Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Who, me?

Trip hazard? Ditherer? Cyclist-botherer? Dim? Scruffy? Just come over here and say that again.
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Monday, 29 September 2008

PS


The bridge photo disappeared from the previous entry. I still don't understand Blogger and its mysterious ways!
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Jesmond Dene and the dog's nine lives

Our walk, yesterday. It looks tranquil enough, and empty (which it certainly wasn't - I have a strange talent for capturing those micro-moments when no one is in view) but there was action, and drama of the usual sort: mad high-speed teenage cycling, suicide dog dithering about in such a way as to position herself directly in the line of the oncoming wheels, Lesley shrieking in a voice high enough for dogs to hear a mile away, and invoking a very rude verbal response along with screeching of brakes.

I missed it all, as I was videoing the play of light on a tree by the river, and thinking noble thoughts, but there is a soundtrack. If you listen carefully, you can share the moment, including some clucking (entirely unnecessary - the dog is oblivious to what a car/bike/pedestrian hazard she is) dog-comforting afterwards.

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video

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Breakthrough! and there again, not...

I have been feeling a bit ashamed of how I seem to be turning into a grouchy old woman who hates all students, especially as when I worked, I really enjoyed the contact with young people, had enjoyed (mostly) the Lovely Son's turbulent teenage years, and still like to think of myself as a reasonable, understanding, even kindly person not likely to turn into an axe murderess at the slightest provocation.

So I held onto that draft letter about the noise and drunkenness, and thought I should at least try to meet and speak civilly to the offending newly-arrived students before complaining about them. One was walking to and fro with her mother today, neither looking up as they passed Sandra, Lesley and I, who were chatting at Lesley's front door, so on their return I said hello in a cheerful and non-grouchy sort of voice, and duly received a response, albeit a slightly startled one. Perhaps we looked cliquey and forbidding, although given how we were all dressed this afternoon, bizarre and coven-like might have been more like it. But, Step One has been taken in establishing neighbourly relations.

Later this evening, I was just coming out of the front door with the dog when a girl ran past, skidded to a halt, and proceeded in an all-too-recognisably penetrating voice, to ask about the dog - everyone thinks because she's small, that she must be a puppy, although in fact she is the real grouchy old woman round here, looking cute in the window while growling very rudely at passers-by.

And we had a pleasant little chat; Miss Foghorn introduced herself, and told me how she loved living in this street as it had been so noisy where she lived last year, and that she isn't used to cities and streets with neighbours as she grew up on a farm in the country. And I behaved incredibly well, neither snorting nor hooting, and certainly not mentioning in bitter tones that I have had to move bedrooms. We parted amicably,
both hoping that I would meet the other girls in the house soon, although Miss Foghorn did say that as they all looked alike, I might get them muddled up. No, dear girl, Newcastle is full of girls with long straight blonde hair; we are experienced in telling you apart from each other. Anyway, Step Two taken. Who knows, Step Three might include welcome offerings of cupcakes. I don't feel quite so much like the street battleaxe now.

On another matter entirely, I find to my horror that I am frightened of my new sewing machine. Not the machine itself, really, but the cutting out of fabric. I have altered things, taken up hems, and made a few repairs, but can't quite bring myself to actually make anything that involves taking sharp scissors to new material. What a wimp! Maybe that can be next week's challenge.

Hint hint....

At last, after such a wet summer, some autumn colour is starting to appear.

These little trees are always the first to change. They grow on a shallow layer of earth on top of what is actually a lid over the very busy coast road to Tynemouth and Whitley Bay. I look forward to the day when their roots start to grow down inside the tunnel.

The church is Holy Trinity, where C down the road got married the other week, with her beloved old dog, Flower, walking down the aisle as bridesmaid, wearing a large rose in her collar.
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Friday, 26 September 2008

Not beautiful, but...

I have just acquired this battered old trunk through freecycle, and intend it to be my forthcoming winter project. It has a plastic quilted top, with sellotape and shiny gold tape holding it together, and glossy green vinyl wallpaper lining the inside. It smells of cigarette smoke. One of the feet is a bit damaged too, but I think a lot of elbow grease, TLC and some Farrow & Ball paint should do the trick.

The dog likes it as it is, but then she would; she's just as scruffy herself.

(Note to self: make an appointment with Posh Pups before the weather changes and
it becomes almost an act of cruelty to remove the dog's home-grown insulation.)
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Thursday, 25 September 2008

Neither beautiful nor useful

Not all the boxes moved from the old back kitchen and shed have been sorted yet, because I have been remarkably disciplined in not putting anything away in the new cupboards unless, William Morris-style, it has been examined and found lovely or necessary, and this can be a slow process. I'm now getting down to the dregs, and quite fascinating they are too, as they also include odds and ends that never got quite cleared up from my mother's last two houses. So, today's disposal heap contains:

  • 2 small half-full bottles of artist's linseed oil and one of acetone
  • a set of those stepped wooden Christmas lights that look so pretty lit in a window (can't remember what they are called, but this set hasn't worked for years)
  • a heavy and rather ugly brass door knocker in the shape of a hand
  • 3,265 coathangers (approx.), all dusty
  • an unopened tub of aqueous cream, bargain-sized, to last a lifetime
  • a navy leather briefcase from when I worked; I can't bear to look at it now
  • lots of clip frames, some with 1980s Habitat prints in them
  • 4 address books, the oldest dating from 1969; goodness, how one's handwriting evolves! And who were all those people?
  • the cordless phone that I dropped in the washing up water last year and which has played up since

There's an awful lot more, but it's all equally dull. The charity box is filling up, but unless I discover a keen market for old coathangers, these will go in the bin.

But - and I'll give myself a fanfare here - I had a decisive moment after years of prevarication, and rang Community Furniture today to arrange for them to collect the hideous and rock-hard sofa that I bought in 2003. I have failed to turn it by some miracle into the welcoming, comfy, cosy, reading sanctuary, filled with plump cushions and fluffy throws, originally envisaged. It was a mis-buy, one of those appalling mistakes that you don't own up to quickly enough to say to the shop "Take it back! I'll have something else instead!" Cushions and throws made no difference; it was made of granite, threw one backwards into a position that invited chronic back problems, and was far too big for the room it was meant for. And it was brown.

As it sat, accusingly, banished to the upstairs sitting room, it seemed to grow harder and more dreary in appearance, probably because nobody would sit on it except the dog, and that was only because of all the cushions. Some homeless family might be pleased to get it, but, to be brutally frank, I find that hard to imagine. Maybe I shouldn't have that fanfare after all; maybe I have just perpetrated a nasty con trick on some unsuspecting family who will have five minutes of excitement seeing it being carried into their home, before disillusionment and numb behinds follow. Maybe they will have a dog though....


Wednesday, 24 September 2008

However

Thirty-seven years ago today, the Lovely Son was born. And of course he was the loveliest baby this world has ever seen. Happy Birthday, darling boy.

Defeated, and it's still only September

Tonight I am going to move bedrooms. I shall abandon my beloved little white airy attic room and move down one floor to the room that the Lovely Son uses, because it is at the back of the house. This will mean changing over the bedding too, as his bed is kept in readiness for a short-notice visit. Tonight I am going to try for an uninterrupted night of sleep.

The reason for the move is that the universities are back in action, and the temporary hordes of young people of ample means, those who prefer to move into quiet residential areas because their cars are less likely to be vandalised and the houses are bigger, are also back, with a vengeance. Night after night, from 2 a.m. till much further on into the small hours, they whoop and shriek, laugh and shout after each other on their return home from alcohol-fuelled, parent-free, uninhibited nights in town. Stragglers beat on front doors with excessive force till someone lets them in, and the permanent residents, who have been dreading this time throughout the summer, are woken to fume, enraged, till dawn.


This year, the main perpetrators are a group of five well-educated middle class girls with penetrating voices, sharing a house where their parents have helped to settle them in, running up Laura Ashley curtains to make it homely for their darlings before returning home confident that the same darlings will be safe in their nice home in a nice street with nice neighbours.

All have cars, and all, it would seem, have boyfriends, which makes for a great deal of traffic in and out of one house. Their curtains remain closed till the afternoon, and with most people either at work, at school or elderly, the street is quiet while they sleep. And we see them later in the day, trudging off to lectures, barely able to return a civil greeting. And what do the darlings actually do at university? They are third year medical students. The doctors of the future. Our future. It doesn't bear thinking about.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Tap tap....

Hmmm, that tapping experience has created some difference of opinion. These range from relief that I wasn't turning into some dotty old lady about to start attending seances involving the cat world, to sterner exhortations to be more open-minded about what happened when the spirit leaves the body, to a bit of eye-rolling from people who put such phenomena down to manifestations of grief, not contact from beyond the grave.

I'm not so sure, and don't want to take a strong position on this; if there is somewhere that cat spirits go to next, I would hope they weren't interrupted in their journey by having to come back to sad owners.
And if there isn't, then a dangling zip pull-tab is as good an explanation as any.

But you might like this, a poem that Charlotte sent to comfort me - sorry, whoever wrote it, but it came unattributed. You can take, leave, or substitute the God references according to your own beliefs, but, as Harry always sensed when I was upset or unwell and would stay close to me, I liked the general concept of a considerate cat.
In particular, the term "the glorious cat" appealed; Harry was a glorious cat indeed.

Some of my more hard-boiled friends found it difficult to read this without filling up....

And God asked the feline spirit

Are you ready to come home?

Oh, yes, quite so, replied the precious soul

And, as a cat, you know I am most able

To decide anything for myself.


Are you coming then? asked God.

Soon, replied the whiskered angel

But I must come slowly

For my human friends are troubled

For you see, they need me, quite certainly.


But don't they understand? asked God

That you'll never leave them?

That your souls are intertwined.
For all eternity?

That nothing is created or destroyed?

It just is....forever and ever and ever.


Eventually they will understand,

Replied the glorious cat

For I will whisper into their hearts

That I am always with them

I just am....forever and ever and ever.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Is there anybody there.....? Tap once for no.

Last night I was sitting at my computer when I felt a gentle little tap on my leg, and automatically put my hand down to stroke Harry, who often reminded me in this way that I should be paying attention to him. Then, of course, I remembered that Harry wasn't around any more, so, slightly spooked but in a just in case way, I sent him some loving thoughts and a goodbye message and tried not to be too fanciful about it.

Later, the same thing happened, but instead of reaching down for a non-existent cat, I saw that it was the metal tab on the zip of my fleece cardi that was doing the gentle tapping. Ah, well.....

Further to.....

The dog and I walked past Dobie's back yard today (no, we aren't stalking him; it is a regular shortcut on our morning stroll) and yes, he was indoors, barking incessantly. Sounded like he was shut in the kitchen. We crept by, suffused with guilt and relief.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Dogs are fine; it's the owners that get to you



The dog (pictured above in moody lighting that fails to hide her need for a haircut) hates all other dogs. All of them, world-wide. She shows this by curling her lip, sometimes showing some of her 8 teeth, and when really pushed, snapping at the over-friendly mutt that can't take a hint. Usually this works, and I am left to apologise and explain. Usually owners take this with a good grace, the dog being rather small and her antisocial response rather amusing, especially if the other dog is something huge that could snap her up in one swift mouthful and ask for more. And it often leads to friendly chats between us dog-owners, so I suppose Miss Snooty provides a community service of sorts.

But not all dog owners seem to understand the impact their dog has on others. Last night's scene:

Small, beautiful, long-haired dachsund living nearby, who has a surprisingly big deep bark for his size, has been pushed out regularly into the back yard for hours since the baby arrived some months ago. He stands at the top of the yard steps, next to the locked dog-flap, and barks.


And barks.

And barks.

He's very good at it, because he puts in lots of practice. And his voice carries well, so that we can hear him 3 streets away. Sometimes he sets other dogs off, but they aren't allowed to duet for long.

Yesterday, after more than 4 hours of this, I asked his owners (sweetly at first) if they could take him indoors now, as we had listened to his barking for quite long enough, and got a great deal of theatrically astonished arm-flapping in response. To condense the ensuing exchange:

"But he barks indoors!"...."How am I supposed to stop him barking?"...."He wakes the baby!"....How is it my problem?"... "How is that inflicting him on the neighbours?"


Exasperated, I said that they were likely to get complaints if they continued to leave him outside to bark for hours (neighbours mutter about calling the RSPCA, the council, the police, but no one ever does because it feels mean when there's a small baby in the house) and stomped off to fulminate about the general stupidity of some people. But they did let the poor dog back indoors, so despite the risk of busting a blood vessel, I suppose I could say I got a result.

The owners call him Dobie, because they thought he would grow (from a dachsund puppy) into a doberman, as he was black with brown eyebrows. Maybe that says it all.

I don't bark, myself, but I do go "Grrrrrrrrrr....."



Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Maybe.....

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One week on

The team have done their moping, clinging, throwing up, being off their food, and life is more or less coming back to normal, despite a large gap in our lives where once there was a delightful, furry, purry, heavy-footed companion. Everything passes.....

Except the rain, which persists most persistently, and feeds the national obsession. Friends living near Morpeth watched in alarm as the stream that runs through their garden turned into a fast-flowing river and inched up to their front door, carrying off their compost bin and a year's worth of its contents, replacing it with 3 wheelie bins of unknown origin. Maggie heard that we have had 6 months' worth of rain in 9 weeks, and takes this very personally, having been over here from Toronto for that period, but as she goes home tomorrow, we are confident that the weather will improve immediately her plane lifts off, and that a glorious Indian summer will ensue. Suzy talks of Seasonal Affective Disorder arriving early, and there was a fascinating item on Radio 4 about Scotland's lack of sunshine being responsible for that country's poor health. (See, it's not all alcohol and deep-fried Mars Bars up there, you know! Though my sister told me a dismal tale of a boy being late for school because he had gone for a McFlurry for breakfast....)

So, unless the prophesied (by me, remember - I want the credit if it turns out to be accurate!) Indian summer arrives, we can expect a winter of gloom, gloom and more gloom, punctuated only by occasional bouts of desperation and despair. We'll enjoy that.


Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Goodbye, dear old chap

Harry, who died today. He was much loved, and will be greatly missed.





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Monday, 8 September 2008

Money, taste and oh so much restraint!

Inspired by Mountainear's latest post, I thought we should have another foray into the world of taste and obscene amounts of money. Try this one for size, kindly supplied by the Lovely Son:

www.mindfully.org/Technology/2008/Motor-Yacht-A-Melnichenko16jul08.htm

Baccarat crystal tables.....mmmmmm.....

Sunday, 7 September 2008

...see something unfold



... in vibrant colour

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In these gloomy wet days



It's been lovely to...
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Friday, 5 September 2008

Water, water everywhere

It's like a Biblical curse, all this rain. I am so glad that I live at the top of a hill, but so sorry for all those people who find their homes filling with water. How harrowing that must be.

The allotment will be a quagmire, and the yellow courgettes will have swollen triumphantly into giant (but never prize-winning) marrows which I shall relegate to the compost heap when I finally make it down there.

I stay at home, occasionally forcing a reluctant small dog out into the rain, watching her try to sneak home without me, and sometimes I practise on my new sewing machine, mastering the stitches and learning how to do blind hemming. I haven't felt brave enough yet to actually cut into some proper fabric to make something, but it will come.

And I nurse my fading cat, who remains interested enough in what is going on for me to feel able to postpone the big decision for another day. I watch his every move, and obsess about his quiet periods, but he always rallies, perks up and greets me affectionately;
today he even brought me two socks, something he hasn't done for weeks. He seems happy for much of the time, so we go on as before, at least for now.

This is a strange time.
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