Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Can't see for looking

I realise that the title for today's Gem may be an odd one for none-British people. Essentially, it means that the seeker is looking so very hard for something that they have missed the fact that it is usually right under their noses. Or, in the case of spectacles, on the nose.

For a brief time, Julie and myself worked at the same place. This meant, if the weather was clement, we would have a leisurely stroll home along some of the quieter roads. In addition to being quieter and less polluted, these roads were pretty much residential, and it was nice to see what people had been planting in their gardens.

One garden had some tulips, although not the botanical sort.

This was the first time I had seen these charming solar-powered lights, and I pointed them out to Julie. Unfortunately, Julie couldn't see what I was pointing at...

You see, Julie had a double issue; not only was she looking too hard for these lights, she was also wearing her distance glasses, and the lights were well too close for the limits of the glasses she had on.

Love that turn of phrase though.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Yawn porn

Roxy is a very affectionate dog, and misses us terribly if we aren't around. Dogs are very social animals in any case, and you aren't supposed to leave them alone or outside for too long a time. It must have been a lonely time at the rescue centre; three years on no family, just a rota of centre staff (who were wonderful) and an uncarpeted pen. This is why were indulge Roxy a little more than we perhaps should.

One of the ways we interact with Roxy is kissing - in the dog sense. If they lick your face, it is a sign of affection, and of admitting you are higher in the social standing than they are.

For the longest time, this was seen as being unhygienic and unhealthy. Now, while the first may be the case (until you have been woken up by dog breath in the morning, you may not agree), it seems that being licked by your dog is beneficial in many ways. It improves your mood - and the dog's; it helps with social bonding; it also can boost immune systems.

These days, kids are being wrapped in a sort of sterile bubble, not being allowed to play in in rough areas or rough ways. Lots of sterilised surfaces, sanitised this, anti-bacterial that. Unfortunately, this gives our immune systems nothing to do, and they dwindle through lack of use. This means that when something does come along which the system needs to face, it finds it is trying to fight a battle after the equivalent of military cutbacks has slashed its effectiveness drastically.

That said, Roxy can become a little too enthusiastic when she shows her affection - especially if you happen to mention the word W.A.L.K. On more than one occasion, I have been pinned to the armchair by 29 kilos of excited, slobbering dog.

Sunday mornings are a little different. We take a bit longer about getting going in the morning. A slow breakfast, followed by a cup of tea as we all sit on the sofa. Since it was morning, I was checking my phone for updates, fairly oblivious to the fact that there appeared to be a yawning contest taking place just to my left.

As everyone knows, it is almost impossible to keep from yawning once another member of your group has already done so. So it was that Julie and Roxy were taking turns in yawning, each apparently gaping wider each time - right up until I heard an exclamation from Julie.

Well, based on what I said about immune systems above, perhaps Roxy was just checking for cavities...

Friday, 23 May 2014

Roxy means no 'arm

Finally, after what seems like forever, I have a job. It's not great pay, it's temporary and part time. But it's work - and it's better money than the benefits route.

Because we now have a dog in the house, there has always been the thought of trying to find something so that Roxy doesn't spend too long on her own. As I have mentioned before, she is a bit clingy, but spending over three years in a rescue centre will do that to you, I imagine. My job, beginning next week, is on the twilight shift, finishing at ten pm. As Julie will be home before I leave for work, there won't be any issues. This week, on the other hand, I am working afternoons, so there are a couple of hours where Roxy has the house to herself.

Where is he?

Four days into the week, and Roxy has behaved herself so far. Only one day where Julie came home to a puddle. However, being very much a family member, she doesn't like it when people go away for a while. That said, Roxy has got the idea that Julie will be back, and back at a certain time. Whatever she was doing before, when it comes near to time, Roxy will make sure she is near the door, or looking out of the window.

In my case, since I drive, every time a car pulls up, Roxy perks up. A pity that we live opposite a church hall that has events taking place every evening...

Of course, when I finally turn up, Roxy immediately demands attention, licking my face, holding herself close to me for a stroke - and then it's straight onto the sofa so the two of us can sit on either end, while she is in the middle, being the centre, as it were, of attention.

As you read this, it will have been yesterday evening that I got home and was mugg... er, greeted by Roxy before being allowed to greet my wife. On the sofa a short time later, I was stroking one of Roxy's forelegs. Roxy, in the meantime, was looking at Julie, who had dared to stop rubbing Roxy's belly.

After a while, Roxy relaxed and lay her head back on my arm, and it was such a cute picture that we had to capture the moment.

Altogether now - "Awwwwwww!"
There was just one problem. I wanted to move, but I didn't want to disturb her now that she was comfortable. Unfortunately, that decision was being taken out of my hands...

Over an hour after I extricated myself, my arm is still sore where Roxy's head was laid. I love ye, dog, but you're no lightweight.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Sad song gone wrong

Roxy, bless her, is part staffie, part American bulldog. This means that she has a double dose of those genes that give a dog a mournful demeanour.

Not Roxy, still looking woebegone. But probably not at all sad.
This even happens when Roxy is happy, excited and various other emotional states that are not in fact 'sad'. Case in point: one day, not long after Julie had come home from work, Roxy was sat in her downstairs bed, recovering from her mad five minutes of greeting her 'mum'. We were sat in our own chairs, watching our dog, who was looking at us with pretty much the exact same expression as that above.

For some reason, Julie felt moved to sing a paraphrased version of a classic tune.

I didn't know if Julie meant the dog made the pies, or that the pies were made of dog. And you know what, I didn't really feel like finding out...

Monday, 19 May 2014


Oh dear. This is going to be the post where we either lose lots of our audience or get a load more. Or both, which would be hilarious.

Well, you see, it all began with an innocuous conversation about one of Roxy's toys, a ball-and-rope combo that has proved to be very popular and highly entertaining for all three of us. Don't ask. It's a pull toy such as those pictured below (although Roxy's toy has two balls on it. Stop sniggering!).

Roxy gets the ball in her mouth - will you stop sniggering! - and we pull on the other end...


There's not going to be an easy way through this post, is there?

In any event, the talk turned to 'pope-on-a-rope', punny take on the original product.

'SOAP' on a rope. Literally.

Pope on a rope. NOT literally.
This is where things get a little sticky. Conversations with Julie tend to be a fairly silly and free-associating experience. We also tend to try a sort of one-upmanship in the game of silliness. Obviously, Julie normally wins.

BOOM! Julie knocks it out of the park!
Wow... I honestly couldn't stop laughing for five minutes. So very wrong, but so very funny.
And, as it turns out, not at all incorrect...

Friday, 16 May 2014

Hide the line

A staple of long journeys with any family, even if you don't have any of the books (or any recollection of them either). I spy is a simple game, although frustration can often occur if the 'spied' is obscure, silly, or - in some games I have known - fictitious. It can also serve as a joke. Stuck in a dark room when there is a power cut? "I spy, something with my little eye, something beginning with 'D'." "Dark?" "Yes. Well done."

Driving up to my mother's home is a fairly long journey, involving lots of motorways, some parts of which may even be free of road works or traffic jams.
Yeah, right.

Normally, our distraction of choice is the alphabet game, but even a favourite can become stale over time, so we switch to other games, such as I-spy.

One time, it was my turn. I chose something that I believed to be fairly simple. Of course experience tells you that nobody gets the obvious ones. No wonder people get a bit antsy with the odd ones. I had gone for something beginning with the letter 'P', and since we were moving nicely on a relatively clear stretch of motorway, the lane markings were clearly visible.

Many guesses later...

How do you camouflage white lines on a dark road?
Probably like this...

Wednesday, 14 May 2014


"British Bulldog, one-two-three!"

That phrase should bring a small wave of nostalgia to many of you (mostly Brits, obviously). British Bulldog is a game played by many children (and adults, on occasion), normally in the school playground. It did go through a dark phase during the 1990s, when political correctness and the imported culture of litigation meant that many schools banned the game as being too dangerous.


I'm a physical coward, and I LOVED playing B.B. I was useless, granted, but I had fun anyhow. What's a scrape or two to a kid? Nothing. Yes, I will admit that there could be - and has been - the odd serious injury, but you cannot and should not stop children from having some energetic, social, spontaneous fun.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game, here is a graphic for you.

Image from BBC News site
Now, because of said political correctness shite, I haven't seen or heard of Bulldog being played for a long time. However, on an evening walk with Julie and Roxy, I saw a youth activity group getting into a game of Bulldog. As I say, I had been a long time since before schools were banning Bulldog, and Julie was never too keen on it in the first place. So when I commented on what game was being played, I had to remind Julie of the rules. It didn't take much for a connection to be made and Julie was nodding her head in recollection. It seems she had had it confused with another popular schoolyard game...

...Oh well.

Monday, 12 May 2014

The inscrutable and the implausible.

Roxy is a cuddlesome doggie. After three years in a last chance rescue centre, I think anyone would feel a little insecure. One of the things that she enjoys most is having her belly rubbed. Of course, for a female dog, this means contact with the nipples (as has been previously documented). Normally, this is how Roxy shows she is after a belly rub...

In less energetic moments, Roxy likes to lean in for a cuddle while sat upright. Once you begin to stroke her, Roxy will then lean a little more, so you can then reach her belly. Cuddle AND a belly rub? That's a happy dog right there. This isn't a belly rub shot, but it shows the quietly happy pose Roxy can strike. The warm sun probably had something to do with it.

As Julie rightly pointed out, Roxy can look positively noble - even regal - when she is serenely happy. In fact, Roxy apparently looked so regal on one occasion she was receiving a cuddle/rub, that Julie was moved to draw a comparison to our own, dear monarch.

You'd think, after all this time, I would be more careful about having a mouthful of tea when Julie says things like this... Mind you, I don't imagine the Queen was too overjoyed either.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Not to be sniffed at.

One thing that all dog owners know is that unless their dog has been very highly trained, then a dog is a curious creature, and wants to investigate interesting smells.

'nuff said, right? Roxy is certainly no exception to the rule, and having almost total freedom after three years in a last chance rescue centre means that she will make the most of it. Especially since she is still settling in, and half-believes she might have to go back to the centre.

One of her regular - and favourite - strolls is along the promenade and past the pier. Just before the pier, the prom splits in two; one path leading up and past the pier's entrance, and the other continuing by the beach and going underneath the pier.

Taking the lower prom route, you start to get a long series of low walls, one of which surrounds a sort of picnic area. Obviously, many people sit on these walls, and on this particular day there was a family of parents and young children perched on the wall, munching on chips (British chips, made with thick cuts of potato and deep fried).

Roxy, ever interested in all the different smells, always makes a bee-line for the wall, and that it also bore people with food was simply a pleasant bonus. As she was sniffing at the wall, the family were making a fuss of Roxy, something that is usually welcome. However, with all the various odours, her canine attention was pretty much set to 'distraction mode'. So, while Roxy was amenable to being stroked, the most important thing was to check out all the interesting smells on the wall.

Moving along, Roxy started snuffling at a section of wall one of the women was sat on. I kept an eye out, because some people take exception to having a dog smelling their nether regions. It didn't help that the woman offered a dubious origin for a particularly interesting smell.

...sometimes, I need to engage my brain before sending messages down to the mouth...
Fortunately, the woman laughed it off.

I suppose it could have been worse...

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Vegetables and violence

I bet that one got your attention.

I like to eat. Too much, really. My problem isn't so much the food, but the quantity of it. Yeah, I eat crap. However, I also eat vegetables. There are only a few I cannot get on with at all; parsnips, avocado (yes, I know it's a fruit), and brussel sprouts are the most prominent ones.

Tuna salad - mmmmmm...

Julie, on the other hand, is a little more picky when it comes to greens - and whites, oranges and yellows etc. Some are a knee-jerk reflex, having never tried them. Others are a genuine dislike. Cabbage is definitely one of the Disliked.

On a recent visit to my mother, dinner was being prepared, and when we were asked what veg we wanted, I piped up with a joking suggestion. win.