A wild nobility

Because we all need a bit more crazy in our lives today … Here’s my favourite nutbag Adam and his famous Ants

When you’re an eight-year-old girl, your passions run deep. My only real passions were ballet, my teacher Mr Parks, Adam Ant and palomino horses. No wonder my life went so wrong. It set an early pattern, that. When you like crazy men in make-up and thigh boots, your life is never going to be normal, is it?

In 1981, it was a choice between Shakin’ Stevens, Bucks Fizz and Adam and the Ants. A little band called Hanoi Rocks might have also been making music, Punk might have had some last gasps with The Exploited and Siouxsie and the Banshees, but a girl only had Top of the Pops to go off. Could have been worse. Joe Dolce’s Shaddap You Face kept Ultravox’s divine Vienna off the number 1 spot. There were some good songs in 1981… Under Pressure, Ghost Town, Stand and Deliver, Prince Charming, Vienna, Happy Birthday. Happy days indeed. 8 was definitely a good age for me.

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I had this poster on my wall, and I’m pretty sure there is no love like the love of an 8 year old girl for a pop star. He was followed by George Michael. That’s how it went in those days. From crazy men in thigh boots to big-haired boys in white shorts. The follies of youth.

Anyhow, a bit of a blast from the past will keep me going this week – still catching up with extra classes. Mock exams in France and the UK mean that everyone’s trying to cram as much in as possible. Today it’s a lot of chasing around and hopefully a bit of Hagrid time as I’ve got to drop some paperwork off at the shelter at lunch. Someone else had taken him out already on Friday, and though it pissed me off they only took him for a ten-minute jaunt instead of a proper walk, I felt a bit rubbish taking him again when other dogs hadn’t been out, so Linda and I took out Duchesse and Lucky instead. Both Linda and I are walking 1000 miles this year to raise money for the shelter. Much, much love for Linda and her enthusiasm. Mind you, when she meets you at the gate in a fury, you know something’s afoot in the global zeitgeist. It’s usually me who’s been battered by misunderstandings and miscommunications. I’d reached my fill over Christmas so I had no emotion left for anything else. Old people turning up unannounced wanting puppies barely raised my pulse past mild irritation, or people who want a cheap dog but not an old dog. Much and massive love for the volunteers who helped me get seventeen sets of photos on Friday afternoon. Puppy-sitting had left a massive list of dogs needing photos since I’d not been able to get to the shelter for two weeks. I’ve still got another eight to go, but at least it’s headway. That calm certainly extended to the dogs… not often you can get puppies in one shot!

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Other than that, I had a late start to my 1000 miles challenge – managed to catch up a bit. Sunday was fun – went out the door and it was gunshot everywhere. Plus, Effel has taken to trying to get into the food when left alone. Usually he’s okay if I leave him with a Kong, but it’s not always easy when Heston’s super-excited, I’ve left all the leads in the car, Amigo’s barking, there’s rifle fire 50m away and you’re trying to manage your own Sunday morning grrrrrs.

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We’re early birds. Well, I say that and Effel likes to be up at 6am, like a flipping Swiss alarm clock. Heston likes a walk as soon as it gets light. Most days, that’s not until 8.30 at the moment, and it’s always hard to negotiate hunters, who seem to be everywhere this year. It’s been so icy that it’s not been worth defrosting the car, so we have to negotiate all the dogs left in yards as well, or the farmer’s dogs who just roam about wherever they like.

This week, it’s all catch-up, catch-up. Oh to be eight again when the only things that mattered were so very simple.

In the hands of these erroneous fools

The first Monday of 2017 and it’s about time we had The Guillemots with Trains to Brazil

Time definitely seems to be going faster than it ever did. I didn’t ever really get used to it being 2016, let alone 2017. I was in bed by 9.30 last night – puppies were all wormed again yesterday and it zapped them a little bit. They have a big burst of energy from about 6.30 til about 8.30, a bit of a sleep and then some more playing til about lunchtime. And yes, it’s the Feff who’s up before any of us, excited to start his day – or, more likely, giddy for breakfast.

It’s back to work for me today, and I’m hoping I can tire the puppies out this afternoon as I’ve got some Skype lessons this evening. Nothing like puppies barking at each other to put you off your Macbeth. Funny to think that this time last year, I just had a little Rocky kitten other than my own dogs – it is still strange not to have kittens in the bathroom. The puppies have been much noisier than the kittens, it must be said. By the time breakfasts are done, my dogs are walked, I’ve cleaned up the puppies and visited the other dogs I’m looking after, it’s usually lunchtime. I’d stupidly thought I’d be able to get some of my assignments done for my canine behaviour practitioner course. I’m at unit 9 out of 16 – and although that might seem good to you, I’ve still a way to go. Trying to get them out of the way before June will be the challenge so that I’m free to do all my marking duties.

2017 will see me back in the UK much more than I ever had to be before. New jobs and contracts mean more visits will be necessary, and probably longer ones too.

Last year, I had no real resolutions as such. I tried to do a 366-day photo challenge, but it proved too much and I got up to about 100. That’s not to say I didn’t take a lot of photos (9,900 to be exact) but that I didn’t spend much time on Photoshop once spring kicked in. You can kind of understand that, I guess. I got to April and it was all kittens.

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I got more experimental by the end of the year. This snow process was actually really straightforward. Can’t remember how the hell I did it, but it beat real snow for sure.

If 2016 brought me anything, it was a love of that super-duper 50mm lens. My nifty-fifty didn’t leave my camera.

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It is a marvellous lens.

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Between Photoshop, Picmonkey and my nifty fifty, I really fell in love with photography all over again.

I did a lot of reading as well in 2016. Alright. A lot of it was dog reading. I even managed to get through a whole 28 books! Mind you, there were endless science reports as well that I read – I don’t suppose they count!

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Some of those books were absolute crap that I didn’t finish. That High Pyrenees book needs burning it was so bad, and likewise for I am Pilgrim. Winter in Madrid and All the Light We Cannot See made me weep. Prisoners of Geography and Outliers were great. In fact, I’ve probably got quite a few more I need to add to this list.

I only have one real plan for next year: I’m doing the 1000 miles challenge, which means walking 1000 miles before the end of the year. It’s the equivalent of just over 38 marathons. I’m doing it to raise a bit of cash for the refuge – with budget cuts and vans breaking down for good, all money is needed.

You can contribute here if you’d like to help us. All money goes directly to the refuge.

Although one or two of my responsibilities have ended, I’ve still plenty to keep me busy in 2017, not least the assistant principal examiner post which will see most of my summer spent in dark rooms, carrying right through to re-marks and November marking. I have really, really had a lot of success from a couple of my blogs this year – Madame Anglaise just never fails to surprise me given how little I invested in it. Last year, knowing the syllabus was changing, I decided to aim for a post a week – and saw my great stats triple, which was really, really cool. Woof Like To Meet also went viral, with one post getting over a quarter of a million reads. It’s at that point when you think “I should monetise this!” but I’ve always thought that if you give stuff away free, people are generally pretty grateful and happy to pass you on to someone who will not mind paying for your services.

Losing Tobby was the saddest part of my year – sad that I only got to have nineteen months of him, which was eighteen more than I expected, but even so. Shepherds connect with you in ways other dogs don’t, that’s all I can say. Or maybe I spent so long thinking it would be my last week with him that I truly, truly treasured him. Tilly trotted on, infection after infection, treatment after treatment. I’m sandwiched between Tilly and Amigo as I write – and there is no greater joy than being sandwiched between two old giffers. The Feff is still here – his German adoption fell through. He’s on the market once again and leaving me whether I can really manage with four dogs. We will see.

Here’s to a marvellously successful 2017 for everyone. Who knows what the year will bring in France – we can’t even begin to speculate. This marks my seventh year in France, and wondering whether I’m feeling the seven year itch. Normally I’m so ADHD that I manage three years before deciding it’s time for a change! All I want these days is a bit of stability!

Have a good week, anyway, and remember that Spring is one day closer.

All I ever knew

A bit of the lovely Alison Moyet for you this fine Boxing Day morning

Well, Boxing Day if you’re British, anyway. The French don’t do Boxing Day. I don’t know what that’s all about. When are you supposed to visit all the other members of your family? As far as I was concerned, Boxing Day was just like a Christmas Day Do-over, just more casual.

I’ve had a lot of trouble getting myself into the Christmas spirit at all these days – and not because I don’t want to. I love Christmas and all things Christmas. If nothing else, it’s the only time of year where I don’t have as many clients (though I still have some – I’m sure they’re not so happy about the January mock exams!) and I can actually catch up. I spend most of it trying to do a bit of advance writing and getting things filed away for future reference. I’m constantly amazed by how much traffic my teacher blog gets – up til 2016, I really didn’t deserve that much traffic. The fact that it has tripled and I’m now Google’s number 1 choice for a lot of GCSE poetry stuff is always quite amazing to me. I even got 60 hits on Christmas Day, bless them all.

The same is true of Woof Like To Meet, too, and both of them take a bit of work. Both reap rewards though, and that’s all that counts. To be able to inspire people’s understanding of poetry is fabulous. I get a lot of nice feedback that makes it very worthwhile, and a good few clients, which is also a benefit. I love teaching GCSE Literature. I’d do it all day long if I could.

And Woof Like To Meet might not be my most natural niche, but it’s good to be able to share advice that helps adopters get to grips with some of the issues they may find in adopting a dog. With sixteen under my roof tonight, I’m pretty sure I know a thing or two about dog stuff, but to be honest, I have done a lot of revision. Like a stupid amount. It’s all just so flipping interesting! Like did you know homes with a single owner are more likely to have a dog with separation anxiety? Infinitely interesting. Mind you, shouty madame mummy who is here with her babies has a bit to learn about household rules. She’s like a high-maintenance version of Tilly, and that’s saying something. You can see her thinking all the time – something I never see Tilly doing!

Bless my dogs though – they’re so accepting of waifs and strays who turn up for a night or two, or even more. I’ve barely seen Heston and Bandit since the puppies arrived though – it reminds me of that time I went to a festival as a 29-year-old with a load of 18-year-olds. I felt very old and went home early. I know we did all the exact same things they did but when you’re no longer 18, you just don’t find it funny anymore. I think I’m right to say they spent most of the weekend repeating lines from comedies just exactly like we did with Vic and Bob lines, or Fast Show lines. It definitely dates you. I still use a lot of them now. I very nearly introduced the Yazoo track as Vince Clark and his Bontempi organ, which is only funny if you ever enjoyed Vic Reeves Big Night Out. And that’s how it is here. Heston’s all Vic Reeves Big Night Out and these puppies are all Cartman and his Cheezy Puffs.

Also, Much Love this fine Boxing Day Monday for all the friends who mucked in last week – people bringing me puppy pens at 7.30 in the morning and going to pick me up biscuits, flea treatments and wormers are friends indeed. A couple of very kind people have also come over and sat in with the pups to help socialise them and also give me time to walk my dogs and nip out to feed a friend’s. Feff is not good in the car – well, when you’re in a hatchback with a goodly number of other dogs, you’re not likely to be your most calm. The good news is (and cross your fingers) that The Feff may have a permanent home to go to. Fingers crossed that we can make it work out, but it’s the best real offer I’ve had for him in a home I know will suit him perfectly. Okay, it’s in Germany and it’s only a 1000 km away. Only. Anyway, watch this space.

I have to say I will most massively miss having a shepherd in my life. With Tobby gone, Feff took over the following about and the general supervision of stuff. I will find it quite strange no doubt to be left with three dogs who couldn’t give a monkey’s what I’m doing. I know for sure that my next dog will be a malinois or a beauceron. Heston is a most marvellous dog, but he’s very independent. Amigo loves petting and is the cuddliest, sweetest dog of all, and Tilly scutching up to me with her warm little bum is very lovely indeed, but shepherds are different. They are so connected to you – they’re definitely a dog apart. Plus, they’ll do anything for you. All they want is a connection to a person. No wonder they pine so when they’re left at the shelter. You’d think it’d be collies or sensitive souls like setters that would find it the hardest to be abandoned. No. It’s the shepherd and mountain breeds. A shepherd without a flock to manage is a sad dog indeed. They’re like best friend bodyguards. A shepherd is the dog who sleeps all night by your bed, never asking to get in it, never demanding more. They don’t move, because their place is next to you. It’s not Tilly on the bed because it’s warm and comfortable and she doesn’t rightly care where you are, or Amigo wandering around to find the warmest, comfy dog spot, or Heston doing whatever it is he does in the night, looking for places where he can be on his own away from other dogs and sneaking in to bed for a cuddle before dawn. No, a shepherd just wants you to be in your spot and them to be in their spot. If that can be at the foot of your bed, or outside your bedroom, the happier they are. Closeness is a real shepherd thing, and I miss it. I probably miss Tobby more than I ever thought I would. They really are a constant companion. It reminds me of that line in Everyman where Knowledge says to Everyman, “Everyman, I will go with you and be your guide. In your need, I will stay by your side.” That’s shepherds for you. I think this is why I love Hagrid so much at the shelter.

You may wonder why Feff is going to a new home instead of staying here – but to be honest, he needs more than I can give him. He has never learned to play and I wish I had the time to teach him fetch, to teach him to focus that running, stalking energy in a positive way, to take him to agility training and proprioception and get him aware of his massive long legs. He deserves someone who works less than I do and has fewer dogs, who can begin to fill in the socialisation gaps he has. Plus, and it’s not horrible, don’t get me wrong, but there is a tension between Heston and Feff and neither feel relaxed enough to get over it. Had I adopted him, I’d live with it. But I think Feff deserves better.

So fingers very tightly crossed.

Other than the lovely people who did a lot of dogsitting and puppy fondling, wormer taxiing and pen constructing, there are a fair few people out there who have made it a better Christmas than I would have had myself without them. It has been a week of relying on friends, and I’m very glad I have them to rely on. Not least because my Christmas lunch would have probably been soup if I hadn’t had a very lovely hamper of deliciousness dropped off.

Anyway, here’s to the next post, which will be 2017. How on earth has another year gone? Let’s hope globally it’s less shit of a year than this one. Fingers crossed for that too!

Shimmering and dirty

With the release of Trainspotting 2 just over a month away, I thought it was time for a bit of a throwback to the dirty nineties.

If The Lost Boys soundtrack was the soundtrack to my early teens, Trainspotting’s sound track was the sound to the last months before I properly grew up and did things like getting a mortgage and a car loan, buying vases from Ikea and thinking about kitchen cabinets. I can’t tell you about surreal nights which seem just as vivid as they ever did. I can remember those nights as clearly as if they were only two months ago, not twenty years. This was such a great soundtrack as well. You’ve just got to hope that Sickboy’s comments about getting old and not being able to hack it aren’t self-fulfilling prophecies for this film.

Anyway, nothing makes you feel old like Trainspotting being twenty years old. What I love most are all the people I knew back then – still living as big as ever. Not a one of them is conventional. I love that. I feel like I need a bit more ‘big’ living. I keep seeing all their photos of mountain biking in the alps or hiking in Scotland and not only does it make me realise that they live life as hard as they ever did, but that I’m so very, very tired by comparison. I need more excitement! I think 2017 needs more adrenaline again. I forgot how good adrenaline feels. Sadly not everyone from back then made it through to 2017… you carry some people with you every day in your heart.

Truth be told, I don’t really know where last week went. It was my birthday, and I celebrated by babysitting two cute puppies until their new homes were ready for them on Saturday. I made the mistake of waking up at half four on Friday morning, which was a bit painful. Why it was painful was that when standing outside with the puppies waiting for them to do a bit of personal business, there was obviously a bit of barn owl activity. Have you ever heard a barn owl? It seriously sounds like people being murdered in their beds. I’m never going out in the dark ever again. Between the dogs howling and the screaming barn owls, it was quite terrifying. Who’d live in the country?

Anyhow, the puppies went to their new homes on Saturday, which is great. I’m so glad there are people who still want to take on a puppy. I’m at that point where I’m so past puppies. Even Heston, who used to spend hours rolling around with puppies attached to them was not enamoured. He even growled at one. He is now at the grumpy old git stage. The Feff was also not enamoured. He was a bit like that scene in the Empire Strikes Back with the AT-ATs. When you think tiny small bitey things might bring you down to your knees, life can be a bit worrying. Amigo sat on the couch and ignored them. Tilly sat on the other couch and watched them suspiciously. Life is hard when you are a puppy surrounded by grown-ups.

More puppies are arriving this week for the Christmas break. They can’t be vaccinated until the first week in January, so they’re sitting it out here. I think it’ll be February school holidays before I get a day off and a lie-in once again. So much for big living! I’m too tired for that! In those intervening twenty years, gone are the days when I used to stay up til five or six, or forget sleeping altogether. Now, all I can think of is my bed. I think the last time I had a night out with the Trainspotting soundtrack, we all slept on the floor in some house in Bolton. I can’t function without sleep any more. I wonder what happened to me?!

Anyway, have a great Christmas week and I hope you’re rocking all around the Christmas tree. All photos of ski trips in the Alps gladly accepted… I’m living life vicariously these days!

Heartbeats, intimidation

Bit of Alien Ant Farm for you this December Monday, with Smooth Criminal. 

What I love most about Youtube are people’s comments. I was watching a comedian talking last night about how his comments on Youtube were funnier than his videos, with the bickering going on between the people who liked his video and those who didn’t. I can’t work out if people really think Michael Jackson covered this song, and they think this is the original, or they are just having a laugh. Either way, it made me laugh. Especially when you are dealing with Michael Jackson fans who don’t see that this is in itself a great tribute (as well as a bit of a pisstake). If you’re at the point where you’re correcting people who may or may not be joking about who recorded this first, you need to find something else to keep your fingers busy.

I know it’s not very Christmassy, but I’m way past the point where I could get myself amped up for Christmas this year. I got out a solitary Christmas candle yesterday. Pretty sad if that’s all you can rattle up, if you ask me.

Last week saw a bit of wrapping up of projects and even lunch in the sunshine. I’ve eaten so badly these last three or four weeks that I’m putting myself on a vegetables, fruit and pulses mission over Christmas. Another reason for people to stay away from me! It’s not good when you feel all yuck.

This week, I’ve got a few miniature visitors coming for a bit of a stop-over. It will be strange indeed to have puppies about and not have an alarmed Malinois wondering who’s going to bite his ankles, then choosing to run away. My other dogs had their Tobby-versary sausage baguettes today – it was our first time without Tobby. I’m really missing him at the moment. If nothing else, he was the dog whose nose I kissed the most. Amigo may be cuddly and Heston may love to be by my side, but I miss kissing that Tobby nose.

Brief today – for which I apologise. Too much to do and none of it worth writing home about! Have a great week, all ❤

It’s noble and it’s brutal

Bit of Miss Annie Lennox for you this morning with Love is a Stranger

You can’t go wrong if your Monday starts with the Eurythmics if you ask me.

Bit of a gentler week last week, which was well-needed. For the first week since April, I’ve had no kittens in the spare spaces, and four dogs just doesn’t seem like a big deal when you’ve had six bigguns for a good long while. I stopped over to see the puppies I’ll be getting here over Christmas – they’re all cute little velvety beans at the moment, wiggly and sweet, just beginning to interact with each other in meaningful ways. It’s been a week of puppy arrivals through the shelter – obviously it’s the done thing now to kick your puppies out if you can’t get a few quid for them on Le Bon Coin. Four bigger puppies came through to the refuge this week, two female shepherd crosses, a labrador cross and a breton spaniel cross. They were followed by two puppies who are down as being “pointer crosses” but look for all intents and purposes like Jack Russells of one flavour or another. Then on Friday, two more tiny pups came in, starving and malnourished, huge wormy bellies. Kittens slow down and puppies begin.

I managed to get another assignment in for my dog behaviour course, and trying to squash another in before the puppies arrive – I always feel a bit of a gap once the exams finish and I’m left with “spare time” which had never been spare time, but was just time I took from other places to mark papers. It takes a while to think that you can actually use it to do something in like actual relaxation, which feels kind of alien to me at the moment.

This week, a Christmas lunch and a lot of assignment writing are on the cards – certainly seems bizarre to find myself at almost Christmas and wonder where the year has gone. I know I’m trying to keep the house puppy-proof, but it certainly feels like I should break out a few Christmas decorations.

Out and about a bit this week, trying to finish off a few projects before the new year, so not sure I’ll have the time to break out the baubles, but I’ll do my best.

Have a fabulous week!

Bring the firestorm

Bit of Motorhead for you this morning. Can’t think of anything more appropriate

If there was ever a kindred spirit for Lemmy, Tobby was probably it. Lemmy died at the tail end of last year, having undertaken a world tour that finished less than a month before he died. I mean if anybody personified that same spirit, it’d be Tobby. He too refused to take it easy and had never taken it easy one single day since being here. I mean, Amigo hops around on three legs when he’s feeling sorry for himself. Heston stops eating. Tilly pees on everybody’s beds. But Tobby? He never let me know he was out of sorts.

Last Monday, I took him for a last-ditch try. The appointment could have gone either way. If the vet said no chance, I wouldn’t have let him go on. She said she didn’t think steroids would work because the damage was neurological, but it might give him a bit of power in his muscles and give him his appetite back. In the end, it was easy to see that it made his muscles more relaxed, but heavier too. I had to help him every single time he got up. He was losing sensation in his legs and tail too. He wouldn’t eat on Tuesday, and nothing would tempt him, not beef, not turkey, not even a sausage. It was time.

The house has been so quiet since then, even with the great galumph that is Effel. Amigo has been more needy than usual. He stood in the rain with me when we buried Tobby in the garden and he wouldn’t come inside. I didn’t think Heston would care so much, but an energy has left the house and he definitely feels that. He’s been so flat and quiet. Tilly is just Tilly, although she did mark the occasion by peeing in one of the beds.

I said when Ralf died that there would always be a space for an old dog. There always will. I think it’s time to leave it until after Christmas, as there will be a few more guests than usual here. Tobby would no doubt have packed his bags and toddled off.

One thing is for sure… I miss those radar ears and those bright eyes, those nudges for attention and the endless company. He was such a typical shepherd – only really happy with a job to do or a bit of companionship. He was loyal and connected to me in ways that my other dogs just weren’t. In the night, all my other dogs move about and pick spots that are warm or comfortable, or cooler. Tobby always, without fail, lay by my bed. That’s the dog he was.

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He had 19 months of good food, comfort and companionship. This is my favourite photo of him even though it’s the least posed – that’s maybe why it’s my favourite. He just looks so content. No ribs on show and handsome as he ever was.

As for the other stuff, my two remaining kittens were homed at our Portes Ouvertes this weekend. Last night was the first time since April that I have had only one lodger. Despite everything Effel is proving difficult to rehome. He is welcome to stay as long as he likes, but he has never felt like my dog. It’s a shame, because he’s beautiful, but Tilly avoids going out when he is outside, as his bouncing and racing without care are too much for her. There is a bristly tension between him and Heston. Heston has to tell him three or four times a day that he’s too much. Feff is so great with new dogs and such an arse with ones he knows better. Seeing him bump Amigo last week also makes me very conscious that I’ve still got two old giffers here, and although Tobby is no longer here to barge and bump, Amigo is now all but deaf and he needs a home where he feels safe.

This week, exams have finished and I have about a gazillion tasks to finish off that I started before the exam hibernation. The house couldn’t be dirtier what with the filthy weather we had last week, and it’s time I got out the mop and bucket.

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This time next week we’ll be into December… can’t believe the year has gone so very quickly.

I know you won’t believe it’s true

Bit of Pulp for you this wet Monday morning. Something about those grey skies reminds me of Sheffield.

My favourite Pulp moment was when Jarvis Cocker invaded the stage when Michael Jackson was performing. All of us need a bit of that when we believe the hype of ourselves, I think. My favourite moment of all of that was the fact that when he was charged with assault, he was represented by the lovely, lovely Bob Mortimer. Surreal is not quite the word for all of that, including Michael Jackson’s performance itself.

Sometimes I find myself really missing Sheffield. I always wonder what it would have been like to have lived there as a proper grown-up. How you experience a place as a piss-poor student living in places which you can’t afford to heat is always different from how you experience it as a functioning member of society. I suspect that it is a vastly different town these days and that some town council has gone about respecting the heritage and removing the concrete. One day, I’ll come back and see you, I promise, Sheffield.

Mostly the week has been lost in marking and looking after the Tobb. A bit like my house, Tobby seems to be held together with chewing gum and string. Not quite sure what’s keeping him going. Back at the vet’s this week and hoping for something to help him manage the pain. All the twinkle has gone out of his eyes. Here’s hoping this week brings him a bit of relief. Last week not helped much by reading the great “How Dogs Love Us” by neuroscientist Gregory Berns. Actually, his job title seems to be ‘neuroeconomist’ but I don’t even know what that word means. Anyway, the book is a narrative about him training two dogs to go into an MRI scanner conscious for a functional MRI scan to see what’s going on in dogs’ brains. I won’t spoil it but I will say I spent about four hours weeping on Thursday morning in the wee hours. One thing is for sure about the next fifty years: science will reveal that animals are much smarter than we think, and that people are much dumber than we could ever have imagined. It was quite strange to realise that we are the only meat-eating primate (well, large-scale meat anyway) except for the tarsier… we’ve more in common with dogs than we think.

Anyway, onto the last quarter of my marking. Hoping to have it done by next Monday, Tobby aside. It’s another busy week and I think I’ll be spending most of it cleaning: filthy, filthy house!

Enjoy Pulp and may your Monday be as unique as Jarvis.

Thank God it’s not that simple

It’s never going to be an uplifting Monday in the week where the great LC dies, is it?

Here’s a track from one of my favourite Leonard Cohen albums, Ten New Songs, which is In My Secret Life

To be honest, when Leonard Cohen dies in the same week that Donald Trump is named President-elect of the USA, I think that kind of says it all about the universal dischord.

I think I would have to say that I mostly fell in love with Mr Cohen in 1990, with the film Pump Up The Volume. That was a quiet film of angst that appealed to every single part of the teen me. There were some great tracks in that film, from the Pixies to Henry Rollins. Music has always been the thing that spoke most to my soul, and there’s not much to wonder about a film about the role music plays in the lives of teenagers. I bought I’m Your Man off the back of that movie, and everything else followed. Whilst everyone else is singing love songs, or love gone wrong songs, I loved that these were songs that were about a different kind of love. A real love. A love that was sometimes obsessive, and often unrequited, a love that was painful and dirty, lustful and unfaithful, but a real love nonetheless. None of your cheesy ballads for Mr Leonard Cohen. It’s a bit like James – their stuff kind of touched on that weirdness of life and love that most music doesn’t. But after all, that’s the stuff that gets to me the most.

I know some people find him depressing, but I don’t really think they know him very well, except maybe for Hallelujah, which I still can’t stand to be sung by anyone else at all. It’s like they really don’t get what it’s about. There are some great singers out there though who really, really got those songs. Ian McCulloch’s Lover, Lover, Lover is amazing, and Antony Hegarty singing If It Be Your Will. Nick Cave singing Suzanne… there’s a lot of singers out there who really got Cohen. If he’s good enough for a Jarvis Cocker cover, then he’s good enough for me.

What I love most is he just kept doing great and amazing stuff. One of my favourite albums was released in 2001. And another in 1988. Another in 1974. I mean that’s some feat to turn out something that is equally as powerful at intervals like that. Definitely never, ever any filler from him.

There simply was no-one like Leonard Cohen.

I don’t think there’s Much Love to be had in a post-Trump world, is there? It’s fine to suggest that it was an angry vote, a vote against Clinton, an anti-politics vote… but whilst there are no doubt people who voted for Trump because they wanted to make a statement, just as they voted for Brexit, or they will vote for Marine Le Pen, there are a large majority of voters who truly believe in what they are promoting. I just don’t have words for when knobs like Trump come to power. All of this is the American Dream. Rage Against the Machine indeed. I feel, in the wake of Cohen, there’s going to be a lot of punk in this household over the next few months.

A crummy and grotty week we leave behind: pregnant dogs abandoned, old dogs left at the refuge, dogs handed over by shitty owners… some weeks get you more than others.

Tobby is also having a tough time of it. Even in a week, he has gone down a long way – no longer my shepherd, following me everywhere, inspecting everything I do. Most of the time, he lies by my feet at the table if I am working. Sometimes, he gets up and has a totter about, but he is not the Tobby he was even two weeks ago. I’m glad for the exam marking and to be able to spend time on the couch with my oldest of dudes. It’s crap when you’re grieving them before they’ve even gone. Every painful fall, every tottering step makes me hurt too inside. Often, he doesn’t even get up to come to bed any more until he’s absolutely sure that I’m staying up there and not going to come back down again.

So it was nice yesterday to spend a couple of hours with some great people and their wonderful dogs. Effel had an absolute ball. Somewhere in all the crappiness, you have to make a little space for nice stuff. Nice stuff, nice people, and cake. Not often I use an Oxford comma, but I felt it needed one just there.

Great too to have three new students start last week, all super lovely and amazingly keen. I don’t think teaching GCSE or A level will ever get boring for me.

Anyway, let’s hope for a week of loveliness – sometimes you just have to look a bit harder to find it in amid the crap.

It’s Scientific

Well, two in a row… aren’t you lucky? Bit of Talking Heads this morning with Wild Wild Life

Plus, bonus, you get a bit of John Goodman in there as well. In fact, I could happily have just run a few John Goodman clips, because I love him as much as this song. Walter in The Big Lebowski has to be my favourite character of his. I see a lot of myself in that character. One day, I’ll get a gun out of a bowling bag and be yelling if someone breaks the rules, I can see it coming.

If John Goodman was a dog, he’d have been my Ralfie. That dog always put me in a good mood.

It’s been a week of sorting stuff out before the exam marking restarts, trying to make sure the garden is neat enough to withstand the rains and cold weather that’s on its way and make sure the house is tolerably clean enough to ignore for three weeks until the marking period finishes. There were two days – two whole days! – where the garden actually looked tidy. Then we had hammering rain on Friday night and it’s back to looking a bit sad and forlorn again.

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The early mornings since the clocks went back last week have been spectacularly autumnal, be it mists and fogs or clear skies and hazy morning glow.

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Yesterday gave in to soggy, foggy autumn bleakness, which is timely. No point having nice weather if you’ve got to stay inside and mark now, is there?

So what’s to love this Monday morning?

Much love to the fabulous family who are adopting Mimire the blind labrador. You just know when you take in a dog like Mim that he’ll be with you for some time. I was quite prepared for it to be a very long time indeed. But there you go. He is a super-sweet dog with a giant heart of love and loveliness, so there’s lots of reasons to fall in love with him.

The Feff is still here.

In fact, I thought it would be easier to rehome him than it’s proving to be. French people want a guard dog, and I don’t want him to live outside in a car lot or a garden all on his own. English people think he’s either a dobie or a rottweiler. As it turns out, the requests to see him are getting more and more ridiculous. I won’t even tell you about the man who turned up here on Saturday afternoon having harassed me all Saturday morning. I was so cross I almost let Heston out to shout at him. I wouldn’t mind but I’d been perfectly reasonable about sorting out a visit for Sunday. I found myself wondering if the man was confused and angry because his memory was going or something. Either he was really, really bad at listening, super-used to getting his own way (he’d called on Friday when I was en route to the refuge to demand I take Effel… and even if I had had the call earlier, it’d have still been a big fat ‘no’) or whether he actually was just confused and angry. Whichever reason he had, not a good home for the Feff. I’d have adopted him myself if I thought he had no other option.

What annoys me are all the people who think that ‘no cats’ is a ‘maybe cats’ or ‘no kids’ is just a kind of exception they can break. Believe me, if I thought he could live with cats or kids, I’d say so. They’re two big impediments in his adoption. I don’t just make random stuff up for kicks. I know people think they are better at training dogs than they are… and it’s always the dog’s fault if something goes wrong.

Not much love for that!

Much love though for the Wobbly Bob, who is finding the autumn impossibly hard and I’m finding it tough to watch him fade. It’s like grieving him before he’s gone. I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t notice the little differences that tell me how hard he’s finding things, how he can barely stand to finish his whole breakfast (and won’t give in and have a relaxing lie-down to eat, like Mimire did!) and he falls sometimes down the step between the bedroom and the kitchen, how he falls sometimes in the garden even with nobody around. Yesterday, he didn’t get up to welcome me back from my walk. I find myself looking at him every so often just to check he’s still breathing. His breathing is so shallow and so slow these days that I can be watching him for half a minute or more before I am happy he’s just sleeping. He finds it hard to lie down, so he stands until he has to give in, and then he finds it hard to get up.

Yet Friday, he still got too close to a visiting dog, enough to elicit a bit of a grumble from the other. He’s still a menace with no social boundaries. Love that dog so much. We’re spending as much time on the couch together as we can, just so I can enjoy those last Tobby cuddles.

I also finished my fifth ISCP project, which was about appropriate dog play & mental stimulation – I was going to do something for Hagrid but in the end decided to do something for poor play-deprived Feff. No wonder he has so many issues. This week, he decided nipping the lawnmower was an appropriate herding thing to do. I’m not sure how much I’ll manage to do of assignment six and seven this month, although one of them will hopefully be finished next Sunday and the other will follow. That will leave me half-way through! I can’t believe how much I’m enjoying it. I really miss stuff that keeps my brain sharp and gives me a bit of focus.

Well, marking starts today, so I’d better look lively. Much more to squash into the week than usual.