Monday, 30 May 2011

Night of the hairy hound

My parents have two dogs. One, called Tess, is an aging Staffie with a loud snore and a propensity for stinky farts. The other is a small black and white Jack Russell concoction called Spot, who I'm sure is the hairiest and most conniving hound in the whole world.
My parents inflicted both dogs on us when they came to visit for Christmas and in preparation for showing them who was in charge, I drew up a list of rules for the dogs to abide by.
Firstly, no dog would set one paw in our bathroom, for fear of making the white carpet and anything else dirty.
Secondly no dogs would go in the living room and certainly not on our rug - this particular rule was mainly for Spot as her hairs are a nightmare to clean up and are found lurking in the most peculiar places after a visit (e.g in my pockets, on top of a shelf, in my salad).
Lastly, on absolutely no account would any dogs go in the bedrooms. My parents would bring their comfy doggy beds for them and they could sleep on these. I did have a cunning plan to lock the dogs in our garden shed over night, but this was thought to be cruel so I amended this to the outer room (a less than posh conservatory area) off the kitchen, which has a nice draft blowing through the back door for ventilation...

Within two hours or so of their arrival the first of my rules was broken. I accidentally let Spot sit on my lap and then realized that her odour was less than Chanelesque. Been in the woods earlier apparently. Probably rolled in something. Lovely. Into the bath for her and a generous dollop of Pantenne. That dog can certainly shake the water off when she wants to.
The second night of the visit my parents left me to put the dogs to bed in their cold little chamber. "oh no" I said to Dr X, "look how sad they are and Spot is shivering". Dr X agreed that we should move them into the living room where they could have their doggy beds in front of the fireplace and enjoy the warmth from the last of the glowing embers. Good plan. They had already broken rule number two anyway and were perfectly at home rolling on the supposedly dog free rug. I went to bed with a clear conscience. Following a nocturnal visit to the facilities at 3 in the morning however I had an unpleasant surprise. Frozen on the stairs with her ears down was a tiny, hairy white body. Spot, the hairy hound, was sneaking up to see if she could sleep in anyone's room and preferably on their bed. Oh no you don't I thought. I'm not falling for that trick. I picked her up, crept down the creaky stairs and returned her to her doggy bed. Only it was quite cold in the living room now. The fire had died out a few hours ago and it isn't the warmest of rooms at the best of times. Tess slept soundly on, she'd be great if there was a burglary.
The hairy hound started shivering and then sat up in her begging pose. Crud. I'd always been a sucker for that. Were those fake tears in her little black eyes? She had her paw firmly on my guilt button and wasn't taking any prisoners. I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep if I left her there. I sighed, picked her up and took her to our room. I hoped she would quickly and inconspicuously fall asleep on our bed so as not to wake Dr X. But of course she had to be a drama queen about it. She threw her hairy body against his slumbering form and gave him a long lick up his arm. That woke him up pretty quick and he was not amused. Her work over, the hound shook some more hairs in my direction and then curled up between us radiating more heat than necessary.

Never again.

Dance me to the end of love (or to Bexhill on Sea)...

In March Dr X and I took a long week-end (4 days) to visit Rye and the surrounding area. Our mode of transport and our home was Harvey our camper van. Last time we camped was over the Christmas break in the snow. Although Harvey has his own central heating it was so cold at that time that our water supply and toothpaste froze.We stayed for the the first time at a five star rated campsite called Kloofs in Bexhill on Sea. This about half an hours drive away from Rye.
First impressions of the campsite online were very good. Acres of green grass, leafy trees and fields of horses around. We had left it a bit late to book so rang up to see if there was any availability. We were kindly advised to book online with their form. We did this and saw an instruction to call during office hours to pay a deposit. Dr X called the next day to do this but was brushed off - some kind of Internet problem and the guy who answered couldn't wait to get off the phone.
We felt a bit uneasy about not formally booking in case there was a mix up and all the spaces went. Apparently there was also a camping society rally taking place the same week-end. Nonetheless deciding to live dangerously we trusted to fate and decided to proceed as if everything would be fine.
And it was. We arrived at Kloofs and found it to be lovely. The kindly man wouldn't let us pay until the end of our stay and didn't have any record of our booking. He gave us lot 59, right near the facilities.  The bit we camped in bore little resemblance to the Internet image, but was nice enough. Besides, it was very cold and windy outside so who cares about parking under a tree. It's handy to be a stones throw away from the loos and washing-up area. Also they havd a communal room full of books and DVDs to borrow which is a very nice touch. 

We popped into Bexhill on Sea to have a look before it got dark, but were disappointed. It looked a bit run down and there was a strange mismatch of buildings. The beach was pebbly and there were some pretty beach huts which sort of made up for the other bits. We didn't see too many people around.  It was too cold to explore properly so I'm probably being unduly harsh in my judgement. 

Slugulus giganticulus

Yesterday while visiting Brownsea Island I saw the largest slug ever seen by womankind. It was almost the size of my hiking boot and was jet black. It remained stationary whilst Dr X took a photo of it, with my boot next to it as as evidence of it's awesome size, but I was aware that at any moment it could probably crush me like a bug. Brownsea is of course where the first Scout movement was started by Baden-Powell and then subsequently spread to a large number of other countries. We passed by their campsite and were impressed by the provisions they had neatly stocked up for later. Climbing up a slope I spotted a giant fire-pit ready for the evening ghost tales around the fire. I hoped the slug would put in a guest appearance.

P.s just before writing this blog a giant winged beast flew against my window and then crawled along it, searching no doubt for an entry point. I am clearly a magnet to freakish beasty things at the moment.

Do not read Little Women...

  • If you are prone to getting misty eyed and have run out of tissues - the weepies started for me in the first chapter, well before anyone got sick or died,
  • If you have a habit for picking up Americanisms as you may end up calling your mum 'Marmee', which will probably annoy her,
  • If you secretly wish you had been born in 19th century America so that you could dress up in gowns, go to balls and be doted on by young men called Teddy - coming back to the 21st century will be a disappointment,
  • If you are ham handed at anything delicate and practical as you will want to mend  some poor man's socks and then realise that you can't sew or even know what darning a sock means.

Emerald Isle

I've been a bit tardy with my blogging lately, and lacking in inspiration, I've turned to some unpublished material which I kept in my diary from around this time last year. So here goes, my best quotes from an autumn week-end in Ireland 2010:

"I'd rather be at home drinking a hot chocolate & watching the X Factor" (14 year old daughter of our friends at the beginning of what turned out to be a very long beach hike)

"I don't see the point in going to school anymore. I'm going to set up my own business, I've got a business plan already" (9 year old son of our friends)

"I've decided not to confuse Santa with long lists of presents this year. I'm just going to ask for a Nintendo DS and a packet of tic tacos" (same 9 yr old)

"I'm trying to have a conversation, could you stop pointing that thing at my face" (wife to her husband who kept trying to capture her on film, no it wasn't Dr X and I)

"I'd like to point out that this is your fifth art gallery. Just in case you didn't realize." (Dr X to me in Westport following the art vision trail 2010)

"You've gained loads of shamrocks (Irish equivalent to Brownie points) on this trip. Your 'best husband of the year award' is secure" (me to Dr X in the restaurant of the Atlantic Coast hotel where we revived ourselves after visiting all of the aforementioned art galleries)

When I grow up I want a pony...

Any apples?
I'm gonna ride her from dusk till dawn
I'm gonna brush her mane and feed her sugar cane
And keep her in safe from the cold.

Kasey Chambers you rock my world - 

iPad vs Filofax

I have had a passion for Filofaxes since I was a young kid. Before I could afford a proper one I used to make my own out of bits of cardboard, scraps of paper and shoe-laces. Some of my friends did this too and we sort of had an informal Filofax club. Kind of embarrassing really. I now have a small collection which I use on a semi regular basis - a Winchester one which my mum got me when I was a teenager, yes I was the envy of my classmates with that one. This now looks after my archived memories from my teenage years. I also have a sporty version which I use for my bible study notes, an A5 version I use in the office and to fake efficiency in meetings and lastly a very nice burgundy pimlico which is the only one I actually purchased myself as the others were gifts.
But now the iPad has entered my life and I fear the gradual demise of my treasured paper based organisers. I did a quick weight check and the iPad is only marginally heavier than my pimlico yet the amount of information it can store is incomparable. Given the amount of multi-functional uses I can get from my pad there's really no contest which one I'm going to be carrying around with me and taking on holiday.
Sorry filofax - you will always be my first love. Xxxx

The joys of caravanning (August 2010)

This is a post I wrote last year before I had set up my blog. We now have our campervan, but didn't at the time I wrote this.

Apparently the Brits have had a long-standing passion for caravanning. It used to mainly be the preserve of those with more than two brass farthings to rub together and prior to the 1960s wild camping was allowed around the UK with no problem. Holidays stopped during the 2nd world war and caravans were used as temporary ambulances or shelters. After the war caravanning became increasingly more popular and formerly secluded rural areas such as the lake district became clogged up on bank holidays.  During the 70s there was also a rise in static caravans and a corresponding demise in people choosing the touring option.
Today however the caravanning and camper van enthusiasts seem to have taken back the roads and are once again embracing the thrill of the open highway. Wild camping is no longer allowed unfortunately although it's apparently ok in some parts of Wales and Scotland.

Dr X has fond memories of his parent's VW back in the 1970s. It faithfully transported a family of 2 adults, 4 children and 2 dogs around the French countryside. His only grudge was that his dad made them keep the plastic covering on everything to protect it, which he feels spoilt the total enjoyment of it.

Now, 30 years later Dr X and I have put our name down (and paid a hefty deposit) for a VW California. It was fun picking out the different accessories, although  apparently I didn't show the right amount of enthusiasm for what type of tyres we should have. The price for a new van is eye-watering and we have to keep reminding ourselves that this is more than a vehicle, it is a very sophisticated mobile home which will enhance our quality of life. Well it had better do as we won't be staying in hotels again for a loooong time. The very kindly VW salesman told us that he had similar qualms buying his first home for £11,000 back in the 1970s. Not sure how this relates to us exactly but it was a nice story.

Now the long wait begins for us to actually get our van (from the factory in Germany) as due to the current level of demand we could be waiting for 2 or more months. In the interim we are stocking up on the essentials - pastel coloured melanin plates, food storage boxes and a whistling kettle for the hob. Dr X is carrying out the necessary research into the type of loo we should get ( something low enough to fit in the cupboard under the sink when not in use) and has also ordered a toilet / shower tent from a company who specialise in these in Australia.
We've decide to call our VW Harvey the RV. Apparently many VW owners name their vans which I think indicates the special relationship you develop with your vehicle.  We're looking forward to our first adventure - the first campsite, the first meal under the stars and our first night sleeping in the van up high in the roof compartment. I'm planning to keep a blog of our adventures in Harvey - Tales from the open road. I can't wait. Xxx

Dear Mr Slug & Mrs Snail

Thank you for your continued presence in my garden despite the regular offers of the  attractive re-location package which have been made to you since May. I'm very glad that you have chosen my garden and particularly the raspberry ripple geranium patch for your summer home. I hope you have enjoyed the regular turn-over of plants from the bargain section of the garden centre. Hey they were going to die anyway so no hard feelings.
I was particularly touched to find Mrs Snail giving birth to some lovely shiny snail eggs in my carrot patch. I hope they enjoyed the free Disney Water world type experience I provided for them later that afternoon.
I've been trying to persuade the local bird population to visit my garden more often as I'm sure you'd love to have some adrenaline rushes in your otherwise dull days. Failing that my husband is French and I recently saw him buying some garlic, butter and parsley so I'm confident that he will be inviting you to dinner soon.
Take care now xxx

Travels with Harvey

The joys of camper-vanning! Dr X and I are very grateful to have Harvey in our lives. This compact blue VW California has brought us many hours of happiness. Toot toot to all happpy campers out there!