Saturday 30 July 2011

Home with a bang

(Catbells - I got all the way up to the second pointy bit.)

Well, the Lake District was magic*, the weather amazing, the children (my eldest son's two elder boys) had a marvellous time, and I discovered that my walking hasn't imporoved after a new hip and a broken back (both of which have happened since the last serious walking hoiday). But never mind. I got up Cat Bells on the first day (a hands and knees scramble towards the end) and we had a fantastic holiday, just the four of us (boys, son and me).

Then today, off we set to youngest grandsons's first birthday party, and my foot slipped off the brake onto the accelerator, and I crashed into a parked - yes, parked - car. Damage to other car, bad. Woman driver justifiably furious. Me, covered with confusuion and spewing apologies. But two good Samaritans (young men who Know About Cars) appeared and patched things up, the woman forgave me, we exchanged all those boring things you exchange on these occasions, woman and I hugged each other (as you do) and I went on my way.

But it's good to be back. I think.

*Thanks for all the good wishes I didn't have time to acknowledge!

Friday 22 July 2011

I'm off... the Lake District tomorrow, with eldest son and two of his boys. It will rain (it always does) but we shall walk and pincic and dam streams and eat Cumberland sausage and chips. Back next week-end.

I hope anyone else who's off on their holidays has a good time, and not too much rain.

Baby names and book sales

Apparently sales of To Kill a Mockingbird have rocketed since the news that the Beckhams have named their baby daughter after its author, Harper Lee.

So we've misssed the boat, guys. I doubt whether the Beckhams will have any more children, so even if they've read my books (which is unlikely), there will be no Dead Ernest Beckham; no Birds and Bees Beckham (actually, I rather like that one). But if anyone knows of any pregnant celebrities who are looking for ideas, do please point them in my direction.

Thank you.

Thursday 21 July 2011

The press - do they never learn?

A woman has been questioned in connection with the deaths of three hospital patients. She hasn't been tried, she hasn't been convicted; just taken in for questioning. And guess what? Her name is all over the papers, together with her photo, and the names of her parents and her boyfriend. Excerpts from her Facebook page have been publicised; she has apparently been fed up with work, hated night duty, on some days only went to work for the money ("arrested nurse moaned about job on Facebook" bellowed The Times, devoting part of the front page and all of the third to this story).

Well, haven't we all felt like that about our jobs at times? But we didn't start killing people to make ourselves feel better, did we? I loathed night duty, but can say with my hand on my heart that I was never tempted to kill my patients. This information is not relevant.

Whatever happens in this tragic case, this young woman's reputation will be in tatters. If she's tried and acquitted, will anyone employ her now? Would you? Would I? I very much doubt it. Our wonderful free press are it again, with the hacking scandal still ongoing. She may be guilty, in which case she deserves to be punished. But is it too much to expect that a civilised society should at least wait for the trial before publishing this damaging - and possibly misleadling - information?

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Horse diaries (and crop circles)

Well the crop circle visitors keep on coming; busloads and carloads of them, from all over the world. Which is fine. But today, they came bearing umbrellas. Big black umbrellas. For Titch, who has never seen an umbrella before, this was an OMG moment.

Titch: Bloody hell! What's that?
Me: It's an umbrella.
Titch: Well, it looks like a large bat to me.
Me: Don't be ridiculous. Besides, you've never seen a bat.
Titch: No. But I've read about them (this is a lie, and we both know it. Horses have very small brains, and they can't read).
Titch (going backwards): A weapon then. It's a weapon!
Me: Of course it's not. It's for keeping people dry.
Titch: What about that pointy bit on top? I don't like the look of the pointy bit.
Me (we are still travelling backwards): Well, the pointy bit on top can be a nuisance.
Titch: I knew it! I'm out of here!

After an argument, and some leaping about (not helped by the smiling if totally uncomprehending approach of the umbrella-bearers) we manage to go on our way.

Titch: Phew! that was a near miss. Am I brave, or am I brave?
Me: No.

We make our way home. We are both soaked to the skin, and Titch is in a very bad mood. We're both having holidays next week. I think we need time away from each other.

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Birthday on death row

What kind of birthday card do you send to someone on death row? There are jolly ones ("To the birthday boy!" Not appropriate), boozy ones ("Open a bottle on your birthday!" He can't), restful ones ("Put your feet up on your birthday!" Yes. He can do that; all day every day), partying ones (no parties on death row).

After much searching, I settled for a bland, anodyne picture of a fluffy kitten, with a minimal birthday message.

The assistant commented on my choice, so I explained.

"Do they still have the electric chair?" she asked.
"No. It's lethal injection now," I told her.
"Oh. That's not so bad, then is it?" she said.


Fiction is good for you!

Well, it's what we all knew, isn't it, but now it's official: fiction is good for you. A Canadian psychologist has carried out research, and has concluded that "habitual readers of novels were much better at coping with social situations and with a wide range of human beings".

This is excellent news on lots of levels, not least because now, when I go on holiday, and sit reading a book rather than traipsing round a museum, I know that I'm not being lazy; I'm becoming a better person. Of course, I can do my reading at home, while this may be my only opportunity to see the museum, but never mind. (I was put off museums many years ago, when, after a school visit to the British Museum, we were hauled over the coals for pulling faces at the people in the cars behind from the back of the coach. That, and the mummies, is all I can rememeber about that trip.)

(I can't imagine that the book in the picture could be good for anyone, but then it's not fiction. I chose it because it caught my eye. Is there much of a market for this kind of thing?)

Monday 18 July 2011

More silly names!

What a day! I've just come across the astonishing news that someone called Kate Hudson (who is she?) has just had a son, and has called him - wait for it - Bingham Hawm Bellamy. That's right. No misprints (although I am given to those).

I shall have to go and lie down.

Not half past seven after all

So it's nothing to do with the time she was born; Harper Seven was apparently named after the author (Harper Lee) of To Kill a Mockingbird, her mother's favourite book. And Seven? Well, that appears to be the Beckhams' favourite number: seven wonders of the world, colours of the rainbow, that kind of thing. They could of course have named her after the book's feisty heroine, but I have to admit that Scout Beckham is a tad snappy. But what ahout Harper Scout?

But having spent the last week wondering whether they'd chosen the name to fit the time, or decided to have the baby delivered at the time to match the name, I have to admit to being just a tiny bit disappointed.

Saturday 16 July 2011

Stats and being wary of elderly people

While horses playing ping pong are moving steadily up the charts (as are Knickers and Naturists. Ts ts) "Beware of Elderly People" is close on the heels of "In Love with a Horse" (my all-time winner).

WHY, for goodness sake? What have elderly people done to deserve this kind of treatment? My original post was about that awful sign (you know the one; two bent figures hobbling along together), but presumably someone, somewhere, is trying to Google ways of avoiding the elderly.

And we do that anyway, don't we? We herd them together into institutions, we diminish and neglect them, we marginalise them, we ignore the huge contributions they have made. We hate the idea of them having sex (which they do; I have a nearly-80-year-old friend who has the kind of sex most people can only dream about). Avoiding elderly people is what we're good at. We don't need to search Google for advice.

I've just found an entire website devoted to (mostly offensive) "jokes" about the elderly. But to end on a lighter note (and because, being on the verge of elderly myself, I need to show that we elderly people can laugh at ourselves), I did rather like this one:

Two elderly couples were enjoying friendly conversation when one of the men asked the other, "Fred, how was the memory clinic you went to last month?"

"Outstanding," Fred replied. "They taught us all the latest psychological techiniques-visulization, association-it made a huge difference for me."

"That's great! What was the name of the clinic?"

Fred went blank He thought and thought, but couldn't remember.

Then a smile broke across his face and he asked, "What do you call that flower with the long stem and thorns?"

"You mean a rose?"

"Yes, that's it!" He turned to his wife. . ."Rose, what was the name of that clinic?"

(The image above was helpfully labeled "Upbeat smiling elderly couple". So that's all right then.)

Thursday 14 July 2011

In love with a horse that plays ping pong (revisited)

Aliya thinks that people expect a picture when they look up a post about horses and ping pong, so in the interests of the continuing horses + ping pong experiment, here is a picture.

I am, as you can see, a very bad artist. But at least it's a picture (of sorts).

The horse diaries - horse poo and butterflies

So we moseyed along yesterday, in the sunshine, me looking for butterflies and Titch looking for horse poo.

Me: I wish you wouldn't do that.
Titch: (sniffing a nice fresh pile) Not doing any harm, am I?
Me:'s not very nice, is it?
Titch: I like it. I can smell who's been here last.
Me: Great.
Titch: It's a horse thing. You wouldn't understand.
Me: Well, I'm looking for butterflies. David Attenborough's asked us all to count them.
Titch: Who's David Attenborough?
Me: You'd like him. He's interested in animals.
Titch: Good man.
Me: Though come to think of it, he's not much interested in horses. He prefers wild animals.
Titch: I can he wild.
Me: No. What you can be is naughty. That's not the same thing at all.

So we agreed to differ. Titch found lots of horse poo to sniff, and I saw marbled whites (see above), meadow browns, common blues, common whites, and (I think) a red admiral. Diffcult to identify as they don't stay still long enough. But altogether, we had a nice morning.

Wednesday 13 July 2011

The painter on the balcony

If you look very carefully at this photo (of the view from our bedroom window), you will see a very thin iron balcony, with a painter on it painting a window. This worries me on two counts:

1. I have no idea how this tiny, slender little balcony stays up in the first place. I don't really know how any building stays up, and it is a constant source of wonder to me that our bath (for example) doesn't come crashing down into our hallway. But this little balcony is something else.

2. I hate heights; for myself and for other people. That well-known photo of builders sitting on a girder eating their sandwiches hundreds of feet up never fails to make me feel queasy. So I am worried about this painter on two counts; heights, and the staying up (or not) of buildings. How bad will his injuries be if the little balcony succumbs? and will I, as a nurse, be expected to rush forth and minister to him? I'm having to restrain myself from shouting at him to be very careful, but then that might make him jump, which could be the straw that brings the balcony down.

I am trying to write something useful, but the possible fate of the painter is most distracting (the corner of the bedroom is my "office"). Oh dear.

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Public interest?

The News of the World thing is of course only the tip of the iceberg; more and more things are now coming to light, and it seems that other tabloids are implicated.

There's a world of difference between what is in the public interests (MPs's expenses; after all, it's our money they're spending), and what the public are interested in (horrific diseases and accidents, horrible things happening to famous people etc). That the second appears to be more entertaining (in a nasty, salacious kind of way) than the former is not the point; we don't NEED to know whether or not Kate's grandfather was a window cleaner.

And then there's the bit in between; things we don't need to know, but in a way are entitled to know, because the people involved have, as it were, invited us into their lives. There are many "celebrities" who do just that. They court public attention when they want it, and while it doesn't exactly bring out the best in the public when the press revel in the marital break-ups or the perceived cellulite of these people, they have more or less asked for it. And if you're going to call your poor wretched child Harper Seven, people are bound to, well, notice, aren't they? Complaining about press interest in these cases would be like inviting people round to your house, and then slamming the door in their faces. You either want publicity, or you don't. Presumably you have to take the rough with the smooth.

On the other hand, there are people like the Browns (Gordon and Sarah) and the Dowlers, who have been visited by tragedy, and never invited the press in, but they barged their way in anyway. This is absolutely unforgiveable.

Lastly, there are people like (for example) J K Rowling and Judi Dench; people at the top of their game, who could presumably have made millions by inviting Ok or Hello into their homes, but have always opted to remain private individuals. They deserve to have that privacy respected, because they never sought to exploit their celebrity status. They leave that to others. And, let's face it. There are plenty of those.

Monday 11 July 2011

Imperal Leather

We are having an ongoing argument about Imperial Leather soap*(yes, I know. It's pathetic. It's our own little variation on the toothpaste-squeezing argument, and we've had that one, too). He says that if you rest the soap on its little label, the label pretects the soap and stops it from going soggy (so presumably, all you're left with in the end is the little label).

I say this is rubbish, The little label is there for advertising purposes only, and if that's the case, then the label should be facing upwards, not downwards. When the label faces downwards, that's the bit that gets soggy. And it falls off.

If anyone knows the answer, do please let us know. Or we may have to change brands.

*Available cheap from Devizes market, but not worth the journey if you don't live here.

Sunday 10 July 2011

Where does spinach go (and other questions)?

Tonight we are having spinach, and as I looked at the (large) packet, I wondered (not for the first time) where exactly does spinach go? You know the phenomenon; you start off with lots of spinach, and within seconds, all you have is a small, wet pile of something that looks like seaweed.

And then there are all those other imponderables:
Why do people almost invariably start up their engines before doing up their seat belts?
Why do we (women) open our mouths when putting on eye make-up?
Why (when giving directions over the phone) do we use our hands to demonstrate, knowing perfectly well that the person we're talking to can't see us?
Do spiders sleep?
What are wasps for?
Why do people always speak so much more loudly when on their mobiles (especially on trains)?
Where are all those odd socks?

(And why am I wasting time doing this, when I have a meal to cook?)

Friday 8 July 2011

Picture of Titch (for Jarmara)

Here he is again, to save Jarmara from having to try to look him up. The rest of him is just as beautiful as the front bit, and this photo doesn't really do him justice. He looks happy in the picture, but isn't very jolly at the moment, because he says he needs a holiday. I think he's a very lucky, spoilt animal, and doesn't work very hard anyway.

We've had to agree to differ.

Thursday 7 July 2011

CRB checks

Hands up all those who've never had a CRB check. I bet there aren't many of you. My husband, who is what used to be called a lay reader in the C of E, has just been told he has to have a new one (presumably so that they can take into account all the abuse he's carried out since the last one). I've had to have at least two, the last one in order to be able to teach creative writing to a class of adults. I would have thought that I was in more danger than they were (there were more of them, for a start).

But I know something about paedophiles. I have come across some, and have had many clients who were sexually abused, and in none of these cases would a CRB have helped in the slightest. A young single mother I know discovered to her horror that her son - then four-and-a-half - had been systematically and severely sexually abused for a year by his father, who at the time had regular access. But the child's (very graphic) evidence couldn't be used in evidence against the perpetrator because of his very young age, although everyone, from his teacher to his GP, believed him. So while there is a restraining order against the father, he is still out there. He has a new girlfriend. With small children.

But never mind. You can rest assured that the kind lollipop lady who is helping your child across the road has had a check, as have all his teachers, and the nice woman who teaches him the piano.

I bet that's a weight off your mind.

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Horse diaries - update

So off I go to try Titch's new fly sheet on him. It is white and shiny and new, and Titch is not pleased.

Titch: What is THAT?
Me: It's your new fly sheet.
Titch: You mean, you're expecting me to WEAR it?
Me: Of course.
Titch: What, now?
Me: Of course now. It was expensive, and I need to make sure it fits.

There follows a lengthy struggle. There are a lot of straps and fastenings, and Titch has a tiny waist, so there has to be a lot of adjustment. But we're finally done.

Me: There. Isn't that great?
Titch (who has by now turned his face to the wall): I look ridiculous!
Me: No, you don't. And it'll keep the flies off.
Titch: What flies? (Today is cool and it's true; there aren't any).
Me: The flies you were making such a fuss about on Monday.
Titch: Hmph. (He knows I'm right)

So I take the fly sheet off again, relieved that it fits, because by now its ungrateful new owner has shat on it, and off we go for a hack. It's quite a nice day, and we both cheer up. We come across New Age people doing mystical things in the middle of a new crop circle. The crop circle is not a particularly good one, but that never seems to deter the visitors.

Titch (gazing at them scornfully): Silly buggers.

And I have to say, I agree with him.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Come in, number 40!

While I'm interested in blog stats, they don't bother me. In Love With a Horse is still riding high (so to speak), and I've no idea why. That's fine.

I'm grateful to my followers; it's nice to hear from them, and to read their blogs, but I don't feel competitive about them. But 39 followers really bothers me. After a meteoric rise (well, a bit meteoric) during the A to Z challenge, I've stuck at 39 for some time, and I don't like it. I just don't like the number 39. I couldn't get through The Thirty-nine Steps, which we had to read at school, and I hated being 39, because I just couldn't beleive that 40 was going to happen to me. Like death, and winning the lottery; 40 was something that happened to other people.

So - please will someone sign on and be number 40? You don't have to come back again, and I shan't pester you, I promise...

Monday 4 July 2011

Horsey heaven

For my daughter, it's "little tops" (she has a huge collection of these); for my daughter-in-law it's shoes (ditto); for others, it's coats or beads or whatever. But for me, it's horsey stuff.

Near us, is a place that is horsey heaven. A huge establishment with friendly horsey staff and an enormous selection of everything a horse or its rider could possible need (and, unfortunately, a whole lot of things s/he doest't, but nonetheless would love to own). Lovely horse rugs, shiny new bits, spanking new leather bridles, gleaming stirrups - even the brightly coloured leading ropes are tempting. As every horse-owner knows, these things only stay beautiful for about a day, becasue once your horse has rolled in the mud, a rug is just another rug; ditto most of the other things. But boy, are they tempting.

So because the badness of last week seems to be leaking into this one, John, who has a special fund for these things (also connected with horses, but we won't go into that), took me along to spend some money. And after buying a white fly sheet (a fine mesh rug for keeping the flies off the horse) with lovely blue straps, and some outrageously expensive denim jodhpurs, somehow the week doesn't seem nearly so bad after all.

Sunday 3 July 2011

Too late for a meringue

Last week-end, my beautiful niece Holly got married, and she looked breathtaking in her meringue dress (see photo above). "It's the only day in my life when I can wear a meringue," Holly told me, "and that's what I'm going to wear."

Good for Holly. Nowadays, the trend seems to be for simple and clingy, and that too can look wonderful. And let's face it; few people can get away with wearing a meringue (Holly is pencil-slim and looks good in just about anything).

I wasn't allowed a meringue, or indeed anything white, on my wedding day. Before my wedding, my mother took me shopping in Fenwicks. As I veered towards the bridal department, she pulled me firmly in the opposite direction.

"You can't get married in white," she told me. "You're not a virgin."

So I got married in pink. But there's a bit of me that still hankers after a meringue. Just the once.

Saturday 2 July 2011

The pleasure of giving?

I don't understand meanness. One of the great pleasures in life is giving. I think those of us who have children all recognise that moment when a child realises that the giving of Christmas presents is (almost!) as much fun as receiving them.

Some of the most generous people I have known have been the poorest. My mother was a case in point; she would - quite literally - give a friend the coat off her back if they happened to like it, and she never had any money. My sister is the same. Handicapped, and living in sheltered accomodation, she has never had her own house, and if she had two brass farthings, she would give them away even before she had time to rub them together.

Thus I was interested to read that the Blairs, who are apparently worth £60m, have charged their son's classmates £10 each towards the coach fare to convey them to an end-of-term party they are holding at their country pile (see above photo). Cars are not allowed, for security reasons.

That's all.

Friday 1 July 2011

Winners and losers

I may have posted about this before, but I feel very strongly about school prizegivings.

On the one hand, my grandchildren are not allowed to "win" events at their school sports day. It's all about taking part, you see; there are no winners or losers. But come prizegiving day, things are very different. Those who come top in things - probably more due to their inborn ability than for any other reason - win the prizes, while the poor little also-rans don't.

My two ten-year-old granddaughters are very different. One is top in everything, and wins prizes; her sister isn't, and doesn't. Hence, prizegiving day is a nightmare, because it's impossible to celebrate properly with the one while greiving (and boy, does that poor little girl grieve) with the other. So my poor daughter (who as a child, on one occasion wept all the way home from her own school prizegiving, because she hadn't won anything) went along yesterday, full of dread.

Needless to say, the first child won the form prize, but the even better news is that her sister was awarded a new cup; one donated by an ex-pupil for the child who "has reflected the most the ethos of the school"*. Phew!

The celebration took place at Pizza Express, and now peace reigns. Until next time...

*I thoroughly approve of this prize, because any child might be able to win it, provided they are kind and helpful. And being kind and helpful is a lot more useful in life than the ability to do clever things with pi, or know who was on the throne in 1638.