Wednesday, August 22, 2012

It's raining sausages (for Kristal)

Kristal was out in the garden this morning when suddenly a string of sausages fell from the sky.

                       Like a shot, she was on to them, and not about to let them go.

Obviously, they'd flown over the fence from next door, and, as new neighbours, we ought to do the right thing and return them. Oh, but not yet, eh Mum?  First she had a great chase around the garden with one end in her mouth and the rest trailing. In and out of bushes and up and down the driveway.

Then she settled down to test the flavour. Mmmm. Slight essence of slobber... a hint of yuck... a bit of muck.

Then they squeaked at her. WHAT? Where did that come from?  Not edible after all? Well, you know us Labradors... we'll give anything a go.

No sooner had I retrieved the sausages before they ended up looking more like mince meat, than a frisbee landed right in front of her nose.

                                                     Oh joy! It's raining toys.

                                                       Finders, keepers!

                 Oh come on... you're not going to make me give it back are you?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Kristal Goes Country

Village life suits Kristal. She's learning to chill. She's become a regular at the village pub and even at the local manor house where we indulge in a posh coffee now and then after our walk across the fields.

Now 16 months old, she's looking very mature. However, she's had a troublesome couple of months since our move to a temporary home. First she had a phantom pregnancy which went on and on and meant that she couldn't be spayed at the right time. Then, having just recovered from that and all her bits and pieces looking normal again, she developed a large abscess behind her eye which pushed the eyeball forward making her head look weirdly asymmetrical. It was very very painful. She couldn't open her mouth wide or chew her food. Anyway, after a month of antibiotics and having to endure eye drops five times a day, she's now fully recovered.

Because I gave her a treat each time she had her eye drops she got to the stage where, if I'd forgotten the time, she'd come and nudge me to remind me. She'd then throw herself down on the floor and roll over, presenting her eye to me for treatment. What a little trouper! This could have been a doubly stressful time if she'd decided eye drops were not for her.

She's made herself at home in our temporary accommodation and loves the fact that this cottage not only has two staircases, but has no doors to several of its rooms. It's a veritable indoor adventure playground and great for hide and seek.  The main bedroom is downstairs and it has no door. The kitchen also has no door. First thing in the mornings when I'm making tea, Kristal will stand in the kitchen and gaze through the gap at the prostrate figure that is my husband, still in slumberland. She does this silently. And every time he stirs or snores her tail wags.... but still she makes no sound.  She'll keep this silent vigil until he eventually joins the land of the living.  Then she's all over him.

But her favourite place is at the top of the stairs that lead to the room I'm using as a study. She's not supposed to venture upstairs at all, and she knows it, but now it seems as if she's claimed the territory on the landing as her own.

She's not turned it into a game; it's just as if it's a given that this space is hers.... she's claimed it. From this vantage point she can see who comes and who leaves and assess what's going on in other parts of the cottage. Talk about Big Brother watching you...

I know she listens in to conversations because if we mention the 'W' word or the 'D' word or the 'L' word, she's down those stairs two at a time.

Her favourite walk (the 'W' word) is around the perimeter of this field at the back of the garden.

The hedgerows are home to a variety of wildlife and at harvest time, Kites (the feathered kind), can be seen patrolling the skies.

When the hay was being harvested, Kites, Kestrels and Magpies just sat around waiting for lunch to emerge from the gradually diminishing ground cover.

Kristal and I like to come and sit on this seat in a sunny corner of the churchyard. It will soon be time for harvest festivals and when living surrounded by arable farmlands it's brought home to us much more sharply how village life has evolved and changed. At one time the church would have been the focal unifying point for the community, its doors ever open. Now they're locked against intruders. Cottage doors would have stood open so that neighbours could greet each other... face to face rather than on Facebook. The High Street that once boasted a butchers, a bakers and retail outlets to meet all the needs of this rural community, including several pubs, now only supports a hairdressers (something you can't buy over the internet), two pubs and a general store that's hanging on by a wing and a prayer. Today's residents commute to work in bigger towns and shop en route. For those who no longer commute.... well, there's an hourly bus if you're lucky. Whether you like it or not, in rural communities where personal contact used to be the norm,  house alarms, electric gates, locks and bolts have replaced open doors and windows (even on stifling summer days) and the internet has become a necessary faceless fact of life. You can't help wondering what some of the long departed residents might have to say about life in their village today. No doubt some would turn in their graves.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Jessamine Cottage 
I wish I could say I feel at home in you, but I don't. Not yet. But I'm grateful for the sanctuary you provide while we negotiate the minefield that is house selling and buying in this country. You've sheltered families over 300 years and parts of your structure bear witness to this passage of time. Some of your loft beams are clearly tree branches, still with bark intact. What changes you've seen. What dramas, large and small. You'll be here when I'm long gone. Who will shelter within your walls 30, 50, 100 years from now? I'm pleased to have been part of this continuum. To be your mistress for just a while. To clean your windows and brush your floors and fill your rooms with flowers. I think we'll get along just fine, you and I, despite your wonky plumbing and crazy electrics... your low ceilings and even lower doorways. I'll learn to duck in the right places. We'll look after each other, for just a while.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pot of Gold?

I'm in New Zealand now. Just got out of Heathrow before the snow and ice made things very difficult. I truly hope you all survived... I don't think I would have.

Here, they've had the wettest summer ever. It's really difficult to keep abreast of climate changes and the extremes of weather that we're having to endure of late. I watch the New Zealand TV weather reports and am amazed that it always seems to be blowing up a storm in the Pacific Islands... Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, Cook Islands and others in that group. It seems to be raining there constantly. Not the image we have in mind of tropical island paradise.

In Auckland yesterday they had waterspouts over the harbour. On land they would have been classified as tornados and might have done a lot of damage. Here on the Coromandel Peninsula we had wonderful rainbows.

No doubt, like me, you grew up with the tale of the pot of gold being at the end of the rainbow. You can read different interpretations into this. There's no doubt that a rainbow seems to embody a sense of optimism and hope... like a light at the end of a tunnel. I never found a pot of gold, but this rainbow's reflection ends almost at the bottom of my garden. I like to think of this sanctuary of mine as my pot of gold. It's a place I come to to unwind, to re-charge my batteries, to re-connect with friends and family and to kick-start the creative side of my whatever you call the thing that drives you to create and communicate. For all of that, I'm prepared to endure the long journey (and the expense) for as long as I can. And I'm not alone. Our local croquet club here has members who come every year from far flung places; from Aberdeen and Andorra, New York and The New Forest, Hertfordshire, Gloucestershire and Guernsey. They call us Godwits (a bird that makes the return trip Alaska to NZ every year) and they welcome us with open arms... literally. It's a small world really and we all seem to be seeking the same thing. A sanctuary and time to reflect on just what our personal pot of gold holds.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Last Week with Kristal

It's almost upon us. The time we puppy walkers find so distressing. Handing the pup back to Guide Dogs or onwards to another puppy walker. And Kristal's time with us is almost up. She's 9 months old now and will be moving on to another puppy walker with whom I sometimes do a puppy-share. I've had more than my share this time, because my colleague has builders in and puppies LOVE fresh plaster, so Kristal has been with us slightly longer than planned. In that time she's really matured and we can see much more adult behaviour and physique. She squares up beautifully, and when she's on her toes, she's a joy to behold.

This week we do lots of things 'for the last time'. Last favourite walk, last trip to John Lewis, last visit to certain friends, last group training class.  Lots of people will call in to say goodbye. Kristal knows the puppy walker she's going to, so there'll be no problem with her settling in. And her best friend Sparky lives there too. (He's the pup in my profile picture... he didn't make the grade, despite being the best I've had at obedience,  so was adopted. It was a medical issue he copped out on.)

I'll be packing Kristal's bags and packing my own too. We always go on holiday when a pup leaves us.... it helps to make the parting more bearable. And I'll get to see her again, so watch this space.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Caffe Kristal

Christmas is over and we're easing back into a more regular routine. Part of this routine is to stop off at a certain coffee shop during our in-town training walks. Kristal knows the fastest route from the car park at Waitrose to our usual establishment. Once there, she ensures that the floor beneath our table is cleared of crumbs before settling down for a snooze. In fact, if given the chance, she'll clear the entire floor of crumbs willingly and free of charge. As a potential Guide Dog, she's not supposed to do that, but you try telling that to an eight month old Labrador.

Guide Dogs often have pups named by firms who have raised the required amount of sponsorship money (currently £5,000). These pups, especially the Labradors, would be very good advertisements for vacuum cleaner manufacturers. Hoover, Miele, Dyson, Bosch would all make very good dogs' names. Come to think of it, Nero would make a good name too. I must drop a hint to the staff the next time we're in. Corporate charity sponsorship is very in vogue at the moment. It provides lots of opportunities for team focussed events and bonding exercises. If anyone is interested, contact www.guidedogs.org.uk and follow the links.

As corporate sponsors you would receive regular information and photographs of 'your' pup and also a visit now and then. A group of flight-side staff at one of the UK's busy airports sponsored a pup and included her in their company public relations video.

Individuals can also name a pup in memory of a deceased loved one, or for any other reason. Some people invest an enormous amount of fundraising time and effort into this, and name pup after pup. It becomes a challenge.

Kristal is not a sponsored pup. The spelling of her name is reminiscent of a character from the TV show Dynasty and I can assure you, she has the attitude to match.

after the storm - AROS 3

cold wet thighs
warm chest
wet dog smell


Christmas Cards - AROS 2 Jan 2012

Christmas cards...
a sentence a year
held dear
because you once featured large in my life


Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Start - AROS1 Jan 2012

    a dickens of a year ends, thank goodness,
    great expectations for the start of a new one