Saga of a woman old enough to know better who lets her life be governed by the ridiculous hobby of breeding and showing dogs, musing on life, the twenty first century, Cameron and his mini-me, and the occasional sheep.

Thursday, February 24, 2005


Despite continued trouble with my Achilles Wooden Leg, I had no alternative this week but trail down to Leicester in the blizzards with Fenella. Doggy sex is not negotiable– when they gotta go, they gotta go, and Fenella was quite obviously hot to trot – and unfortunately her chosen (that`s by me, not by her!) .husband was well south of here.

That`s why I was hauling myself aboard the GNER 8.14, with an interesting cough and the general appearance of someone who had mistaken the date of Red Nose Day, dragging an unhappy Fenella – she had very reasonably supposed she was signing on for nookie, not sightseeing across England.

It was a fine quiet ride to Peterborough, watching the snowy countryside roll by with a cup of tea or so from the frequent trolley………and then the connection with Central failed and I arrived in Leicester with only 20 minutes to hand over the bride and get to Derby to catch the stopping Virgin north……..

Generally speaking, I like trains. I remember getting very sentimental over the last of the Gresley Pacific A4s, which ran on the Aberdeen-Glasgow line, and have been known to visit the Railway Museum in York. I`ve travelled all over Europe by train, I`ve been on the Orient Express (the old one), and always regret never having tried the Trans-Siberian.

And then there`s Virgin..

I suppose it`s a bit like being a chocaholic and finding one bar that makes you throw up. Or a really bad cover version of your favourite song.

No-one in the far future`s ever going to get sentimental over Virgin.

Mind you, it wasn`t my worst Virgin adventure. Probably that`s the one coming up from the south coast on a train with no water or food at all – they kept promising it at every stop, and eventually the catering staff had to lock themselves into the empty food shop for protection from the passengers. Or the time when the onboard computer crashed, taking all the seat reservations, (and, inexplicably, the electronic toilet door locks) with it……….there are probably still little old ladies locked in on that one.

Virgin rolling stock always gives the impression that Professor Branestawm or Ming the Merciless was on the design team. The latest Virgin is the Pendolino. (Obviously Pendolino is really a Commedia dell`Arte stock character with permanent brewer`s droop….).

`The carriages are very quiet. This is partly because they seem to have been designed as Faraday cages . No mobile signal. No personal radio. As usual, no food. No seat till I got to Sheffield. Meanwhile the iPod crashed and I finished The Economist……even the obituaries.

I sat in silence and contemplated the hardness of the seat and the futility of life. The intercom beeped.: “If there is a doctor on the train, would he come immediately to coach G”.

We chugged on into the night. The heating seemed to have failed. I would have killed for a cup of tea. The intercom beeped.

“If there is a nurse on the train, would she come immediately to coach G”

I dozed a bit. I woke with a start

“If anyone on the train knows any first aid at all, would they come immediately to coach G”

After that, silence.

I expect that Virgin, out of necessity, has developed efficient methods of disposing of the odd dead body...

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


I`ve just spent most of Sunday in a Dog Club committee meeting - a real "why am I doing this" experience.

I was putting the case for our fledgling Club Weblog over the smudgy duplicated out of date Newsletter that goes out twice a year.

I`ve had more satisfaction and raised self-esteem rodding drains.

These committees always fall into the same formulaic structure, however well intentioned they may be. The same types always gravitate to them.

So you have to break through the barrier created by The Walking Encyclopaedia ("We made a commitment to a printed newsletter in nineteen-hundred-and-frozen-to-death";
The Silent Passenger; The Tablets of Stone Merchant {"We`ve ALWAYS done it this way"}; Mr Blobby ("Blobby!"); The Career Committee Man ("What`s in it for me?") and
The Sleeper ("Could someone give Senga a wee nudge?")

And then you hit the solid wall of the Dinosaurs.

We have a lot of dinosaurs. One of them rattled her bony dorsal plates, switched her wrinkly armoured tail and snorted:

"Our members don`t choose that sort of thing. They expect a printed newsletter. After all, it`s all the pet members have."

Now pet members are not an unusually spoilt minority - they are simply members who have a dog but don`t take it to dog shows. They are every bit as sensible and computer
literate as the rest of us. I tried to visualise her view of them. I had a vision of a little old couple clinging to each other in a gale, outside a wee cottage on an island
somewhere west of Rockall, watching a little boat making yet another attempt to reach them, and murmuring anxiously:

"Never mind the supplies - I hope to God he`s brought the Dog Club Newsletter!"

Well., I was sent home as a cyber-rebel charged with the task of printing out the content of the Weblog and sending it out as a smudgy duplicated out-of-date Newsletter twice
a year.

I think I`ll take up flower arranging..............

Friday, February 11, 2005


So Charles is marrying Camilla. The Vox Pops are roaring everywhere and the C of E, forgetting that it was created for the purpose of facilitating royal divorces and remarriages, is in turmoil.

Charles presents the public with an uneasy mixture of the obligatory Good Works (the Prince`s Trust), a sleazy personal life, and a tendency to sudden strange pronouncements on matters outwith his experience. Not much of a role model. But historically, British monarchs have never provided moral models. Apart from the present Queen, who, like the girl in the Dylan song "never stumbles - she`s got no place to fall", her parents who provided an excellent example to all during the war, and of course Victoria, most of the British monarchs have been a rum and dissolute lot, often jeered at by the public (and on occasion beheaded.) I think the idea of venerating the monarch really developed with Victoria, and it lasted until the last decade of the last century. What destroyed it was the disappearance of the discretion of the press. The Royal family now has to face living in a permanent reality show. They don`t do it too well.

The presence of the Royal Whore - should that nowadays be "Royal Ho?" -is traditional - the earliest I can think of is King Harold`s (the guy who lost at Hastings in 1066), and I seem to remember she was known as Swan Neck though I can`t remember her real name. And everyone has heard of Nell Gwynne. There must have been hundreds over the centuries.

Marrying her is less traditional, however. It`s always the big gamble for these lasses - "will I get to be Queen?" Wallis Simpson lost, Camilla has won.

But maybe she should remember the wise saying:

"The man who marries his mistress is advertising a job vacancy"

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Spruce Goose Posted by Hello


At last I managed to leave the canine maternity ward long enough to go and see THE AVIATOR, a brave choice for someone with two major allergies - penicillin and Leonardo di Caprio. But I`m so keen on the history of cinema and aviation that I gave it a try.

I should say right now and upfront that I have a problem with Scorsese. I read what he writes and listen to what he says about film, and it makes so much sense. But when I watch his films I have trouble getting beneath the surface of the dialogue to anything deeper - it`s like a glass wall.

I was disappointed. This tried for the complexity of the man and came up with scattered fragments. The history was all there, especially the aviation material, but that was it. It stuck closely to the format of the old biopics - and maybe this was deliberate, becuase period was delightfully adhered to in costume and even type of colour (I`m sure I even spotted a sequence imitating the old two-colour process.) - but it was limiting. The progressive mental illness was displayed but there was no adequate attempt to explain it or integrate it . Add to this a poor imitation of Harlow and an infuriating pastiche of Hepburn, and I came away wishing for more of the planes and less of the people.

I loved the flying sequences. And given a choice between di Caprio and the Spruce Goose, I`ll take the wood before the cardboard every time.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


I notice that burglar defence guidelines are coming out. We will be told just how hard we can slap burglar Bill on the wrist, and presumably how soon his lawyer will be sueing. Well anyone who invades my home gets it regardless.

I`ve never had to see off a burglar, but I`ve dealt with iffy characters wandering about the premises "with suspicious intent". I`m very far from anywhere, and it`s all up to me.

In the old days before we became very sensitive about guns, I would get out the twelve bore. (yes I have one and yes it is absolutely legal) No, not to shoot the invader. I`ve never shot anyone, and with my shooting skills it`s a moot point whetherI would get him or a passing crow.

My previous neighbour Old Peter used to bang away at kids stealing fruit, leading to interesting experiences for them in Casualty as a constellation of long range no. 4 shot was extracted from their bahookies - a situation requiring careful handling of the local police, usually involving a bottle of Bells.

But you don`t need a loaded gun. What you need is what Terry Pratchett calls "headology"

You see, every man knows that a woman with a gun is desperately dangerous because she is quite incapable of understanding it. So you play on this. You allow your hands to shake visibly. You flick the safety off and on. You let the aim wander. A few minutes of this and either he has rather damp pants or has legged it.

I did have a burglary once, and my good neighbour from the far end of the road (as we laughingly call that collection of potholes) was first on the scene, followed by me, summoned from work, and some time later a young constable. The perp himself was long gone.

We all studied the crime scene. My neighbour was indignant.

"This sort of thing has got to be stopped. I`ll go back and get Nameless and Lavender and a couple of harnesses and we`ll soon get him."

Now I must explain that my neighbour breeds bloodhounds. Genuine working ones. The kind who never follow a line less than three hours old because it would be no challenge, and can track you down from the scent of last week`s nail paring.

He explained this to the young constable. His puddingy face lit up. He`d seen the movies. For a glorious moment he was clearly picturing himself, in dark glasses and loaded with assorted artillery, rushing through the undergrowth behind a leash of baying, savage hounds with the terrified felon just a few steps ahead................

Then his face crumpled and his shoulders sagged.

"Naw," he said regretfully. "My sergeant doesnae let me do things like that"

It`s as well he didn`t know that when a working bloodhound tracks down his quarry the victim is only in danger of being licked to death......

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