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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

show dogs and not so slow dogs

The other week I went to Crufts. I spent most of my time there hanging out with the Irish Wolfhounds  with a glancing appreciation at the whippets - of which Beezle is half. I don’t know why I went really – I could more easily have stayed at home and hung out with our Irish wolfhound and half whippet.

For those unfamiliar with wolfhounds they are a breed of domestic dog, specifically a very large sighthound from Ireland. A sighthound is a dog that runs too fast for you to catch and chases everything.
The upside of all this running is that they like to sleep a lot. Their preferred sleeping arrangements are:

. On the sofa when you and your guests want to sit down.
. On the sofa when you and your guests are sitting down.
. On the floor in a doorway where you will trip over them.

The most common thing asked about a wolfhound is “Where has my dinner gone?”

Their temperament is loyal, sweet tempered, generous, dignified, thoughtful, patient and full of love and other people’s dinners. They do not make good guard dogs as they are often very friendly towards strangers.

The name is derived from two words
Wolf – to wolf down ones food (or someone else's)
Hound – a dog breed used for hunting, especially one able to track by scent, particularly the scent of other people’s food, the Christmas turkey, the birthday cake etc.

definitely not a wolfhound

The wolf hound has very specific dietary requirements. It consists of four main food groups:

. The nice meal you spent all day preparing.
.  Cushions, shoes and the back of sofas.
.  Anything left out on the table or work top.
 . Things meant for other people

Pixie's very interesting fact for this month's blog post is that there are over 150 different breeds of dog. Most of which were at Crufts in various forms.

 Beezle has pointed out that he is a lurcher not half a whippet. A lurcher is a cross between a dog that runs too fast for you to catch and chases everything (a sighthound) and a dog that runs slightly more slowly but still chases everything (a working dog)

The name is derived from two words
Lurch – as in to leave someone in the lurch i.e. a long way away
Er – as in “er where’s that dog gone to now?”

They have excellent recall. They know perfectly well that you want them to come back and will do so when they’ve finished what they are doing. which is usually running  very fast in the opposite direction after something that is moving just a tiny bit faster than them.

Beezle in his Franciscan robes.
  As Beezle - or Brother Beezle and Frances of Assisi would say "Pax et bonum" (peace and the good)
Mr Walters checking to see if I'm doing my writing quota for the day

The rooks are building their nests again and I hope are using the horses' fur coats to line their nests. I hear that the ravens at the tower of London have lined their nests with rabbit fur.

There, where the rusty iron lies,
The rooks are cawing all the day.
Perhaps no man, until he dies,
will understand them, what they say.

The evening makes the sky look clay.
The slow wind waits for night to rise.
The world is half content. But they

Still trouble all the trees with cries,
That know, and cannot put away,
The yearning to the soul that flies
From day tonight, from night to day.

Charles Sorley.

Friday, 17 February 2017

a stranger in a strange land

 When you don’t know what to write it’s always good to go for a long walk. In the heart of the countryside, where we live, amongst  Nature’s beautiful landscapes, and uneaten animals - it struck me how incredibly noisy it is.
 Jai and Harry in the beautiful landscape

. There’s Roger chainsawing his wood to feed his huge baronial fireplace. There's  John strimming the verges. Frank is on the tractor flailing the hedges. In the skies micro lights motor and Roger’s son's drone buzzes like an angry wasp, swooping over the fields. Faintly you can hear the song of the sky larks and the cawing of the rooks who look as if they are building their nests. Then over head there is the breath of a dragon as a hot air balloon belches fire. The pigs in their pig unit squeal. They cannot hear the skylarks sing for a beautiful day.

 Look at how beautiful Mrs Walter's baby turned out.

He is the new companion of old Mr Walters. In the back garden we always had the two male ducks - Mr and Mr Walters. One of the Mr Walter's died last month - I hope from old age. He was finding it a bit difficult to get around. Like old Mr Walters young Mr Walters likes to come into the house and scare Pixie. Beezle is unbothered by finding two ducks in his house. At least they are alive and not like the rabbit I found professionally skinned on the doorstep this morning.

 As Beezle and Moses's wife would say "I have been a stranger in a strange land."

Pixie's interesting - oh sorry -VERY interesting fact is that adult pigs can run a seven minute mile.

Sadly I don't believe any of the pigs in the pig unit will have a chance to do this. A few years back a gang of them escaped and ran (probably at seven miles an hour) towards the woods. They had to be rounded up and I watched them being herded through the mist, their balls swinging and looking like sailors who had left their ship for the night and gone for some craic in the docks.

OK Beezle (see previous black mail post) You didn't give back the pound of sausages that you took so I'm putting up the picture of you in your new coat.

Also a picture of our garden flowers from last summer - a jewel like reminder that warmer weather is on its way.

Meanwhile here is a poem  about the pigs in the pig unit that I wrote a few years back. They come under the title of Freedom food. When I ask what that meant I was told freedom from hunger, freedom from disease and freedom from stress. Ha!

           Fork Lift

 Within the tin shed
little pink chops are fed
and prize pork pies,
bred for their improved size,
carry with pride
the label of animal welfare
on  their side.
Able to eat, as they please,
free from hunger
and free from disease.
No fear of Armageddon for gammon
or green back bacon,
no feeling of panic
in these ordered, organic lives
just pig like Stepford wives
just food
within the tin shed
no host or hostess
no stress, no Prozac in the strawsack
only double oats and men
in off white coats
as freedom food greets Sigmund Freud.

And when they leave to meet the knife,
serenaded by hired hands
playing Strauss on the mandolin,
only one pig sees
the colour s of summer
the ever stretching green fields
and blue skies, hears the fine
song of the sky lark
composed for a beautiful day
and wonders about her life,
these pearls before swine.
Then she joins the line
With her communard in lard

And the trucks roll away.

Monday, 23 January 2017

the eagle has landed - er no - the jackdaw has flown

The other day, on a beautiful sunny morning, Jack the one eyed jackdaw at last flew to freedom.

In spite of the information I had received that he would not survive - he was as wild as the wind and once he'd got fit and healthy he could not possibly have spent his life in captivity. He had the sky in that one eye and when I opened the door for him he soared up into the blue and away across the fields. It was a thrilling sight though he took a piece of my heart with him.

He'll stay with me though. I have started to write a new story about - well - a one eyed jackdaw. He never spoke in all the time I had him and I wonder if back in Nature he'll find a voice to tell the others where he'd been for the past two months. He might even recommend CHEESE which I imagine is difficult to find if you're a bird living in the wild.I hope someone else teaches him the joy of bathing though. Unlike all the other birds I've rescued he never once went into the water bowl.

Pixie's Interesting Blog Post Fact is...........
Bald eagles aren't actually bald.

Of course whether or not one should let Nature take its course is a hugely debatable matter. Should you leave a struggling creature to its fate or help it out? There are masses of fantastic videos on You Tube of people untangling swans necks and rescuing ducklings from drains and baby foxes who have lost their mothers. I'd certainly be unable to leave a creature if I felt I could help it out. Jack would certainly be dead if someone hadn't rescued him and kindly given him to me to care for. But he must now take his chances. Isn't there a saying that it is better to live a day as a tiger than a year as a sheep? Beezle's not sure anyone said that but as he and Montaigne would say "To lament that one shall not be alive a hundred years hence, is the same folly as to be sorry we were not alive a hundred years ago."

Beezle, who has the thinest whippet skin, is now sporting a smart brown fleecy coat as he gets so cold. (No picture supplied but might be used in blackmail at another time.) He loves it though I miscalculated the measurements and its a wee bit short in the length. What I suspect might be a little dog "hoody" comes down his neck and not over the back of his head but he still looks very distinguished and when he first got it he liked to show off and scampered around wagging his tail. Pixie who has plenty of coat of her own was not impressed. We took him for a walk to Durdle Door on one of these fine winter mornings where we met simply masses of other dogs. None of them took the slightest bit of interest in him and we reckoned they all looked at him and thought "old man" - so we took it off and then he got lots of attention. He is of course an old man now and it was quite a walk for him up and down those steps and he slipped a couple of times. The beach pebbles made his feet a bit sore but on the whole it was a good outing and made a change from where we are. For instance there are no squirrels on the beach or deer or rabbits. But there was a heartbreaking sign with a picture of "George" a staffie looking dog with the words "I am George. I used to love this beach. My ashes are scattered here. Please take a ball and enjoy." And under the sign was a box of balls. We wept.

And here is Beezle enjoying his outing without his coat on.

OK I know I've put this up before but it's one of the great poems about the Eagle.

The Eagle

Related Poem Content Details

He clasps the crag with crooked hands; 
Close to the sun in lonely lands, 
Ring'd with the azure world, he stands. 

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls; 
He watches from his mountain walls, 
And like a thunderbolt he falls. 

Sunday, 1 January 2017

and a one eyed jackdaw in a pear tree

And on the first day of Christmas came a one eyed jackdaw in a pear tree.
drawn by Chloe Coggin

What a dear little thing the second Jack is but with only one eye he is having to master his balance. Here he is below - yes I know they all look the same but he is very different from the jackdaw I was looking after in the summer and they are all quite different from the young rooks.
 Whereas the others were all able to return to the wild and flew away I am anxious as to his survival out there. The Rook Helpline people said he wouldn't survive - we think he'd already lost his eye because the other birds had pecked it out. He was definitely the runt of the nest as he was small for his age and as light as a ......feather. The other thing is he doesn't utter a sound. No Aarkk aarkk!
The only thing he has in common with the others is that he loves CHEESE.
 and on the third day of Christmas there were two ducks a running.
 Here is Pocket (quarter Bengal) snuggled up in a small box.
 This is where he likes to sit now watching the second Jack with both his eyes.

Meanwhile I am trying to get back into writing after all the Christmas festivities

I have no set working day though there are several things that remain constant. If I’ve actually found my way to the computer and am sitting down to write you can be sure that there will be a cat of some sort on my lap and a couple of dogs at my feet. This is very handy when winter sets in because all blood flow can stop if you sit and write all day.
 Unless there are other things on the agenda, my plan is always to get up, avoid the unidentified innards left by the bedroom door, go downstairs, make a strong black coffee and turn on the computer to write. I am always excited to do this. Sometimes I will re-read what I’ve written the day before and even the day before that if I’m mulling some ideas around.
 This working day plan has to accommodate the two cats that need to be fed, the two dogs that need out, and the eight running ducks that overnight in the wendy house to be freed. The wendy house still has the gingham curtains at the windows and a small blackboard on the wall. One day I’m hoping to find the theory to everything written on the board but I guess unless I start leaving some chalk around this will be unlikely.

Beezle has interrupted my account of my working day . I despair. But as he and Albert Camus would say "There is no love of life without despair of life."

I will continue.

 So the computer’s on and once I’ve checked and answered any e mails,
looked to see what my daughters are doing on Facebook and poured out
that second cup of coffee- my fingers fly over the keys. Some writers
know exactly where they are going. They may already have the
beginning, the middle and the end. They have drawn a story arc and have
made brilliant notes on their characters down to what’s in their pocket
and what scares them. What scares me is that I don’t usually have any of
The story often unravels itself in front of me as I write and leads me
along paths I had not previously imagined. Like Robert Frost, I can take
the one less travelled. But there will be no road not taken. I love the
journey and the surprises that can come. In one of my books I found
myself introducing a new character and I had absolutely no idea why I
had done this. It wasn’t till half way through the book when I was trying
to figure out a way for my protagonist to escape from a prison cell that I
realised why I had written this person in. And Dear Reader, escape she
 So now Pixie is keen to impart her Very Interesting Fact.

"Jackdaws are the smallest member of the crow family and I am the biggest member of the dog family."

 I have always been used to interruptions. I used to write long hand in notebooks whilst waiting to pick up my daughters from a dancing or a swimming class, grabbing minutes here and there. So I’m used to having to stop mid flow. Now I almost wilfully make my own interruptions. Sometimes I find myself checking out all those dogs that need rescuing in Crete or watching yet another You Tube of baby foxes jumping on trampolines.  Sometimes I remember I must go on line and order some stainless steel polish or that book that someone told me about. Or write a blog post.

The Small Box

The small box gets its first teeth
And its small length
Its small width and small emptiness
And all that it has got

The small box is growing bigger
And now the cupboard is in it
that it was in before

And it grows bigger and bigger and bigger
And now has in it the room
And the house and the town and the land
And the world it was in before

The small box remembers its childhood
And by over great longing
It becomes a small box again

Now in the small box
Is the whole world quite tiny
You can easily put it in a pocket
Easily steal it easily lose it

Take care of the small box

Vasco Popa.

Monday, 5 December 2016

tales and tails from down under

 Apologies to anyone who might be thinking "where's November's blog post?" "Has she gone into hibernation?" "We want Pixie's interesting fact!" The reason is we have been travelling in Australia and NewZealand.
Pixie's interesting fact by the way is that King Penguins can contract their pupils into a square.
We didn't see any King Penguins but we did see the tiniest penguins in the world and two sperm whales. (or the same one twice - they hold their breath for around 50 mins under the sea and I guess it was about fifty minutes before we saw the second one.

 What awe inspiring creatures they are and how gut wrenching to think that they have and can still -be illegally killed to make soap.
 "And when the last great whale died, no sigh was heard upon the land but in the beaving of the tide, with every throb, oceans cried, and cursed the ways of modern man."

When we were in NZ Nature certainly had her revenge. We were in an earthquake 7.8 on the Richter Scale. It tipped us out of our beds and the little beach hut we were in shook and shook. We were right by the sea and people were scared that there would be a tsunami. Thank goodness for technology though. We were able to have constant updates through the media about the tsunami threat and didn't have to drive off into the mountains which - where we were - would have been a bit of a trek.

Meanwhile back home, without being woken by an earthquake,  hedgehogs were already hibernating. This one was just coming in through the gate when I left incredibly early for the trip over a month ago.

Beezle was in charge whilst we were away and ran a tight ship. He reported back on the USA election results and as he and Isaac Newton would say "Men build too many walls and not enough bridges."
Modern man eh? Beezle has assured me he is not a modern dog.

 The frosts have felled all the dahlias but these pics are a gentle reminder that they'll be around again next year with any luck. A box full of bare rooted roses had also arrived in our absence and with the aid of a pickaxe to break the icy surface, are now bunched together in the soil.
On the book front - The Dog, Ray has been nominated for the Carnegie Award (along with a hundred others - but just saying) and is this month's Kid's Pick in People Magazine in the USA. (circ. 3.4million!) Hurrah. Beezle in charge of fan mail..

I have posted this poem I wrote before but it seems so appropriate given the whale.


As I float in the Caribbean Trash Vortex
caught in the reams of carnage,
thirty carrier bags, two stretches of hosepipe
five flowerpots, a flip flop -
in all fifty nine different
pieces of plastic - lodged in my gut
I dream of breaching out to sea
whacking my vast tail on the surface tension
of the blue ocean
leaping out of the waves and crashing back
scattering spray on the way
which catches and glistens
in the early morning rays of sunlight
under the wide sky.
Being a host to a myriad of smaller
organisms who as devoted followers
nibble and clean and scurry and hurry by my side.

That would be my ambition
as my airways clog with polystyrene beads
like mermaid's tears
and I can no longer move with
my necklace of plastic detritus
tethering me to the sea bed.

a small ambition for one
so very large.

Monday, 17 October 2016

circuses and carcasses

I've always been a bit of a circus girl. I don't know which bit - heart probably.

I often weave a circus or two into some of my stories and when I was very young I had an imaginary friend who for some odd reason was a female juggler who I called Mrs King Kong Kelly. They are interesting imaginary friends. According to Psychology Today, imaginary friends can be a source of comfort when a child is experiencing difficulties. Difficulties in running away to join the circus probably. In fact if the truth be known I had two imaginary friends. The other one was a very small Scotsman called Jock Mac Hockercock who wore a tartan cap.  Don't ask me where he came from but writing it down now I can see I was interested in rhyming words at an early age. Perhaps having imaginary friends helps in the creation of characters when you become a writer. I wonder how many other writers had imaginary friends?

me and Trude dressing up for Country Living Magazine. Photo Craig Fordham.
Perhaps the circus thing is the dressing up coupled with my love of horses. Here is Harry looking very un-circus like. He's a willing horse but a bit clumsy and he can't count. Not that I know of anyway.

If I had a pound for every time someone said to me about Pixie "you could put a saddle on that.." it wouldn't be worth much in this present political climate. I think the saying probably is " I've been told you could put a saddle on that more times than you've had hot dinners." A curious notion. None of us can count how many hot dinners that would be.

 Pixie's Very Interesting Fact she tells me is that the leotard is named after the first star of the flying trapeze who was called Jules Leotard. She's asked me to put the word Very in front of her Interesting Fact column. I told her she didn't have a column just two lines.

 Here are the ducks! The babies are the same size now and they all run around in a column.

As Beezle and Jesus would say " "Consider the lily for it toileth not."

 There have been quite a lot of carcasses left on the door mat, outside the bedroom door, on the landing, in the bathroom and under the table. Some still unidentifiable. Because of this I am not putting up any Cat pictures.

When I gave up the theatre and settled into a domestic life, the poems I created reflected this. I used to perform them in local art centres and pubs and inspired by the rap artist EMINEM I called myself Em U Em - which stands for MUM. I wrote a series of poems called The Dust Collection. Fluff in the Ideal Home being the first. But I see now I wrote one about the circus which seems apt for this blog post.

The Circus

So it’s three thirty five and I’m at the circus
and one child keeps saying they can’t see
and the other is still crying
because the icecream was all sold out
and we’ve had the clowns and the guy
on the slack rope
and then this beautiful black horse trots in
its neck so arched its nose
touches its chest and it is so shiny
the mirror ball flares off its coat
and practically blinds the fellow
playing the violin and I think of Gordon
and the trip to Paris
where we saw the man being a robot
and how I’m not wearing the greasepaint
or the tutu or riding the beautiful horse
and I’ve practically got my bags packed
to run away and then I look down
and see these two children and remember
it’s school on Wednesday
and we still haven’t bought the new trainers
or the geometry kit with the spare eraser
and I look down and wonder
who’s going to sweep up all that sawdust?