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A dear friend always insisted that there was no point betting on anything that the public have a say in because what you may get, is what you least expect. It will be interesting to see then, tomorrow, how things finally shake down in the voting booths as compared with the incessant polls that have the two ‘main’ parties in a photo finish.

It will be interesting also to see how many of us turn out. I am glad Russell Brand changed his tune on not voting, and I credit Ed Miliband, at least to some extent, with influencing that particular U-turn. If you do not use your voice to make a difference, then a difference will not be made. We all need to make a difference tomorrow, whatever that turns out to be.

These are two disgruntled characters, on the sofa. One can’t vote because he is an immigrant. No matter that he volunteers hours of his time keeping the street crime free. No matter that he single-pawedly keeps the marauding packs of urban foxes and delinquent nature-murdering felines in line. He is from Ireland, he has no vote. He’s been upset, lately, by the anti-immigrant rhetoric he’s heard bandied about. All he wants is a better life for himself, and his family, and he’s prepared to work for it.

His friend is a member of the so-called underclass. She didn’t register to vote because she didn’t think that she could make a difference. I think if she could vote, her vote would be one of the most important of all. We all know the choice available has turned out to be a bit of a dog’s dinner, but sometimes you just have to work with what you’ve got.


The Universe may not be indifferent

But this lad sure as hell is…


My dog prejudice (sadly confirmed)

Me and my dog have got a prejudice: we don’t like bull terriers of any variety.  In one way it’s quite fair because I freeze up with any type be they English, Staffordshire, American or any mixed up version with a strong bull terrier genetic inheritance.  In another it’s a bit irrational and makes life tricky.  I’ve tried to unpick where it all started for us, whether it was me, or him, because now it’s definitely both of us.

I’ll be honest, we had an English Bull Terrier at my Dad’s house and it was a cussed sort of beast.  It also attacked the goats.  This ended up with both the dog and goats being rehomed, which seemed a bit unfair on the goats, but there you go.  One day I had to pick up a housebrick and bash the dog on the head with it, to try and release it’s grip on the poor goat’s leg.  You get the picture.  Now, I come to type this, I am starting to see where it all started.  Obvious really.  Anyway, those dogs have a very strong jaw and equally thick skull – the brick put him off his stride not hardly.

Since then we’ve had this proliferation of these dogs in urban settings – I can only speak for urban settings because I don’t know about the countryside – and there has been a marked increase in young people having these dogs and I think, it’s fair to say, choosing the breed for the wrong reasons; whether that be street cred, or as a weapon, to make some money breeding, or in some cases as fighting dogs.  I suppose the combination of my experience and those factors has made me wary.  Enter my own dog, a very timid rescue from Navan, Ireland.  He’s taken against them, I think, partly  because I’m a bit on edge but also because they have a manner of bowling up to us when off the lead, tail up, looking pretty sure of themselves.  It doesn’t mean they are aggressive, but it makes my dog nervous because he likes to check out a new ‘friend’ from a distance – he does not like the other dog going nose-to-nose without the chance for an introduction.  So the upshot is, we steer well clear.  

If I see a bull terrier (and round here it’s usually a Staffie, or two) we go somewhere else.  I don’t let my dog off the lead near them, and if the terrier is off the lead already, we clear the area pronto.  I don’t suppose the stories in the press help – sad to say the dogs that often ‘turn’ and injure or even kill people are of this type.  There are also the Japanese Akitas but they are seen around less and most of those owners keep them on the lead.  Maybe it’s something to do with the cost of the Akita compared to the Staffie, and the size of the breed.  When I type that I realise I am making appalling classist assumptions about the types of people I think own Staffies, but in my defence it’s also my personal observation. 

Anyway, this is all rather a lengthy preamble to explain what happened yesterday.  I walked the dog in the rain, which tends to delight me because there are fewer other dogs out then and that makes the whole thing less stressful.  We had our walk and were nearly home, dog on lead, when a man came round the corner with two black staffies, also on leads.  We were still some distance apart and the two dogs started to growl and strain at the leads.  I made to cross the road, but then the man with the pair did likewise so I stayed put.  Unfortunately, he was moving in slow motion (probably because he was out of his box – another observation not straight assumption).  Staffies pull like a train, which is why so many wear harnesses, and in split second one had pulled the man over in the road and had come after us, snapping and biting my dog who was trying to retaliate as well as run down the street with me.  The dog pursued us into the middle of a T-junction, whereupon I went down like a felled oak, onto my right knee, hip and shoulder.

The aggressor backed off then, looking quite startled and a boy came up on his bike and grabbed the lead and took the dog back to the house down the road where it lives.  The man was still sitting in the road with the other dog, saying nothing as if he was stunned.  I have always had a temper on me – if it comes to flight or fight – I am naturally set to the latter.  I manage myself much better these days, but I roared at the man, the only repeatable bit being that he was lucky I didn’t have the kids with me.

My poor dog has had his feet nipped and was rather sorry for himself in the aftermath, although that may have been more about my angry reaction to the other party.  I have a very sore knee and hip which kept me awake a bit.  I love having a dog; I have had dogs for nearly twenty years now and walked dogs for other people in London and consider myself fairly ok with managing them.  However this incident has reminded me what happens when idiot brains take on the responsibility of a dog, with teeth.  Lately, it just seems like that there are too many of them about here for comfort.  I have a dog, in part, because getting out for a walk every day is part of how I manage my mood and health.  Now, the stress it creates almost offsets the benefit.

Time will pass, my knee will heal, hopefully my own dog will suffer no ill-effects.  In the meantime I am just left with the uneasy feeling that I may be getting too old to be a dog owner in the kind of town we seem to have on our hands lately.


dog ball

Chief Biscuit Torturer

The dog can be a bit snotty when it comes to food. His breakfast can lie in the bowl ignored until lunch, or even teatime. My old dog was partial to anything. Kitchen doors had to be kept shut otherwise he was odds on to go *right through the bin and his work surface surfing habits meant food was not safe for even a second out on the side.

This new version of dog I have can even turn his nose up at a morning biscuit. It’s not a dog biscuit either, but a human one. Plain I grant you, but most dogs would be grateful to start their day this way. Wouldn’t they? Not he. Mostly it goes begging and I eat it with my morning cup of tea. Sometimes, just to be extra annoying he goes to take it from my hand, but in the end just licks the edge without enthusiasm and then turns it down, leaving me, mug in one hand, with a useless biscuit in the other.

Then there are the rare occasions that he will lower himself to take it from me, but this is what he does. He gets on the bed, yes mine I am afraid, and tortures the biscuit. He flings it in the air and stares at the Rich Tea where it has landed; the poor biscuit probably wonders what an earth is going on. Then he might jab it with his nose, swiftly followed with prod with his paw. And so it goes on for a minute or so, the prodding and stabbing and jabbing and poking and shoving with his paws and his nose. Sometimes the biscuit has enough and breaks, but mostly it remains intact. After a while he gets bored and eats it.

The dog is very odd – he manages to make it seem when he is given, what is ostensibly a treat, as if he is not only doing me, but the biscuit a favour when he finally deigns to eat it. He certainly makes me feel sorry for the Rich Tea in this house.

Helpfully the manufacturer points out that the biscuit is ’round’
In case you missed that fact.

*This entailed not merely a desultory poke around inside the black rubbish bag, but a comprehensive strewing of every single thing in the bin into rivers of rubbish across the floor with extra special smearing action on the floor with things like tea bags, greasy containers and egg shells and anything else notably rancid and fetid.

La vie en rose

I don’t suffer from this as a rule, preferring to see things as they really are. A counsellor once told me that people who are able to reach for the rose-tinted spectacles, people who are unrealistically optimistic, have basically got a protective shield around them that helps them to cope with the vagaries (and worse) of the world.

Life is interesting; ‘may you live in interesting times’ being more of a curse than a blessing. Today has been interesting too. I am conscious that even the most committed rose-tinted spectacle wearer might have struggled with getting up this morning to multiple stomach upsets (via the dog) on the rug in the front room and on the staircase carpets. Or the early call to cover a class when I had children to drop off (via the car) and a meeting to take at the same time.

Or the necessity of still travelling, via the car, with the heaters on 32 degree heat, full blast because the question whether to save or scrap the car is too vexatious. Or the meeting summary that morphed into a 1500 word report that I wasn’t expecting to have to do today. Or the threat of bailiffs next week and the mix up about the university library fines I swear I paid. Or the two car parking tickets that are probably in the post.

I didn’t reach for my sun-tinted spectacles though. Instead I took the rug out into the garden and employed some washing up liquid and my watering can. And later on I did some cleaning up the stairs. The rest can wait. I found myself saying to someone earlier this week, ‘Well, it’s not the things that happen to you that are the problem, it’s how you respond that matters’. If someone punched me on the nose for saying such a thing, well I’d understand. It might be fair enough. It would be how I responded that mattered more than the punch. Wouldn’t it?

Sometimes, when I think things like this I wonder if I am becoming somewhat certifiable. Don’t mention this to my mother.

Hmmm…. The jury is out.

Nb The dog is fed three times a day, but he still has the figure of the waif and stray that he was. Eat your heart out!

A break in the clouds

The dogs on the beach ban lifts for 6 months in October, so Rudi and went down the other day and pretty much had the place to ourselves, apart from a few cockle pickers further out on the mud.

I wanted to take the camera down there but the battery was flat and I couldn’t find the charger so I had to make do with the Blackberry. How it would have all turned out with a proper camera I will never know. Life can just be like that sometimes.

The Crowstone with dog on the foreshore

A sort of singing in the car

Ran the dog today as per every morning. I am no longer running myself on account of the winter chest that has returned in the excuse for summer, perhaps next month…

It is grey and chilly but the children still wanted to go to the playground – Dogs Not Allowed – so after a drink Rudi went into the backseat of the car with the windows opened, for air.

As we walked away I heard the most ear-splitting and soulful howling; unmistakeably Rudi protesting about being left behind. I know how he feels.

This song was on the radio whilst I was typing. I had this album in my teens, it was always unfashionable, but I’ll make no apologies for that.


Sometimes you can put your feet up, but it’s just not happening. We managed to catch Rudi on the sofa between a bout of growling and stressing over the gift of a pork sausage. He can’t eat the item, he has to wander around with it whining…

The Vets

I much prefer a trip to the vets than the doctors. Unless it’s not routine, which is awful. Today was the Rudi Dog’s day for his booster vaccination, which means I’ve had him for three whole years. He’s now transformed from the malnourished, scared of his own shadow lurcher from Navan of December 2007 into a passable impression of a pet. He used to double-back upstairs when he saw the lead, try to run off blindly if there was a sudden noise, and a car passing by on the street caused severe mental trauma. He still growls like a gurrier when approached if he’s half-asleep but, I suppose, some of us wouldn’t be without him now.

He has to keep his Coat of Power on in the vets. He feels naked without it.

Action in the doorway

Old worry whiskers

A Series of Alarming Events

Yesterday started ok. Cold, but not as icy as the day before, although that could have been because I put on a ridiculous striped woolly hat for the morning trot with the dog. Said dog behaved impeccably until he found himself left near a shrubbery into which he vanished. Somehow he ended up on the even more impeccable bowling green where snipping and manicuring was taking place. I had to climb over the fence, walk across the green with a fake sense of purpose and have him pointedly ignore me before vanishing off again. My friend was smart enough to position herself around a corner at an exit point onto the road into the park. He eventually hoved into view thundering past me with his finessed bollocks to you sort of look, but then stopped dead in shame when he met her round the corner. Better than being stopped dead by a car. Git.

This partially conspired to make me 10 minutes late for my first meeting in one place, which morphed into 15 minutes late for the next in another. Behind by a whopping 30 minutes when I finally got to work, the snowballing time lag ended up added another 30 minutes to my own deficit. Losing a whole hour is pretty slack – I’m hoping to retrieve it the weekend after next.

Having lost an hour, I had a pile of stuff to do workwise at home after the school run, so I was pretty annoyed when this loud car or house alarm started going off and broke my concentration. I got the youngest to turn down the tv to see where it might be coming from; we decided it was down the road. In the end it went on so long I told her to turn the tv up and I put my headphones in. Lucky then I heard the doorbell. I went to the door in a bit of a huff and said to my neighbour who had summoned me that this alarm going off for so long was a sodding nuisance.

And, this I am afraid is completely true, he said to me: it’s your alarm.

Whereupon I think he was expecting me to say something along the lines of oh silly me, I’ll turn it off. What I said was: well it shouldn’t be going off because it doesn’t work. He clearly thought I was crazy, so he came in to check that the control pad was indeed dead, which it is because having never had the alarm code the executive decision was taken to snip the wires to it ages ago.

So like Rudi being caught in shame round the corner by one neighbour this morning, I was now trapped in my own yard in total humiliation because it turns out my house alarm is the worst noise known to man, I didn’t twig it was mine until someone came round to tell me and, even then, I couldn’t turn it off.

I suggested smashing it up with a big stick, but the neighbour is a proper tradesman and he fetched a long ladder which he went up. He then came back down and fetched a screwdriver with which he might have felt like rapping me over the knuckles at the very least for useless articleness, but being gracious he went back up the ladder and managed to make the noise stop. A pity he couldn’t do the same for the usual cacophony in my head, some of which ends up here. There’s loads that don’t!

A nice genteel spot for a tear-up innit