Friday, 18 April 2014

A dad and a dog on the Downs

We have some lovely scenery near us. Of course, that could be said of almost anywhere, including the middle of cities (Hyde Park, London; Central Park, New York). For us, though, it's a little special, as we have Britain's very latest National Park on our doorstep; The South Downs National Park.

Last weekend, following a lazy start with Roxy on the bed (see Wednesday's Gem), we decided to go to one part of the South Downs, known as Butts Brow.

Butts Bow, a painting by Lis Lawrence.
NB - all rights to this piece belong to Lis Lawrence.
It was a short, but steep drive up to the car park, where we found that a lot of other people had already had the same idea. There were even a number of cyclists making their way at varying speeds up the hill. Even the car park was not at the top. Once you had parked up, you had a choice of various routes to progress along, although all had the same basic theme of  'uphill'.

Let me tell you, though; It's bloody worth it. When you reach the summit, there is a 360-degree view for miles around. Off to one side, you can see Beachy Head and the sea beyond there. Turning clockwise, you can see the South Downs stretching off into the distance. Further around, there are some hills and valleys a lot closer, but you can still see patches of land between them. For my money, these gaps looked like doorways into different worlds. A final quarter-turn gets you a view of the town of Eastbourne.

Again, this image is not ours. All rights belong to Will Gudgeon.
It doesn't normally look like a view of Orthanc from the film version of Lord of the Rings, but it is an impressive photo, yes?

The three of us spent a good ten minutes admiring the scenery, until the mood was broken by Roxy, who was suddenly rolling around in the grass, in paroxysms of joy. Fortunately, there was nothing that warranted the dreaded B-word.*
Rolling over, Roxy stood and shook herself, grinning hugely. I smiled myself, and, referring to the view once more, remarked how wonderful it was.

Here's to my father, who introduced me to walking in the countryside, and to offbeat humour, and to Toby the Jack Russell terrier who often accompanied him on many a jaunt. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Deviating doggies

Hmm... As titles go, that is possibly one of the dodgier ones I could have gone with. It doesn't help that, in setting the scene, I announce that  Roxy was in bed with me and Julie...

Does it help if I say that Roxy was on TOP of the duvet, while we were underneath? I hope so.

In any event, you all know by now that Roxy is a cuddlesome dog, mostly as a result of having spent the last three years of her life in a rescue centre pen.

Yeah... As you can see, Roxy is not above sneakily cuddling up to you while you sleep. Impressive, considering that she is by no means a small dog.

Anyway, last Sunday, prior to a nice day out on the South Downs, we decided to have a lazy morning cuddle in bed. Of course, Roxy HAD to be involved.

Essentially, idle chit-chat and belly rubs were the order of the day (well, morning), and I'll leave it up to you to work out who took part in what.

After some time, Julie raised the idea of dressing up Roxy, something doesn't appeal to me at the best of times.


"Just for that, no pasta for you."
(and yes, I know that is Grumpy Cat, and not a Spaniel)

Monday, 14 April 2014

Perverting a proverb

A friend of mine from the Magic-playing community was talking to me the other day about how he enjoys reading this blog (which made my day, believe me). He especially enjoyed, apparently, that a lot of what Julie says, and how she says it, mirrors his girlfriend's habits. It seems that she has a reputation for being a bit 'out there', and revels in it - to the point she will deliberately behave and speak oddly.

To illustrate this, Tom (my friend), recounted the tale of when he and Cass (his girlfriend) were playing a card game. He can't recall the game, not that it matters. It could have been Magic, Happy Families, Uno, or even just Gin Rummy.

Whatever the game, it was Tom's turn, and he drew a card. Unfortunately, it turned out to be something he most definitely did not want or need. Tom let out an exasperated noise and grimaced. Cass then assumed a comically lofty expression and berated him with this:

Obviously punning on the proverb 'don't look a gift horse in the mouth', Cass then enjoyed the sight of Tom laughing and spluttering.

For my part, I seem to be channeling a mix of Cass and Julie, because I was mixing both the original and Cass's version in my head and coming up with a mental image of a terrified and disturbed horse.

Friday, 11 April 2014

People are strange...

...when you're a stranger. Which version do you now have playing on your mental radio?

Apropos of nothing. Out of the blue. Spontaneously.

Whichever term you use, it's going to be a good way to describe how Julie tends to break up a silent moment. One minute, my wife would be sat reading, but gradually drifting away from the book. The next thing you know, she will utter something that may be poetic or profound. However, the odds are on 'baffling'.

Take, for instance, this little quote from some time ago. There's no back story to it, no preamble. It just happened.

Julie was not reading or watching TV, and Hamlet wouldn't be high on her 'to watch' list in any case. It was just a lazy day, with the late winter sun peeking in through the window. A nice, quiet day. Where did it come from? Where did it go?*

Oh well. Here's a picture of David Tennant as the titular prince of Denmark to ease you into your weekend.


*It went here, of course. What a stupid question...

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Forgotten fatigue

It was late. Even the dog had given up trying to scrounge for titbits. Her snoring accompanied the sound of my keyboard as I tapped away erratically. Hey, I never said I was a secretary. The clocks had been moved forward, and the sun was staying up later, but right now, the sky was dark and cloudless. The moon was showing a crescent. I guess there were stars too, but the street lights blinded my eyes to them.

A sigh from the dog as she rolled over. I smiled. She seemed happy enough. Wish I could say the same. Money's tight. Tight enough that I had to lower my sights for work. Hell, if they were any lower, I'd be getting complaints from Old Scratch about 'invasion of privacy'.

Times are tough all round, sure enough. I'd tap some of my buddies for a loan, but they'd already tried to tap me. I laughed to myself and raised my mug in a toast to my buddies. Pity it was only tea, but the doc says I can't drink booze or coffee. Damn him - I did try some liquor once, a few years back. Just a couple of glasses, nothing much.

Big mistake. Most folks get a hangover the next day. Mine began soon as I downed the second shot. The wife was about as sympathetic as I deserved, I guess. At least she didn't shout.

I drained the mug and grimaced. Hot tea's good enough, but you don't wanna let it chill.

A door downstairs opened. The dog flicked an ear, but carried right on snoring. I wasn't fooled. If it wasn't my wife down there, the dog would have been down there like a furry, snarling bullet, and twice as dangerous. The ear twitched again, hearing a stair step creak. She didn't budge. Like me, she knew what kind of noises people make when they move. You don't survive long 'round here if you don't keep a clever ear to the ground.

Like the dog, I stayed cool. We both knew it was Julie. I glanced at the clock. Her show must have finished.

Julie was slow in climbing the stairs - she'd had a heavy day, and her head was pounding like a dozen jack-hammers. I carried on with mashing up the keyboard as I heard the wife going to the bathroom.

The dog's back legs twitched and shivered suddenly and she whimpered. It must have been a bad dream - she'd had a hard life before me and Julie got her out of it, but that's a story for another day. I pushed the chair away from my desk and rolled over to the dog, "easy girl," I said, and laid a comforting hand on her quivering flank. At the touch, Roxy half-woke and she stretched before going back to sleep. She's a good dog.

As I straightened up, Julie came out of the bathroom and dashed back downstairs, grumbling. I paused to listen. Bad as it's been for me the last year or so, in some ways, it's been worse for my girl. She's been the only one bringing in the dough, and we don't know how long that's gonna last either.

Every time Bill turns up on our doorstep, things get tense. That bastard has a way of turning up right at the wrong time. "Yeah, we're gonna need you guys to cough up some more folding for the rent." or, "The boss don' like it when you's bein' smart. You think savin' water's gonna save yous money? Yeah. right. The boss still needs that bonus, so you guys need to keep him happy. Unnerstand?"

Yeah. Bill's got lots of different faces, but they all sing the same tune.

My train of thought got derailed as Julie clambered back up the stairs. I was puzzled. She'd only been down there a moment, and she was still grumbling when she reached the top. I called out and asked if everything was A-OK...

Dames... who can figure them...


I hope you enjoyed this little noir pastiche. I hadn't planned to come up with that, but it just seemed to flow out of my fingers that way. 
I had actually prepared a different illustrative image, one that fans of the new Doctor Who series will understand. I'm going to post it here because I actually like it so much and don't see the point in letting it go to waste.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Logic gets cold feet

I hate food shopping on a weekend. I am writing this on a Sunday (just about), having had a very pleasant afternoon and evening playing Magic with some friends. However, before that, supplies needed to be replenished.

Unfortunately for our sanity, it seems that everyone else had had the same idea, with the result that Tesco was packed with seemingly entire families. Why is it that parents spend ages chatting to someone in the middle of the aisles and then become angry with their children, who - for some strange reason - have got themselves into trouble through sheer boredom?

We actually happened across one of our neighbours, and it was a mutual decision on the part of all concerned that we would nod, smile, and then do our level best to get the hell out of there ASAP.

As we passed by one section, we noticed that there were some items that had been reduced in price. That is, Tesco had stopped overcharging for them so much, in an effort to clear some space in their warehouses. One such item was a pack of foot warmers. Essentially a gel pack that warms through chemical means once the pack is opened, just like those available for hands, backs, and various other parts of the body.

Yes, but these are for the feet, yes? That means they need to have a different shape and a new pack. Oh, and a new price...

For 75p, though, I did have to admit that it might be worth a pop, just for the one try. Not for me, you understand - my feet tend to be fine. Julie's feet, on the other hand, frequently resemble blocks of ice. Being the thoughtful husband, I pointed these out, but there seemed to be a problem.

Something about my blank stare must have told Julie that I didn't feel all that up to speed on the conversation, so she generously explained that she had, in fact, been referring to her ankles.


Friday, 4 April 2014

Define 'tidy'...

Moving from Wednesday, when we were discussing the pets of a friend of mine, we go to my friend herself - or, more precisely, one of her daughters.

Sam, it seems has managed to craft and near-perfect the habit of not tidying up after herself. And before you say it, Julie, I know she still won't be as bad as me.

Sharron, Sam's mother, asked her several times to clear away all the toys, books and what have you. Asked, cajoled, ordered, and commanded. In the end, in fear of tripping over something and hurting herself, Sharron gave in to the inevitable and did it , as mothers all-too often do.

Naturally, Sam can tell the difference between a cluttered, messy room, and a tidy one. Not that she commented upon it when she came home from school. Even when her mother raised the subject, Sam remained unimpressed.

...somebody pass me a dictionary, please. I think I've been getting it wrong all this time...

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Baneful Bunnies

I'm always thinking of other people; if I see something that a member of my family or one of my friends would like or be interested in, I will instantly make the connection and think that it would be kind of nice to get it as a surprise gift.

With that in mind, I always look at the bird/wild animal feed sections of shops, normally to get ideas for possible gifts for my mother, who is something of a bird-watcher. Well, she tries to watch them, but the feathery buggers disappear as soon as my mother manages to get hold of her binoculars...

It's not just seed and hedgehog food on those shop shelves though. Normally, you will also find stuff for popular pets that aren't dogs or cats; guinea pigs, mice and rabbit - that kind of thing.

We were shopping yesterday, and I saw this product nestling on one of the shelves.

A dandelion salad for rabbits and rodents? Cute. It also brought to mind Sharron, one of my friends. I have mentioned her before, but usually in connection with one or the other of her daughters, both of whom have a wonderful knack of coming out with wonderfully innocent and sweet comments. This time, though, I remembered that Sharron has a couple of rabbits, and I thought this could be of interest to her - well, the rabbits, at least. I mentioned this to Julie, although in retrospect, I should have phrased it differently...

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

I'm over thinking

I have a tendency to over-think things, and then get bogged down in all sorts of unnecessary details and malarky; it's one of the things that triggers my anxiety issues. It also makes playing some games more than a little problematic.

In the last few months, I have begun to play - and become addicted to* - the card game Magic: the Gathering

This is one of the cards in the current set. It is a creature, an enchantment, and it has an extra ability while repressing that same ability in opponents' cards. In addition to all that, it has some seriously sweet art, especially in the foil version (glowing eyes!)

For the uninitiated, there is a lot to take in, but to someone, even a relative novice such as myself, it is one of the simpler cards to play. You have lots of cards with lots of abilities, and you need to put some combination of them into a workable sixty card deck. Or a hundred card. Or forty.

Hmm... I can see your eyes glazing over already...

You see then, that to fashion a decent deck, you need to think about a lot of things, and that this is where I can have something of a problem. With so many options, I become paralysed by choices.

A few days ago, I was trying to come up with a new deck, but inspiration was eluding me. In fact, it had left the country. After far too long flicking through cards and boxes, all I had to show for my efforts were random stacks of cards on the table, and the beginnings of a headache.

I sat back, took my glasses off, and gave a heavy sigh, disturbing Julie, who had been checking her Facebook page.



*It has even been nicknamed 'cardboard crack'.