In Praise and Recognition of Pets

Watching a fascinating programme about immigration and its history in the UK. I missed the beginning as the signal was poor, but now I have moved the aerial and balanced it on a box means I have a good picture.

One of the things I enjoy about television on das Boot is how in this small space I can watch it while washing up, cooking, stowing the stuff I have brought abroad.

While I ate (a spicy curry with brown rice since you ask) I watched the Supervet. One of the owners, whose active puppy Noel described as a box of frogs, spoke about how much she loved her puppy, Nala. How Nala was more than she had expected.

Oh how I understand. On the road, when MasterB made the occasional complaint, I examined why I bring him to das Boot, when he so obviously believes car travel is over rated. The fact is das Boot is so much nicer when he is with me. And not just das Boot. Home is so much nicer when he is there. Life is so much better when MasterB is there.

He is affectionate, a moderately good listener, beautiful, funny, playful. He improves my life beyond measure. All loved pets do. To non pet lovers, this may sound crazy, deluded, maybe even sad, proof of impoverished lives where humans fail to make significant relationships with other humans.

Except that it has proved over and over again that pet owners are happier and healthier, that we connect not only with our animals but with others of our own species.

It has been hot in London the last few days. Fortunately much cooler today. As is our wont, Octavia and I ate together on Sunday night. We enjoyed the warm evening and dined in her small courtyard garden. The Grey Ninja lay on the wall. Her paws lifted to the skies. The very picture of a cat on a hot brick wall. If only I had had my big camera with me (a lament I may repeat over the next few days at das Boot as I am already regretting only bringing my point and shoot).

Octavia called to her. I wish we had been filming this. Her hot cat spread the toes of one paw in response. Fabulous. My own hot cat, the Ginger Ninja, slept on his back with his front legs stretched out like skis. His appetite flagged; he cried to me to turn the heat down; he wanted to stay in the garden late at night when I wanted him in. Continue reading

After the Election

It’s two weeks tomorrow since the UK General Election which saw Theresa May’s hopes of domination crumble into dust. Today was a shorter than short State Opening of Parliament with the Queen in her Ascot gear, eschewing the robes and crown.

She delivered a speech shorn of some of the nastiest proposals by the Tory party, though Brexit dominated and although some people are making hopeful noises that it may not, in the end, happen, I’m not holding my breath.

It was the defeat of Mrs May’s dreams that my cousin Russell and I celebrated on 9th June, a day we had planned to spend far from news and celebrating Tory voters, hoping walking and nature would be a balm to our European, Green voting souls. i have already written of our gleeful grins, of our alcohol consumption that lunchtime during a scrumptious meal where we toasted the many, not the few, but I have not got around to posting pictures.

This first might give you an idea of our route.

Give me a sign

On the other hand, it may not. Continue reading

Coventry, City of Culture 2021

I went to Coventry again today. It was fab. I knew it would be. I went there for the first time in February. I fully intend to return before long and explore some more.

It’s going to be the City of Culture in 2021. It’s going to be brilliant.

It’s been twinned with more cities than I can remember, mainly I think because its mission to promote peace and reconciliation.

I think it should be twinned with the Elephant and Castle, SE1. The clue is in the coat of arms.

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Walking the Dogs

The nights were pretty cold when I was away and I was glad of a hot water bottle. Two dogs snuggling beside me in the evening, plus the heat from the stove kept me warm in the sitting room.

Two dogs

Westie Boy was probably feeling the cold as his coat has been clipped very short in preparation for Cousin’s upcoming trip to Australia to see daughter Number One in Sydney, while her husband, who’s staying at home, will be promoted to Dog Carer in Charge. The one who looks like a walking hearth rug is Westie Pup, who belongs to Daughter Number Two and with whom I was delighted to be reunited over the weekend. Rather more delighted than Westie Boy was to have her there I’m sorry to say.

The mornings were chilly and bright, frost evident on the fields and verges.

Frosted

Blue skies, green fields

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The Elephant in the Room

Well, not really a room, more a district and a city. Let me explain.

When I visited Coventry last week I was surprised and intrigued to find representations of elephants.

A Line of Balancing Elephants

I live close to the Elephant and Castle in London. I’m used to references to elephants hereabouts. We have a magnificent one with a howdah on his back that adorns the delapidated shopping centre; there’s Elephant Cars based in Elephant Road; the Electric Elephant Café here in Walworth, offices in Hannibal House; Elefest, once our annual beano celebrating all things Elephant connected. But I was unaware of any pachyderm associations with Coventry, usually a city more renowned for its connections with Lady Godiva’s naked horse riding event. However, elephants there definitely were.

 

An Elephant in the Wall

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Under the Same Sun

Westie Puppy is back in her Belfast home and thriving. MasterB has not been outside for two days. The birds are emptying one of the four feeders in the garden and ignoring the others.

Half past five tonight and it was still light. It is spring. The evidence is all around us in the shape of daffodils, snowdrops, crocuses. New shoots pierce the earth. Trees are in blossom. Neighbours are turning the earth in their gardens and planting small purchases made at flower nurseries. I went out without my gloves.

Today is St David’s Day, 1st March, just over two weeks to go before Ersatz Paddies take to the streets wearing dubious hats and swearing allegiance to Guinness. When I was a child being Irish was unfashionable. Actually, it was more than unfashionable, it was social leprosy. I remained largely ignorant of this due to Mother’s relentless programming. My sister and I were brought up to believe our half-Irishness was a miraculous bonus, something of pride and joy. Similarly being the daughters of a working mother when girls we knew at school had mothers who mainly stayed at home. How I looked down on them. I’m sure the feeling was mutual.

I was around twelve when the penny finally dropped that I was doubly socially inferior as far as many of my classmates and their parents were concerned. At Mother’s funeral one of my cousins, the one who the rest of us see as being fantastically and unaccountably right wing, queried my description of Mother as Irish. It’s how she described herself, I replied. Another cousin said Mother would have called Derry Londonderry. No she didn’t, I said, hearing Mother’s voice in my head saying she came from Co Derry.

A few years ago Cousin and I deposited our grandmother’s autograph book at the Linenhall Library in Belfast. Much as we valued it, it seemed to have a significance beyond our family. It’s clear that my grandmother and her friends all considered themselves uncomplicatedly and proudly Irish. There are many patriotic entries for St Patrick’s Day; verses, pressed shamrocks, pen and ink drawings of harps. My grandmother signed the Ulster Covenant. Look online and you can find her name. I am guessing that post Partition she may have called herself British, but I don’t know. By then she was married and trapped in a cycle of pregnancy and increasing hardship, leading to her premature death in 1927. Continue reading

Westie Pup

I should hate to disappoint a newly ennobled Octavia by refusing to comply with her request. So here are some pictures of Her Puppyness with all her dishevelled charm.

She may grow into her ears one day.

Getting photos of her awake and still is a challenge in itself. She is full of life, loves being with people and has a Miss Marple like interest in everything around her.

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Saturday

Day five of my holiday (or four if you don’t count Tuesday which was when I travelled) and this is my first post. I am sitting on a warm bus heading into Belfast and just beyond to visit Uncle Bill and his wife, and to go out to lunch with them and their elder son. I’m armed with a book for my uncle, chocolates for my aunt, and nothing for my cousin.

I have my ‘phone and its charger as since Monday the battery has starting running down very rapidly. I hope there is a power point on the bus home, or I may not be able to tell Cousin I am back at Toomebridge, and the walk to her house in the dark is not something I should like to attempt.

In contrast with my journey from London to Belfast n the summer, this time the ‘plane was half empty and we arrived twenty minutes ahead of schedule. It was still early afternoon, so we reached Cousin’s in daylight where I was greeted by Westie Boy and made Westie Puppy’s acquaintance. She belongs to one of Cousin’s daughters, and is a temporary resident while her toilet training is completed. She’s a rough and tumble scruff at the minute, and it’s hard to imagine her as a townie sophisticate in Belfast, sitting primly by her owners while they enjoy a cup of coffee in the city. Though she does love to sit beside you, to lie on your feet, so that bit will be fine, but I think we’ll have to get her used to the brush before her first public appearances. Continue reading