Monday 31 October 2011

Who said being a parent is easy?

Yeh we all did, when we weren’t parents. You remember we’d look at hassled mothers dragging screaming children round the shops and think: “For chrissake! Get a grip on yourself and the child, it can’t be that difficult, the human race has been round for a long time!”
And you’d listen to them moaning on and on about how tired they were and you’d look at them unbelieving “Good God woman all you have to do is stay at home all day! Try doing a real job.”
Do you ever feel foolish now?
Now that you know what it is all about?
Would you ever think such thoughts again?
Nope, didn’t think so!
The problem with parenting is that until you are one you will have NO idea. The world is split into those who are and those who are not. And never the twain shall meet.
I have friends who do not have children and they just have no clue. For them sitting down to eat dinner at 9pm is normal but by that time my kids would have started to chew my arm off.
Bless my friends; they think getting up early is 7am! Hello! Try an hour earlier and no it is not because I want to pop down to the gym. THEY are awake at that time, they need feeding and watering and making sure they go to the loo. They need separating from each other as well before they kill each other and sorting out in time to go to school. And yes it does take me two hours to do that - I’ve got to fit in the rest of my life as well you know. Dogs, chickens, housework!
And no I can’t just leave them on their own at the drop of a hat to go to the cinema when they are sleeping. Yes they won’t know about it because they are sleeping but there is a law I am sure that says it is not right to abandon your kids without supervision while you go a-gallivanting.
So I would agree that I am not the same as I was before, I would agree that I am not spontaneous anymore. When you are a parent you need to plan a little and things take longer to do. And there never seems to be enough time. And the thing is you have to prioritise. It’s no longer all about me. It’s about my boys…and it aint easy to be a parent.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

A Eulogy for Miss Pissy Woo

Sisters: Agatha and Alice
My house is very quiet, apart from lazy buzzing of annoying cluster flies. The dogs don’t make much noise when they sleep unlike Miss Agatha Woo who’d purr all the time.
Did you note that? Dogs and flies in the present tense but Agatha is already in the past.
She’s not there in the morning as I struggle bleary-eyed to let the dogs out, yowling at me to give her some food; the all-pervading stench of ammonia from her night time ablutions fast becoming a faded memory. I feel more confident crossing the kitchen in bare feet within a few days of her demise. And although I never particularly liked treading in the proverbial be it cat poo, cat pee or cat sick I had become used to it and could gracefully wend my way over the kitchen floor to where I kept the bucket and mop seemingly blindfolded. It was a skill I was inordinately proud of; getting from Point A to Point B without anything squashing between my toes and all before I had had my first cup of tea.
My husband is calmer for not having to face such an obstacle course. In fact he can now get his own cup of tea first thing in the morning, which after several years of getting up at sparrows fart o’clock and foregoing said tea before catching the train to London with all the other work-oholics who need to be seen to be the first in and last out, must be kind of nice.
I can put things back on shelves that I never thought to see out again; the things that she’d always try to step over and round but latterly she’d just knock off. Many have been repaired, quite badly but I can’t look at those cracks without thinking of her and her quest NOT to have to touch the floor after it had been washed.
Curtains can go back up; shorter than they were but at least now they will stay clean. The table-cloth can come off the Kitchen table as she’s not there to gauge great scratches across its glossy top as she leaps up to get a better look at me and to, of course, look down upon the dogs.
Friends can now bring their dogs to our house knowing that Agatha Bagwash will not be there to corner them and make them wet themselves in fear – a neat party trick she enjoyed rather too much and one which nearly got her killed when she tried to take on a visiting Weimaraner who although blind had a very acute sense of smell.
He bolted after her and landed with his head stuck through the flap of the cat litter tray while she escaped by vaulting on to the Aga which was just to the side. She vaulted off pretty quick too as the Aga was on and I landed up buttering her paws and apologising to my friends for traumatising their dog.
Soon they will forget that she was ever there for how could they have loved her as I did?
She’ll be a few words on a page that no one will read, some faded old photographs of a cat their mother once had to be thrown away as a load of old junk as they sort me out  to move into the old people’s home before I too become the past…
Agatha Bagwash
(latterly Miss Pissy Woo)
1 June 1996 – 15 October 2011
Agatha Bagwash: Summer 2010

Thursday 13 October 2011

The Veneer of Domesticity

Tattie Whippet
The veneer of domesticity is exactly that when it comes to dogs. You have to remember that they are 99 per cent wolf, not 99 per cent pajama case one percent adorable but animals that could so easily survive and thrive without us, though probably not quite so comfortably.
What I saw on Tuesday night I would have expected from a pit bull or doberman not a whippet. Not a mild mannered though somewhat naughty whippet. I should have been prepared to head off the incident for certainly the signs were there that any decent owner of dogs could have seen coming. But I was distracted with boys and schools and headmasters and missed them.
It's cost me nigh on £500.
And it has made me re-evaluate my dogs and how I treat them.
To all intents and purposes the fight was kicked off by a bowl of food that was left out. Tattie, my Empress (whose reign as Alpha Female has been on the wane for sometime now) was having a good old chomp, I remember thinking damn me I should have picked it up because there goes a fat whippet and it was as I thought about it that Sassy, the EBJ (Evil Black Job aka The Wickedest Whippet), came up to have a look see.
Tattie swung herself round so that Sassy couldn't get at the bowl. Blocking her from the food.
Sassy  tried again.
Tattie growled.
Sassy growled.
Then suddenly they kicked off. At first I thought it would just be a spat over as quickly as it began but it wasn't. This was a full on challenge and Sassy was never going to back down. In fact she won quite quickly and Tattie was trying to get away but that wasn't enough for Sassy while her blood was up.
It was vicious.
It was terrifying.
tattie was cringing away but sassy kept on coming. She would not stop. I waded in with feet bashing at sassy to get her to release her hold but I fear I only made it worse she let go then went straight back in again. Tattie was yelping. I was hollering God knows what.
I broke them up  and shoved sassy outside into the garden and turned to look for Tattie who had shot under the table. She wouldn't budge so I opened the door out to the hall and she bolted  there and up the stairs.
I let Sassy back inside, she was cut on her shoulder which I thought served her right and she had a small nick on her nose. Nothing untoward.
Then I went in search of Tattie. She was sitting at the top of the stairs, her eyes bulging and breathing rapidly through her mouth in puffs making her muzzle look pinched and thin. She was covered in blood.
I approached and she turned from me and that is when I saw the extent of the damage: a four inch  piece of skin was seemingly missing on her shoulder with a deep puncture wound welling up with dark blood in the middle. She was obviously in shock.
Strange as it may seem I know the vets' number by heart and I called it immediately knowing that if you get a wound like this to the vet within the first four hours they can literally work miracles.
Both dogs were bundled in the car, though I hasten to add, separately. And I rushed them down, not thinking it was too bad: I was just kidding myself. All of us were shocked, me and the dogs.
Tattie's wounds were far worse than was immediately apparent as were Sassy's. This had been a fight for stakes far higher than a mere bowl of dog food.
Both dogs were whisked away for stitches. Sassy returning with me that night while Tattie underwent a general anaesthetic and surgery for her extensive injuries. I could not sleep that night and tossed and turned right through finally giving up the battle at three in the morning and reading until it was time to get the boys up.
As I waited I thought long and hard about it. If a whippet could do so much damage to another dog what sort of damage could they do to a child, a toddler or even a baby? What sort of damage could  a larger heavier dog do?
I thought I knew my dogs, thought I could trust them but I know now that I cannot, not totally.
Tattie is OK. The vets' are miracle workers. It was touch and go. She will be scarred but I knew that and she is still My Empress though perhaps not in the eyes of the rest of the pack. It is something I will have to be careful of for a while until I can work out how the land lies.
We have DAP for dogs  pumping its calming influence around the house. It's helping.But all I can think about is how thin the veneer of domesticity.

Thursday 6 October 2011

I Love Apples - Thanks Steve Jobs!

When did I have my first Apple? Well I’ve been around a long time so I would say it was in the 80s yep THAT long ago…back in the mists of time.
It was a trifle flirtation to begin. In a shop with a boyfriend in Reading in 1989 discussing earnestly the attributes of Apple over Apricot then nothing until the powers that be where I worked opted to scrap the electric typewriters, galleys and print for computers and floppy discs and a new digital era.
I took to the computers like duck to water and a splendid Apple Mac Plus running QuarkXpress.
It was so easy.
Editing was a dream and if I went wrong it was simple to put right. I disappeared into the world of OCRs, floppy discs and editing without the use of a red pencil instead I simply highlighted in red what I wanted to get rid of then clicked a button to see if it fit and by careful refitting tools was able to say goodbye to widows and orphans forever. The fact that as a journalist I got rid of a sub-editor quite passed me by – such is the inevitable momentum of progress.
But I never had an Apple of my own.
I dropped out of publishing in 1994 for a while drifting to the dark side and the political hot bed that is press relations – I didn’t DO public relations because basically I was a social liability. In the end I didn’t do press relations either because the clients were too dumb to see what was in front of their faces. I fear for many PRs this adage still holds true today. Why do they get press relations and advertising so muddled? Why do they insist of hiring a PR then equally insist that they can do better themselves? Eternal questions without an answer.
I got a PC not an Apple and it is something I have regretted ever since. I have never been happy with my PC and life only got worse when Apple suddenly or so it seemed sprang to the fore with its iMac just after Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1998. How I hungered for one but they were out of my league.
And in 1999 I returned to being a journalist and by then QuarkXpress was on windows and a PC was deemed all that was necessary. I pretended it didn’t matter.
I pretended it didn’t matter when I went freelance, money was tight. But I watched and I still hungered.
In 2006 I succumbed and bought an iPod for my husband for Christmas engraved with his name on the back from the Apple iStore. I couldn’t buy one for myself it would have been too decadent. A year later Charlie got me an iPod Shuffle - a corporate freebie with 10 songs downloaded that I used to boost my flagging energy levels while training for the Flora London Marathon in 2009.
Various iPods have come and gone and I now have a smart black fifth generation Nano with camera and games, radio and pedometer that I take on long journeys and runs but until this year, no computer.
I can't say our finances have chnaged much, the boom years passed us by as we renovated a monolith in the middle of Suffolk but this year I felt I deserved a treat. No designer shoes for me nor brand new wardrobe but an iPad something I could pretend I needed and so feeling brave I dived in to Apple store and took possession of my white iPad II.
I don’t consider it a computer; it’s far too much fun. I Skype but keep forgetting to look at the person I am talking to as I always look at the camera and land up looking half mad with people only seeing me side on; I write on it, play games, listen to music and watch TV. Such a clever piece of kit. It’s a toy, my special toy and one I love to bits. My own proper Apple at last.
And who have I to thank for this treasure?
Steve Jobs.
Thanks mate you will never know how much joy you have given, how much inspiration and darn it how much sheer fun…

Tuesday 4 October 2011

A matter of great weight...

Hopping bloomin' mad I am. There’s me being ill and all for a whole week and not eating ‘cos I don’t feel like it and when I get out of the bath just now I hop on the old scales to make me feel better because I haven’t been eating and I am bound to have got thinner and guess what!!!!!!!
I weigh exactly the same as I did a week ago.
There are times when I think the Gods are not playing nice…

Monday 3 October 2011

Manners Maketh Man

I am getting seriously OLD but there is one thing that gets me seriously all hot and bothered and that’s manners. Bad manners. For manners maketh man.
I’m not saying you have to hand write thank you letters, an e-mail or a telephone call will suffice, nor am I saying that men should walk on the outside of the pavement when escorting ladies but in general one should be a little more thoughtful and basically polite.
I have a lad who comes to the house and helps in the garden and helps with the chickens at weekends. Or at least it was meant to be every Sunday then that changed and it was whenever he could make it.
Now I don’t need this lad, I can do the work on my own quite happily. I pay the lad, because it’s only fair.  I or Charlie have to stay with him while he works because he’s only 15. We don’t mind unduly. He also scores this occasional day against his Duke of Edinburgh award.
Now the other weekend he was meant to turn up but he didn’t. There was no telephone call to say what was happening. It’s not the first time this has happened. I am obviously meant to know through telepathy when he cannot make it. I did talk to him about it saying we needed to know when he is and isn’t able to work for us and we tell him when we can’t make a day. It made no difference. He did turn up the following week and asked me for a write up re his DoE. I forgot but was reminded in a very terse call whereby I didn’t even get the pleasantries.
It sort of went like this:
Ring ring
Hello, this is Tattie Weasle...
It’s Carter here. I haven’t had my DoE stuff
Oh right errm yes I’ll do that now.
Rings off
I was majorly pissed off.
It would have been nice to have a chat more along the lines of:
Ring Ring
Hello, this is Tattie Weasle
Oh Hello Mrs Weasle. Its Carter here…
Oh! Hello Carter, how are you?
I’m fine, thank you Mrs Weasle and yourself?
I’m very well Carter. What can I do for you?
Mrs Weasle you very kindly said you’d do my DoE write up for me I may have given you the wrong e-mail address.
Oh Carter I am terribly sorry of course I’ll do that straight away. I do hope that it won’t cause any problems.
Not at all Mrs Weasle. Thank you so much I really appreciate it. Good bye
Goodbye Carter.
I would have felt very happy and would have written a great long spiel putting as much good spin on as possible. As it was I wrote a three line message and hoped that it was enough.
Needless to say I have not heard a word since and although expected on Sunday he didn’t turn up. Dear Charlie was furious and said we should not have to wait around for him and then added it was better he didn’t work here at all.
And I am in agreement.
It may seem harsh but the lad is 15 years old. He needs to get some manners or else he’s going to find that he ain't going to get very far in this world and people won’t want to do things for him in the future. I know I will be very reticent. Because he’s been unreliable, unmannerly and a pain in the neck to be frank by not telling us when he is and isn’t going to turn up. I don’t think I am asking too much. Just basic manners.
Or am I just getting old?

Saturday 1 October 2011

A wandering virus fed murble

Everything goes blank, seizes up and nothing works properly. There is a general go-slow and your memory starts to fail. What you want to do doesn't happen and you start to heat up.
It gets scary when  both you and the computer decide to do exactly the same thing at exactly the same time and you wonder in your heated state if  computer viruses can jump the species gap a bit like H5N1 (avaian bird flu) and its at that point you realise you shouldn't be trying to interview people on the telephone let alone co-ordinating a conference call especially if you are thinking  along the plot lines of Steven Speilberg's AI rather than concentrating on the ramifications of Empty Rates for Commercial Property on today's annuity rates for pensioners. ( my job as a journalist  is a glamorous one - oh yes!)
It's amazing the things I think of when I should be concentrating and it is surprising how often I seem to get away with it, I mean people don't notice. It's a bit like driving really, you know the times when suddenly you are there and yet you don't recollect that  you have crossed a major junction, driven through a village and negotiated a pair of extrermely nasty set of bends.
Perhaps the people I interviewed today did notice but were too polite to say: "Oi! Are you there Moriarty?"
See off on a tangent now thinking of Sherlock Holmes.

Go on you know you want to...


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