I feel well enough to tell you

What Monday isn’t made a little more wonderful by Bernard Butler and David McAlmont? Not very many.

David McAlmont has just got the most amazing voice. It’s one of those big, powerful voices with a huge and immense range, which is good enough to thrill me anyway, but when he sings, like only a handful of singers, his voice reaches into the heart of you and gives your insides a squeeze. He’s got one of those voices that you can’t do anything else to when you hear him – you’ve just got to listen and that is that.

What’s not to love about that?

Besides, Bernard Butler is a god of the guitar. He’s no Johnny Marr but he’d get a silver medal in my Olympics of floppy-haired indie guitarists. It’s always hard, in the wake of great bands, to carve out something new and different. The 80s brought such an amazing wave of great music in so many forms that the mid-nineties just seemed to struggle a bit. If you don’t believe me, look back at the greatest albums of 1996 or 1997 and tell me how many of them are by bands who got to grow up, or bands who any staying power. If I tell you that Peter André’s ‘Mysterious Girl’ was the 9th biggest single of 1996, you can see how desperate things were. Happily, there was a lot of very mellow and lovely acid jazz that year and I think I spent most weekends at the Boardwalk in Manchester. I managed to avoid most of the nasty knock-off boy bands and girl bands. Ask me what the late nineties brought and I’ll tell you B*witched, Boyzone, 5ive, Cleopatra… ah, the heights of shite.

Luckily, Pulp, Suede, The Verve and Beck stepped into the breach for the Indie sound, but by and large, I’m yet to be argued into thinking the mid- to late nineties gave us shedloads of great musical moments. Some years are like that. Other years, you should just stop everything to just listen. 2006. Now that was a year in music. 

So apart from David McAlmont’s fine vocals, what am I loving this week?

♥ Cold is almost down to manageable proportions of snot. I know you wanted to know that.

♥ Friends who send you Vaseline lip balm. Lip balm is much less of a phenomenon in France, and Vaseline still has seedy connotations. I don’t know why. Anyone in a good sex education class knows Vaseline is not a good lubricant. Bad enough having chapped lips without being sniggered at. It beats putting chocolate-flavoured lip-balm on my nose.

♥ These three little guys. They arrived at the refuge as a pack of seven, found huddled up under their master’s bed after he’d died. Edge has found a lovely home in the Dordogne, Tino is with a wonderful refuge volunteer, Brigitte, and Usty has been taken to a foster home. All within two weeks. They’d all been at the refuge for over five years. There’s not a real reason for that. The trouble is they look like German Shepherds, but in reality, they are tiny. Anyone who saw them on the internet would expect a big dog. They are little, shy boys as well, so not so good at coming out and saying hello at the refuge to anyone who drops in looking for a dog.

Usty Tino Edge

♥ knowing that warmer days and longer evenings are on the way. Not much going on by way of gardening last week, what with the temperatures not getting above 4° for most of the week. A little snow is alright when you know you have wood for the fire. Here’s hoping for a fine spring, rather than the wash-outs of former years.

♥ Seeing Ufo, the big black labrador adopted before Christmas. He’d been at the refuge for seven years. He looks absolutely magnificent now. He was on fine form. He might be old, but he’s still living like a puppy. Ralf’s like that too. He’s learned (well, learning!) recall and he’s all “Whooooooo! Look at me!!!! I’m coming back to you!!!!!” – not bad for the age of thirteen. There are just two dogs now who arrived in 2009 – Nichman and Paulo. Paulo is lovely. He’s my current love. He’s a huge, ancient labrador who always looks at you as if to say, “Yes, can I help you?” when you pass his enclosure. No reason he’s been there six years, either. Nichman, now that’ll be a rehoming and a half. No cats, no dogs, not bothered by people, snacks or treats. He’s not a looker either. Poor Nichman. I suspect I’m going to do a mahhoooooooseive Nichman campaign for Mr Unloveable.


This is Paulo. Who wouldn’t love this cheery fellow?


And this is Nichman. Coming up on twelve and six of those years at the refuge. Pulls like a team of huskies, loves playing catch, not at all interested in people, hates other dogs. Hmmmm. How to write an advert for this guy?

Wolf is off to Germany on 20th February. He’s got a lot of admirers. Mainly it’s because he’s a handsome honey who is actually a little shy. Hopefully there will be photos of his first nights – sure it will make a lot of staff and volunteers cry.


Of the ten long-termers from before Christmas – Ufo, Dalton, Edge, Tino, Usty, Paulo, Nichman, Salma, Wolf and Cachou – there will be three remaining by February school holidays. I think that’s just fabulous. The Division 2 long termers will be tough to rehome too – lots of dogs who are not fans of other dogs or who need a special someone. Darius, Dusty, Douggy, Fidele, Elios, Noah. Mind you, I’m looking back at that Division Two list as well and can see a lot of happy rehomings. Young Tino (who was my favourite), Djibouti, Chupa, Anna, Artiste, Alaska, Fairbanks, RG, Charly, Skype, Fly… We’re talking some seriously difficult-to-rehome dogs here: bouncy, nippy, pully, energetic, suspicious, big, black – you name it, they had some reason they weren’t adopted as quickly. There are now 12 dogs who have been at the refuge since 2012. In September last year, there were 33.

Anyway, on that little reflection, I feel a lot more buoyant. Time to get busy and start my Monday for real.


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