Thursday, December 06, 2007

And we can lie here, under the patterned sheet of slumber that will not meet our eyes and dream of tiny armies moving across the folds and turns of red paisley, the valleys and the wrinkled highs

And all the time, like osse, the painted face of the opal moon sails across the bleak stark sky. In meadows where the nyad and the dryad plot, they do you know, they contemplate what we can not….and the mistletoe grows and clutches hard around the bowls and stems of elm, and birch, and walking….under this moonlit, sparkled, dew dripped sky, the myrah, (you know them milady), who have no sense, no face, no eyes

When this long night is done, and one can turn the faces of small dogs away from a fire that singes chin hair and crackles too loud, too long. When it’s done. Will I be glad to be safe abed under warm, paisley patterned sheets

If you think this is self indulgent, up my bum as it were, can I add that my surgeon removed my right testicle today, under local anaesthetic, and it stings a bit

Thursday, November 29, 2007

we want a shrubbery

drum roll.......drrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr......

ladies and gentlemen, introducing, for your entertainment, your consternation, amazement, bewilderment and stupefaction, the one, the only walking, woofing, wagging grow bag.

yup, Toffee's in the wars again.

He's had grass seeds growing between his furry toes before, but who'd have thunk that he'd get one lodged in his ear. That's right, in it, down deep and rooting into his ear was the leaves and sprouts that gave it away, not tangled in his hair, but somehow attached.

Actually it was more comical, (unless of course you're Toffee), than that.

He shook his head so violently that he burst a blood vessel in his ear. By the time I saw it in the morning it looked a big hairy balloon on the side of his head.

The upshot of which is that the vet has drained and cauterized it and put a criss cross pattern of stitches in his ear so that it can't happen again - and of course removed the offending shrubbery.

And Toff - has a shaved ear and will spend the next two weeks with his head in a bucket.

He's looking a wee bit post anaesthesia at the moment?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

bed head

My achievements for the past few weeks are very quick and simple to list.

I've read.


"Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition"

"A Pirate of Exquisite Mind"

and finally, finally finished Pynchon's "Mason & Dixon"

Something to be proud of eh?

I've been confined to bed again you see, but fortunately at home this time. After years and years of being absolutely bullet proof I'm forced to admit mortality, or at least susceptibility. I had thought for years that no self respecting virus would come within a thousand yards of me, that any sensible ague would look for a more robust host. And then, oh bugger, when they come they come in force.

I'm blaming it on biorhythms or just being at a low ebb, but the pneumonia was completely unexpected and knocked me bandy.

For four, (five?) days, I surfaced for just long enough to visit the loo or get a glass of water, and once a day, in extremis, I put on as many clothes as humanly possible and took the dogs to the park - like a walking, coughing, muttering, shivering mobile sauna, shuffling around a circuit of the outer path, I must have resembled a pedestrian Oxfam parcel.

The first time I went to the doctor I couldn't actually wait long enough to be seen. I had to go home, to bed, to steel myself for another attempt in the evening. I've never actually felt anything like this, I thought I'd felt poorly in the past, but hot, cold, hot, cold and then asleep on the toilet.

It's a hell of a way to lose weight.

And the poor dogs, what amazing company. I now have an intimate knowledge of what dogs do during the day, and most of it involves snoring.

Though I did have a dream one day that I'd passed away and they were eating my leg.

Sounds like I’m moaning doesn’t it? I just don’t have anything else to tell you.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I was going to write. Not of things past but in the present tense, the real immediacy of life.. I just had to stop to go the toilet...but I find I'm writing and smoking and trying to make caps all with my left hand...because I've just woken Charlie up from his snorting slumber and forced him under the covers next to me...and he was pretty pissed off, so I'm having to rub an hairy ear with the other hand at the moment.. I wanted to tell you what it's like not to want to get up in the morning, but I suspect that very few people need to have it described, and that life is...about beauty, not about ugliness, so at the very least share some, plagiarism of course, but beauty nevertheless...

It is Spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the
cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courter's-and-rabbits' wood limping
invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing
sea. The houses are are blind as moles (though moles see fine tonight in the
snouting, velvet dingles) or blind as Captain Cat there in the muffled middle by
the pump and the town clock, the shops in mourning, the Welfare Hall in widows'
weeds. And all the people of the lulled and dumbfound town are sleeping now.
Hush, the babies are sleeping, the farmers, the fishers, the tradesmen and
pensioners, cobbler, schoolteacher, postman and publican, the undertaker and the
fancy woman, drunkard, dressmaker, preacher, policeman, the webfoot cocklewomen
and the tidy wives. Young girls lie bedded soft or glide in their dreams, with
rings and trousseaux, bridesmaided by glow-worms down the aisles of the
organplaying wood. The boys are dreaming wicked of the bucking ranches of the
night and the jollyrodgered sea. And the anthracite statues of the horses sleep
in the fields, and the cows in the byres, and the dogs in the wet-nosed yard;
and the cats nap in the slant corners or lope sly, streaking and needling, on
the one cloud of the roofs.

You can hear the dew falling, and the hushed town breathing.
Only your eyes are unclosed to see the black and folded town fast, and slow,

And you alone can hear the invisible starfall, the darkest-before-dawn minutely
dewgrazed stir of the black, dab-filled sea where the Arethusa, the Curlew and
the Skylark, Zanzibar, Rhiannon, the Rover, the Cormorant, and the Star of Wales
tilt and ride.

Listen. It is night in the chill, squat chapel, hymning in bonnet and brooch and
bombazine black, butterfly choker and bootlace bow, coughing like nannygoats,
sucking mintoes, fortywinking hallelujah; night in the four-ale, quiet as a
domino; in Ocky Milkman's lofts like a mouse with gloves; in Dai Bread's bakery
flying like black flour. It is tonight in Donkey Street, trotting silent, with
seaweed on its hooves, along the cockled cobbles, past curtained fernpot, text
and trinket, harmonium, holy dresser, watercolours done by hand, china dog and
rosy tin teacaddy. It is night neddying among the snuggeries of babies.
Look. It is night, dumbly, royally winding through the Coronation cherry trees;
going through the graveyard of Bethesda with winds gloved and folded, and dew
doffed; tumbling by the Sailors Arms.

Time passes. Listen. Time passes.

Come closer now.

Only you can hear the houses sleeping in the streets in the slow deep salt and
silent black, bandaged night. Only you can see, in the blinded bedrooms, the
combs and petticoats over the chairs, the jugs and basins, the glasses of teeth,
Thou Shalt Not on the wall, and the yellowing dickybird-watching pictures of the
dead. Only you can hear and see, behind the eyes of the sleepers, the movements
and countries and mazes and colours and dismays and rainbows and tunes and
wished and flight and fall and despairs and big seas of their dreams.
From where you are, you can hear their dreams...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

medicine balls

Sorry if I’ve been uncommunicative for the past week or so, without any conceit I understand that I have some very genuine friends out there who deserve better than silence….

It’s going very well. I’m back at work, taking things very slowly for the time being. I get the impression that while I am looking down, eyes are looking at me that swiftly look away when I look up. That’s fine with me, because I know that they’re watching out of concern.

The dogs are home too, so I’m surrounded by furry friendship. I’ve even got into a rhythm with all of the bloody pills….and it’s been a wonderful opportunity to catch up on my reading.

See you soon!


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

still here

i want to go home now

im just so fucking fed up being constantly connected to somw machine or other and drinking thru my arm

and the nightsare the worst, this ward is bedlam, the noises, each one lasrs a year id give anything forclean sheets peace and quiet

and my dogs

Monday, October 01, 2007

tick tock

Just so's you know. I was admitted into hospital last Tuesday via casualty with blood pressure approaching 200 and a completely arrhythmic heartbeat and rate in excess of 160 - ie a disfunctional heart. The technician was impressed, she seemed to think the pulse was a casualty record. I on the other hand was just terrified. I'm typing with the hand not attached to the drip at present. Keep you posted.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

in the news today

my Bongo, the replacement after the last one was trashed by the old gentlemen.....

Well, we had an accident. My back tyre blew out on Sunday evening which sent us careering down the road backwards at 70 mph....into the central reservation from which we bounced across three lanes into the hard shoulder...dogs flying around the cabin, crunching, crashing, ear splintering noise.

And then we were okay. Shaken and stirred, but happily alive.

We spent the night in the van, with some very strange dreams, and were recovered home yesterday via the vet, just to make sure - you know.

Friday, September 14, 2007

are we nearly there yet

I am generally blessed with the gravitas of a circus tumbler, but I can't seem to help myself from voicing an opinion about this....

....watching, listening to the debate (why in gods name do we insist on calling it debate, as if there were some doubt?) on ‘global warming’ with fascinated horror and I can’t help feeling that we are seeing the problem and the consequences from a uniquely distorted vantage point.

There are many good reasons why we (on the whole) would appear to be futile arbiters of our own fate:

Cigarettes, alcohol abuse, drugs and all manner of hedonistic choice oriented indulgences – which are apparent no-brainers and yet still we continue to make poor decisions, this’ll kill you if you continue, oh well never mind I’ll take my chance….should really make us despair of the probability of making wise choices concerning something as apparently intangible as the health of the planet if we can’t even make them on our own behalf.

Successive generations who have been aware of the damage that humanity has been causing to its environment have failed to pay little more than lip service to it. And let’s be very, very clear about this….this is legacy. What we leave for our children, these children that we will die for, drive to school and fight tooth and nail to drop off within 5 yards of the school gate to protect them from the bogey man and other manic, purposeless traffic…these same children we will leave a world in slightly, perhaps profoundly, worse shape than when we inherited it. They will receive, courtesy of us, new areas of the sea which once teemed with life but are now fished out, areas of levelled, arid tarmac where once fertile jungles grew, a substantially reduced ice cap – along with ice bergs in some very unusual places, changing currents in the oceans and the atmosphere and new, unpredictable weather patterns. My imagination and knowledge aren’t sufficient to do more than scratch the surface.

Have you heard of global dimming? It’s a phenomenon that is indicative of the contradiction between our knowledge and concern and our remedial action. Essentially rain tends to form around particulate matter in the atmosphere, humidity metamorphoses into droplets by the simple expedient of dust. Our ‘pollution’, at it simplest, comprises two components, gaseous and material by products. We have become very much better at reducing the physical detritus of our daily lives escaping into the atmosphere than its gaseous counterpart.

The result being that whilst we still throw unconscionable amounts of carbon monoxide to the heavens, we have vastly reduced the amount of ‘dust’.

Which is unfortunate. Air currents have taken this dust, in the past, over areas of Africa, where rain is a rare commodity and infrequent blessing, it has seeded clouds and whilst not wholly predictably provided seasonal rain – this dust has provided sufficient catalyst for airborne humidity to coalesce into infrequent, life giving rains.

Our wadis aren’t wadis any more. They don’t flood. They are just dusty ruts.

This simple expedient has actually aided and abetted global warming rather than alleviated it. Aren't we clever?

And will we, (will you?), deny the next generation of global super powers? More to the point will they deny themselves? We don’t appear to have a particularly convincing argument: “I say Mr Chinaman, I know that we have spent the past the 30 years in an orgy of manufacture and self indulgence and I do quite understand that at the time you had to do with a village bicycle with no seat and tyres – and now that it is within your grasp to have everything that I have, would you mind terribly not having a car, or a fridge, a computer or cell phone because you see you are going to finish the job of fucking up the environment that I started. I’m very sorry but I know that you will understand the need for a little self restraint, after all you’ve never had any luxuries in the past”.

I think not.

So the outcome is, in my humble opinion, inevitable, but not the outcome that is most often mooted. We won’t destroy the planet. We will not bring about the death of mother earth. What we will do is continue to alter the balance of our current continuum, we will cause changes in sea currents and trade winds with consequent and cathartic changes to the global fundamentals of climate. We can’t help it, we can’t stop ourselves.

And what will happen is that the earth will throw us off. We really should have no conceit over this, it’s like two fleas arguing over who owns the dog. We are, as most species are, here by main part accident and adaptation. We don't have a Willy Wonka gold ticket to survival. On the contrary, on the whole we are quite fragile beings, a great many of whom choose to live on boundaries, by the Oceans, or conversely, when inland, in areas which have far too little water to naturally sustain (human) life.

Climate change will hit us hard. At some point it will hit us so hard that we will cease to be, at least ‘be’ in the civilised sense that we ‘be’ now. It’s possible that a small number of us may adapt and survive….but there will be no going back. The earth will change and throw us off, shed us if you like. It will evolve and we will be left behind. Perhaps it will be the chance for some other species to dominate, or perhaps the eco system will relax back into a more dynamic society of creatures. Of course it is unfortunate that we will take many other species with us as we shuffle off this mortal coil. The changes that culminate in our demise will affect many other communities too, not least all of our domesticated animals (there's a double whammy here because the world will not only be rid of us and our noxious emissions, but also a truly spectacular amount of cow-fart) …but what the hey, too little, too late, we will sink without a trace.

So. Don’t worry about it. You will not bring about the end of the world you little weed...

It will bring about the end of you.

Monday, September 10, 2007

en vacance

Dirty old river, must you keep rolling
Flowing into the night

Amazing. The impishness of your mind, the stuff it comes up with…

People so busy,
makes me feel dizzy
Taxi light shines so bright

Cramped, stiff and huddled in the corner. And cold. My god, it was a hundred and four degrees earlier. 104 !!!

But I don't need no friends

Shoes, I need shoes…ruby slippers, I wish, I wish, I wish I were in Camden. Is there actually any loo roll in here, ironically, I mean can I use the toilet if I have to?

As long as I gaze on waterloo sunset
I am in paradise

Yes, paradise. Chocolate bars locked in the car. I have the ubiquitous bottle of wine though, and a torch, and a good book…..a beach towel, a completely redundant mobile phone, a pillow made up of rolled up t shirts and….this stupid bloody song revolving in my head.

It’s going to be a long night I think.

And why not, I am after all….on holiday.

Still, on the bright side this is by far the most salubrious, well kempt public lavatory that I have ever slept in. (Maybe by dint of the fact that they won’t allow you to sleep in the loos in the Ritz or the CafĂ© de Paris, unless of course you are very posh or terribly rich). I did once wake up in a windmill on a crazy golf course, but that was just impaired judgment.

I have had to sit and listen to numerous friends and acquaintances prattle on about the “adventure holiday” that they’re about to embark on, that they’ve described with such gusto and awe that Livingstone or Hilary would have been impressed – only to discover that they are taking an organised scuba diving course in the Red Sea. Or to Mexico to see the temples…but they will be staying in Cancun.

You see there is a real skill to this. Adventure, at least in my eyes is born of an utter disregard for basic research or forward planning. Consequently my ‘holidays’ often resemble huge, complex practical jokes that I seem to be playing on…myself.

Oregon is a dream. An ancient, rugged coastline of bays and jagged, broken rock spines, sea spray mingling with salt mists and sudden chills on a summers day. A haunted coast of lighthouses and children’s laughter and solitary red kites fluttering in pale blue late summer skies.

I will never forget falling asleep to the sound of the Ocean’s swell just 50 yards away over the sand and the salt tang smell of woodsmoke from the embers of a beach fire – or the way that the great boles of sea scraped giant redwoods lay like the bones of Leviathan scorched by the stars – or indeed walking out to the balcony, naked, to stand under the moon with a glass of wine – to feed my soul – straight through the screen door. (We don’t have them at home you see, as I was trying to explain the shattered remains to the maid the next day).

When I was a boy we’d play “if I ruled the world”. And if I ruled the world I would live in Oregon, in a boat moored to the jetty of a small working port, and I would want for nothing, no ambrosia this morning thank you.
But unfortunately some bloody idiot invented maps, and they sell them to bloody idiots to me.
People like me have no sense of scale, no sense of consequence, no common sense.

Every day I look at the world from my window
But chilly, chilly is the evening time
Waterloo sunsets fine

Maps are full of exotica, erotica, evotica to the travelling spirit, cartographic pornography... San Francisco ( I could tell you about San Francisco meets Fish, but I’m rambling enough as it is), the Sierra Nevada, Yosemite.

Did you know that there are only 5 motel rooms in the whole of Yosemite, and apparently on Labour Day weekend they fill rather quickly? Me neither.

Fortunately by now I have become accustomed to my lack of foresight, nay stupidity – such that the boot of my car resembles a fridge stocked for a party of alcoholic 5 year olds. Even in the tiny boot of this two seater rag top I managed to secrete away enough wine (that’s what the Napa valley is there for?) and chocolate biscuits to keep a small army of diabetic drunks on the move for a week.

And a toilet roll.
And now I’m vaguely comfortable. That is my arse is completely numb. It’s only 10 pm and the light of my torch is beginning to turn a vapid wee wee yellow, and I know for sure that I shan’t want to go out in the night.
I couldn’t park the car any closer than 50 yards from the tiny log cabin rest room, and I haven’t heard the grumble of a single RV for at least a half hour now. I expect they are all corralled and picnicking mightily in some snug park somewhere, hooked up to electricity and comparing sanitary cassette.

I tried to bring everything I would need in one go.

So, the usual presleep routine, check that the door is locked (rather bizarrely I have left my shoes outside the door in case, perchance a stranger should want to avail themselves of this ‘convenience’ during the night), fluff up my t shirt pillow and adjust my blanket….there, that’s nice…..a sip of wine……nighty night……

Terry meets Julie, waterloo station
Every Friday night…..

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

who's that knocking on my door

I don't know why but recently I've been waking up with monotonous regularity at around 4 am.

It's very quiet.

It's very dark, despite the ubiqitous ambient light of London and I've found it is quite impossible to roll over and go back to sleep.

Strange what thoughts and dimly lit dreams occur to you in the wee small hours? By a process of trial and error I am now well educated in the vagaries of my subconscious and it's obstinate reaction to conscious demands - put simply, my head will think and display whatever old crap it likes. If I lie and try to think of the colour blue I'm as likely to get a slow motion video of a rhinocerous anally assualting a cartoon traffic warden as a cool soothing azure hue. It appears that the vivid imagination of childhood has not been lost after all, in fact over the years I (we) have accumulated a myriad images and characters that can be assembled in an infinite number of outlandish scenarios....perhaps it's just that I (we) have become better at filing them. That is until the doors become carelessly unlocked and the inmates come out to play?

So I'll get up. Go to the fridge.....not tea, ooo no, this me.....pour a glass of wine, open the back door and sit with my feet on the fire escape stairs in my shreddies and peer into the night. It's not long until there's a pitter patter of nails on stone and a rrrrrreeeeeeooaaaarrrrrr as Charlie's curiosity overcomes him and he'll stretch and snuffle up to me. Toffee never does this, Toffee could sleep in a washing machine on the spin cycle.

I saw the sun rise like this earlier in the week and whilst my locale is not some rural idyll, the early morning mist rising out of the trees and gardens of the urban sprawl has its own ethereal beauty. Or maybe I shouldn't have gone back to the fridge.

It's not the end of the world, whatever it was that woke me up generally dissipates after a while and I can go back to bed and catch another hour. In fact it's almost like having a lie in.

But it's amazing what you think about sitting on the step, in the pre dawn silence.

I remembered being a child and being scared of the dark. I was never scared of the dark outdoors, the night seemed comfortable with the trees and fields and hedgerows of my youth. It was only indoors, at home, when the lights went out. The countryside dark, of pitch breathlesness, where one could lie in bed with eyes open or shut or wave a hand before your face and it mattered not. Utter sightless night.

Now I push the covers away, but then....the little boy who was me would tuck his chin into the blankets and not a single extremity would stray from under the bed covers lest it were touched by some malign cold hand. And in the dark, the paucity of sight was more than made up for by acuity of other senses....there were bats in rafters, the soft susuration of the breeze in the garden oak, the creak and groan of old furniture cooling before the ash of the evening's fire...all were just cause for consternation and goose bumps. I remember laying abed terrorized by a mouse. He lived in the loft along with my father's seed potatos and the rumble-thump as he rolled them to his nest over individual rafters sounded for all the world to me, then, in the dark, like the scrape and footfall of some fiendish ghoul on the roof.

One night when walking home from where the village bus used to drop me, over a mile from my front door, up hill and along tree lined roads bordered by fields and not another dwelling - that night walking home in the early winter gloom a patch of mist detatched itself from a hill top copse and came curling down the hill, to spill over the wall to the lane which had been cut in below the level of the surrounding field....for a long long moment the earth and I stood still within a bitter soaking cocoon of grey.

And I didn't turn a hair. There is no malice in the earth, no threat in the clearing wisps that reveal a starlit sky. It was only when I found home and was put to bed with a kiss goodnight that I had any misgivings and, after a cautious wait, quietly opened the bedroom door to whisper call for the cat.

So Charlie and I sat on the step last night. We saw thin ribbons of cloud sidle east towards the first glimmerings of dawn. We saw the bathroom lights of early risers and a fox in the shadows of a neighbour's garage, we chuckled when Charlie farted and at the gurgling rumpus of the Toffee monster's rabbit chasing dreams.

And when I went back to bed, because of some compulsion I don't understand, I tucked my fingers, toes and nose under the duvet.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

bye bye baby, baby bye bye.....

I don’t like mornings.

I don’t like Mondays.

Any distraction to the jaded humdrum helloo to the week is welcome (obviously that’s a figure of speech – a distraction in the form of say, shutting your willy in the fridge door whilst trying to extricate the milk and simultaneously disentangle your bath towel from the ironing board would be very unwelcome. But that’s a different story).

Around 10.30 then, the earth shattering kerrraaaang and accompaniment of screeches and breaking glass was greeted with general glee in our office. The impact, of whatever the hell it was, was substantial enough to make the building tremble for a moment…..ah, be still my beating heart, what fun.

People raced to the windows and then to the doors. A car was slowly revolving, on it’s roof, in the middle of the road three floors down. It looked grotesque and vaguely…comical, only in as much as that’s not how you normally observe cars, oddly…naked.

Outside a crowd had already gathered. The car had stopped spinning and lay morosely, glassless, at the end of a 20 yard swathe of red and black detritus and deep scratches in the tarmac. Already you could hear sirens in the distance. The police would arrive first and hopefully an ambulance shortly thereafter.

Despite the obvious draw of the car (wreckage has a particular magnetism?), the eyes were inexorably drawn to a frail figure sitting on the kerb. An old man, surely a lucky bystander looking dishevelled but very middle class, who sat wanly by the side of the road cupping his besilvered head in liver spotted hands.

He was surrounded by a whole host of would be first aiders offering various and conflicting advice….no doubt he wanted a cup of tea. In English middle class folk lore a cup of tea is the panacea, the cure all, one can grow a new limb after just a few sips of hot sweet tea.

I was wondering what maniac, what boy racer, what act of stupidity had nearly taken this elderly man’s life so early on a Monday morning. Whether he was on his way home with the news paper or on his way to the Post Office to collect his pension. I was also curious as to why no none of the bystanders were particularly interested in the car, after all if there’s one thing more magnetic than fresh wreckage, it is fresh carnage.

And then a worker from an adjacent office said “silly old sod”, not to me, but to himself.

It transpires that this elderly behemoth had been in the process of parking his car by the corner. He needs sticks to walk. Without switching off his engine he reached across to the passenger seat to get his sticks, opened his door and went to get out of the car. Apparently he slipped and his leg shot out in reaction and jammed full square on the accelerator pedal….

One eye witness likened it to the start of a Grand Prix. The car shot out into the road with a squeal of tyres and accelerated madly – until it made contact with a parked car. The manic pensioner and the parked car met three quarters on flipping the moving car into the air perfectly to land on it’s roof and slide a further 20 yards. The parked car, which I only now noticed, was a total utter wreck crushed at the front and shunted violently backwards into a tree.

The police did arrive first as is their wont. And then an ambulance, and a fire engine and eventually a tow truck.

The car was salvaged, and so was the little old man. He must have sat by on the kerb for some twenty minutes waiting for the ambulance whilst being gently questioned by the police officers. In all that while he didn’t utter a sound and he looked utterly, utterly defeated.

He looked so pitiful when finally they loaded him on to the ambulance, and I sat on the low wall outside the office smoking a cigarette….and thinking just as well, because otherwise I would have beaten him to death with his own sticks.

For demolishing my car.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Monday, July 30, 2007

big dave

I don’t really need any more pets.

The boys are a great sufficiency thank you very much. In the past I’ve had a small ginger tom cat (who packed a bag and left in disgust after suffering the nightly humiliation of a great lolling spaniel tongue bath once too often), a hamster who shuffled off this mortal coil with a soft plaintive thud one evening, and fish….fish who mysteriously decided to leap from their tank on to the floor, an experiment in aquatic Darwinism perhaps or misplaced piscine optimism, that went disastrously wrong.

And I’ve never really had much time for birds. It’s not that I mean them any harm, I’m not ‘anti’ bird….it’s more ambivalence really, they just don’t do anything for me. If I were in a zoo I’d walk briskly through the aviary to get to the lions, tigers, monkeys, even the creepy crawlies. (Except for penguins of course – but I don’t count them as birds, after all they can’t fly?).

In fact the only bird I’ve ever really taken a liking to lived in a pet shop that I used to frequent and swore like a trooper at anyone that passed its cage. It was parrot, a venerable old bird with a wonderfully disgusting vocabulary and a strange aptitude for saying just the right thing - “Oy, f#cking put it down!!!” or “lard arse!!” were always good for a laugh at the discomfort of the uninitiated.

So, follow me, yesterday, to the park, in what was London but we now call the Thames flood plain.....and there in the long wet grass was, what at first glance looked like a discarded blue ribbon biscuit wrapper, but on closer inspection turned out to be a budgerigar. It didn’t look well. It flapped and rolled over and sort slipped, slithered deeper into the grass – not in an “I’m going to take off and fly in a moment” kind of way, more in an “oh bugger now I’m upside down” fashion.

Now as I mentioned, I’m not a huge fan of the genus but what the hey, I don’t particularly like to see any creature suffer. So I waded in to the grass and reached down to try to gently extricate it. It wasn’t as easy as I’d first thought. Of course Toffee and Charlie wanted to get involved and the budgie wasn’t as grateful for my attentions as it could have been. Obviously it wasn’t aware of my motives, so I forgive it, for all it knew I was going to feed it to the malevolent toilet brush (Charlie) that was so excited he looked like he might soil himself at any moment.

Several aborted attempts later, accompanied by lots of ‘pep talks’ to the dogs (“look just sod off for a moment!!!”) and the poor little thing was almost completely submerged in the grass – but at last, I managed to fold it’s wings and cup it in one hand.

It was tiny, and sodden. And it bit. The little blue budgie fit easily and entirely in one hand and gnawed away on my forefinger. It was quite endearing really and just on the edge of being painful, tiny as it was it wasn’t going to be done in without a fight.

We finished the walk holding the budgerigar. The dogs obviously thought it was a ball of some kind and that at any moment I was going to throw it for them. The budgie itself remained stolidly attached to my finger although I thought it relaxed a little when I stopped gently cooing and tried a different tack with a “pretty Polly” (so I’ve called it Dave, just to keep it on it’s toes).

In the van, the only thing to do was let it loose. I couldn’t exactly put it in my pocket could I? I did briefly consider the glove box, but that seemed a mite cruel considering its experience over the past hour or two.

So there you have it. I don’t have a cage at home so now Charlie, Toffee and Dave are roaming the plains of chez Fish in freedom. Opening the door onto the yard for the boy’s morning ablutions is slightly more complicated than it was. I expected to hear the flutter of budgie wings as it made a dash for freedom, but it was busy exploring the bathroom.

And birds aren’t so unpleasant after all…except they really do poo a lot don’t they?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

do me

What a strange phenomenon, the psychometric test?

Every time I take one of these, and I’ve been tested all over the place thank-you-very-much, it makes me think about the ink blot test. I can’t be completely sure, but I would imagine that the average psycho or socio path isn’t completely bereft of common sense, in fact, more likely, they are possessed of a certain, intuitive cunning. In which case when they are shown an inkblot by the friendly, inquisitive psychologist and asked to say what it reminds them of, they are hardly likely to blurt “a baby impaled on a pointed stick”, even if it does in fact resemble nothing other than a baby, impaled on a pointed stick. Instead, they say with practiced gravitas, “a carnation”

It’s much the same with psychometric testing. These things are apparently, by juxtaposing a series of intuitive questions, supposed to provide the interrogator with an insight into what really makes you tick – your psyche.

But they all seem such blunt and transparent tools, like the ink blot test, a series of questions in the form of:

“When faced with a crisis at work, what role do you play in resolving it?”

a repeatedly strike a colleague with a metal rule whilst shouting “fucking sort it out bitch”
b provide calm authority and enlist the skills of key colleagues to find a solution
c dither
d hide in the toilet until it all blows over

Shall I answer honestly, mmmmmmm let me see, no I think I’ll plump for b since the results of this test may have some bearing on my scramble up the corporate ladder.

Really, one would have to be a complete imbecile or a corporate lemming to answer truthfully, unless you are of course the perfect employee – which means that all of your work mates are going to loath and detest you when the results of the test are made public.

I just put down a mixture. I want people to think I’m flawed….like everyone else.

Monday, June 04, 2007

underneath a spreading chestnut tree

The house was perfect, as if painted into the surrounding garden of blooming rhododendrons and azaleas. So white in the sunshine, set in it’s green idyll, it was almost too bright to look at.

The dogs sniffed on the low picket fence and shuffled, glanced up at me nervously or impatiently I don’t know, because we had stood there for a very long time. They were on the leash while I stood mesmerised by the canary yellow door, the same canary yellow door.

It’s very still here, there’s a hush, and in keeping with the hush we were still and quiet too, like visitors to a church where we might feel embarrassed to break the silence. Maybe they felt it too, certainly Charlie’s strident yap would have brought the walls and roof of this brief enchantment crashing in.

It was still inside too. No emotional tide here, no turbulence, nothing rising to the surface, unless of course a reflective calm emptiness is an emotion in itself.

And then there was a cause for embarrassment, a flutter of the living room curtains (note to self, what ‘was’ the living room) and a half concealed face that glanced briefly and then withdrew. Which precipitated a decision that I‘d hardly considered, whether to knock on the door and see who answered, and say….whatever came to mind.

We put ourselves in motion and half way down the gravel track were saved the awkwardness of finding the first words. The canary yellow door opened onto a man very similar to myself, in build, in height, in age, but with a full beard who stood, not aggressively, but defensively and said, “are ye looking for the camp site”.

I hesitated, it didn’t (doesn’t) seem fair to involve others in ones personal melodrama. I should have said yes, but what I said was, “I’m curious about the house”.

“Very curious if you ask me”

“Yes, I’m sorry”

“Weel it’s no for sale if that’s what your wanting”

“No, no, not at all…actually…in fact…well, I used to live here”.

If I thought that might placate him it didn’t do the trick.

“I’m sorry” I said, “I didn’t mean to disturb you” and turned to walk away.

We had almost made it back on to the main drive, this is the gatehouse you see, at the end of private road that sweeps up through the woods to the Fergusson family home…

Glad to be back facing the sun now, with my back to the yellow door, when, perhaps curiosity got the best of him and he called.

“What’s your name?”

Without turning “Colin, Colin Deed”

And the door slammed shut.

His wife caught us up about a half mile down the lane. She was driving a small white van and pulled over just beyond us. She looked worried, almost ashamed as she got out, in fact her first words were “Sorry, so sorry” in that lilting Scots accent that instantly made you believe her and regret that she was saying it and not you. I knew immediately who she was as she stumbled in the long grass by the side of the lane and stood holding the edge of the open van door.

“I know you” she said.

“And I know you”, and tried to smile winningly and at the same time remember her name.

“I’m Mary”

Yes, (thank you God!!), “Mucculloch” I blurted

“MacCutcheon” she offered quietly.

“Yes, of course” I agreed “MacCutcheon, how are you Mary”.

“That was my husband Weir that ye just spoke to and he was awfee rude, I’m so sorry”

“Oh no really, it’s me that should be sorry, after all I did stand there and lurk for a very long time”

“Still, whatever, he knows you, though you’ll nay remember him”

And we had a conversation, the conversation that people who haven’t seen each other for nigh on 25 years have, full of vaguely remembered shared acquaintances (at least to me) and what they were doing and who had children and how many and who had gone bad, mad or run away in the night. (Mary was the daughter of the couple who had owned the Post Office in the local village, the epicentre of gossip in any small Scots community).

And then we stood there for a moment and smiled vaguely, and suddenly she asked the question I think she had wanted to ask all along, blurted, almost fearfully….”the house Colin, the house…

I left her to finish it for herself, I didn’t want to offer anything if she were only going to ask if it suffered from rising damp.

…is it, well…okay…?”

I knew what she meant, had done all along, “It’s fine Mary, truly, it’s fine. You live there, it’s warm and cosy and welcoming, live there…you must know that”.

“I know” she said apologetically, “but even so, poor wee Stewart, how old was he Colin, thirteen, fourteen?”


“Oh no, poor wee man, do you know why….no of course ye don’t, I’m sorry”.

“Well one thing’s for sure, it wasn’t the house Mary so never think that”.

“We look around the garden sometimes and, well you know…”

“And you needn’t worry about that either Mary, my brother and I cut down the tree too, and burnt it to a crisp, it isn’t there now”

She brightened, and we made brief farewells.

“I’m glad” she said as she left “the garden’s beautiful”

I waved goodbye as she drove away, I suspect she’d take the fork on the hill and drive the long way round so past the kennels we didn’t have to see each other again if she turned around. I understood that.

I had not been back there for nearly 30 years, the house where my family lived for many years after my little brother was found hanging from the tree in the garden…and where eventually I carried them out, one by one, in boxes through the canary yellow door.

Although it was a beautiful day and the dogs loved the freedom and the fields and I amused myself remembering stiles and gates and individual trees - somehow I suspect I won’t be going back again.

I’m writing this in the corner of the sofa while Charlie and Toffee eat my pizza crusts. This ill conceived weekend seems a lifetime ago already. I’ll be posting this without ever rereading it so please excuse any bad grammar and spelling mistakes.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

panda boy

there is, (at least here there exists), in summer, a variety of tiny black fly who’s apparent purpose in life is to make a beeline for any moist bodily orifice. They’re incredibly annoying. So small, it hardly appears to have wings at all, a blur, a mote of dust almost – and yet relentless, no amount of waving and flapping will dissuade it from doing it’s utmost to pursue a watery grave by dissolving on your eye.

Which is, I understand, apropos of nothing.

Except perhaps that I admit that I don’t understand everything, or everybody’s, motivation.

Friends and colleagues can still take me utterly by surprise with seemingly random and unfathomable acts of selflessness and wild abandon in almost equal proportion.

Acquaintances I don’t expect to understand.....indeed I don’t particularly want to. I have neither the time or inclination to try to interpret the why’s and what fors of the chaotic jumble of characters who impinge on daily life while you’re simply trying to get on with it. Smiles, angry faces, politeness, unpleasantness even nuance all register, but don’t affect – maybe we all do this, I think we do, but I suspect many people are more sympathetic to their surroundings and it’s population than I am, they have more empathy.

But, when it comes to your friends or to people that you work with day in day out, one would think that even if they act in a way that appears out of character that one could at least fathom a motive upon further consideration?

Well, not so actually.

Quite who it was then that decided to coat the ear cuffs of my telephone head set in black marker pen ink will no doubt remain a mystery.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

hairpins and dog legs

Please don’t misunderstand, my absence hasn’t been due entirely to honing my dog parenting skills – but the ongoing saga of Toffee’s rear end has been one of defining elements of this year.

Just to keep you up to date: He originally had replacement cruciate and cartilage surgery not long after Xmas. That, unfortunately, was not a complete success, which eventually entailed another operation to remove a wedge of bone in lower leg, consequently changing the angle of his knee to relieve the pressure on the ligaments. Which seems to have been a success, all of the plates and pins seem to be holding together very well.

The problem being that having spent so long hobbling around, convalescing and slowly recovering on his left leg – that his right knee collapsed under the awkwardness of his movement and the general strain. I could have wept, it happened while we were out walking, without any warning, and I watched it literally crumble under him.

Sure enough, the vet confirmed that he had ruptured both cruciate ligaments in his right knee (pointing out, bless him, that it was actually better than he’d hoped since it was a sudden collapse and no damage had been caused to his cartilage).

Here we are, post op again. He’s actually doing rather well, albeit that his arse end appears to have been borrowed from a much skinnier dog. He’s not allowed very much exercise so while his bum and rear legs have wasted away he has tended to get heavier elsewhere…, to add insult to injury he is also on a diet.

Do you know, when we go back to the surgery for regular check ups and x-rays, he wags his tail?!!

He’s either developed Alzheimer’s too or has masochistic tendencies, or as I think I already understand, he is a big bag of stupid-love covered with fur and that as far as Toffee is concerned any attention is good attention.

(And, not that it’s of any concern whatsoever, except that it’s an excitingly large figure, Toffee’s insurance covered the first £2500 of treatment, but it has cost a further £4500 thus far, and the meter is still ticking – since the conversion rate is US$2 today I’m fairly confident in saying that equates to $9000. He is without doubt, the single most expensive thing I have ever owned apart from my house).

In other news:

I must (must) stop cutting my own hair.

Blogger lost my profile when I (Jenn that is) pushed me over the cyber cliff into Beta (as it took me an age to master the instructions to my VCR I won’t be doing anything too cerebral with a new profile).

I found a pair of suede brogues I like so much I bought two pairs.

I had a birthday and tried to sell it on e-bay, I was offered £1.20.

My motorbike works again, whoop whoop, so now I can spend warm Sunday afternoons killing enormous quantities of flies at ridiculous speeds.

Today I discovered sushi (tomorrow I will endeavour to un-discover it).

Note to self, receipts ARE important.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

a steady hand

Thank you Jenn. Just to prove I'm not a complete imbecile and I can handle the new blogger...bring it on...a few photo's of Tallinn for you.
And you thought I was just boozing, tch!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Where in the world is Estonia?

Hi all. It's Jenn...The Upbeat Divorcee.

Our traveling Fishy is out and about but wants you to know all is well. He's in Estonia?

It's about 8 PM there, cold (by his standards), quaint in a Hanseatic kind of way. So far, he has negotiated lunch and is managing not to stare at the girls (who all seem to be astonishingly pretty). Next, he's off to the old town where he's told the bars stay open to 4am, cool!

Toffee is doing much better and taking a well earned break from Colin - at the spa (kennel). He starts hydrotherapy next week and, personally, Colin thinks he'll take to it like a dog to water....

(I feel a little guilty because when Colin returns, he's going to have to switch to the new Blogger...I used his one shot at the old one. I take full responsiblity if I've goofed it up something awful.)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

a study in blue

Toffee says thank you.

We don't know the outcome yet, there's a way to go, but we'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

cold toes

The oddest thing.

The world was softly spoken we woke this morning. Too quiet even for duvet deafness, the snuggling in between eiderdown and pillow, the space where warm slumber meets the new day, where we test the air with our nose and allow those other senses to slowly emerge from their repose.

Today, instead of the insistent rumble and throb of hurly burly morning progress there is a hush of traffic as if through blancmange...and children’s voices too, usually drowned by the din of violent cars, are plainly audible laughing and shrieking beyond the window.

It’s cold on my nose as I burrow back into the covers. The window behind me radiates cold, and beyond the shutters, beyond the window pane, the sky’s cool grey is tinged with amber.

It’s snowing outside.

Normally I would be ecstatic. Even the grey humdrum of the city looks better for a sprinkling of snow – but mostly, because we so seldom have a reasonable fall. It is exciting to walk with the dogs, to watch their excitement at a new terrain. It’s exciting for me too, having grown up in the countryside of Scotland, to slip out of urban thrall after work - back into the wellie boots of youth amongst snow laden trees, with my boys, on a quiet, frigid night.

I wish it were that simple. Unfortunately one of us, Toffee, is still not well. He had his stitches removed last night along with further x-rays and a thorough examination. (He makes me proud, and rather humble. Whilst other dogs are causing chaos in the hospital waiting room he sits or lies, watching the world go by with big brown placid eyes. He’ll tolerate no end of pulling or twisting, man handling of an obviously sore joint, without a murmur of protest. I didn’t teach him these manners, they’re in his nature).

So for all that has already been done, while not wasted has neither worked. He has arthritis in his knee it is still too weak to support the load of any normal exercise. The surgeon spoke to us about a solution which involves removing a wedge of bone to change the angle of the knee and consequently the strain on the surrounding ligaments. The whole is then put back together and reinforced with pins and plates.

Apparently if it works, it works well. And if it doesn’t, (which is unlikely but possible) it can go very badly wrong.

Toff and I had a good long chat about it and we decided that he’d rather run again than spend his life walking on a lead. So… Tuesday.

There’ll be other snow falls.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

of rabbits, in dreams

I'm home.

Thank you for your well wishes, feeling a little dopey at the moment so I think I'll have a snooze.....but see you in the park soon!

ps 'scuse my bare bum.

The Toffster

Monday, January 08, 2007

paint your pallet blue and grey

It’s been a while.

I’d hoped it might feel like a comfortable shoe that one could slip back into, but it feels rather more like an stiff old shirt, ill fitting and a little too tight around the collar.

So here’s to a happy, healthy new year to everyone before I forget, and a brief review of the events of the last few months by way of explanation and apology to friends I’m doing a bloody good job of not deserving.

Essentially I have been gone because at the end of last year I disappeared, figuratively, into a revolving door of travel and corporate entertainment, living out of suitcase, drunkenly, always packing, laundry, sleeping fitfully 'in transit' or dropping my poor boys of at the kennels, to the point where I…how can I describe, “lost balance” I think, forgot what was (is) important, even necessary, and then the wheels simply fell off. Just for a short while but terrifying nevertheless. I know Clotho by name, I held hands with Lachesis for a short while and turned away just in time to hide from Atropos, but I'm sure I smelt her breath and it was sweet and I was sorely tempted.

Just an incident. A lesson I suppose I couldn’t have missed.

So mostly since then I have been trying to immerse myself in what is self evidently important, friendship and the health necessary to enjoy them.

I had a great New Year in Minneapolis, I have to tell you that Sandra is amazing, the hostess with the mostest, kind and great fun (Laddie really is that beautiful and noble in person). Jenn is wonderful, truly upbeat, and with her friend Shelley the four of us just had one of the happiest, funniest, joyous nights I’ve had in an age. And I was honoured to meet the diminutive 4th of those blythe spirits and fell head over heals for a tiny, beautiful, shy girl with a spectacular grin that lit up the room when she deigned to eventually grace us with it.

And now it’s back to work, for a while at least, back into the revolving door but with a full battery and a better perspective.

Spare a thought for Toffee, he’s been in agony with his knee this past six weeks and he’s finally going to go for surgery on his cruciate ligament tomorrow…it’s by far the most important thing going on around here at the moment.

He's lying with his head on my lap as I write and I just want to tell him it's okay, you'll run again.