Sunday, December 26, 2010


dear readers, i hope you all enjoyed a happy and peaceful christmas. the peeps had a very low-key but fun time. my boy was born a couple of weeks before christmas, not being able to wait until his due date in january, and so tends to have one big present for both. this year's present was a graphics card for his computer. this is to make the pictures on the screen more realistic, so much so that the virtual world is fast becoming indistinguishable from the real one.

because my boy had already been given his graphics card, herself decided to buy him a new dressing gown and slippers so he would have something to unwrap on christmas day. herself does not do well in crowded shops, so she planned to go along to the nearby 24 hour tesco at an hour when other folks would have something better to do. this plan, like many, did not go quite how herself would have liked.

herself's friend mrs toby spends her time between denmark, where her beloved man lives, and england, where her beloved horse lives. at some point mrs toby plans to locate both beloveds in the same country but for the time being lives a rather peripatetic life. a couple of days before christmas mrs toby was due to visit. at about teatime herself received a text message from mrs toby, who is a little averse to telephone conversations. the text said that mrs toby was stuck in tesco doing her last minute christmas shopping and would be along as soon as she could.

herself decided that there was no time like the present for buying a present and texted back to say she would meet mrs toby by the tills in tesco, and would therefore be able to give her a lift back to our place. mrs toby was easy to find as she was wearing a very big high-viz jacket. herself helped mrs toby to choose which queue to join (a fellow high-viz jacket wearer was in one of the queues and herself suggested to mrs toby that she would be less conspicuous next to someone in similar attire) and then went off to collect the dressing-gown and slippers.

on returning to the tills herself was overwhelmed by the length of the queues, which had increased yet further. the only tills that had no queue were the self-service ones. these are tills where you scan your own stuff rather than a person doing it for you. they have various crafty gadgets to stop you forgetting to pay for anything. herself and my boy have tried them before but they made them feel guilty, even though they were not stealing anything. however, in the interests of escaping tesco as quickly as possible herself approached the machine.

the slippers were scanned and a bleep went off to let herself know that she could put them in the bag. herself had brought an ecologically sound cotton shopping bag with her but the machine seemed to want the shopping to go into its own plastic bag and kept showing a message to that effect. when herself tried to substitute her cotton bag for the plastic one the machine told her that the slippers were the wrong weight. herself gave in on the bag issue and turned her attention to the dressing-gown. again the machine bleeped to let her know all was well and instructed her to place it in the plastic bag. it then told her to checkout and asked her if she had brought her own bag. herself by now was feeling decidedly misunderstood by the machine but thought better of engaging in a debate with it. she went and stood by the window to wait for mrs toby to finish paying. on the way out the alarm went off but as it seemed to be going off all the time herself and mrs toby took no notice.

i will now fast forward to christmas morning. my boy unwrapped his present and was thrilled to bits with it. the slippers fitted perfectly and the dressing-gown was as soft as could be. he tightened the belt.

"mum," he asked, "did you nick this?" he pointed to the anti-theft tag that was still in the neck.

"of course not," said herself, "they must have missed taking the tag out!" in her youth she was something of a dab hand at shoplifting, aided at times by a voluminous cloak which had belonged to her mother. she had to abandon this potentially lucrative career when she decided to train to enter the legal profession, but she has teased my boy with the promise that as soon as she retires she will resume a life of crime, so his assumption was not quite as odd as may at first appear. i should say that my boy is horrified at the idea of having to fetch his mother from the police station and has threatened to disown her if she so much as dreams of failing to pay for her shopping.

it was agreed that as soon as the shops opened they would take the dressing-gown back and have the tag removed. himself stressed the need to take the receipt along too, in order to avoid arrest.

it was not until her maamship and the prof came over for a cuppa that the reason for the tag still being there became apparent. it was when herself was describing her antics with the self-service machine that the penny dropped. the machine had been so busy worrying about the bags that it had forgotten to take out the tag...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010


dear readers, those of you who were paying attention will have noticed that in my last post i referred to being in something of a grump (aunty jos - you are forgiven for misunderstanding whose grump it was - i know it is hard to keep track of events round here). the reason for my grump will now become clear.

as is the way with things round here, i will need to go back several steps to explain how things came about, so pay attention. or make notes.

above is a picture of ellie. she is one of grandma's dogs and is a sort of lurcher. she claims to be 10 years old but i feel this is a demonstration of the vanity of the female of the species and that she is probably older than me.

[editor's note - much more of this sexist drivel, joker, and you will be doing your own typing]

moving swiftly on, ellie is one of two dogs owned by grandma. the other is gemma, who is even older and is rather rotund. grandma believes in indulging her dogs. this has led to them having slightly flaky manners in a number of areas, particularly involving food.

on tuesday grandma had a fall. or in fact two falls, the first being when she was pulled over by ellie on the grass in the park. the second was unfortunately on concrete in the post office, when grandma was opening the door for a lady with a pram (grandma is a lady of impeccable manners, unlike her dogs, and great thoughtfulness). an ambulance was called and grandma was taken off to hospital where it was discovered that she had a fractured pelvis. this is no joke for anyone, but for someone of 80 it was decidedly unwelcome.

the first the peeps knew of this was when uncle martin phoned that evening. arrangements were made to visit grandma the following day. the peeps suggested that grandma's dogs could come and stay while she was in hospital. uncle martin is out at work all day so this was on the face of it a good idea.

the following day the peeps went off to see grandma, and came back with the two lady dogs. young dave was thrilled with having new folks to sniff and pester. i have in the past enjoyed good relations with the lady dogs and was looking forward to their visit. however, while the lady dogs with grandma are pleasant guests, the lady dogs without grandma are an entirely different kettle of fish. to be fair, gemma is no trouble. but ellie was extremely anxious and squealed and fussed. when bedtime came she sat at the bottom of the stairs howling loudly, interspersed with barking. herself came down and settled her into the living-room, shutting the door behind her. but the racket came up through the floor and herself and my boy spent most of the night trailing up and down trying to keep the neighbour nuisance to a minimum.

the following day the whole household (apart from himself, who could sleep through a hurricane) was rather tired. i have to admit i was not at my best. but we are nothing if not adaptable and that afternoon young dave and i took the lady dogs to the park to show them the ropes. when we got back himself had just returned from the pub, where he repaired after work with mr snake-charmer. since herself gave up alcohol she has a tendency to adopt a rather frosty air when himself goes to the pub - you would think he was sitting on a bench sipping absinthe. there is nothing quite so messianic as a convert.

anyway, i digress. himself bumbled around getting the dinner ready for young dave and i and our canine guests. i am not quite sure what happened next but all i remember is seeing ellie jumping up trying to get her nose in my bowl on the worktop and the next thing i saw red and lost the plot. regular readers will know that i am usually a gentleman and no-one was more surprised than i to see ellie sitting on the sofa with a wound to her head. in my defence i can only plead lack of sleep having affected my judgment.

herself rang the local vet hospital and arranged for ellie to be seen. the vet had a look at ellie and gave her some jabs and said she had to come back the next day to be sewn up. that night we had a reasonable night's sleep. i think ellie was feeling somewhat chastened. there was also the added advantage of himself having been banished to the sofa on account of his snoring.

the next day herself was up early to take ellie to the vet hospital. young dave and i and gemma, our other visitor, had a quiet day. at about 8pm herself brought ellie back. the bill was over £500. ellie was wearing a large trumpet collar to stop her scratching her stitches. it had the disadvantage of amplifying her wailing and barking in the manner of a megaphone. she carried on wailing and barking all evening. i have to say i was not entirely thrilled. i may have made this known with a curled lip. later in the evening i may even have let out the odd growl.
when it came to bedtime there was a certain amount of kerfuffle about where the canine members of the household were to sleep. himself had already dozed off on the sofa and was snoring like a train so herself covered him with a duvet and left him there. there followed several hours of too-ing and fro-ing by my boy and herself, trying to settle ellie down and keep me from showing my displeasure with my teeth. himself slept like a baby throughout.

herself decided that if ellie knew that she had human company she might feel comforted. she pulled out one of himself's arms from under the duvet and placed it on ellie. the arm was pulled back under the duvet. herself tried again. this produced an expletive from himself, who was still asleep.

by 2am tempers were frayed. herself could hear the neighbours (the other side to the next doors) muttering through the wall. they are nice people but even nice people find the sound of a dog screeching for hours on end a little trying. eventually herself and my boy fell asleep, to the sound of howling. herself dreamed of dogfights and my boy dreamed of vats of petrol in the back of the car. in the morning the peeps rang uncle martin and recounted the events of the previous couple of days. it was agreed that the visiting dogs should return to grandma's house, where uncle pete would be coming home for christmas shortly. they were duly returned. by all accounts the journey was somewhat hellish, with icy roads and deafening screeching from ellie the whole way. but the minute she set foot in grandma's house it was as though someone had flicked a switch and the racket stopped.

if anyone had thought to mention that uncle pete was going to be at grandma's house the lady dogs would not have had come to stay with us in the first place...

Friday, December 17, 2010

the snood

dear reader, here you can see the young snake-charmer modelling herself's latest creation. herself has taken up knitting in an effort to while away the dark winter nights. her friend the hypnotist has shown her a website where you can look up patterns to knit and find out all about knitting. needless to say, herself has taken to knitting with gusto. you couldn't hear yourself think for the clicking of needles. as soon as it was finished herself wanted a photo of it for the knitting website. as the young snake-charmer was visiting she offered to be the model.

no sooner had the young snake-charmer got into the snood than she let out a massive sneeze and ran towards the kitchen in search of kitchen paper.

"don't get snot on the snood!" wailed herself. luckily the snood escaped harm. after the young snake charmer had worn it for a while she complained of being hot and peeled it off.

it was then the turn of himself to try it:

once my boy had seen how fetching it was he too had a go:

i refused, being in something of a grump. but young dave was persuaded to model the snood, albeit reluctantly:

i somehow feel herself is unlikely to see much of it...

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

the business end

here is a picture of young dave on the beach. my more observant readers will note that he is searching for something to eat. this is one of young dave's favourite pastimes. unfortunately for the rest of us, young dave is not discerning in what he eats. or rather, he is discerning, but not about the same things as the rest of us. whereas i might choose to eat something because it tasted nice, or because it represented a challenge to my skills in craftiness and thievery, young dave selects his foodstuffs on the basis of their microbe content. the mouldier the better would seem to be his motto, especially with things found on the beach or the farm.

this has led to some interesting outcomes. usually they are limited to those of the gaseous variety, but occasionally young dave's gastronomy leads him into more dangerous waters. such was the case last week. i have no idea what morsel set off the reaction but young dave was dashing outside with rather more urgency than usual. this would not have been cause for comment had it not coincided with thick snow.

young dave was introduced to snow some while ago but, as is his way, he had filed the experience under "not particularly edible" and not given it much further thought. so when we had a thick covering of snow in the garden he had pulled up sharp with surprise, before teetering across it looking like someone in stiletto heels. to watch young dave trying to answer a rather urgent call of nature without putting too much weight on his back legs made me laugh until my old sides ached.

the snow remained for several days. this meant that young dave's outpourings left the garden looking like a jackson pollock painting. i had to pick my way carefully round them when leaving my more modest offerings. eventually the snow thawed and the peeps were able to make some effort at clearing up the damage. young dave continued to burble inwardly and produced further colourful delights on the newly cleaned deck. by now he was on a diet of plain boiled rice, having been starved for 24 hours, but there was apparently still scope for artistic endeavour. then we had a very sharp freeze.

by now herself was a little tired of the jackson pollock thing and was pleading with young dave for a move towards the techniques of frank auerbach. frozen pools of colourful dog soup were doing nothing for her already rather low mood. one particularly cold morning she was coming into the house and came across mr next door on his way out. she thought she had better explain.

"in case you see me kneeling in the garden scraping the paving and the deck with a paint scraper, its not what it looks like," she said. i am not sure what this behaviour would look like. the possibilities range from a new found interest in archeology to a case of rapid-onset obsessive compulsive disorder.

"its just that i've clearing up frozen puddles of dog diarrhea," she went on, proceeding to explain about young dave's internal difficulties in more detail than necessary.

"i wouldn't have dreamed of drawing any adverse inference from your behaviour," mr next door assured her, no doubt making a mental note to refrain from offering to assist.

it is just as well that we have kind and understanding neighbours...