I wish it was me

Bit of light pop for you this Monday morning with Scouting for Girls and Elvis Ain’t Dead

I think there’s some Mondays that you just need a bit of enthusiasm!

Last week was bitterly cold and it doesn’t feel like summer is ever going to get here – there’s a North wind sitting up there just making everything arctic. The north of France even had snow! Still, I’m at that point in the year where I am just not making a fire. It’s May! That’s not to say I’m happy tolerating it though. Despite the mild winter, everything is a long way behind where it normally is – except for the crops, which are happily tolerating all the rain and the blue skies. I don’t think they care that it was only 2°C on Friday morning.

We’re in a 9-week build-up to the end of term, and it feels like such a lot has to happen before that block is finished. Next week is the refuge bric-a-brac, which I can only hope is as productive as the one I went to yesterday with Sarah. The first thing I saw was a kitchen sink. You can literally buy everything AND the kitchen sink at a French bric-a-brac. Well, not everything. The second thing I saw was a boy sporting a rat-tail hair cut. If I could have bought scissors I might have chopped that offensive lock off and sent it back to the 1980s. You can’t buy sharp scissors at a bric-a-brac, and that’s for sure. I picked up two rather kitsch F. Lolylle paintings (you know, the big-eyed 1970s waify-looking kids… I can’t be bothered to post a photo) for 2 euros and you can’t sniff at that. I’m looking for a kitschy theme for my kitschy cabin and I just thought I needed to stop messing about choosing… Sad-eyed kids is kind of weird for a teacher, but hey, it’s all for art’s sake. Anyway, next week I’ll be rooting through the goods on display at the refuge.

It’s also that time of year when parents and students decide that now is a really good time to book last minute revision, and last week I ended up with more requests for lessons than I can handle. It’s going to be a long nine weeks, let me tell you. I can’t believe there’s booksales and GCSE marking and gardening and decorating all to come in those 63 days.

For that reason, stuff is no doubt bound to be short and sweet these next few weeks, though I promise you I am beavering away as per. I think I’ll stack up on the coffee and get my head down as best I can! A bit hard when I’m in three cardigans and a hat, but worse things have happened. Anyway, enjoy your week and hopefully it will be warmer than mine!

Times are Changing

I’d have started today as I start many Mondays with a bit of Prince, but the chance of something by Prince, who was very anti-Youtube, staying on Youtube for more than a month is nigh-on unbelieveable.

In a bit of a funk and soul mood, here’s Booker T and the MGs instead

It is an utter blog catastrophe not to be able to rely on a plethora of Prince tracks when you are looking for something to start your Monday off right and I know I’d have worked my way though the classics and the not-so classics. If you ever needed proof that a weird little short guy could ever be hot, well, Prince was it. Kylie called him sex on a stick and that he was. He sat in my teenage record collection with Janet Jackson, the pair of them a weird, incongruous couple beside Depeche Mode and the Smiths. And talk about genius. Plus, he never got to that point where he was a bit sad and embarrassing like Michael Jackson or Madonna, even in his skin tight pants and heels. In fact, those things just made him even hotter. He sang Gett Off in his gran’s hair net and he was still hot. Nicky Minaj has a lot to learn. And my favourite album? Lovesexy. Favourite track? Anna Stesia.  It’s a tough call between that album and 1999 or Purple Rain, or Sign Of The Times or about ten others. Ahhhhhh. I can’t choose. Much Love Mr Prince Rogers Nelson.

Anyway, the week starts a little better than the crazy chaos of last week, when I had a ridiculously long to-do list. I’ve still got four or five big things to do. Strangely, a post I wrote on another blog a month ago ended up going viral last week – over 100000 reads in two weeks, which is CRAZY! Still, I had a few follow-ups to do for that, which is great. The best thing is that it got shared and pinned by a lot of shelters across the globe, which is kind of cool. It was just about how taking dogs home from shelters can be really stressful for them. In fact, there was only one piece of negative feedback, wondering why ‘anyone’ would think a dog would be happy to leave the shelter and wondering why I hadn’t thought of it before. Duh. I guess all those “before/after” photos of sad-looking dog looking ecstatic to have been adopted just got me thinking that maybe a dog might be happy to come home from the shelter. You can’t please everyone. Mad to see it being shared by sites on Facebook with thousands of fans. I’m glad it hit a chord anyway, and if it means just one person is a little more patient with their new arrival, if just one person is a little less gung-ho about everything they want their new dog to experience, it’s all for the good.

Of course, it’s also GCSE season, and hits on my teacher blog go through the window at this point in the year as well. Nothing like last minute revision, is there? I love those questions the night before the exam – this year I’m doing another chatroom pay-to-join lesson the night before the exam: it’s usually pretty popular. I charge only a small sum for the revision lessons but I get lots of people joining which makes it worthwhile. Having seen just how many teachers are leaving the profession in the UK, coupled with endless changes from the government, I’ve never been so happy to be independent. It’s a high-pressure arena these days with very little by way of reward. I do love blogging though. I love the unpredictability of what works – you just have no idea what’ll float the global boat. Well, you kind of do. I know sad eyed dogs, small dogs and pedigree pooches will get far more shares than the happy-looking hefty muttleys, which makes me very sad. But my old dogs get a fair few shares too and that’s great.

In fact, there was a bit of a Facebook scrap last week on a professional pet photography group I’m part of (I know! I’ve got simply no sense of my own lack of importance or talent…  though somebody asked me to join, which was pretty cool) A photographer in the UK (a pretty fabulous one too, if you ask me) posted a pet photo for a shelter and asked if she could have a little marketing help in promoting it, as her posts weren’t getting the shares they should. Well, as the girl who made Bob The Dog global, with 140,000 shares and over 10 million views, I thought I could offer insights (in how not to do it) The trouble was, I couldn’t help feeling that the photos were very, very similar in style to a very famous pet photographer’s. Before I did our ‘Back in Black’ project, I’d asked Fred Levy (of the Black Dog Project) if I could. He was super gracious and even gave me a leg up, some tips and a share on his site. I’d asked if she’d contacted the original photographer. Turned out that she had and the original photographer had essentially said yes, but don’t take it to the media, so there was really no way the photographer could even ask for the shares, which was a bit of a shame. I did think that she should have gone in her own direction with the idea – nobody is flattered by complete copying & she’s a talented photographer – but the reaction from the original photographer – also a member of the group – was a little sharp. Still, her reaction is not only to be expected, but forgiven. She works tirelessly to promote pit bulls and she deserves not to have her ideas ripped off. Still, she was a bit mean about the other photos. I’m no photographic judge, but they looked fabulous to me. There’s no need to be a snippy primadonna. Once, I went to a paid training day, where the “trainer” presented my work, my research and even my photographs without any reference to me – I did mention it to her in private at the end and I was surprised by just how little shame she seemed to feel for directly ripping me off. Still, she’s always going to be a barefaced thief and I didn’t come across as a snippy primadonna. I tend to think that the world – like Google – is very good at sussing out original ideas and rewarding those who come up with them. Pretty sure Prince would agree with me on that.

Anyhow, this week is another week of meetings a-go-go. Friday I might as well just give up on. Yesterday, I managed to get a little ahead of myself just enough to spend an hour reading in the garden: everything is far too wet to mow still. It was a bitter wind out there – April has been a lot of a wash-out, it must be said. So much for warm springs. They definitely feel like something from the past. It’s a good four years since we had a warm spring. I should just get used to it. Thank God for electric blankets!

Enjoy Booker T, grab a bit of Prince and enjoy your Monday!

We always want what we can’t have

A bit of late 80s glam metal for you with Vain today, and No Respect

1989 was a great year for me and I loved this album very much. Not quite as fun as Faster Pussycat, I loved them all the same. I think I’m going to have a 1989 week. Tigertailz, Quireboys and Bang Tango, watch out.

And yes, I know it’s barely Monday any more.

It’s been one of those weeks.

Anyway, this week can only be quieter than last – the skies are blue for a change and though it’s still a cold wind blowing, you don’t half build up a sweat in the garden. Today, I had a guest at the gate at lunchtime. It was one of our local farmers. My first thought was that his dog was out. His dog is always out. My second thought was that someone else’s dog was out – I’m the go-to girl in my village if there’s a dog issue. What he said and what was actually true were a bit different. He told me there was a “bouc” in my garden – a billy goat. That didn’t make much sense. It made even less sense when I saw it was a calf and not a goat. I don’t even know how he’d got in given that by and large, Tobby can’t get out.

It did make me realise that catching a dog or a cat is usually easy work. He tore through three of my fences before we could corner him and rope him.

Nothing like a bit of excitement and a few old toothless farmers running around lassoing calves to spice up your lunchtime.

Yesterday was a toothless saga as well. We were doing a food drive in a local rural town. It is true to say that we get a different type of customer in the rural supermarkets than we do in the city ones. Last week, following a late night with the local vets, I took Amigo for his follow-up vaccinations to our vet. “Town vets!” said my vet, who’d been at the meeting. “They have no idea what happens ten kilometres from the town!”

She has a point.

I don’t know about vets being needed, but a dentist surely was. No judgement intended, but the dental care down that neck of the woods left a lot to be desired. A lady spent a good ten minutes telling us about all her cats and how she drowns the kittens. “I don’t think you’re supposed to do that any more….” I said, not wanting to be impolite yet not quite knowing the etiquette in situations where people confess to crimes. “I’m 90,” she said. “What are they going to do if they catch me doing it?”

I know better than to tell 90 year olds how to live by the law.

It really is a different world outside of the town though.

It did get all a bit crazy last week with impromptu vet visits and endless cleaning up after animals. I think my own dogs forgot what I looked like. On the plus side, all the kittens are now reserved, and there’s just the matter of finding a home for mum. On Friday, I also took up our first lot of dogs to go to Germany this year – very happy to see them go. There have been few adoptions recently, and the hunt dogs just keep rolling in. Pretty soon, they may well outnumber the labrador crosses, and that’s saying something.

I even had an overnighter here as well last Thursday. Friends of a friend in Brittany were adopting Florette, a ten year old German Shepherd x Griffon and I brought her here so she could get a head-start on the journey on Friday. She was just adorable. If they’d decided that they couldn’t have another dog at the last minute, I think I would have been sorely tempted to keep her, she was that easy. That took me up to ten mouths under the roof. I know there will be more by the height of kitty season – I had a family in the attic, a family in the bathroom and a family in the spare bedroom last year at one point.

Sometimes, there’s also days where there is just happy fall-out from other blogs I write – I had a few follow-ups and A LOT of hits on a post I wrote about trigger stacking – how we accidentally overwhelm dogs on their first day home after adoption and how it can cause fear for our new arrivals. That’s good – it’s brought in a bit of extra work though. Plus, given that the exam syllabus is going to change and I knew I couldn’t rely on Curley’s Wife to keep bringing in GCSE clients, I’d started a series of blogs on the new AQA poetry anthology, which is also gathering a lot of interest. It’s still good old Curley’s Wife bringing in the hits this year, but I know that it won’t be the same when Of Mice and Men is removed from AQA’s GCSE syllabus, so I got in early with some other posts. Glad to see that a couple are on the first page of Google when you search for the poem. That bodes well for next year, at least. I know a lot of people think that social media success is largely accidental, but it is not, and it is a lot of work to advertise in this way. I’ve still got this week’s to do. I don’t half set myself a standard. Luckily, the only person who has to live by the insane standards I set myself is me.

Anyhow, it’s 8pm, I still have 11 things on my to-do list, and an epic list tomorrow as well… I better get a move-on!

Have a great week!


Read the signs and walk away

Bit of Supertramp this morning for you with It’s Raining Again. It sure feels that way here.

It’s not been a particularly joyful spring, just cold and damp with sharp winds. I’m still doing everything with a hat on, it’s that bad.

Yesterday, it was Tobby’s one-year anniversary of being here. I can’t believe he’s still going strong. Really, I took him very soon after Ralf died, because I was worried about him. He’d fallen over three or four times on his last walk, and he was wobbly and thin.


Glad to see my grass is about as long as it is right now! Rains must have been as bad last year! Not so good seeing my Tobby’s ribs. He was 21kg. He’s 26kg now, which is about right. Funnily enough, he’s asleep in the exact same position he first slept in.

Bar one or two moments, he’s been the perfect guest. He and Heston have an uneasy tolerance of one another. They never growl – I never heard Tobby growl even once, though he does bark. He had that lovely note on his file to say ‘No Children’ which usually means they have nipped someone. Here, we’re all used to his toy-hogging ways. If Tobby has a toy, he does not want to play. He just wants to walk around with it in his mouth.


I mean, I thought it would be days or weeks, not months. A year seems almost incredible. He’s fab. He still follows me everywhere – still sleeps at my bedside. He climbs up next to me for cuddles in the evening and still races down the garden as if he didn’t have arthritis at all. At fourteen, he’s had a very good innings but you can see in his eyes that he’s not ready to be old yet. This is why I love my Mali boy. I love the way he sleeps with his tongue hanging out and I love his very very gentle kisses. He’s got the gnarliest teeth I’ve ever seen on a dog, but any kind of anaesthesia at his age would be a risk.

Funnily enough, speaking of anaesthesia, we had a meeting with the local vets on Friday night. That’s what we do for fun these days. No bars and clubs. No, we end up discussing the legalities of vouchers for cheap sterilisation at midnight. The vets around here are surprisingly handsome or surprisingly beautiful, it must be said. One of them is called Dr Gorgeous. Well, almost. Dr Gorgues. I’m passing no comment. I think All Creatures Great and Small gave me very low expectations over the presentation of vets. Mind you, I’m of an age where I now find Christopher Timothy not without his charms, in his younger days it must be said. I re-read all the James Herriot books last year and some parts had me crying laughing.

Anyhow, it wasn’t quite so merry on Friday night discussing at what age cats can be sterilised, or whether morphine or gas is better for surgery…

It’s timely, of course. Kitten season is about to really set in. My four are doing fabulously. Two were reserved on Saturday, leaving just the little white boy and the little black girl. It’ll be a good month before they’re ready to go though. They’re still at the staggering-falling kind of stage, though it’s fantastic to see what a good job mum is doing of keeping them clean.

It’s a refuge-y kind of week this week. There had been problems with the transporter to Germany which meant that a lot of dogs were reserved but we had no way of getting them there. This Friday, I’m doing the drop-off in Poitiers. We have five dogs going up this week, and more later in the month. We’ve also got a food drive next weekend, so I’ll be collecting dog and cat food at the supermarket. Luckily, I have a couple of clients on holiday this week otherwise I’d be very short on time. I suspect my to-do list will be really quite unwieldy by the end of the week though. And the weather is doing a good job of getting in the way of good progress – showers predicted all week. We even had storms and rainbows yesterday. Let’s hope it gets a bit warmer though. It’s time to put the jumpers away.

Anyway, I’ve got a gazillion errands to run. Have a fantastic Monday and hope it’s not raining again where you are.

If there’s a way I wish we’d see it

Bit of late eighties pre-grunge craziness for you this morning with Dinosaur Jr and Freak Scene.

If truth be told, I’ve had a bit of a Primus-kind of love affair for the last week or so, but I thought it’d be a bit of a shock to the system for those of us who are suffering after the clocks went forward. I feel like I’ve been in a time fog. Every morning, I wake up and it’s still dark, the dogs are all excited to be awake and I’m all “Go back to bed, you sons of biscuits.” I’m not functional until at least 10am at the moment and it’s all just a bit of a grumpy start to the day.

Plus, it’s just not warming up. No. It’s still yuck and wet and cold. By my reckoning, the blossom is a good two weeks behind where it might be, and there seems to have been a very short blossom period. I don’t hold much hope for fruit this year, I must say. Usually by now, stuff is growing. I’ve only got a few bitty lettuces and the baby toms I planted weeks ago. Looking like it’ll be one short summer again. That said, last April was cold too.

April is a month of doggie anniversaries. Amigo arrived here almost two years ago and old Wobbly Bob has been here a full-on year. You know, I was preparing myself for him dying after two weeks. It’s obviously been good living for the old Wobbler. He’s still just as wobbly, but it’s been a good year. They are such great dogs. I mostly love just how well they all get along together. They have grumbles, but they’ve long since stopped being arsey with each other. They’re not a pack – is ever a group of dogs really a pack? – kind of a hodge-podge assortment of Emma’s randomness.

That’s kind of how it is with me. I love variation. Beggars and Kings – good to have friends from the ranks. Music and Movies – nothing like a bit of disco right alongside a bit of punk. I realised last week I can’t even really decide on a job I’d like to do. That’s fine with me. I’m enjoying having a variety. Eclectic in everything.

Funnily enough, I have a momma cat in foster at the moment and her four little fluffy jellybeans. One white. One siamese. One dark tortie. One tabby. She got about a bit, did mum. Mum’s BEAUTIFUL. She is just great. I miss not handfeeding kittens, it’s true. You get a real bond with them. These ones, I just have to go and feed momma a couple of times a day and clean out her litter. They’ve got conjunctivitis, so I’m cleaning eyes, but it’s not the same. They are all putting on weight, though the little white one isn’t as strong as the others. I love watching them change each day. They’re more lively now – crawls rather than wiggling – I reckon about three weeks old maybe.

Lovely Mummy Cat is my favourite thing this week. She’s just delicious. I wish people would spay their cats though. I’ll be happiest when my bathroom is free for longer than a short twelve week block. Ideally, when it is free for good.

This week is a week of stuff – meetings and appointment changes – always leaves me feeling as shellshocked as the clocks going forward. But the week after, it’s officially the holidays for schools in our area, and I’m hoping for a slight reduction in teaching. Just a little. That said, with GCSEs, A levels, Baccs and Brevets coming up, I should imagine any time freed up will be quickly taken up by someone else. Usually, only a handful of my clients are away, these days.

Anyhow, got to squash all my errands into a super-short dash this morning, in amid trying to get on top of the garden. Wet, warm days and everything is on growth-overdrive. I heard the first cuckoo of spring on the 1st April too… spring’s definitely in there somewhere, between the showers.




We like dancing and we look divine

Always in the mood for a little DB and Rebel Rebel.

It’s been a windy, squally kind of week of warm sun and heavy showers. Yesterday, I got soaked through when I was walking the dogs. We started in sunshine and the clouds came over quickly.

It doesn’t feel like much of an Easter to be honest. I’d moved some of my Saturday lessons to Easter Sunday because I was taking a little dog up to the new Hope shop in Confolens. Tilly’s been ill again and we’re back to square one trying to find a food that suits her stomach. Couple getting up two or three times a night with too much to do and you’ve got one tired old Emma. Two weeks to go before the school break and I largely suspect I’ll not have much off as the exams are approaching and I’ve got various animals to look after.

The garden is in full growth now and I’m just trying to make sure it’s enough under control before April and May set in. I spent most of last week trying to catch up and chasing my tail. You do get to a point where you just think you are so far behind that you are never going to catch up. I’ve not got the energy – all the extra demands of the last two weeks have really zapped me. What was nice was spending an hour or so on Friday evening just chewing the fat with Robyn at the refuge – so many people do so many incomprehensible things that if you didn’t go “!§%*!#^*%” once in a while, you might explode.

Take this week. I have had a busy one as you can tell. Back in February, Angie, the refuge secretary, asked if I could stop by a house in a town I pass through sometimes. A woman had taken a puppy just after Christmas. She’d left a cheque, but she’d asked if she could come down the day after with the cash, so it was still sitting in her file. She hadn’t come back. The phone was ringing though with no answer at all.

The first address – the one on the contract – was a completely wrong address. It was an old lady who was a bit bewildered to find a strange English lady on her doorstep.

Angie did a bit of hunting and found the address on the cheque. It was kind of similar, but a different town completely. I did a second drive-by the week after. No answer, though the house seemed to be inhabited. I left a note saying we’d tried to call and that I’d stopped by, could she call the refuge.

The week after, no response. I stopped by again and then went to the mairie. Often, they’ll help us out if they have someone who can stop off and knock on. And if there’s trouble in town, they know it. Secretaries in mairies can be very gossipy. They’d not heard anything, but she gave me the number of one of the council workers and said I could ask him if he’d stop by.

He stopped by every day for a week. No response, no sign of life. No dog.

I’d reached the end of what was reasonable when I had a quick thought. We’d always been in work hours. She might be there at lunch. And she was, complete with dog. She was utterly bemused by her own story about paying by cash, said the cheque had been cashed, had no idea why her phone wasn’t working or why she’d not found the various notes I’d left. The dog was fine, she said. And he was. I saw him and gave him a quick check – eyes, nails, fur, ears. He gave me lots of kisses and she told me everything was good. “Can we cash the cheque?” I asked. “You’ve already cashed it.” and so we went round again. I’m standing with a cheque in my hand and she’s telling me we’ve not cashed it.

Cash the cheque, I told Angie. She says we’ve already cashed it.

Ten days later, the lady calls up.

“I don’t want the dog any more.”

“But you told Emma that the dog was fine.”

“The dog IS fine. I’m moving to an apartment, I’ve split up with my boyfriend. I can’t look after the dog…” blah blah blah.

“Can you send someone to pick the dog up?”

Angie calls me and asks. Can we pick the dog up? FFS. Really? You don’t want the dog and you can’t get him back to us?!

I called the woman. “Can you pick him up before Thursday? I’m moving on Thursday.”

I could go at 2pm. Not good enough. It had to be morning.

“I’m working in the morning.” I told her.

“Can you come in the lunch hour?”

What is it with people wanting the moon on a stick?

“Is he okay in the car?” I asked.

“Oh no. He needs medication to go in a car. He’s very stressed.”

Are you flipping kidding me??!

Anyway, because I’m a mug, I prepared myself. I sorted the car out and made sure there were secure harnesses, put sheeting down in case he was sick or worse, only for Angie to give me another call the night before.

“She’s given the dog away to a hunter.”

Cue another saga of trying to get the address, to retrieve the dog, to sort out this further complication. I mean, she still hadn’t paid – the cheque was returned to us for insufficient funding – and it’s not like she owned the dog. Bloody crackers, some people.

Anyhow, that was my saga of last week. No wonder it took me and Robyn an hour to offload all the things that needed offloading!

It would test the patience of a saint.

Thank God for a healthy circle of volunteers and staff who help you put it all in perspective. At least in this case, no animals were hurt. Not so the little scruff that turned up missing a leg from above the knee. She’d obviously been caught in a trap. Never mind that traps are illegal. And suddenly, walking Heston on a lead all the time seems like the sensible option.

Anyway, Much Love to all the shelter staff and volunteers across the world who put up with human foibles, madnesses and insanities.

And Much Love for Easter Monday and a day off work. Well, teaching, anyway. I’ve a million bits of paperwork to do and a couple of articles to write. I’ve 15 things on my to-do list and I’m determined to conquer it!

Have a fabulous Easter Monday – let’s hope for some blue skies later.





You can’t figure out the bag I’m in

Bit of Sly and the Family Stone for you today. Such a beautiful day, we can do with a bit of soul just to remind us that we’re all Everyday People.

I’m in the middle of a two-week block of busy. It was the refuge Open Weekend this weekend. It’s been a bit of a dead spell of late with very few adoptions and lots of arrivals. It’s the end of the hunt season and it seems to me that we’ve got a lot of sad-eyed boys and girls in. We’ve also not had as many adoptions to Germany or Northern Europe because of transportation issues, so the hunt dogs have stayed and stayed. The weekend saw the final adoptions of several dogs, and a couple of dogs adopted who’d gone right out of the refuge without a trial. Most people take dogs on trial these days. It’s a great idea. I had a broken-hearted little soul here on Friday, called Fripouille. He’s a six year old poodle whose owner had died. He’s obviously been very, very loved and he was completely lost. I’m still sad for him. You just can’t tell a dog that their whole world has changed and that the life they knew has gone. He was agitated on Saturday morning, pacing up and down. He finally found what he was looking for: his lead. He sat with his lead as if to say, “Lovely sleepover. Time to go home.” That poor little soul. It’s not the first time I’ve taken a dog on arrival, and they’re the only ones who are really sad to be here. They’ve lost everything and they don’t understand why. All the other dogs who come here are on a stopover out of the refuge, and they’re all “yeah!! Space! Whoooooo dogs!!!!” Not so for those who’ve lost everything.


He was the kind of dog I’d have definitely ended up keeping by accident, even though perfumed poodles are not my thing. Luckily, he went on a trial adoption and there are a couple of other people who were interested too if it all falls through. I’ll stick with my random posse of weirdy misfits.

I also had my first lunch outside last Monday, though it seems longer ago than that. Lovely to catch up with people and actually sit and chat like a human being and grown-up with a group of actual people for once. A few of us met up again on Thursday for a co-working session and lunch at the café in Gourville, which was just lovely. Lunch was very good. Two lunches in one week, though! Not looking like that this week.

The river in my garden has finally gone back underground, leaving me with a knee-high tick zone. Looks like a few of the local creatures have been having a bit of a frolic. Spring is definitely in the air. This week, I’ll be mostly trying to get the grass under control. Everything else has benefited from a winter of heavy pruning. One of my peaches seems to have given up the ghost. It was planted in a hedge of conifers, which was rather strange. I’ve been roughly planning out a new bed and wondering if I can fit in a quick plant-buying trip at some point. I’m determined that the garden will be more flowery on my departure.

Anyway, I must get busy and get out of here – a million and one errands to do. By this time next Monday, things should be on slightly more of an even keel up to the holidays. Just where is the year going to?


It feels like years

Is there any better way to welcome back the sunshine than with a bit of The Beatles? Here’s Here Comes The Sun.

It might be sunny, but it is still I-C-Y

My car was frozen over yesterday morning and there’s a cold wind that cuts to the bone. The lake in the garden seems to have lost its source feed so I’m hoping I can actually get down there and mow it in the next week or so. It’s still very swampy and under about a foot of water.

Two busy weeks coming up and a bit of a busy one last week too. It’s a spot of lunch with some lovely ladies today, which I am very much looking forward to. Plus, I might get to see Billy the Kitten. He grew up to be a very handsome boy indeed, despite being a bit special.


We’re still not quite at kitten season yet, so I’m missing the little beggars. One year, we may never get to the point of needing kitty foster homes, but this year won’t be it.

Last week, I took an emergency foster on Monday afternoon. She was a sweet little girl called Vanille.


Needless to say, when she arrived, she didn’t look this pretty. The week was a whirlwind of cat tests and kid tests, haircuts and ferryings-about. Vanille was a super house-guest. If only all my visitors were so well-behaved! Vanille went to her new home on Thursday.

Other than that, it was a bit of a gearing-up for the Open Weekend at the refuge. We’re at full capacity and it’s time some dogs and cats found homes. Twelve or so will be off to Germany in April after a bit of a hiatus. The transporter had van issues and it’s only then that you realise just what a great deal he was giving us. Hounds are always the first to go, which is all good. It’s the end of the hunting season, so there are lots of dogs let loose or left. The lady who grooms our dogs at the refuge (including little Vanille) found one of a pair of old sisters a couple of weeks ago. Both dogs were in a disgusting condition. They’d either been on the lam for a long time or they’d lived like that. I think the latter. Both girls were caught within days of each other and they were easy enough to catch. Between these two and Turquoise, an elderly beagle, you can see what the end of the hunt season means. Traumatised dogs with broken spirits who are barely approachable.

That’s not to say that they’re all like this, but there are too many for it to be okay.

Other than that, we’ve got a co-working lunch later this week. That’s a lot of lunch. I’ll also be doing a lot of gardening as it really kicks up a notch temperature-wise. I say this, and I’m writing wearing a scarf and a super-thick cardigan. I think it’s just wishful thinking.

I’m also celebrating a year of Woof Like To Meet and the fact that my Facebook page picked up 2500 fans in a year. Well, that was mightily unexpected. Most of them came by way of the USA who got a bit obsessed by Bob the Labrador. I am the only person I know who ever went properly viral. It got stupid in the end. I think he’d been shared over half a million times, and seen over eleven million times! Don’t know what that was all about, but you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll never do it again. When I die, I want “Went Viral On The Internet” added to the list of stuff I’ve done.

Wobbly Old Codger Tobby celebrated his eleventh month birthday here as well, which is very, very cool. I can’t believe it’s just less than a year since my big old fella Ralf died though. This time last year, I had a devil of a job keeping him from frolicking with calves, the scoundrel. I hope Tobby lives so large right up until his last days, I really do.

Right, I have a cake to bake. Must get my skates on. Have a good one and hopefully the sun will be coming out where you are this week




The Light of the Night

I think you all need a bit of Freddie to get your motors running this Monday morning, so here’s Queen with Now I’m Here. 

There’s a Queen song for your every mood. It’s why I love them. 42 years old, this song, and it still does the business. I was watching a documentary about his last year or so last week and that man was just the consummate showman. I wish all popstars were both such amazing performers and also so very private. I do wonder how Freddie would handle Instagram and Twitter. Best not to think about it.

Well, I’ve still got a river and a lake, so too wet to be getting really busy in the garden, but the plums near to the house are planning to burst into blossom at any moment. I’m taking the time to tidy up the woodshed. That’s not a euphemism. I found a 5 Franc piece in there the other day from 1982. I might keep it. You never feel certain with Europe any more. Besides, you can’t exchange them any more, so it’s neither use nor ornament.

I’m also running out of interesting things around the garden to photograph. The skies are yucky and it’s been wet more than it’s not. The only thing in bloom are a few spartan hyacinths and a random load of daffodils in places I didn’t plant them.

Since I can now get outside and since there is little to do when the grass is under water, I’ve been running through Heston’s heelwork stuff. We were a little rusty when I first re-started and he was so absolutely giddy I could barely get a ‘sit’ out of him. I run through his basic positions and then we have some transitions and trick stuff in there. Last year, he wasn’t a fan of anything involving my legs, but this year he’s loving it. We finished last year with a routine to Bohemian Rhapsody, funnily enough.

This year, Stand and Deliver seemed to really float his boat, and I’m putting some more jumps in. I figured I might try some hoop stuff too. Heston’s alright at jumps but he’s too big and heavy to really enjoy them. I forget sometimes that he’s much bigger than your average collie or even your average flat-coated retriever, being 63cm at the garrot. That’s bigger by a good 6cm than your tallest collie, and heavier by 9kg, bless him.

I got in a bit of a pointless argument last week with a man on the internet. I don’t know why I say it was “a bit” pointless, since it was completely pointless. He was trying to say that you could only get a good “gundog” (he meant field trials dog in actual fact, since I’m damn sure his dog never heard a gun being fired) without getting a puppy. He was obviously very proud of his “pointer” and its paperwork. Heston might not have any paperwork but when the man posted a video of his dog “working” I nearly cried laughing. Not only was the dog’s paperwork hiding something of a fib, since his dog was a pointing griffon if I ever saw one, but Heston’s track, point, flush and retrieve skills made me very proud. I’d long since given up arguing by that point since the man was incapable of understanding that people who work in rescue are not all (if at all!) bleeding hearts who actually know nothing about dogs, trials or breeding. Sometimes I do just give up arguing. The man was an arse.

Still, paperwork and lineage he might not have, but my dog is amazing to work with. And my muttley Amigo would beat that random internet man’s dog too. In fact, Tilly would. That dog can find a pheasant like no other. There’s show dogs with paperwork and then there’s dogs-what-does without. I know which ones I love. All of them!

Other than various doggage and Youtube Photoshop tutorials, last week was thin on the entertainment scales. That’s probably why I felt it so very necessary to correct people on the internet. In fact, it reminds me of a Saturday lesson. My student was trying very hard to explain why the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valois are such dastardly villains: they were libertines, he said, rebelling against the social conventions of the time. “They were bored,” I said. “They were bored and they were rich and they had too much time on their hands.” Sounds a bit like Donald Trump. That either the characters in Les Liaisons Dangereuses or Donald Trump ascribe to some philosophical movement of any form is purely accidental if you ask me.

Well, here’s a sample of my photo-a-day project from February. It got kind of green and yellow there.

367 368

Bits of blue… more please!

Let’s hope that March picks up a bit of warmth too.

Hope your Monday has blue skies and warmer winds.

Beyond the Sky

Bit later than my usual Monday offering, but here’s a real bit of soul for you with Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come

Sorry, Otis. You did a great version, but I prefer Sam’s.

I’m playing catch up following a weekend away for a friend’s birthday. She took us all to Bordeaux for the weekend – funny that it should remind me so much of Liverpool with all of its fine buildings and its sad history that meant so much abuse of so many people’s civil rights. Everything sure is connected, when you think about it.

Still, it was an amazing weekend and Bordeaux is a fabulous city. I’m at that point in my life where I’m a bit awe-struck around cities, despite having lived in them all of my life. Bordeaux feels big and bewildering, a labyrinth of buildings and people. I felt like the original country bumpkin. Going shopping was like visiting a load of old friends and catching up with them. I didn’t buy anything, feeling like the poor church mouse displaced to fine, civilised surroundings, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless. It was mostly nice to see just so very many people and to spend a bit of quality time with my friends. It’s only about an hour and a half away from us here, but it certainly makes our nearest town seem very small and pokey, and very provincial. We even managed a Starbucks!

In fact, I would go as far as saying that the thought of Starbucks was what got Natasha and me out of bed on Sunday.


We even managed a few cocktails and I got my makeup out.


We weren’t in some 1980s tacky cocktail bar – our friend Sara got a bit trim-happy with the umbrellas and adornments.

I confess it did feel quite lush to spend a Saturday lunch having a meal with friends, followed by a bit of shopping and a hot chocolate at a pavement café. Still, you can take the country girls out of the country and put them in a fancy boutique hotel, but you can’t stop them giving weird gifts from charity shops.


I’m pretty sure this is how I looked, out on the town after six years without a blusher brush.


A bit out of place with the make-up bags and the city girls.

We had a great weekend and lots of giggles. I feel very lucky this Monday morning to have found such a great group of ladies to keep me entertained. We’re all as special as each other, it must be said.


So happy birthday Sarah and thank you for a wonderful, wonderful weekend. Thank you ladies for giving me a great laugh. Mostly thanks to the dogsitter who even managed to keep the fire going and didn’t complain once about the smells.

This week, I’m back to the train-train. Daily routines seem a bit more sparkly though. Standing in fields being shouted at by crazy people who are arguing about whether or not they can keep a dog in a cage on a chain is about as social as it’s likely to get.

Have a lovely Monday and I hope it’s blooming where you are. The cranes are flying north and the plums are bursting into bud here. Still, with an icy wind, the spring seems a long way away.