Monthly Archives: February 2017

Do it till you’re dizzy

A shitty Monday and hard to choose a song that makes me smile. When someone had kind of similar musical tastes to the teenage you, and even signed off letters as “Billy Duffy”,  I hadn’t really realised how much some music reminded me of one of those teenage friends. Even Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ reminds me of one friend… though INXS, Terence Trent d’Arby, Simple Minds, The Cult and Aerosmith remind me more of them. Music, like scent, is one of those things that transports me right back to the moments that I treasure the most.

A song that I hope would make my friend smile as much as it does for me.

I know I spend a lot of time reminiscing about the past. I loved it back there (and I love it here now) but school was good to me. I met a lot of women who inspired me greatly (Miss Dawson and Miss Mullineaux, that’d be two!) with many teachers who genuinely cared about their students – hand-copied poems from my English teacher and an RE teacher who soaked up the sadness on more times than I could count – and teachers who, if not causing you to write missives to the headteacher about how very terrible they were, were casually allowing you to squander your time by doing dictations so very slowly that you could quite easily converse with your friends in copious note-passing sessions. We had crappy teachers and mean teachers, teachers who didn’t understand teenagers and teachers who were so very geeky that it hurt, teachers who treasured us and teachers who inspired us.

But what really made school were the friends that I made there – so many of them have gone on to do such amazing things. Lots of us live in far-flung places, from Canada to the US, to Dubai, to Australia, to New Zealand. There’s a bit of the Class of 89 in many corners of the globe, and every single time I see a photo of a friend’s family, a holiday snap, a wedding, a birth, an achievement, it gives me such a burst of joy. In many ways, these are the people who knew me the best, who knew me when I was becoming who I am, who made me what I am. They’re people who shared my teenage passions for A-ha and Wham, who remember Live Aid and field trips, the bridge and the Interchange, and who can still make you laugh when they remind you of gym lessons or swimming lessons, or sneaking off for a fag on the bridge.

Facebook is a marvellous thing in many ways for me. I get to share a bit of the happy ending for many of the people who meant so much to me when I was young. But there are many people who I lost touch with too – and who seem lost forever. Some of those friends are very much missing in my life and I wish I saw their faces in my daily Facebook feed. I can’t tell you how much I miss Laura and Anna who are very much missing pieces in my friends-of-the-past jigsaw.

I suspect the coming weeks will be full of school memories and remembered joys of teenage life… sometimes those memories are the only way to offset the shittiness of the universe that means some of those endings are not so happy at all. Big, most massive love to all my friends in the UK.

As a matter of fact

Bit of 90s Britpop for you this lovely Monday with the Longpigs and She Said

I’ve been mostly enjoying the sunshine this fine week, and cramming in all the lessons I missed the week before because of the filthy diseases that are doing the rounds. Amigo is wheezy and raspy, but he loves to be outside. We’ve been doing a lot of proprioception exercises to help him get his balance back, and he’s much better now he’s off the medicine. I’ve been teaching him signs too – not so easy to get dogs to do stuff when they can’t hear you.

I also had a very exciting offer last week, which is a little on hold until I finish the course I’m doing, but I was delighted to be asked and I was really happy to be asked. The coursework for the unit I’m doing currently is ‘Emotional Issues’ and I’ve picked up a few dogs with issues. Like I don’t have a house-full to study myself. Still, spending a couple of days talking to people about dogs is never time wasted if you ask me. Modern life is often very hard for a dog, and we ask so much of them. I’m reading the very excellent Behaviour Adjustment Techniques book by Grisha Stewart, and it’s validating everything I’ve done with Heston these past few years. She talks about the triple whammy of reactivity: genetic – picking up those reactive genes from mum or dad, pre-natal – picking up on mum’s stresses during pregnancy, and social – inadequate or inappropriate socialisation from 5 – 13 weeks. I love it when I read some authors of canine books – John Bradshaw, Jean Donaldson, Grisha Stewart, Alexandra Horowitz, Zazie Todd, Linda P Case, Brian Hare, Ian Dunbar… they have me underlining so much on my Kindle that I might as well underline the whole flipping book.

Apart from that, I was trying to make progress with a little fiction, but it’s not happening. I was reading The Echo Maker, but I got halfway through and lost the impetus. I know it won awards and that, but it’s not floating my boat. I’ll try to finish it, because I feel like I should, but I suspect it will only be in the wee hours when Amigo has got me out of bed for a 5am pee and I’m struggling to get back to sleep that I’ll be using it as a soporific.

This week, the schools have broken up, but I’ve picked up more lessons – somehow, and I know not how – as some of my students are off skiing next week. Bit of a busy one. Happily, the evenings are growing longer, the snowdrops are drooping and there’s actual light in the sky around 8am.

This week I’m also picking up some knitting, which I’d put down on account of thumby arthritis, and digging out a super-cute pattern to get some knitting done for a very special birth in June. There is not a single thing that can make me smile more than thinking of a little baby due in the family on the 27th June. That leaves me with some very short months to knit an enormous amount of comical outfits and to come up with a range of inappropriate names to suggest.

Anyway, have a lovely week and may there be a little spring warmth in your heart this week too.

Kick me to the floor

Bit of late 80s pre-grunge indie-pop for you this fine Monday with the Wonder Stuff and Don’t Let Me Down Gently

If you listen carefully, this song will zap you up and dump you in a student union somewhere in some Northern industrial city, I promise.

What kind of week was it after all that? I can’t even tell you. Some of us are in need of a very early night and some extra zeds. It seemed to just disappear, last week. I can’t account for my whereabouts, not one bit!

Sunday was mostly spent coaxing scaredy hounds into my car with cat meat. Cos that’s how I roll these days. In a stinky car with cans of cat meat to lure any unsuspecting hounds back with me. Luckily, her owner appeared by Sunday evening and they were reunited. He didn’t need to tempt her with cat food, let it be known. She’d got out the night before when the owner got in a car accident, and then she’d run off. The high winds last Saturday night can’t have helped.

Monday, I finally got to go for lunch at the Jardin de Kashmir in Angouleme, which does Indian and Pakistani dishes. I can’t tell you how in need of that I was. France’s Indian food is all a bit weak in general, and my sinuses were very thankful of the very lovely vegetable biryani. I didn’t manage to get any Indian food last summer when I was in the UK, so by my reckoning, it’s possibly some two or more years since I last tasted the delights of a good naan bread. The kashmiri naan bread was just…. waah. I’ve missed that so much. I think it reminded me how deprived I’ve been. When you spend 13 years living in Bolton surrounded by great takeaways and restaurants, you get a bit complacent. If that got a bit stale, we’d sometimes go to Curry Mile in Rusholme for a night out. Shere Khan was always a favourite. How I miss you, Curry Mile. How I miss you, St Helen’s Road.

Thursday, I started preparing for my next ISCP canine behaviour diploma…. I got my Intermediate Certificate on Monday, which was also pretty cool. I don’t have to tell you how much I’m enjoying doing it.

Everything else passes in a bit of a blur. I had stuff on my to-do list from Tuesday for five whole days, which I hate, but there you go.

Amigo had his final check up on Friday night – he’s got the all-clear to stop the cortisone, but I’ve got some here in case he has another episode. His ears have cleared up as well – probably the infection that triggered it, bless him. He has noisy lungs, so we have to be extra careful with kennel cough and upper respiratory infections, as it could easily turn to pneumonia. Mauve thinks that his lungs are becoming fibrous in his old age – hence the difficulty breathing, the coughing from time to time, the panting. Thankfully it’s not his heart, and everything else is good. I hope he sticks around for a while yet.

I also spent Saturday afternoon trying to catch up on my 1000 Mile challenge. Between my own hacking, wheezing cough (which is now into its fifth week!!) and the icy wind (which shifted yesterday morning) and Amigo’s illness, we’ve not been racking up the miles like usual. Even so, I’m pleased that I’m only five miles behind.

Heston and I did a lot of miles on Saturday hunting for a golden retriever that had escaped. Unfortunately, the smells he picked up outside the house were obviously neighbouring dogs, since Heston took me on a 3-mile circular trek that ended up with a black cocker and a boxer who came from the neighbouring houses. They were quite astonished to be discovered. I think there are a lot of dogs that just take themselves off for their own walks around here. I’m sure people think it’s a bit crazy to have a dog who can find other dogs, but it’s very useful. Unfortunately, he doesn’t always distinguish between competing smells if dogs share bedding or pee-spots, and I can’t direct him to the right one. There’s also an awful lot of boar activity round us at the moment, and something that all my dogs keep picking up in a cement drainage pipe. God only knows what it is, but something’s tried to dig in from the top. Heston does his Curious George head, so God knows what’s in there. Still, Tilly and Amigo are all very interested in that one drainage pipe. The Feff doesn’t give a stuff. He’s not interested in smelling.

A busy week this week with a few double lessons or catch-ups from last week. Half-term holidays start in France next Friday, but given my client base and the number of students I’ve got this year doing exams, that tends to end up being more hours for me during the holidays, rather than less.

Have a great week, and cross your fingers for a warm south wind for a few more days.

My tongue still misbehaves

Thought you might like a bit of Snow Patrol today

I think we all keep hoping that hearts open, don’t we? I’m sorry to say that I find it hard to see so many closed minds and closed hearts at the moment. Closed boundaries too. Incredibly sad.

The week didn’t start off with people’s hearts open… it’s always tough when you get a distress phonecall about a dog, but when it ends with an ultimatum for the dog if you don’t take the animal yourself, it’s heart-breaking. I can’t understand how anyone could ever say, “if you won’t take my animals, then I’ll…. ”

I understand desperate situations, oh how I do, but cries for help are different from emotional blackmail. Would you believe I got two such phone calls and messages last Sunday? I was trying my best to come to terms with Amigo’s health issues and navigating other people’s dramas. It makes me sick that both the people who threatened me in this way had Facebook pages filled with posts about how important animals are, and how they would never abandon them in their old age.

Tobby in those last months got insecure and bitey. His separation anxiety was such that he was never left alone for one single minute past the first two weeks. When he didn’t want to eat, I coaxed him and tried all kinds of different things. He looked handsome and shiny right up to the day he died because I spent time with him and groomed him, massaged him. I spent every spare penny on supplements and things that might make his pain a little less.

And last Friday, I spent the night with Amigo right next to me, neither of us sleeping much. I couldn’t bear to go to sleep not knowing if he would have an attack whilst I was asleep.

But I understand how hard it is when you are unprepared or over your head. I know how it is to be unable to cope any more. I like to think that a lot of people forget that I am just here, on my own, working as much as I can, trying to squash in all the things people ask me to do, trying to do as much as I can. Sometimes it is beyond me to smile sweetly when people moan about one thing or another in their lives. I wish for one minute they would step back from their self-pity and see how blessed they are. I feel very lucky I’ve got a couple of people who always listen to my moans and make me feel like I can do a bit more again. I love those friends who rally you and make you realise you can keep going when you feel sad. Stepping through the doors of reception on Saturday, the refuge was full as it usually is with people coming and going. So much shit and illness and misery, but there’s not a time when I don’t feel revived by five minutes of chaotic chatter, a piece of brioche, a beaker of coffee and the laughter of people who have had much crappier weeks than I have, who are much more ill than I am, who have also had the “if you don’t take this dog, then I’ll….” phonecalls too. In five minutes, I get fifty stories that uplift me and demoralise me. Adoptions, fosters, dogs who’ve overcome illness, dogs found after a long time on the run, dogs who’ve returned, people reunited with their animals… and the crappiness of the week falls behind me. Those five o’clock coffee breaks are a real revival of the spirits.

Benji, the little scruffy dog who came here on foster two weeks ago, is hopefully going to his forever home this week. I’m sure they’ll be in love with him. He’s such a sweet soul and a chatterbox. Gaven, who went to my dad’s on a short foster, has also got a potential home. For the thirteen oldies who faced a cold two weeks at the shelter, several have gone on foster or gone to their forever homes.

Some weeks, it’s harder to remember that the sun is still up there, doing his stuff, when there are so many big black rainclouds in the way. It makes it all a bit harder to find the sunshine, but it is there. I know it’s there somewhere.

This week, I’m mostly hoping I stop feeling so flipping yuck. I seem to have picked up everyone’s bugs and germs. It’d be nice to be able to talk without a five-minute coughing fit. I’ve been keeping the local beekeepers in cash and draining their reserves trying to self-medicate. France isn’t a good country for self-medication unless you are very rich. Gone are the days of a bottle of Night Nurse and some Benadryl over the counter!

Have a good week wherever you are, and try to open your hearts as much as you can… there’s a lot to be gained by it, and little to lose.