him in his foster home, to sell himself to OH by play-bowing to him – something no potential dog had ever done for him before, and which charmed the socks off him. He didn’t want a black dog1, but being play-bowed to swept away his prejudice on that score and we brought Ranger home.

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The first thing I noticed was that he was head-shy. When anyone put a hand anywhere close to his head, he growled and leapt into the air as if he’d been burned. There is usually a reason for this, and though it took me a week, I finally got a peek inside his mouth and … yep. There was a reason for it. The poor dog had a huge, red, thumb-sized ulcer where a canine used to be. When he went in to be treated, the vet said he had bits of loose bone left in there, and a fistula nearly through to his nasal cavity, so I can’t imagine how sore the poor old guy was. It was cleaned and debrided under GA, and I cleaned and cared for it at home – with much growling and bronco bucking.

Then he would run into things. He ran into his food stand (solid wood) and broke a metatarsal. He ran into a brick wall in our garden at about 1am and cut himself badly, and unfortunately, one of the things he regularly ran into was Sid, who really didn’t need running into, and this was why I tried to return him. Equally unfortunately, though the convention is that a fosterer does not fill a foster dog’s place until everyone is absolutely sure that he is not going to bounce2, this fosterer did so, and when I rang to ask her to take him back, she said sorry, but there was no room.

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She said, don’t worry, Sharon will take him back. Well, yes, Sharon would certainly have taken him back, but who was going to adopt a ten-year-old black dog who growled at his people, body-slammed the existing dog and kept running into solid objects and injuring himself? He permanently had shaved patches and dressings. He didn’t like his feet touched or his nails clipped and would growl at me for that, too. Let’s face it, he’d have spent the rest of his life in the kennel.

So we kept him.

Once I knew we were kind of stuck with Ranger, I decided to change his name for a fresh start. Nobody quite knows why3, but it often works, and so it did for us. I told him he could stay, and that his name was now Jeffie, and he – miraculously – stopped running into things quite so often. He still body-slammed Sid, and to be frank, he was the reason Sid needed so many pain-killers, but we all got used to having him around, then we got fond of him, and then … the daft old dog and I got very close. In fact during his last illness he didn’t want me out of his sight and if I left the house, he’d mope and whine till I got home. So my lovely pink fringe grew halfway down my nose and the grey crept from the roots and took over two inches or more of the pink from that end, as I became a little bit of a recluse.

The thing was, he had Canine Cognitive Disorder4, degenerative myelopathy, and finally – and disastrously – liver cancer. We were managing the first two quite well, but bless his heart, the liver cancer made him very unwell. He had intractable diarrhoea and simply could not hold it. Sometimes he didn’t even seem to know he was doing anything. Mostly he’d make a mad dash for the back door and try desperately to get himself out, but even when the door was actually open he often couldn’t make it. We’d have a small, but very smelly, trail to clean, often spanning three carpets and sometimes more. We were so very glad we had a new Vax carpet machine for a fairly easy clean-up.

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So. There was a medication routine two or three times a day, cleansing and nursing routines, dry-foam oat baths to ease his itching, and many gallops through the house to the back door in the wee small hours, followed by much carpet cleaning. There were also many snuggles and gentle scritches, and the cooking of tasty titbits to tempt the failing appetite and now that Jeffie’s gone, Sid is wondering if the world has run out of chicken breast5.

Right up to his last day, Jeffie was perky, seemed happy and interested in life and loved a fuss. He ate his tablets wrapped in corned beef or meat paste. His appetite wasn’t great, but he enjoyed his little – his very little – walks, and he was able to go off-lead for his last couple of weeks because if he’d got startled and tried to bolt, he wouldn’t have got far before collapsing. And he did enjoy that.

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I called the vet out twice and said I thought this was it, but we managed to carry on a little longer – mainly because he was so alert and content. But on the last day, though he got up and met the vet at the door to greet her, she looked at him and said ‘I think the time has come’. He had got so thin that he was like a skeleton covered in fur and his medication was no longer working.

And so the deed was done, in his own bed, with Sid next to him. I felt like a murderess and cried for about three days solid, but now I can see that it was the only humane thing to have done. I still cry. I am crying now. But it was time, it really was.

Sid … I think Sid does miss him. But he’s finding it so much easier to jump in and out of the car without a second bed in there, and now that he isn’t being body-slammed life is less painful for him, and he’s OK. He hasn’t pined as previous dogs have pined on losing their companion, and I think it was because he was there when Jeffie left us, and was able to sniff his body. I will never again take a dog into the surgery to be put to sleep, if I can help it. It’s so much more peaceful at home.

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It was time.  Looking back at the photos of that last week, it’s easier to see.

I don’t miss the carpet cleaning, the medication and nursing, or the huge amount of cooking I had to do to get food into my little sick dog. I don’t miss the cost of the drugs and vet visits, or the smell of excrement or the puddles of urine or seeing him fade to almost nothing. But I do miss my silly, funny, loving little old black guy. My companion and friend, who loved me probably even more than I loved him.

1 Black dogs are unpopular in rescues. It’s a combination of a myth that black dogs are more aggressive, and the fact that they don’t show off to advantage in a kennel situation.

2 ‘Bounce’ is a term we use to describe a dog that returns to kennels after being rehomed.

3 The truth is, changing a dog’s name probably helps the owners to change the way they react to the dog, which in turn can change the way the dog responds. I was aware that we’d got off to a bad start, and felt it would help us to turn things around. It did.

4 The dog form of Alzheimer’s Disease.

5 He got lucky the other day. We had a power cut ten minutes after putting four chicken breasts into the oven. No way to finish cooking them, so …

6 Yes, I know there isn’t a six. Congratulations for reading this far!

A Family Thing

I wrote this post last week, but then my poor old Jeffie deteriorated further and on Friday was diagnosed with liver cancer, so I’ve been concentrating on spending time with him, enjoying his company and making sure he is as comfortable as possible in his remaining days or weeks. I wanted to add another photo, but for now I’ll publish and if I find the picture I wanted, I’ll add it later.

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Last week, I cashed in a Christmas gift.

When a couple has been married for thirty-eight years1, it becomes a tad harder for them to find suitable gifts for each other, so in recent years, OH and I have tended to try to find something a little different. There have been concert tickets, for instance, and one time I sent him on a cheese-making course which he thoroughly enjoyed. Often we can make these things a surprise, but sometimes we resort to asking for a list, and this last Christmas I asked to be taken to the ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ family history fair at the Birmingham NEC.

However, neither of us could have foreseen that this would be the week that poor Jeffie deteriorated to the point where we both felt it would be unfair to send him to Sharon’s for three days while we swanned off enjoying ourselves2 – even though she’s really great with the dogs and Sid used to live with her anyway – because it’s a small house and it has anywhere between eight and twelve greyhounds living in it at any one time. The poor old guy would have got knocked about and he wouldn’t have eaten, and that would have meant he’d have come home thinner and even less well. So we decided that I would go, and OH would stay home and care for the dogs.

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As it turned out it was a good decision, because he had a crisis and we called the vet out today (Sunday) really thinking that it would be a case of euthanasia, which caused not a few tears. But I’m happy to say that he’s still here, and doing a bit better. He is being given medication and we’ll see how he goes over the next few days. (Please forgive the placement of the copyright notice on that one, by the way. It’s to discourage the more extreme anti-racing activists from stealing it for their propaganda. Trust me, I’ve had this happen in the past and it’s really upsetting).

So anyway, on Wednesday evening, I arrived at the hotel3 armed with the tickets, my laptop, a couple of notebooks, many pencils, and some old family photos to take to the experts for dating to give me a clue as to who the hell was in them. And Thursday morning, bright and early, I was in the door and doing the rounds.

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One of my photos caused some excitement since it appeared to have been taken by a somewhat famous photographer, and while I still haven’t identified everyone who is in it, I know which regiment the man in the centre belonged to, and the approximate year range, and I know that one of the young ladies is my grandmother, and the others are great aunts (her sisters) so I can probably narrow it down. And I have some great information which should help me with some of the others, too. I did get my wrist slapped a bit for taking in a reprint of one instead of the original, because he needed to see the back to be able to tell me where and when it was taken, and of course the back of mine was a nice, clean … blank.

Then it was on to the ‘Ask The Experts’ desk to book a couple of sessions, and I’d hardly got to the front of the queue and made my bookings than it was time to find my seat in the first lecture of the day, after which I managed to look around a few stands and have some lunch before the next one began. I attended a lecture called ‘Are You Sitting Comfortably?’ on how to organise my research, and called simply ‘Parish Records’, the first of which was sobering but incredibly useful, and the second both fascinating and a little disappointing because I wanted to make notes of what was written on the slides but they were whipped away so quickly that I missed a lot.

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As you can tell, it was a very, very busy day. I came away with pages of notes, some great ideas on how to proceed on several different fronts, and a huge amount of enthusiasm. The next day was the same except that I never did get to the ‘Ask The Experts’ desk to book more sessions because I had two lectures booked for the morning and early afternoon and I needed to leave by half past two to get home. I’d only booked two nights at the hotel – and, of course, I wanted to get back to my sick dog. Friday’s lectures were ‘Scottish Parish Records’, which was a much better presentation than the English one, and ‘Copyright & Family History’ which was excellent if a little daunting and I’m not sure I understood it all completely.

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All in all, it was a great event and I was really very surprised not to find it more crowded and busy, though I chose to attend on the Thursday and Friday, and I’m going to assume that probably by the weekend you could barely move in there. I’ve never been to one of these things before, but I’ll go next year if I can, and next time I’ll be a whole lot better prepared. For one thing, I’ll beg or borrow an iPad instead of dragging a laptop around, I’ll sort out more (original) photos to take along, and I’ll plan my time better. Oh, and I’ll book the lectures earlier, too, because the popular ones really do fill up quickly. I never got so much as a glimpse of Tony Robinson, and I know he was giving one. That would have been fun!4

I particularly liked these 1930s tea rooms. Incidentally, you could get a lovely cup of tea and a really good Eccles cake in there!

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1 Yes, I am that old. Old as dirt, as my American friends say. I’m practically an antique.

2 Well, one of us would have been enjoying ourselves. The other one would have been utterly miserable and wishing he was anywhere but the NEC. In fact at one point, I sent him a text which read ‘This is FUN! You’d have hated it’.

3 But not, as it happened, the hotel we’d booked. We arrived at the really nice, luxury hotel OH had booked only to be told that they ‘had a problem with the booking’, which roughly translated almost certainly means ‘Ooops, we double-booked and you’re the unlucky ones’. They booked us a room at another hotel which they assured us would be of comparable quality, but was it heck as like. It was the Novotel at Birmingham Airport. Clean, reasonably comfortable but with toilet paper which appeared to have been made from recycled MacDonald’s drinks trays and about ten inches between the bed and the wall to slide along in order to get into the damn thing. Oh, and peculiar things like windows that opened, but with a notice on them which said in capital letters ‘DO NOT OPEN THIS WINDOW’ and three light switches between the toilet and the bathroom which you would think operated the lights for those rooms plus the little entrance area but which in fact did not. One of them worked the bedroom lights, while the bathroom switch was in the bedroom area. It was nearer to the NEC though, so it wasn’t all bad.

4 Although I’d have sat there grinning and thinking ‘I’m watching Baldrick giving a lecture on family history!’

A Very Blustery Day

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Bet you don’t know what that is.

Well, I’ll tell you. It’s a long streak of paint about fifteen inches long and nearly two inches wide on the outside wall of our house, and it comes from my car. No, I didn’t misjudge the width of the driveway1, nor did I back into it, or anything like that.

See, what happened was this; we took the dogs out this morning for their walk, and since Jeffie is so frail these days and Sid doesn’t want to go too far either, we drove them round to where we can do a nice walk in the countryside without having to walk to get there first. They had a lovely stroll in the sunshine – yes, and the wind – alongside a dyke, then diagonally across an open field and back along the road to the car. Took about 25 minutes, nice and slow. They really loved it, and so did I2.

Back home, OH backed the car neatly into place so that the dogs could jump out right by the front door and turned off the engine. I opened the door … and it was ripped out of my hand and slammed into the wall so hard that it has actually flattened a strip of the edge of the door about .. well, about fifteen inches long and about an inch wide.

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It’s also taken the paint clean off where it creases – if you look again at the photo at the top, you can see that at the point where it first hits the wall it’s a nice deep blue, which gets progressively lighter until it’s white, which I presume is the undercoat. And, incidentally, bruised my fingers, that’s how hard it was torn away from me. I’m glad I wasn’t wearing my rings at the time or there might have been blood.

So now I’m extremely pissed. This is my beloved Yaris Verso, which I have had from new and which is a perfect dogmobile. They don’t make them anymore, and I’ve been nursing it because it’s nearly thirteen years old. It was in extremely good nick.

Not anymore.

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I’m hoping that it can be beaten out and resprayed nicely, otherwise it’ll be a new door – and heaven knows how much that will cost.

Oh look! You get a bonus picture of me (disgruntled) taking that picture of the damage. Aren’t you lucky?

1 The driveway is very open to being misjudged. It looks straight, but it isn’t. There is a subtle angle on it, and also, it narrows. It’s not easy to back into, but we’ve both more or less got the hang of it now, after twenty-odd years.

2 Can’t say the same about OH, who moaned continually about the wind, and how cold it was, and how he wished he’d never agreed to come. To be fair, he suffers badly from the cold and has always hated wind.

Photo Blogging Challenge – ‘Two’

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I’m knocking on the door of too late here, but I think I’ll squeeze in. The prompt for A Li’l HooHaa‘s photo blogging challenge for March is ‘Two’ and it must be done by today, or we’re into April and a new theme.

Now, I knew about this one from the start of March because of having joined in with February’s challenge, so I’ve been keeping an eye open for pictures which fit the bill. We’re supposed to avoid posting pictures from the archives, because the whole idea is to encourage us to go out there and work a little on our photography – and that’s what I’ve done. All of these pictures were taken during this month with this challenge in mind.1

As soon as I saw my son and one of his small daughters on the bouncy bike and sidecar, I thought of the old music hall song ‘Daisy, Daisy’.2 DS No 2 (ha! Another ‘two’) is a Stay At Home Dad, so he has a very strong rapport with the twins. Can you tell?3

Here are both girls together. Yep, two of them – identical twins, who happen to be nearly two years old. Very handy, that.

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I think Son No 2 is really very lucky to have this opportunity to be with his young daughters so much.

So then I started to get into the swing of the challenge and thought about some more unusual ‘twos’. Taken on the same day, here’s a picture of the grandparents… or rather, our shadows on the grass as we watch the young family at play. This one took a little post-processing because it wasn’t shot in black & white. It also needed a random bit of stick taken out and the shadows deepening for better contrast.

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The bright spot in the top right was part of the original composition, though.

The next one was the product of a deliberate trawl through my kitchen to find pairs of things to photograph. Believe it or not, this shot was not set up. The lovely glass oil and vinegar bottles were right there, just as they appear, next to the two jugs on the dresser shelf. I have a bit of a thing about jugs!

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This one was shot using the ‘candlelight’ setting on the camera, then converted to black & white. I also made a new layer of the larger jug and added a filter to bring it out a little more. It’s always hard to balance shadows and highlights on a mix of porcelain and glass, but I liked the way the wood back of the dresser came out. Sharpened up the grain nicely, didn’t it?

Lastly … hmm … which of the others shall I use? Let me see …

How about this one? I just loved these stamps when I found them on a piece of wrapping paper in a pile of papers I was sorting. Loved the colours, the 1940s style, and the crumpled perforations and texture of the paper etc. Best of all, it’s SOC!4

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Thanks to A Li’l HooHaa for hosting this photo challenge. I’m looking forward to finding out what April’s theme will be.

1 See? I can stick to the rules if I have to. Aren’t I good?

2 For you youngsters out there, it goes like this:
‘Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do.
I’m half crazy, all for the love of you!
It won’t be a stylish marriage,
I can’t afford a carriage,
But you’ll look sweet,
Upon the seat,
Of a bicycle made for two!’

3 Naturally, they’re also really, really keen on Mum when she comes into work. Here she is with the other twin. Consider it a bonus: ‘It takes two, baby’!

4 Which means, just in case there’s anyone out there who doesn’t know, that it is Straight Out of the Camera, with no processing whatsoever. Well, apart from cropping.

March Winds And April Showers

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Last night, we watched the weather forecast and OH said ‘Good heavens! Look at that wind!!1‘ Tightly packed little arrows were sleeting viciously right across the UK chart and swirling across to Europe where presumably they intended to upset a whole lot more people.

And then, not being someone to whom the weather matters hugely, I forgot about it until this morning, when I woke to the merry sound of those little arrows, sleeting away like mad and producing all kinds of vicious windy noises, and incidentally bringing buckets of rain along with them which they were dropping carelessly all over the place.

The dogs didn’t get walked very early. That was just as well, because Sid got up around eight-thirty and pootled into the lounge to sink gratefully into his favourite bed, and Jeffie didn’t put in an appearance until nearly ten – only to do the same thing. I didn’t even have time to take his pyjamas off before he was asleep again by the radiator as if he’d been there all night.

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Around 11.30am the rain stopped and the sun came out2. We quickly hustled the dogs to the door, where I put their collars and leads on, and a raincoat on over Jeffie’s pyjamas, and we took them for a very quick walk.

On the way back, OH said:

‘Is that a helicopter? I would have thought it was too dangerous to fly in this wind!’

I listened carefully, and couldn’t hear one. Then a car came out of the village towards us going ‘thrumthrumthrumthrumthrum’ and I turned to him and said:

‘No, not a helicopter. It’s the wind. It’s gusting so hard it’s snatching the sound away.

Not sure I’ve heard that happen before.

For the rest of the day, the dogs stayed close to the radiators, curled up in their beds. It’s true that Jeffie came and poked his nose outside once or twice, but when he felt those little arrows tearing around, he poked it right back inside again and went back to bed, sure that his bladder would hold out just a little bit longer 3.

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At one point, the parasol over the fish pond broke clean in half, despite the fact that I’d ripped gashes in each section to let the wind through, and we had to go out and fight the wind to get it down safely and into the garage where it couldn’t break any windows or cause a traffic accident. OH then drove to the nearest garden centre for pond netting – without which we’d probably have woken up to a complete absence of fish4 – and we struggled and fought to put that over the water.

We walked the dogs during another lull in the rain. I got grit in my eye twice as we passed the place where they’re demolishing a bungalow (who does this kind of thing in a howling gale?) but we stayed dry. On the way back home, OH turned to me.

OH: ‘This is not very lamb-like! You said it would go out like a lamb!’

Me: ‘Well, these Old Wives Tales aren’t exactly 100% accurate, you know.’

OH: ‘But you promised!’

Me: ‘I’m sorry .. but you know, we have a few days yet. Let me see .. yesterday was the 28th, so … Tuesday. We have until Tuesday.’

OH: ‘But this is ferocious! You think this will calm down by Tuesday? We’re supposed to be getting a bad few days, you know!’

Me: ‘Well, you never know, it might! These are definitely March winds. Maybe we’ll get April showers next.’

Fast forward to the evening, when we were watching an hour of television and eating bacon sandwiches. The rain was lashing down so hard it was managing to go horizontal and bouncing off the windows.

OH: ‘That is NOT an April shower’.

Me: ‘No, that is a ‘Flood The Patio’ shower’.

OH: ‘April showers are supposed to come out of a clear blue sky. They are gentle things!’

*Pause*

OH: ‘Delicate.’

We both stared glumly out of the window to where the wind and rain were joining forces in a kind of vendetta against mankind.

OH: ‘In like a lion, out like a lamb. That’s what you said.’

Well, all I can say is that March did indeed come in like a lion, but against all the old-wifely rules, it appears to be going out like one, too.

If it goes on like this, the April showers won’t be bringing us flowers to bloom in May, they’ll be beating those shrinking violets to death and shredding the primroses like confetti. But we do have until Tuesday…

1 This is not exactly what he said. He said a Rude Word. I didn’t want to sully your ears.

2 Those bloody little arrows were still at it, though. And there were millions of them.

3 And amazingly, it did. For an old guy with some issues, he did well. That Vivitonin4 is doing a great job!

4 A drug used for Canine Cognitive Disorder, or as we like to call it, ‘Dogszheimer’s’.

5 We live in the fens where the land is flat and criss-crossed by dykes. The dykes have small fish and frogs and toads and small grass snakes and so on that live in them and therefore it is a great place for herons. Unfortunately for those of us with pond fish, in the winter and early spring, the small fish in the dykes are all hard to find and there is a definite dearth of reptiles and amphibians of all kinds, so the herons like to visit us to take advantage of what they probably think of as an all-you-can-eat buffet.

We’d sunk an old, but extremely sturdy garden parasol deep in the earth by the pond to deter the herons, with air vents so it didn’t take off and it’s done well all bloody winter, right up to now.

Cee’s Photo Challenge

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Cee’s Photo Challenge for this week is ‘Weathered Wood’. It so happens that I love weathered wood, so there are a ton of suitable photos in my archives!

The one up at the top was taken not far from here, deep in the fens, at an abandoned farmhouse. It’s detail from one of the old gateposts .. the gate is long gone, but the posts remain. I don’t know what type of wood they were made from, but it certainly has lasting quality!

This next one is driftwood on a river bank near Squamish, Canada.

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There was so much of it that I was spoiled for choice. I wondered if it was the result of logging, but I don’t know .. maybe it’s just that the river floods – and it’s a big river – and just kind of washes out the roots over time. There were certainly roots on display in some places, but these are not quite whole trees.

Another type of driftwood, this time on a beach in Italy. You don’t see so much driftwood in Tuscany, but I’m very fond of this picture. Not only does it remind me of a great holiday, but each time I see it I think ‘Sea Snake’, which amuses me (I’m very easily amused).

SeaSnakeWeb

And here’s one of my favourite weathered wood photos – I took it while driving through Molise, in Italy. It’s a fairly poor area, and there is a lot of crumbling architecture and decay, which can result in some spectacularly interesting photography, but I don’t know .. this looks deliberate, doesn’t it?

Molise-Web

Anyway, there we were, merrily driving along, and came across these wonderfully warped doors on an outbuilding in a very, very small community whose name I am afraid I’ve forgotten. Naturally, I made OH stop so I could take pictures. It’s a feature of our holidays; me constantly yelling ‘stop, stop – I want to take a picture’ and him saying ‘I can’t stop here!’ or ‘Oh, alright, but you’ll have to be quick!’ Or if I’m really lucky, we find a proper pull-in and we’re not in a particular hurry, and I can take my time. This was an ‘Oh, alright, but you’ll have to be quick’ moment.

And now for some fun. If I have any choice in the matter, when I’m taking insect pictures, or fallen leaves, or bits and pieces of this and that, I’ll use a natural background: stone, tile, pebbles, sand, or wood. So I’m lucky that this Small Tortoiseshell butterfly happened to land on some outdoor garden furniture which had been outdoors in the garden for quite some time.

SmallTortoiseshellJly09-Web

Lastly, a couple of .. I’m not sure what you’d call them. Skeletons of flowers, maybe? They had fallen from the loggia on which was growing a grapevine and a couple of other climbing plants, all intertwined. I’m not sure what they are, but I loved the juxtaposition of nature and finished wood, both in a state of decay.

PetalessFlowers-Web

It’s A Greyhound Thing …

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It is, it really is. Greyhound owners are known for it. You think it won’t happen to you, but … yep. We end up talking about poop. Shh! It happens.

You see, greyhounds are a breed which can have delicate digestive systems. To be fair, there are many greyhounds out there who’ve got a cast iron gut (like Sid), but for the rest, we worry over what might loosely be called ‘output’ – or as OH calls it, ‘product’ – and sadly, the word ‘loosely’ is all too apt at times. For example, when you first adopt a greyhound, you may notice that all is not well in the product department because the stress of leaving the kennels and adapting to home life can cause what is known in some circles as ‘pudding poop’. Pudding poop is somewhat less than pick-up-able. But not to worry, because it settles down fairly quickly once your dog has settled in and you’ve found the diet that works for him1 and stopped trying to feed him too many treats.

There are times, however, during any dog’s life, when he finds himself under the weather and the digestive system can give you clues as to what is going on. So the dedicated owner will Pay Attention to the Output of their Sick Pooch. Because when you get to the vet, Questions will be Asked, and you’d better have an answer or there will be the tiniest hint of an un-heaved sigh in the air while the vet silently wonders why nobody pays attention to these things.

So anyway, on this occasion, it was Jeffie whose product was being noted, because Jeffie wasn’t doing too well. He was not eating properly, he wasn’t drinking much, and he seemed more tired than he should, even for a twelve-year old greyhound with degenerative myelopathy and Dogzheimer’s2.

We often get separated a little bit on our walks because one dog will hang back, or want to go on ahead. You know how they are, and I had stopped to pick up after Sid, and when I caught up, OH was just tying his little green bag having done the same for Jeffie.

OH (discreetly jiggling the bag in my direction): ‘This is very odd!’

Me: ‘Is it orange?’

OH: ‘Yes! Well, part of it is … How did you know?’

Me: ‘Because Sid’s is the same. It’s the food they had for breakfast’.

OH: ‘What did they have?’

Me: ‘Wainwrights tray food. It has a lot of veggies in it’.

OH: ‘Wainwrights .. oh, yes. That’s the one in the orange box. Well, there you go, then.’

There was a pause. And then:

OH: ‘We should get the one in the blue box next time, and see what happens!’

It took me a while before I got it and then the old mind kind of boggled a bit.

Although I have heard stories3….

1 Which usually isn’t the one the kennel told you he was being fed with absolutely no problems.

2 Since writing this (I’ve been busy, OK?) Jeffie has been to the vet and had a thorough examination. He is now on a short course of antibiotics and is looking a lot better. He has his mojo back! Yay!

3 They mostly involve stolen sweets swallowed complete with their wrappers, or Christmas tinsel, but sometime other, more unsuitable things. The funniest of which is always pieces of brightly-coloured, chewed up greyhound basket muzzle, placed on the dog to (yes, you guessed it) stop them chewing things.

Walking in the Sunshine

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Walking in the sunshine .. and not forgetting the blustery wind!

It would have been a really spring-like day today if it hadn’t been for that wind. It was really warm in the sun, but when the wind blew, which was most of the time, the temperature dropped like a stone. It was one of those days when it can be hard to know what to wear when setting out for a walk with the dogs.

Dogs-WalkWEB

Jeffie is old and frail, so he wore his tee shirt which gives some protection against wind without adding too much warmth on a nice day. Sid, though he is now eleven years old himself, has a nice thick fur coat and enough meat on his bones that he doesn’t need a coat unless it’s blowing a gale AND raining AND the temperature dips to near freezing1.

This morning we set out in their favourite direction: north towards the open fields. In the verge by the footpath, we saw the first daisies of the year, looking as fresh as … well, as daisies!

DaisyWEB

They can only go this way if they’re both feeling reasonably good, because there are three stiles to negotiate and they’re really made for dogs with a maximum height of about one inch shorter than Sid or Jeff2. With Sid’s tendency to muscle cramps and Jeff’s wobbles, they are not for the ‘less good’ days. But oh, how they love to get into the fields and sniff, and sniff, and sniff, and then pee on the really good smells. So many other dogs pass this way, and there are rabbits and foxes and mice and birds, and probably weasels and hedgehogs and badgers, too. A veritable banquet for the nose.

Because they are neither of them spring chickens, we decided that halfway across the fields, OH would leave us and go back for the car and bring it to meet us on the other side. There is a little country road at the end of this section of the footpath and it has space for one car to park up for a few minutes at the end.

ArumsWEB

Crossing the first field, I heard the green woodpeckers and the jackdaws (probably complaining about our unwanted presence) and noticed that the wild arum lilies3 are showing well above the ground now, and the first celandines are out on the banks There is plenty of rabbit activity in the form of holes and shallow scrapes in this, and the second field and for that reason, I am nervous about letting Sid off the lead there. If he broke that single hind leg I have no idea how we’d get him home.

The third field, for us, consists of a bare path between small, scrubby trees, right at the edge by the dyke. It’s quite short, which is good, because it’s pretty much single file through there, which isn’t easy on a winding, muddy track with two greyhounds, one of which is a stubborn old three-legged fool who’d rather fall over than give in when he feels the leash tighten, and the other of which is pretty much only able to see light and dark these days.

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The last section is more open and has a steep drop to a small dyke on one side, and a set-aside field on the other. We saw a white shape by the water in the distance and in a few more steps I realised it was the heron. Sadly, with only my phone camera with me today, I didn’t manage to get a good shot, but it was nice to see him. He took off before we got anywhere near close and flew back alongside the dyke and quite close to us, but all I got was a very blurry picture.

And then the taxi4 came into view and both sets of ears pricked up.

TaxiWEB

Jeffie was glad to see it. By this time he was tired and needed just a little run-up to get into the car, whereas usually he manages a standing start. Sid, old fart that he is, was not so glad, and walked slower and slower, and sniffed more and more, the closer we got, and though I gave him his usual run up to get in (which he always needs, being a rear-leg amputee) he baulked at the last minute like a show jumper refusing a fence and had to be walked round and run up again. To give him his due, though, he never tries to jump out again, but settles down quite quickly for the ride home. Unlike his companion who never, ever lays himself down until the engine starts.

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1 I call it discrimination. A Jack Russell is small enough to squeeze through all but the smallest gap, a labrador is hardy enough and well-padded enough not to mind scraping through a narrow space between bits of sticky-out wood, but a greyhound is neither small nor well-padded, nor is he (in this sense) hardy. Last year, Jeffie caught his shoulder on a piece of the stile and got himself a deep graze which healed fairly quickly, but has left a large-ish, triangular, and completely bald scar.

2 And even then he loathes it and it’s a struggle to a) get it on him, and b) get him to actually walk in it.

3 Otherwise known as Cuckoo Pint or Lords and Ladies.

4 Other people might call it a Toyota Yaris Verso. It’s my car, the one I use as a Dogmobile.