Friday, 31 January 2014

Heard of sleeping

It's time for a guest spot; Sam is a frequent visitor to this blog, although this is the first time she has been mentioned by name. One of Sharron's daughters, she seems to delight in coming up with the most innocent, knowing - and way-out-there - phrases. Today, it seemed, there was a conversation going on, although it was fairly one sided. Never mind that neither Sam nor her mother could strictly be classed as being present at the time...

This might actually ring a bell or two with various members of my family, as I am well known for being able to hold a conversation with someone while I am asleep. As is my sister. Yes, we managed to have a conversation with both of us being asleep, apparently. It was enough to turn a mother to drink...

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Born old birdie

This is a young seagull. It has this dappled colouring until it gets older - it's a defensive camouflage thing. Living in Eastbourne, we see a lot of these. And hear them. Ye gods, the keening of a young gull as it tries to blag food from a parent seriously gets on your ti... er, nerves.

The thing about knowledge, if I may digress slightly, is that until you learn or are told of a nugget of information, it will completely elude you. Furthermore, if you are not interested in certain things, then there is a strong chance that facts pertaining to those things will remain forever beyond your ken.

Julie, until I entered her life, didn't have much interest in natural wildlife. Now, she is just as keen as I am in seeing plenty of it both in the flesh and on TV. However, in the early days of our relationship, Julie was unaware (ie didn't care one way or another) that the speckled birds and the white ones were in fact of the same species. They were both bloody nuisances, that's all that mattered.

When we were out for a walk along the seafront one day, I pointed out one bird very similar to the one pictured above, and commented that it was merely a young seagull. Julie interpreted 'young' as 'baby'.

I'll take your word for that, love.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Well, rheally!

This, my friends, is a rhea. A flightless bird, very similar in looks to the more well-known ostrich and emu. And with a likewise similar taste for anything it can get its beak on.

Julie and myself encountered some just before New Year as we were walking around Birmingham Nature Centre. Strangely delicate, they were charming and almost calming to watch. The rest of the centre is well worth visiting too, and it comes as something of a surprise, considering it isn't all that large, and is pretty much slap-bang in the middle of a large city.

Of course, there are plenty of things for children to get involved with, including an opportunity to have a silly photo; pretending to be an animal by poking their head through a hole, the child's head then takes the place of the animal painted on the front of the display. Since we're both kids at heart, I offered Julie the chance of having a little fun by being silly. She did, and didn't even wait for the camera to take that chance...

In the end, Julie did get the photograph. Of her face. As a rhea.

Sort of... We might be kids, but we're big kids...

Friday, 24 January 2014

A right dog's dinner.

Out and about with Roxy, we have discovered that the most annoying thing for us is an excitable dog, one that is not on a lead ("Oh, he's ever so well behaved, and really friendly!").

Far too many people don't realise that while their dog may* well be a friendly dog, to have it dash up to you, a young child, or a nervous dog under your control can be a fraught situation.

Fortunately, while Roxy is a little naive about the outside world (after three years in a rescue centre, she's bound to be out of touch), she is also generally very friendly and very placid. However, since idiots abound, we are obliged to walk her in public with a muzzle.

Taking our new friend out for her evening walk one day, the three of us encountered wave after wave of hyperactive, noisy dogs, none of which could have been larger than a bowling ball. All of which apparently oscillated between 'happy-yappy' and 'Come on! I'll f***in' have ye!' with not a lot of changeover time.

Understandably, Roxy was more than a little unsettled by it all and tended to cling to us more than the most insecure of shower curtains. Most of the time. Finally driven to snapping point (literally), Roxy lunged for a very noisy toupee, only to be brought short by us; we'd been ready for this.

I was about to say something fairly regrettable, when Julie, having sensed my mood as well as Roxy's, beat me to it.


Wednesday, 22 January 2014


In the car one day, we were waiting at a junction to a dual carriageway. Waiting and waiting; it's a busy stretch of road.
Just before the junction, on the dual carriageway itself, there is a pedestrian crossing, the type where you need to press a button for the lights to change.

Unfortunately for us, there was not a pedestrian in sight, and I starting hoping aloud for one to come and push that damn button so the lights would change and thereby allow us out.

Julie suggested I tried to do it by telepathy. I could have let it slide and accepted the sentiment, but I'm a picky bugger and I have a very strong didactic streak in me, so I took the opportunity to explain the correct term and the difference between the two.

Very quick, and - in my view - pretty much spot-on these days. Ironic, though, as I'm not the one that watches X Factor...


ps: If you're wondering about the title, try saying aloud.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Burning Peter to save Paul

Eastbourne has a problem. A big one. We have a hospital here, which is as it should be for a town our size. In fact, since we have the only main hospital for at least 20 miles in any direction, you would think we would be happy with it.

But we're not.

Bit by bit, our hospital is being closed down and the services are being transferred to a 'nearby' hospital, The Conquest in Hastings.
Like I said, nothing else for at least 20 miles. And that's not counting the fact that the main road is guaranteed to slow to a crawl for miles during peak times. Or if there are road works. Or an accident... 'Alternative' routes involve minor roads, many of which have cars parked along them, forcing traffic into a perpetual slalom. Unless you opt for the picturesque route, which, while relatively trouble free, adds an uncomfortable five miles or so onto the journey.

(map taken from Google Maps)

First, the maternity unit was closed down, despite lots of protests, petitions, demonstrations and talks (the kind of talks where only one side appears to be listening, apparently). It was put off and then sneaked back onto the agenda when they thought nobody was looking.

Three days after it closed, the first 'taxi baby' was born, en route to The Conquest.

Now, any scheduled surgery is to take place there too.

A fun fact about Eastbourne; It has the oldest (average) population in Britain. A large town, comprised mostly of OAPs, all of whom have to somehow make their way to someplace they aren't necessarily familiar with, via whatever means necessary

Fun fact 2; Discounting taxi, there is no one single form of public transport that will get you from Eastbourne to The Conquest. The Conquest is at the back end of Hastings, well away from any busy transport routes. This might be fine for patients trying to sleep, but for anyone trying to get there, it's a bit of a bugger. And if you should decide to drive there, then you have to fight for a parking spot in one of the most fractured, compartmentalised car parks I have ever known.

Julie has said to me that she wouldn't be surprised if they were trying to turn it into a cottage hospital. I poo-poohed this idea, but when I mentioned it to my doctor today, he replied that he wouldn't be at all surprised.

Well, crap.

Naturally, the residents of the town aren't taking this lying down - they can't because some of the wards have been closed and there aren't nearly enough beds... In the windows of many houses, you will find small posters defending our hospital. Most of them seem more plaintive than anything else...

Nice flatline...

Julie, being a life resident of the town, is obviously very much against the transfer of services (as am I). One day, we were out for a walk, and we happened to pass a house with one of these posters in the window. Julie felt moved to have a little rant.

Well, yes. Although a tad on the illegal side of things.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Half dog, half monotreme.

You may have noticed that Julie is somewhat of a whimsical frame of mind. You will be very pleased to know that this has not changed a jot since Roxy entered our lives.

A crossbreed of Staffie and bulldog makes for a very solid dog, and there is no denying that when Roxy opens a door, it tends to stay open. Similarly, when she decides to cuddle up to you, you will definitely know about it - and hopefully be very glad you were already sitting down.

However, Julie is one for pet names, and when combined with her leftfield sense of humour, it can prove to be a tad confusing. For me, if not the dog - especially when Julie appears to be rummaging around in the back pocket of Roxy's genes...

Three things: No, of course Roxy didn't answer to it. And you know what, the first thing that came to mind was a paraphrasing of Monty Python's classic 'Brian' scene, "She has a fwiend, you know... Incontintentia Buttox."*

The third thing was a corker. I always try and illustrate a Gem if I can, but when I typed in 'dog platypus hybrid', I have to admit I wasn't expecting anything.
Silly me.
First bloody result from Google image search was this beauty.

Image is the sole copyright of Evelar.

Evelar is a digital artist on deviantArt. If you click on THIS LINK, you can see the picture in all its glory. Please do visit the page, and browse the amazing art therein.

Of course, there was no way I was going to miss a chance to share a classic bit of comedy with you...

*In true Monty Python fashion, there were four things that occurred to me - the other one, of course, being that this was going to be yet another platypost...

Friday, 10 January 2014

A fitting remark

Some time ago, Julie and myself went to an outdoor ABBA tribute evening. The programme involved a live tribute act (so much better than a dead one, don't you think?), followed by a large-screen showing of Mama Mia, the film musical.

As far as the live act went, they were OK.  They knew their stuff, and were fairly good at it - but they lacked that spark. It didn't help that the ground was a tad uncomfortable. The event took place in the grounds of Devonshire Park tennis centre in Eastbourne, home to the Aegis Championship (the main tennis event in Britain before Wimbledon). As such, we were sat on the grass. The short, closely cropped to the hard earth grass.

Yes, we had taken a blanket, but we had the distinct impression we should have taken an armchair each...

At any rate, we decided to give the film a miss. Sort of - we went home, loaded up on snacks and drinks and watched it from the comfort of our sofa. Julie did enjoy a good singalong...

One of the things we also managed to avoid was any further acts of abomination upon the eyes. In keeping with the spirit of the event, a lot of people had dressed up in flairs, brightly-coloured tank-tops (the British version; sleeveless sweaters), fake afros - you name it. Any tacky 70s style, people were attempting it - even if their bodies were no longer fit for them. If they ever had been...

Julie excused herself from playing dress-up in this manner.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

An uncertain end

Way back when, before we had a dog, we were out having a stroll. Just a stroll, no real destination (although if we happened to pass a cafe, well...). The weather was dry, but not particularly warm - it was just one of those unremarkable days, if you know what I mean.

After some time, I became aware of a sound which was jogging a memory. In fact, I quickly realised, it was really two different sounds, that of an ice cream van and a police car. Me being me, there was an instant musical connection made in my unconscious mind which had me humming a tune...

Julie got into the theme, and we began talking about all things KLF; Timelords, burning money, dead sheep... the normal kind of thing - for the KLF, that is. We also talked about the eighties vogue for bringing classic singers from different genres into contemporary pop tunes - Sandie Shaw (The Smiths),Petula Clark (Pet Shop Boys) and Tammy Wynette as you can see in the video above.

And then Julie asked me a question.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Right to roam - doggie edition

Sorry about the absence, folks. What with the festive period and other things, I didn't prepare enough Gems to last for this long.

One of the things that has occupied us is a new member of our family. We have fostered, from a rescue centre, a Staffordshire bull terrier/bulldog (or boxer, it's not been too clear) by the name of Roxie.

She's seven, but has spent three years at the rescue centre. When I first saw her, my heart nearly broke, because she was so depressed and wary of forming attachments that would be broken. She would lean against the fence of her pen for the slightest bit of contact, but would refuse to react to it. She has been with us since last Friday, and as that picture shows, Roxy is settling in nicely.

In our company, in our home, at least.

When it comes to leaving the house, she is resigned about needing to wear a muzzle (legacy of a poor past), and wary of almost everything. That said, Roxy is incredibly well-behaved, and it's only with one or two dogs that she feels threatened enough to take action. Apart from that, she is very happy stay close to us.

Today, our early-morning walk took us along the seafront - there and back again. One of the things about Roxy is that she decides when she has had enough and stops. Literally. We will be walking along, happy as anything, and I will be chatting with Julie. The next thing we know, an arm will be nearly wrenched from its socket because Roxy has had enough and stopped dead without us realising in time.

This morning, we managed to get quite far along the promenade before we reached Point Nope. Probably, Roxy wanted to investigate all the new smells. Certainly, she was fascinated by the pebbled beach and the smell of the sea.

As we strolled back, Julie noticed something interesting. Something which elicited a silly remark from yours truly...


If you have a pet you no longer want or can no longer keep for whatever reason, don't dump it. Take it to a rescue centre.
If you would like to have a pet, don't get one from a shop or pet farm. Get one from a rescue centre.

Rescue centres are charitable organisations, are registered as such, and have to provide documentation of everything they do and must adhere to basic guidelines. This means that any animal given to them will be treated, and treated well. It also means that you are essentially guaranteed of a healthy animal should you come to adopt or foster one.
As you can see from the picture of Roxy, she is a happy doggie indeed, despite her demeanor in the rescue centre. Proof, surely?

However, rescue centres, as I said, are charities. This means they are reliant on donations and the occasional Lottery grant. Last Chance Animal Rescue is the place Roxy came from. It's a tiny place with minimal resources, and the abnormal weather we have had in the south of Britain recently has caused a lot of trouble. The high winds and torrential rain certainly did the centre no favours, as they went without power and a phone line (and therefore no internet connection) for a while.

Just think.
That means all the animals rescued had no heat. Apart from personal mobile phones, absolutely no contact could be made with the outside world, unless you braved the flooded roads - the entrance to the centre is slap-bang at the bottom point where the road cuts across a valley.

If you are local to the centre, please think about using them as a resource for a pet. And even if you are or are not, please think very hard about donating to them. People often drop by with food and/or toys and bedding, but money is the one thing they desperately need.
Drop by their donation page to find out more.

Thank you.