Category Archives: Much Love Monday

Cancel the thing that I said I’d do

And she’s back in the room.

On a Monday as well! Here’s the Kings with a bit of southern rock and roll for you

Apologies for the severe lack of bloggage these last weeks. My Mondays have been a bit out of whack for several weeks. It’s been a long time since I had an actual weekend as such, even if I do work Saturdays. Weekends have been stolen by various events. The middle of October was the refuge Portes Ouvertes and I spent the weekend before frantically emailing drafts of the calendar left, right and centre so that there were some ready for the day. Luckily, the printer is very accommodating and had pushed us up the print queue so that we had some for the open days. Still, it went out with a couple of errors in it which I’d not spotted. Happily, it was nothing egregious. The first run was quite a small one, which meant we had a bit of time to make corrections before the second run. Next year, I think I’ll be trying to get it done before August is out!

The Portes Ouvertes weren’t the only thing that weekend… it was the Hope booksale as well, so I took Effel up to meet and greet in the hopes of finding him a home. The beauceron is not a breed most English people know, so I spent all weekend saying “no, he’s not a rottweiler… no, he’s not a doberman… yes, he is a big guy… no, there’s nothing wrong with his feet… no, he’s not a cross-breed…”

Sadly, he had no takers.

The refuge Portes Ouvertes fared a little better in terms of interest. One of my kittens was adopted and there were plenty of French visitors who are more familiar with the beauceron breed, including one woman who was obsessed by him, couldn’t take her eyes off him. She said she already had a beauceron female at home but that the dog was badly behaved.

“You’re not having the Feff,” I thought to myself, and spent much of the afternoon hiding from her.

It wasn’t made any better by a weird woman who spent most of the afternoon peering into the eyes of lots of the cats and kittens – I mean like an optician might – looking for “the right one”… you just get a distinct feeling that quite a lot of people keep jars of formaldehyde at home.

Last weekend, I was back in the UK for a meeting on the Monday. At one point, I didn’t think we were going to make it. Not only had the airport only got one team of passport customs officers working instead of two, which meant long check-in delays, but then there was a problem with the plane’s emergency lights. Happily, the emergency engineer was jetted in from Stansted, fixed the plane and we were on our way. The meeting was surprisingly unchaotic. Bit of a brief stopover in the UK, but nice to see my nana and my mum. Plus, I had a happy early birthday present in the form of some new walking boots, which have barely left my feet since.


This week was supposed to be a bit of a holiday (the schools are on holiday) but there was a lot of stuff to catch up on. Because I’d done an induction at the refuge the first Friday in the month, and then the Hope booksale, I’d got a list of 30 dogs to photograph. Sadly, there are few volunteers during the holidays, and it makes it a lot harder to get photos.

Tobby had a vet visit as well this week as his pains have been getting worse. The vet did another x-ray and it was easy to see that his lumbosacral stenosis is getting worse, hence the other problems beside his inability to get up or lie down. The problem is that he has been on metacam so long that it’s barely effective any more and she wanted to take him off it unless he has an attack. He’s now on hugely expensive supplements instead. Another vet I know recommended something you can buy for the pain, so I’m trying get my hands on that as well. Tobby is well and truly not ready to give it up though.

Saturday and Sunday I spent at an adoption drive with my two remaining kitties. They certainly attracted a lot of attention and got plenty of fussing, though they are still without a home. I can’t remember two such gentle, loving and affectionate cats. Still, we’re over-run. Lovely though to have so many people interested in our animals at the weekend. We weren’t over-run, but there were certainly a lot of people who stopped to chat and find out about our animals.

This week, mostly trying to catch up on everything else before exam marking starts next weekend. This is the last series of this exam, which has only been in place for a few short years. Next year’s is a return to fiction on my paper, since Mr Gove thought that non-fiction was obviously not worth study in English Language unless it was “literary”. We’ve also got a return to narrative and descriptive writing, which is a colossal shame. I can’t help think of all those students in the summer who wrote about the need for a relevant syllabus that would prepare them for the real world. Mr Gove obviously thought that the real world involved the rather limited number of people preparing to be Charles Dickens. Don’t even get me started on the imbalance of marks and preponderance of marks for spelling, punctuation and grammar.  Not that I am anti-spelling, punctuation and grammar as you well know, more that I am for good content and well-expressed ideas, which are now worth considerably less, comparatively. I definitely am not feeling the Monday Love for Mr Gove. In fact, I feel rather violent towards him. If I didn’t like public school, smarmy, smug-faced twats before, I definitely don’t now. Cameron and his Eton brigade deserve a nice public burning if you ask me.

Couple that with the dismantling of the Jungle in Calais, the tiny, tiny proportion of refugees accepted into the UK, the despicable way in which displaced children are treated and the hundreds of people sleeping homeless in Manchester, it does make me very sad. Not much love this Monday any way you cut and slice it.

Let’s hope the Kings can make us all feel a little kinder to others. Heaven knows we could all do with a bit of kindness.

Another Life

Bit of the Guillemots for you this morning, with Get Over It

Got to love the handsome Fyfe Dangerfield.

My only criticism is that he doesn’t do quite enough stuff. I guess that makes what he has done so much more valuable though. I’d want him to release a new album every year. I wouldn’t even care if it wasn’t his best stuff. Well, I might, if it were very bad.

I think it’s been one of those weeks where you feel very much that the world is in retrograde and communication has been unusually complicated. I had a Monday morning last week of chasing up various organisations to find bills, sort out refunds, try and work out where I’m supposed to be and when – and none of them with any joy at all. I hate days like that, where you get so little done and all communication ends in a dead end. It’s frustrating when you can’t sort out plans because you’re waiting on a date to be confirmed or a venue to be agreed. I wouldn’t mind but these are huge organisations, so it does feel a lot like the world can’t be arsed at the moment or that it has too much on its plate to cope with. It’s the first rule of business: your communication has to be effective or else everything else suffers.

The week ended a bit like that as well, with a rather long conversation about a dog (when is it not?) and whether he could cope with this home or that home, only for it then to transpire that the person who I’m having the conversation with is trying to encourage me to let the dog go to a home that we have previously said is unsuitable. I don’t think it’s crossed wires when that happens. I think it’s the deliberate manipulation of a conversation, as if I’d made a bad decision in the first place. That makes me so mad. If you’re going to try to slip something by me and make me go back on something I’ve previously said by trying to manipulate me, then what kind of person do you think I am? Another person who now tells me that I’m hard-headed, unfeeling and stubborn. Join the queue. What makes it worse was all the unnecessary buttering up that went before and the endless questions about whether I thought the dog could live in this circumstance, or that circumstance, trying to get me to agree to a thing before adding a rather large issue in the fineprint. I’m sure now that the person went away feeling I am unnecessarily difficult and hard without thinking that I would have appreciated full honesty in the first place and it would have wasted considerably less of my time. Since when did direct communication become such a rare commodity?

I’m currently reading Marc Bekoff’s book “The Emotional Lives of Animals” which is a great book – all animal lovers should read it. It’s to prepare for my next assignment on the emotions animals feel. I know there is the notion that animals experience fewer or rawer emotions than we do. I’d revisited Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence to read it with animals in mind – a lot of it is irrelevant in that context of course – and in fact, I ended up not thinking about emotions at all and thinking about social skills. It really did make me think that animals are much better at communicating than we are. On Saturday mornings, if I’ve done the drop-off in Poitiers of our dogs travelling up to Northern Europe, I take Heston with me to drop the van off. He loves to go in the van and he loves to go to the shelter. The shelter is like a disco to Heston, full of girls to flirt with, new mates to meet and boys to size up to. As always it is interesting to see how much he prefers dogs to people. Where there are other dogs to be met, Heston doesn’t give a stuff about people. There could be fifty gazillion people there and Heston wouldn’t see them if there was one single dog. I love the dynamic when we get to the refuge – he just stands there whilst all the dogs come and have a smell. At one point, he was surrounded by Maya, Belle, Diva, Aglae, Cachou and Lulu all having a smell. He got humped by Cachou, the ancient poodle who is also out in the courtyard. I have no idea why Heston accepts being humped by a geriatric poodle with a heart condition but why if Amigo tried to do the same thing, he’d go mental. Dogs manage to master communication much more effectively often than we do. Even if it’s a very definitive “F@%k Off!”

I must say though that some dogs have often less effective dog-dog communication where humans have not done their job, especially if they’ve been deprived of the occasion to ‘chat’ to other dogs or only ever done it in being behind a gate. Féfelle is a bit block-headed when he is with familiar dogs, though he is perfectly fine around ones who are new to him. It’s like he’s very respectful at first and then, once he knows you, he’s like Tigger, bouncing all over you. He would absolutely love to play, but not a one of my dogs trusts him to do so. Heston does love to play, and has played with males bigger and badder than him, but he’s not having it with Féfelle. I think he understands it’d be a bit like boxing with Mike Tyson: you start off following the best of Queensbury’s rules and you end up getting your ear bitten off. That is an enormous shame for Féfelle, as play is exactly what he needs. Funny that dogs have a trust instinct and know who isn’t going to end up crossing lines you’ve drawn in the sand. And if dogs trust (and why wouldn’t they, since they can be suspicious?) I mean, those are complicated emotions that ask you to make judgements and predictions about future events. By the way, trust, suspicion and social bonding are all within a dog’s emotional remit, since they have oxytocin, the “social bonding” hormone, just as we do.

Marvellous, isn’t it? A dog knows exactly who’s trustworthy and who is not. And just like Heston and Féfelle, if you don’t get it right first time, you might not get the chance again. But if I trust you and you accidentally hurt me, then I might let you off.

So Much Love this Monday to the Animal Kingdom who may turn out to be much better at social stuff than we are. And Much Love to my crazy friends who have to put up with my outrage and misery when human communication fails.

Have a lovely week, all ❤




I just wanted to know

Another Monday, and a bit of Monday love for you with the very lovely Kings of Leon and a bit of Notion 

Well, that was a week that brought me to my knees. By Thursday, I’d even run out of emotional steam. I got to 8pm and realised that nobody had meddled with my mojo. I don’t even know when I got through 24 hours without someone making me want to slap my own face to make sure I’ve not dreamed up their stupidity or lack of humanity. Suffice to say, when that happens, you should switch off the internet and go to bed, otherwise you can be sure someone will set the bees afloat in your bonnet.

We had a very lovely lunch on Monday with the ladies. I don’t get to see enough of my friends, and it was a rare privilege to actually get dressed up, put some make-up on and go out for something to eat with actual human beings. If I must be honest, I’m rather slightly pissed off that they didn’t bring some cake with them, but they more than made up for it.

Monday evening brought a couple of new clients which was fab too… I never get tired of discussing Literature with teenagers. I think every adult should have to spend a little time with teenagers just to remind you how amazing it is to have the whole of your future before you and to be so very eager to seize it with both hands. I do need to spend more time on my Madame Anglaise blog – it’s weird to realise how popular it is. I wish I had more time to dedicate to making podcasts to go with it.

It does feel like there are a lot of competing interests about at the moment! I don’t want to even think about some of those projects that need finishing off, though I did manage to finish off my third assignment for my canine practitioner course. I think that might be why I’d filled my boots on venom way before Thursday. Never, ever ask people what they feed their dogs. It’s a minefield! When there’s a lot of shouty rhetoric (and none of it from me!!) it’s time to go to the science. And when there’s not much science… you have very little to go off. I think, though, all things considered, that people who get their knickers in a twist about dog food need to get out more. The way some people speak, it’s as if the food they’ve chosen is some kind of medical superfood that will make their dog immortal for life.

That said, though, it was another interesting unit and I’m very much looking forward to the next. The next is on the emotional and mental needs of a dog. Tilly doesn’t have emotional or mental needs, just cake needs. Mimire just likes a comfy bed. Amigo needs cuddles. Tobby likes to pack his bags and vote with his feet if something upsets his equilibrium (because he IS the Littlest Hobo) and Heston… Ah, Heston.  I could have done with finding out about mental stimulation BEFORE I got him. He’s the only dog I know who makes heelwork look mundane. I was doing some ‘back end’ work with Hagrid on Friday to prepare him for obedience heeling, only to realise that he already knows how to move his back end and he knows how to obedience heel. He has the full-on goose-step heel walk. Well, I say that and then he reverts to biting your arm. Hagrid is back to full Hagrid strength and has started chewing the heels of the staff. I love working with him. He is both a handful and biddable. Heston’s distracted and biddable. His goose-step would be useless. He doesn’t put any energy into it. He loves the scentwork though. I’m guessing that’s what much of my next assignment will say: every dog is different! I’ve got a lot of reading to do first though.

So what else have I much love for?

Mostly, a good few adoptions at the refuge. It has been a long and hard summer. I would very much like a family for Féfelle though. Not fair on the big guy to be here, where he is in limbo until someone decides he’s what they’re looking for. In the meantime, he’s just biding his time. Busy with adoptions at the refuge and not so busy here!

Much Love for my lovely ladies who always make me smile and feel somehow less crazy.

Much Love for the late September sunshine and warm lunchtimes reading good books in the sun. I’m reading The Tenderness of Wolves and loving it. I finished Disgrace this week which I’d been meaning to read for a while. I don’t know why but I ended up feeling quite uneasy by the end. It’s a grower, that book.

Anyway, best get off and help my father up a ladder. I had some tiles knocked loose last week in the storm – it’s about the last bit of damage to be sorted out, apart from the dent in my bonnet. Bah to storms. I like them very much unless they take out my favourite trees or a piece of my property.

Have a lovely Monday and enjoy the sunshine whilst it lasts.

Forget About Your Foolish Pride

It feels like Monday needs to start with a hard rock riff today, so here’s Aerosmith with Other Side.

Joe Perry – definitely a manly man who likes to do manly things. Not so sure about Steven Tyler and his lace addiction, but hey, whatever floats your boat.

It’s back to school this week, though the temperatures are still high here. It’s a strange end to the summer – so hot that it’s forced the trees into an early autumn. I can’t remember my Indian Bean tree putting down its leaves so early, though the poplars often lose theirs in late summer. I know last summer I’d wound up a lot of projects around this time – our website is now a year old for the refuge! I can’t believe it has been up for a year! I look back at last year and can’t believe how productive I was in August and September. I’d already half knitted a pair of socks and written a book by this point. This year I have at least done the refuge calendar and I’m glad not to have any additional events on the agenda like organising fêtes and the likes… just where has my August gone though? Scary!

Last week, it was a faffy kind of a week. I had to take Féfelle and Mimir back to the refuge for vaccinations, and had various appointments here and there. We also had our first truck of dogs go up to be picked up in Poitiers on their way to Germany – it’s been a while for that as well. Six dogs went up this time and given that it was 36°C on Friday, you can’t appreciate quite how lovely the air-con was! There’s another trip going on Tuesday with another good number. Friday’s trip was dogs who hadn’t been at the refuge very long, but Tuesday sees the departure of I’sasha, Manix, Eloy, Chouba and Gabin as well as three others. I’m really glad to see them go. I’sasha is a gorgeous setter but he’s 100 miles a minute and he can jump two metres without thinking about it. Manix is… well… exactly as his name would suggest. Eloy is a gorgeous labrador that nobody has ever even looked at. Chouba came as a three-month old baby with his brother and mum. He was brought back eight months later for one reason or another, having had that adoption chance stolen from him like too many of our puppies. That really makes me mad. If you adopt a puppy, do it with at least a little thought! Gabin is the last of the group I know really well. This guy is an excited little labrador and I love him very much. He’s in with Dawson and poor Dawson makes me so sad; he’s such a lovely labrador and he’s aged so much this last year. He just looks bewildered and lost.

This week looks to be less hot – it was getting stupid last week and by Saturday, I was just crabby and bad-tempered. When you’ve got stuff to do and it’s pushing 38°C, you just feel cross. There’s only so much you can do in a six-hour window in the morning and in the afternoon, I just sat around feeling cross and hot, trying to minimise outside time and get stuff done inside.

My lovely sister will be here later in the week and I’m so excited to see her. It’s been 2 years since I last saw her and it is far too long. I miss her so much. A weekend doesn’t seem long enough does it?

Right, enjoy your Monday. Autumn is here. How strange is that? This time next week, we’ll be wondering where those 38°C days went!

She sets the world on fire

Well, it’s been a while! Not sure where July and August went to, but here’s a little funkadelic for your Tuesday evening. I know it’s not Monday. That’s how out of sync I am. And I know I’ve missed a gazillion weeks as well. Oh well.

Well, what have I been up to at all?

To tell the truth, it’s been a whirlwind of catch-up. I’ve got foster dogs, foster kittens, articles, advertising, calendars, Christmas, publicity and assignments coming out of my ear holes. I’m longing for September when there will be fewer demands on my time. Is that wrong?

Féfelle and Mimir are still with me – my two rather large fosterees. I knew it would be like that. Luckily, they’ve had a good month to adjust before I’ll be back to full-time work. Their owner – God knows what the story is – but they are big old boys and big old boys don’t move quickly from the refuge at all. Mimir is blind and he’s advertised everywhere – UK, Germany, France… but when you’re 9, even if you’re not the slightest bit of bother, nobody wants you. It’s pretty shit. He is so easy and it makes me so sad that he has to be here, because you know, who wants an easy, loveable dog who’s not a stick of bother?! Féfelle is a bit more of a challenge since he’s a bigger boy and he’s like Curious George. I suspect he’d never even seen dogs running before!!

I’ve still got kittens in the bathroom as well, which they are not appreciating because today it’s 37°C and they’re bored.

The refuge calendar is well under way – a bit of a difference from last year’s calendar, since I’ve had more time to prepare and I have more animals in their homes. It’s been lovely doing photoshoots of adopted dogs outside the refuge. I don’t see enough of our happy dogs and it does get you down when all you see are the sad stories. We’ve had a really virulent strain of kennel cough at the refuge as well, which has meant fewer adoptions as we tried to contain it. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about the puppies abandoned, the one-day-old kittens left in a bin bag on someone’s gate or the dogs surrendered for growling at kids. Every day, it seems like people leave their brains behind and have bigger and bigger expectations of their animals.

I’m also a good way into a diploma in Canine Psychology and Behaviour, which I’m absolutely loving. It’s not before time. Luckily, most of the things on the reading list are things I’ve already read, but those first assignments were tough and scientific! It’s a challenging course with sixteen 3000-word assignments to complete, case studies and a thesis at the end, but I’m enjoying it so much. The tutors are really inspirational and I feel very much in an environment that suits my own view of animals. What I’m loving is the leaps in knowledge that it drives me to make – you know me and how much I love reading and doing assignments! Everything had been very arse-backward for me with practice before theory.

My own four are their usual selves. Tobby is way past his sixteen-month anniversary and is as wobbly as usual. Seeing him being herded by Féfelle was quite comical. A herder herding a herder. Tobby didn’t get what was going on with that! Tilly has had infection after infection, compounded by a flea collar failure (grrrr! and grrrr to my own self for taking so long to really investigate the scratching, so now she is on an elimination diet of turkey and sweet potato. So far, scratching is little better, but at least the fleas have gone. Curses, Seresto, you monsters. That set me back a good 60€ in Advantix and another 20€ in flea spray. Mostly, I think it’s the kittens that bring them, since the last three families have been infested. I pulled 50 fleas off one kitten in one sitting a few weeks ago. Trouble is that they are so small and fragile, you can’t use a flea treatment. In the end, we decided that we had to – flea anemia would have killed them.

Well, I had planned to get a couple of new e-books out for GCSE English Literature, but I think pulling them together will be more of a winter-time pursuit. Still, my teacher blog is getting a LOT of traffic, which is great. Woof Like To Meet, my dog blog, is also getting a lot of traffic as well, which is even better. Very glad about those two things!

Anyway, it is time to give Tilly her Thanksgiving elimination diet and get on with a bit of poetry analysis in preparation for a long-overdue post for my teacher blog, which has gone sadly neglected for an embarrassing amount of time. Nothing like a bit of Shelley to get you ready for the new school term. I have to say though, with temperatures up in the 30s, it doesn’t feel like September, even if the trees are saying it is and even if the mornings are dark until 7am.

Have a good week and hopefully I’ll manage to get myself on track!

All the nightmares came today

Bit of David Bowie for you this Monday morning

Last week got away from me, what with the Brexit vote and the exam marking. Ironically, this year’s question asking pupils what they think the future of education should be is revealing I’d rather put my trust in the Foundation tier candidates than in the politicians. Reading them is making me very sad, but also very hopeful. If a hundred thousand foundation tier kids know what they need to help them in the future, I don’t know why we’re spending all our time avoiding listening to them.

Truth be told, I’m not sure what’s going on in the universe, but it feels like all hell has broken loose, globally speaking. Time to batten down the hatches, I think. I can’t remember the last time things felt so very uncertain. For those of us living in Europe, we’re living in a time of speculation and hesitation – nobody knows what will happen, if anything will happen, or when it will happen. Our fate for the largest part rests in politicians that we did not vote for and hold immense power over our future. No wonder I’ve got indigestion. It’s all gone a bit Shakespearean tragedy from my point of view.

The internet seems rife with petty spats and disputes, people feeling like it’s a great time to spew nonsense and generally air their grievances. I can’t count the number of fall-outs that have happened recently, the number of head-to-heads. I’m just staying indoors and playing with kittens. Seems the best thing to do. Tobby’s obviously feeling the global disturbance and has a wanderlust spirit because he’s got his wandering head on again. It’s been months since he toddled off out of one of his escape routes in the garden, yet he’s done a bunk twice in the last week. He’s obviously very sensitive to global unrest! That or he’s sick of me marking and spending very little time outside. Plus, I’ve been running backwards and forwards hither and thither for days – something that doesn’t seem like ending any time soon.

Well, short but sweet. No love at all for the most part this Monday morning, so feel free to send me a little of your leftovers. Here’s to friends who take a few hours out of their weekend for pop-up picnics, who bring new meaning to ‘re-education’, who make you laugh til your cheeks hurt and who bring you little boxes of joy. Most love to Game of Thrones which ended on a particularly dramatic finish, lost in the mire of all the politics. I think Boris Johnson did a more spectacular job of bringing down the ruling classes than all of Cersei’s wildfire.

Enjoy your Monday, you pretty things. I predict a long and stagnant summer ahead. Let’s have some sunshine, please. I’m tired of storm-clouds and grey skies.

No turning back

Bit late, but hey. Thank your lucky stars you have anything of me at all given the marking pile that sits in front of me.

What is Monday without a bit of thunder?

Given the disaster of Fat Axl taking over, I think it’s time AC/DC called it a day. I would, however, like to propose a suggestion. All AC/DC tracks should be covered by a variety of musicians once in their life. The same is true of The Who. I mean, My Generation doesn’t really cut it when you’re as old as dirt. The same for punk. 60-year-old punk doesn’t quite wash.

Thunderstruck is a great tune. One of the best. But you can’t beat a bit of flame-throwing bagpiping punkage.

Or a bit of hillybilly redneck thunder with an anvil and a banjo.

It’s the kind of week where we all need a bit of tenderness – I was watching the stormclouds on Thursday and it all felt a bit prophetic. The lesson finished with the news of the shooting of Batley MP Jo Cox. It really does feel that there’s an awful lot of stirred-up emotion globally, when it’s probably a good time to put down words and weapons and give in to a musical interlude.

Much love this Monday for the lovely people who took on a dog called Edith. Though she may have only had three weeks in her home before her health gave way, she was certainly loved. Anyone who takes on an oldie and doesn’t care how long they’ll have gets an A-plus in the world if you ask me.

Much love as well to the local vets. When you spend as much time as I do at the vets, you get to know how fantastic they are. Anyone who takes care of animals is also an A-plus in my book.

Much love to all the people in the world who realise how infinite our possibilities are, despite the restraints of the human condition. To the altruists, the kind, the neighbourly, the generous of spirit, those who give you a hug and put the world to rights. More please!

Have a great rest-of-Monday ❤

A change of scenery

Bit late, but hey, that’s Monday

It’s Monday and it’s a miserable Manchester. James just couldn’t be more fitting. Funny, this track always reminds me of sailing back from St Malo in 1995 with a Walkman and four cassettes. James was on one side and Depeche Mode on the other. I miss making mix tapes.

I’ve Much Love for Manchester, of course. Who wouldn’t? These streets are in my blood. It’s a bit like looking at someone after a facelift, remembering what was once where. It’s not the gritty city that it used to be. I think you need to be old to appreciate stuff. You need to remember those stinky, smoky seats on the Bury-Manchester line, the pawnbrokers and jewellers in the tiny shops as you left Victoria… I was in a hotel near Piccadilly, a building that has risen from the ashes of the Manchester Employment Exchange, which you can see photos of here. It really was a horribly grim building, but I think it very much speaks to Manchester’s resurrection. I love this post about it on the Skyliner.

Other than rainy Manchester, spending hours in Waterstones and passing the hours uncovering the murky Christmas Present of some of my school friends, Much Love also to catching up with my Nana, who looked more marvellous than the Queen, even if she didn’t have a hat on.

I confess it’s strange to feel lots of anniversaries weighing in. I’ve been marking GCSE papers for 20 years. We didn’t spend our time in marker meetings in the Piccadilly Basin in those days. Canal Street was just reaching its sticky glory days and it’s strange to think that the age of consent was only equalised in 2001. We’ve come a long way in those twenty years. Even so, walking back down Minshull Street and Canal Street yesterday, it really did make me realise that there is still a long way to go. Whilst we debate how Canal St should move forward, the Orlando shootings make it perfectly clear that there’s a lot of ground to cover. The flags lowered, the sombre atmosphere…. it’s hard even so to think of freedom and safety when you’re in the relative security of a cosmopolitan city.

Coming home on the tram, I accidentally got onto a tram past Heaton Park, where it was Parklife 2016. The tram was packed, but there was a fantastic atmosphere. It might have been wet, but nobody in Manchester cared. It might have been loud and lairy, there might have been more people on the tram than I’ve ever seen before, but it felt like Manchester. Nobody even cared that the tram was stuck for twenty minutes. It made me really, really miss that magnificent melting pot that is Manchester. Funnily, I’ve been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers about how circumstances conspire to make fertile grounds for genius and growth. Manchester definitely had all of that. I do love you Manchester.

As for the rest of the week, it’s a short sharp shock of high-speed catch-up and lessons, then standardising before marking starts. Not quite sure I’m ready for it, but I’ve had my Starbucks fill to top up my caffeine levels in preparation.


Comes in like the flood

A bit of the Eurythmics for you this fine Monday morning.

Annie Lennox has one of those voices that are just too good for us mere mortals.

Last week and the weeks before have been ‘can of worms’ weeks – you know where you think you’re going to do something simple and it turns into a full saga? I hate that. I wish I knew things would be a full saga from the beginning. There’s not a day at the moment where the refuge isn’t taking complaints about the treatment of animals. I went last week to look at a donkey’s feet and ended up uncovering a village full of pregnant stray dogs, kittens everywhere and a good number of other animals whose care is negligible. This week it’s not much different… three complaints on the list for Tuesday.

I passed on one family of kittens last Sunday to a very lovely family who are fostering… and a second lot are going tomorrow to another fosterer. I’m picking up some that have been at another fosterer’s…. it’s feline pass-the-parcel. Luckily, there are not huge numbers at the refuge, and the number of deaths has been very small. Sadly, one of those was Miss Pitty, my pitbull-a-like kitten. She came in at 173g and I just couldn’t keep the weight on her. It’s touch and go for one of the other sisters too. Fingers crossed. Mocha also went back to the refuge – she has an infinitely better chance of finding a home there than she does in foster. Once you get to the chip-and-vaccination stage, they’re more robust and you can also know for sure that their health is good or not – so you know what condition the kittens are in that you are putting them in with.

One of our dogs went on a trial adoption on Friday… and it put me in a frame of mind of school once more. There are sometimes students who I call “Stringer Bell” students, after the Idris Elba character in The Wire… Brighter than you could ever fathom, sharp as a tack, born on the wrong side of the tracks and faced with a world that they navigate in the best way they know how. These are the students you try so hard through school to keep on the straight and narrow, knowing just how much potential they have, fighting desperately against the circumstances that surround them. You hope against hope that you can do your best for them and can’t help but feel disappointed if they drop out of the system and end up in a job that in no way supports their potential…

I felt a bit like this about this adoption this week. You have such great expectations for some, hoping that some amazing home will present itself, equal to the dog’s needs and requirements, and accepting a second-best home because it’s better than 23 and a half hours a day of refuge life, especially when you’ve had a trial adoption already that didn’t work and you’re a dog that’s hard to handle. Nanou said it best – better to try  in a home prepared to take him than wait forever for the right home at the refuge. It’s still hard though. It’s that same pang of disappointment when your Stringer Bell students drop out of school and take a job that is way beneath them. Better that than the alternative. But even so… And it also makes me sad because then I realise that I’ve thought that child deserved something more than others did, that I value smarts rather than any of the other amazing qualities other students have. I feel that way about the dogs – I hate that I don’t feel the same for all of our dogs, that I have thought some dogs have deserved some amazing dog trainer person and I’m happy that others just have a garden and a walk and owners who love them. They ALL deserve the best homes. I know I might have been tempted to turn the offer of a home down, to recommend a “lesser” dog, and that makes me sad, because they aren’t “lesser” dogs in any way, shape or form. I’ve been working with Jack and Hagrid – two other smart males at the refuge. Well, Jack’s biddable. Not quite so sharp. Hagrid is like Tobby in a young body. I think this is why I like him so much. These two have a hard enough job finding a home – they are anti-social and unruly. Hopefully I will be glad and supportive when they find a home, instead of being a bit disappointed that they won’t be the sole focus of their new owner’s life (as if my own dogs get my attention 16 hours a day!)

This is the amazing Hagrid. I call him Tobby about twenty times during our walks. He mouths my arms in the same way Tobby does, double taps on the doors in the same way, looks round to check on me in the same way … has that wily Malinois about him. He is a joy to be with. But am I wrong to want a home where he will be the only dog, where he will be walked twice a day, where someone will continue his education, maybe try a little agility with him, a little tracking? Why do I expect this super-duper unrealistic home for Hagrid, for Jack, for Helboy?

And when I think about it, it’s not just the Stringer Bell kids, or the Stringer Bell dogs. It’s all of them. All I want for any of the students in my care is that they find a path in life that brings them happiness. And all I want for the dogs are homes that meet the needs of each and every one of them… gentle, loving homes with kind hands, huge comfy sofas and big hearts for our scaredy hounds… homes with kids prepared to throw ball after ball for our labradors… homes for our puppies where they are allowed to be puppies and learn about the world rather than expected to just “know” how to behave?

Anyway, here’s to the homes prepared to take on our super-smart Stringer Bell dogs. God knows we need as many of those homes as we can find. The more I see of the world beyond the refuge, how so many animals live in real life, I know my expectations are ridiculously high. I’m not changing that for anything though. We see so often adoptants who take on dogs with enormous challenges and they help those dogs rise to the challenge – so often I find the homes offered by our adoptants far surpass my expectations, when I think of dogs who’ve gone on to be adopted from the refuge and find enormous happiness after a life of misery and misfortune.

Much love to all those homes. Much love to all the people who help care for the dogs and cats in the interim. Much love to those people who help our animals find homes, who help raise standards of animal care, who battle endlessly for animal welfare. Much love to all my colleagues on the conseil at the refuge who find energy from nowhere, who are tireless. I should add here that a guy came to the refuge on Saturday to explain how we need a Facebook page rather than a group. He’s both right and he’s wrong. But when I told him that it’s a full time job for Corinne and Clara, who deal with enquiries, complaints and posts, who keep up-to-date photos for each and every one of the three hundred animals in our care, who post post-adoption stories and share our animals’ profiles far and wide, who know which animals to share, what details to share, where they came from, where they end up… I think he realised that what he sees is just the tip of the iceberg, and the real work lurks deep beneath the surface. Much Monday Love to the staff too. I have no idea how they keep going so often. The average Joe has no idea how much shit (literally and metaphorically!) they have to deal with on a daily basis, and the average Joe would crumble before they’d completed the first hour.

Not Much Love to the GCSE exam board who have given me an enormous GCSE marker team. That’s my June and July gone!

Right… last minute revision classes to prepare and kittens to deliver. Best get a move on!

Robbing people with a six gun

A bit of Ade Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds for you this wet Monday morning.

It’s been storms here all week and not much by way of sunshine – apparently this week doesn’t look much better either. So much for spring, that’s all I can say. It’s been a good year for grass.

I’ve finally caught up on a backlog of (most) tasks and I’m hoping a productive Monday will help me break the back of them. Can’t believe it’s only two weeks until exam marking starts – unbelieveable. The year is practically evaporating!

Last week it was nice to catch up with so many people. I wish I had time to stop more for coffee with people. Catching up with Sue, a lady I used to work with, is always good.  I think it says something that a lot of the people who retired out here are as hard to get hold of as I am.

The biggest deal of last week was petrol. Petrol, cars and kittens. I didn’t have any problems getting petrol myself, but I know a lot of people who did, and I think my only success was due to timing. I often go at lunch-time. Out here in the sticks, lunchtime is still sacrosanct and the pumps are usually quiet. The only people in the supermarket are English speakers who don’t realise it isn’t “done” to shop in lunchtimes. A peculiar idiosyncracy of France.

This week it’s full steam ahead. The GCSE Literature exams might be done, but the English Language students are preparing for exams, meaning extra lessons wherever I can squash them. It’s that time of year where we all just get our heads down and plough on, knowing there are five weeks left until the end of term and we can make it through – you never lose that mentality I don’t think when you’re a teacher. Those last weeks are a grind and nothing eases up. In 30 school days’ time, I don’t even want to think about how many papers I’ll have marked!

Anyway, enjoy a bit of folk punk, hope the weather is brighter where you are. Feels all a bit Mancunian here!