Friday, 24 July 2009

There will now be a short intermission

Early tomorrow we'll be travelling to Wales for our annual week's holiday. We'll be staying in a farm cottage on a working farm and this will be the 4th year we have returned because we love it so much. We're hoping for some decent weather so fingers crossed!
Just talk amongst yourselves while I'm away. Ta.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

We Have Met our Dog!

Since my previous post about the possibility of us adopting a greyhound, things have moved on quite a bit. The people from the Greyhound Trust had suggested a 3 year old bitch that might be suitable, but after talking to the current foster carer it appears to have some behavioural issues, and I felt that as a novice dog owner I wasn't confident enough to deal with that.

So last week we visited the kennels to view two other dogs that were suggested as our potential pet. One of them, Jack, was a huge dog and a big softie. I admit that I fell completely in love with Jack, but unfortunately Small Daughter was nervous of his size and, more importantly, she had an allergic reaction to his brindle (brown flecked) coat. Brindle and pale greyhounds shed their coats, and it's the black greyhounds that don't. The other dog, Princess, was a smaller 5 year old black bitch and very placid. After walking the two of them we agreed between the three of us that Princess was the more suitable dog, and we asked for her to be reserved for us. We were so excited to have finally chosen our dog!

This morning we went to meet her again for the second time, and to take her out for another walk. She is a beautiful dog, with a sleek coat and big brown eyes. And she's so quiet and easygoing. We walked past a house with three dogs barking at Princess through the gates and she glanced at them but showed no reaction at all. She was very affectionate towards us and seemed particularly taken with the Teenager-in-Waiting who was quietly chuffed.

We were given details of Princess's background, including her pedigree line dating back to the early 1800s which is amazing. We were also given her details from her racing history, including how many races she'd won and her ranking. I felt like a proud mum reading her child's school report "Oh, well done, you were ranked A2" (A1 being top, A10 being the lowest ranking). When we got home I was even able to check her history online and look at photos of her ancestors and read that she is descended from some very prestigious racing dogs.

On the way home from the kennels we stopped off at a pet shop and bought even more essential items for the dog: toys, grooming stuff, treats, a ball. At home I also checked online for pet insurance and was shocked by the price. Some of them were quoting over £20 a month for basic cover! One of them even included bereavement counselling in the premium, which I think is going too far. I know the death of a pet can be very sad, but bereavement counselling? Really?

Incidentally, we will be renaming Princess. We have a name in mind but I won't say in case we change our minds. Again.

I can't believe we have made a commitment to bring her home soon, which will be the day after we get back from our holiday (2nd August). The girls are ecstatic about getting a dog. I'm really looking forward to having her at home, but also totally terrified of not being able to train her and get her into a routine. Help! Wish us luck.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Me, Myself and I

Yes, my three very good friends - me, myself and I. We have been tagged by the fabulous Forty Not Out who has challenged me to tell about 7 different things about me. I'll have a go, but can't guarantee it'll be interesting...

  1. I'm very punctual. I hate being late for anything, and get into a panic if I'm running behind. I plan car journeys, train times, walking distances, etc. carefully to avoid the embarrassment of being late. I'm much more likely to be early, and admit I can get irritated by people who are habitually late. Perhaps I was a white rabbit in a former life?
  2. I'm quite tall - 5' 9" in my bare feet. Most of my five siblings are tall too, and my own daughters are looking very lanky in the leg department.
  3. I don't like cheese. Yes, you read that correctly. I can enjoy a piece of hard cheese on a cracker, but cannot abide cooked cheese or soft cheeses. Even the smell of cheese being cooked is a turn-off, and making cheese on toast for my girls is a real labour of love.
  4. I don't understand the fascination there seems to be with the horror film genre. Whenever I go to hire a film to watch there are always dozens of new horror films with grisly pictures on the covers. What is that all about? The scariest film I ever watched when I was young was The Beast With 5 Fingers, starring Peter Lorre although it's positively light-hearted compared to some of the horror trailers I see nowadays. When I watch a film I want it to be either funny, romantic, thrilling or interesting. I don't want to be frightened out of my wits - that's not my idea of fun at all!
  5. I enjoy a glass of white wine or organic cider but I don't drink any other type of alcohol. No beer, no spirits, no cocktails, and since about a year ago I can't drink red wine either. It has a bad effect on me now (headaches, nausea) so I avoid it.
  6. I have a weakness for buying glossy magazines - I can't resist a headline that catches my eye! I subscribe to several women's mags, and also buy extras as I go. I have a huge stack of them next to my bed and on the coffee table. I bet if I added up what I spent on them I'd feel very guilty indeed....
  7. I'm not superstitious at all. My lovely old Nan was superstitious about everything: the colour green, pearls, peacock feathers, knifes, ladders, money - you name it, she could tell you a superstition related to it, so I think I became immune to them. Now, where's that four-leaf clover....
My job is to pass this tag onto 7 other bloggers, so I choose:
Sunday Painting - cos she doesn't post enough, and she's lovely!
Cybill at Sorting it Out - because she's very, very funny and I love her blog,
Sallymandy at The Blue Kimono because she writes fascinating posts,
Kerry at My Little Brown Book because I met her yesterday and she's great,
Tessa Scoffs because she's my virtual blogging twin,
Rosiescribble because she a great single mum,
and last, but not least, Dan from All That Comes With It.
Tag, you're it!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The Pitter-Patter of Tiny Feet

No, not those sort of feet. Actually, not even feet but paws as I'm looking into the possibility of getting a dog.

And not just any dog, a greyhound.

The choice of dog was made for us really, due to the following reasons:

  • Small Daughter adores dogs, but is allergic to most breeds. However, greyhounds are almost always non-allergenic.
  • I want a big dog to scare away potential burglars.
  • I didn't want a yappy dog and greyhounds are very quiet.
  • I have a soft spot for greyhounds as my Mum used to keep them as a child and always spoke very fondly of her gentle greyhound dogs.
After doing a bit of research about the type of dog we wanted, and their temperament, etc. I found links to the National Retired Greyhound Trust. This organisation looks after the thousands of retired racing greyhounds and tries to rehome the dogs with suitable new owners. To adopt a greyhound you have to go through an 'adoption process' which starts with an online questionnaire followed by a phone call to check certain details. After that, if they think you may be suitable they arrange a home visit.

Yesterday we got to the stage of having our home visit check. Angela and Graham who run the local Greyhound Trust came to visit us and brought one of their own dogs with them. My girls are desperate for a dog and were so excited before the visit I feared they may self-combust, but luckily they managed to stay in one piece.

Cassie making herself at home in our living room

They loved Cassie and spent the good part of the hours visit stroking her, getting her a drink of water, and walking her around our back garden. She was a beautiful, gentle creature and we all fell in love with her. A big plus is that Small Daughter had no allergic reaction to Cassie, as that was a deal breaker.

We were asked several questions about how we would care for a dog, including how often we would exercise it, (surprisingly, greyhounds need little exercise as they only run in short bursts) and what arrangements we would make for veterinary care. They also checked out our back garden to make sure it was secure enough - it needs three higher fence panels along one part of the garden - and that the guinea pigs were safely housed away from where the greyhound would be.

I asked Angela and Graham if, instead of us choosing a dog we liked the look of, they could choose a dog suitable for our little family. They seemed to like this idea and said they would get back to me. This morning I had a call from them to say they thought we could provide a safe and caring home for a greyhound, and they had a 3 year old bitch that needed rehoming. It has already been house trained and is a very gentle dog, so we have agreed that they will bring this dog to visit us with a view to it being rehomed with us eventually.

The girls can talk of nothing else. They spent the rest of yesterday evening thinking of names for the dog, and drew up a shortlist (Bubbles is on the list! Can you imagine shouting "Bubbles!". No!) Today I went window-shopping in a pet store for leads, beds, bowls, etc. I'm so nervous, but excited. I hope I'm making the right decision for us. It feels right, but also very, very scary. Keep your fingers crossed!

P.S. I'd appreciate any advice from all of you dog owners out there. We're novices so any ideas or tips would be brilliant!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

When Small Isn't Small Anymore

One of the benefits of being off work this week is that I could go to Small Daughter's school sports day. I always try and attend but sometimes I just can't make it. Last year, I couldn't go and when I asked her how the sports day had gone she said "well, I was sad that you weren't there, so I picked out one of the Mums and pretended she was cheering for me." Gulp. How sad is that?

So today I was there.

Small Daughter is probably not the best description for my youngest girl, as she is extremely tall for her age (9) and stands head and shoulders above most of her classmates.

The tallness, combined with the fact that she is very skinny gives her the effect of looking like the Betty Spaghetti dolls she used to play with when she was little.

SD looked very pleased to see me, and spent most of the time waving at me from across the playing field. She was in three different races, and it was clear from the first one that she was wasn't the least bit interested in winning. She had no sense of urgency, and made me smile to myself as she ran so slowly, trailing behind the others.

She reminded me of a graceful - but slow - baby giraffe running across the plains. If there had been a prize for the most elegant runner she would surely have won, but it was not to be. But she was smiling the whole time and seemed to be having a great time.

In the meantime I'm going to have to think of a new name for her, because I've got to accept that she's not my small daughter anymore.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Six miles is a long way. Who knew?

On Saturday I went for a 6 mile walk through the Lancashire countryside. I hadn't planned to go on such a long walk, but on the Saturday morning I had a phone call from my friend J as I sat in my dressing gown, drinking tea, prepared for a lazy day. She invited me to join her on a walk organised by her local church, and I jumped at the chance. The weather was good, the girls were at their Dad's and I had a new pair of walking shoes that needed breaking in.

J lives near Wigan in Lancashire which is a surprisingly picturesque area. Surprising because of it's industrial heritage and mining history. The leader of the walking group, Douglas, was a keen local historian which really made a difference to the walk as he talked about the local history. Sounds boring? I promise it wasn't.
The plan was to walk cross-country alongside farm land, using a right of way across a golf course and ending at a former mining village for their summer fête.

We were a small group of 8 people. I think J and I were probably the youngest, and J's mum had also come along. She is an amazingly fit 79 year old, and seemed quite comfortable with the length of the walk although she said "miles seemed to be a lot shorter" when she was younger.

When we arrived at the town where the fête was being held, we could see the canal path that we would return along.

There were plenty of games for visitors to the fête, books and bric-a-brac to buy, a cake stand and refreshments which were very welcome after the first half of the walk.

We walked back along the canal towpath, which would originally have been for horses to use as they pulled the barges full of coal. The Leeds-Liverpool Canal was built (do you build canals?) around about 1794, and as the main industry in the area was coal mining the canals were used to transport the coal.

At one point our Douglas pointed out that we were standing in a spot where we could see how the history of transport had developed.

In the foreground you can see the canal, which was used for transporting coal in the 18th century. In the far middle distance you can just see a white railway bridge which would have transported the coal in the 19th century, and then at the top of the photo is the 20th century equivalent, the motorway. Three centuries of history in one photo. Well, I was impressed anyway!

I love the name of this barge!

It was a hot day, and we passed these cows cooling off in a shallow part of the canal. Earlier we had also happened upon young boys jumping into the canal, which is strange enough in these safety conscious days, but these boys were naked. Yup. Boys of around 10 or 12 in their birthday suits. I was so taken aback I nearly squashed a toddler in the canal's swing gate (don't ask). Actually, I did squash him but he was OK, thank goodness. I blame the nekkid boys.

So, a very pleasant afternoon was had by all, my walking shoes are well and truly broken in and two days later my legs are still feeling the effect of the walk.

Friday, 10 July 2009

The Teenager-in-waiting, a fireman and a pair of slippers.

I am a constant embarrassment to the Teenager-in-waiting. I know I am, because she tells me. Often.

I laugh too much. I laugh too loud (especially in the cinema where she refuses to sit next to me). I ask her friends embarrassing questions (Would you like to stay for dinner? What is your favourite subject at school?) I say 'groovy' and 'cool' in front of her friends, which is just Not On. I like to think I use them in an ironic, humorous way - but no, those words are banned.

This week we found another word she doesn't think I should use. As we were driving through town we saw a fire engine parked at the side of the road. Some of the fireman were standing nearby, talking. "Oooh, he's fit" I said, nodding in the direction of one of the older men. "OH MY GOD! Mum, you are so not allowed to say that!" shrieked the TiW, nearly taking out one of my eardrums with the ferocity of her words. "Not allowed to say what?" I asked, knowing full well what the answer was. "Fit!" she shrieked again "You shouldn't be saying that at your age!"

You've got to laugh haven't you?

Today, she was going on a school trip and I packed a lunch and some drinks for her. "Mum, can I have one of those bottles of mineral water in the cupboard, the ones with the sports top". I said she could have one, and then went to get ready to take her to school. I returned to the kitchen to see her emptying the mineral water into the sink, and refilling the bottle with tap water. "What are you doing!?" I said, "that's a new bottle of water". "What?!" came the reply "I'm not drinking mineral water it tastes like poo." Of course.

I dropped the TiW off at the school and instead of returning home as I had planned, I decided to drive into town to do a bit of shopping. In 20 minutes I was parking in a retail park where I knew I could get the items I wanted. Unfortunately, as I stepped out of the car I realised I was still wearing my slippers. Arrghhh!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

The Question

Today I went to my local hospital for a chest X-ray. This is the first of several tests and checks I'll be having over the next week following on from my funny turn last week.

While the process of having the X-ray was the same as usual I realised later that the technician had failed to ask me The Question.

Is there any chance you might be pregnant?

It wasn't asked.

Now, there are two things that spring to mind. Either, the technician could sense my prolonged state of celibacy and knew it wasn't possible, or she thought I was past childbearing age.

This puts paid to my hope that in a good light, and with the wind in the right direction I could pass for a few years younger than 48. Clearly, I am deluding myself.

I'm just going to sob into my tea.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Film reviews: Bolt & Beverley Hills Chihuahua

The lovely Kerry from Think Parents sent us more Blu-ray films to watch and as my girls take their role as film reviewers very seriously I'm going to leave the actual reviews to them. I'll just give you the background information for the films.

OK, the first one we watched was Bolt which we'd heard a lot about and were looking forward to watching. The girls were also interested because Miley Cyrus was the voice of Penny, Bolt's owner. John Travolta was the voice of Bolt but they'd never heard of him!

Bolt is a dog who is the star of a TV show and, in a similar vein to The Truman Show, he thinks he really is a superhero dog with special powers. When he gets accidentally shipped to New York he has to find his way home, with the help of a streetwise cat called Mittens and a TV addict hamster.

Now over to the girls.

Small Daughter (aged 9): I felt sorry for Bolt all the way through the film. It's a horrible story for anyone to see. Why would anyone want to see a cute dog being sad? I wanted to see a happy ending and that's the only reason I watched it until the end. I score Bolt 1 out of 10.

Teenager-in-waiting: (aged 12 and three quarters!): I didn't like it. The only good bit was when the cat was teaching Bolt how to beg, then it went rubbish again. There were hardly any happy parts and most of it was sad. My score for Bolt is 2 out of 10.

Oops, that wasn't a popular film in our house. At one point the TiW ran out of the room crying because Bolt was sad. I think this probably says more about my daughters than it does about the film. By the way, the animation on this film combined with the clarity of the Blu-ray was amazing.


This evening we watched Beverly Hills Chihuahua which also has a dog as the main character. Chloe - voiced by Drew Barrymore - is the spoilt pet of a rich woman played by Jamie Lee Curtis (who is going grey naturally and looks amazing) . When Chloe goes missing in Mexico she has to find her way home with the help of Delgado an ex-police dog (voiced by Andy Garcia) and various other animals along the way.

Small Daughter: I loved it, and I want one of those puppies. It was good because it had lots of dogs in it and it was funny too. Score: 10 out of 10!

TiW: Loved it! It was a really cute film and had a happy ending. I liked the special effects too. It was better than Bolt because the dog in this film didn't get upset and she learned how to stick up for herself. Score: 9 out of 10.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Fancy a Thunk?

No, I'm not being rude, a thunk is a 'beguilingly simple question about everyday things that stop you in your tracks and helps you to start looking at the world in a whole new light. At the same time it can encourage you to engage in verbal fisticuffs with the people sitting next to you and, if used properly, always leads to severe brain ache.'

I bought this book from Amazon a few months ago and have enjoyed dipping into it every so often. It's the type of book to have on the coffee table when friends drop round for a visit too, because the questions invariably start a discussion (ranging from brief to heated) depending on the subject.

Let me give you a few examples.

Is silence a sound? Can you hear silence?

Are you man-made or natural?

Which is heavier, an inflated or deflated balloon?

Would you have your sense of humour removed for a million pounds?

Am I any less alive when I'm asleep?

Some of them seem really obvious at first....and then you start to realise it's not quite that simple!

So, can you answer any of the questions?

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

A Funny Thing Happened to Me on the Way to the Hospital....

You have no idea how great it is to be sitting here at my untidy desk, drinking a hot cuppa and tapping away on my laptop. The reason for my gratitude is that I had a 'funny turn' (to quote my ex-MiL) where I thought I was having a heart attack and ended up being rushed to hospital in a siren-blaring-lights-flashing-ambulance. It would have been fun had I not been feeling so ill. This was a similar incident to my recent episode of heart palpitations and chest pain, but it felt more serious. And more painful.

Earlier in the day I had gone to the hospital to bring my Dad home (who had been taken in on Saturday with an ongoing health issue...he's recovered now thankfully) and was driving home with my Dad, sister and Small Daughter in the car when I started to feel a tightness in my chest. I had been having some heart palpitations earlier on when I was at work, but hadn't been unduly concerned. But this felt different.
I managed to drive back to my Dad's house, and help my sister to get him out of the car and into his wheelchair before feeling the chest pain increase. I decided there and then to drive directly to the local health centre where my GP had said he would arrange an ECG if this was to happen again. I walked into the reception area with Small Daughter supporting me, because at this stage I was struggling to breathe, and promptly collapsed. I was aware of people shouting and SD crying 'Mummy, Mummy!' before I was put onto a wheelchair and a doctor started firing questions at me. The rest is a bit of a haze as I was trying to breathe, but the tightness in my chest was making it difficult.
Small Daughter - who was clearly distressed - was taken into the main office by the reception staff, who I later heard took good care of her until my ex-Mother-in-Law could be contacted ( she took care of both of my girls overnight) which was a weight off my mind. I took them a thank you card and a small gift today, they were amazing.
To cut a long story short, at the hospital I was prodded and probed by several people (I'm assuming they were all medical staff but who knows?!) had several blood tests, two ECGs, a heart monitor was strapped to me overnight, and I answered at least 2,000 questions about my medical history. The tests they carried out ruled out a heart attack, but it is probably a heart related issue which needs further investigation.
I was discharged from hospital yesterday, and will have to return for further tests. I feel fine now, just very tired and a bit shaken up. I'm still trying to process what happened, it all seems a bit surreal, but I do know it gave me a hell of a shock.

I'm off to do a bit of gentle gardening to help me to relax while I consider the lessons I need to learn from the last couple of days.
Update: I've just returned from an appointment with my GP who has advised me to take a few days off work. He is concerned that there is still a 'question mark' over what actually happened, so to be on the safe side he thinks I should take a few days to relax.