Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Goddess of Plenty

Friday 30 November:
There is still time to take part in the Great Giveaway! Just leave a comment to be in with a chance of winning the wonderful prize.

It's here - the day has arrived - the Great Giveaway is upon us!
And about time too, I hear you say.
Fair comment.
But first - let me explain what I'm giving away and why...

A few years ago, a beautiful young friend of mine, a musician, found she had cancer.
It came out of the blue, as these things generally do.
Sadly, since then many people I know have been hit by different forms of this same disease. The majority of them are women, and, like my friend, have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The prayer tree

At the Dip in the Nip, back in June (a sponsored skinny-dip to raise money to fight cancer) I helped to put up a prayer tree on the beach. Prayer tree, wishing tree, call it what you will, the tags that fluttered in the breeze that day all bore - ultimately - the same message. They were filled with sadness, many with loss, some with hope, all with love. I left a message on the tree myself  for an old friend, fighting his own battle, and came away realising that everyone, everywhere is touched by cancer.

My beautiful friend went through all the treatment. Operations, chemo, radiotherapy - she lost all her hair, and suffered all the ups and downs that are inevitable when your life is suddenly no longer under your control, is tipping in a balance that seems more fragile than a water droplet.

She was one of the lucky ones, the girl-friend who sings like an angel. She was - happily - not bidden to some celestial choir, but came through it all, looking impossibly gorgeous with her new short, feathery urchin hair.
And I'm sure she would say that the whole, gruesome experience has changed many things for her - least of which is that she has become vegetarian. I don't know what lies beneath the surface for her, we don't talk about it. Why would we? I'm sure it's something you want to forget, and part of getting better must be moving on, but she did say one thing that made a huge impression on me.
It wasn't some profundity about the meaning of life, it was something that could seem almost trivial.

'Since becoming ill,' she said, 'I refuse to put anything on my skin that I couldn't put in my mouth.'

Fennel against the sky

I've thought about that a lot since then.
After all, we are so totally absorbent - not just our minds and our hearts, but our skins - our skins.

I've seen pictures of animals that are used as the 'guinea pigs' for our beauty products. Not good.
May we be forgiven for abusing them so.
And I saw one of those facebook posters awhile ago. It itemised the chemicals to be found in various up-market, but high street face creams. The list was long.

I also saw this just a few days ago - facebook again.

Credit to whoever it belongs to. Thank you facebook

What an upside down world we live in, but we don't have to passively accept it.

Cancer - skincare - lemons?
The thing is, all these different strands seem to have lodged in the same pigeon-hole in my brain and started their own little train of thought, which I will try to unravel here.

Once upon a time face creams were made from real plants, and plant oils. Some old woman in the village, who had learned everything she knew from her mother, or grandmother, made lotions and potions, infusions, balms and salves. Looking at the fields around her cottage she saw not land ripe for development, or capable of producing more grain per acre, but land rich with the blessings of mother earth, full of plants that healed and soothed, wildflowers that induced sleep, or cure, some that brought love - even death.

Sleep - and oblivion

Needless to say, we burned her as a witch or, if she was lucky, drowned her on the ducking stool in the village pond, before moving relentlessly onwards and upwards in our quest to conquer the planet with technology and science. And let's face it, the land is far too valuable to waste on plants and animals. Anyway, we can simulate the beneficial effects of most plants now, so why bother to remember that herbalists would use foxgloves to treat heart disease, marigolds to heal wounds, willow for pain relief, rue for high blood pressure and epilepsy, rosemary as an antiseptic, heliotrope for reducing fevers, heather and valerian as sedatives, larkspur as an insecticide, evening primrose for coughs, mullein for chilblains, nasturtium for urinary infections, wild passion flowers for IBS, horsetail to strengthen hair and nails...
The list is as endless as the plants themselves.
But with our forgetfulness, somehow mother earth, the original goddess of plenty, has slipped into the crack of our bilateral vision.
So here we are today with furniture polish made of lemons and face creams made of equations.
Isn't it wonderful?

And for all our technology and science, disease and mental instability are only ever a whisper away.

Now and again, when some programme comes on with gems like: 'Recent studies have shown that cayenne pepper/turmeric/the-plant-of-the-moment might significantly reduce tumours/free radicals/the latest disease', I find myself wondering if maybe we were a bit hasty in burning the witches of yesteryear. It strikes me that they might have been able to point us towards some of these wondrous truths a good while ago.
Still, better late than never, and anything that rekindles our relationship with the earth, anything that makes us actually see what grows around us can only be good.

The Fabulous Parrot Tulip

My friend HW in Bermuda flung a friendly contest at me a month or two ago. He liked a tulip I had photographed, and zapped a gloriosa lily back through cyberspace to stand against my brave, striped parrot.
And his challenge became one more strand tangling in that pigeon hole in my brain. I looked around my own small patch of earth, my generous share of the goddess of plenty's gifts, with all its plants - flowers - beauty - healing and power.
It is all given to us, I thought, in infinite variety - to see, to hold, to use, to pleasure our senses, to heal our bodies, to quiet our minds, and - as is the way with the earth - everything links into everything else, but it is up to us how we use it, how we see those connections.
So - I pondered - let's do it - let's look at the bounty around us, admire it, celebrate it, share it and spread it around.

The Glorious Gloriosa

And then I thought of another friend of mine, and the last piece of the jigsaw slipped into place.
Having spent years working in restaurant and event management - and becoming quite ill in the process - she has now moved to the west coast and started her own company making organic skincare products.
Where possible, all her ingredients are organic, Irish and as locally sourced as she can achieve. She uses beeswax and oils alongside herbs and flowers from her own organic garden, and the products she makes are not just cosmetic, they are specially designed to help the body's natural healing process and promote a feeling of well-being. She doesn't use any artificial preservatives, synthetic fragrances or parabens and nothing is tested on animals. (That in itself would be good enough for me.) In addition, all her packaging, including the gift boxes, are made from recycled and recyclable materials. As she herself says, these are products that make you feel good, and that you can feel good about.

My friend's new company is called Talentui Organics.
So, like my friend who has recovered from breast cancer, I can now put everything that goes on my skin in my mouth.
It's a good feeling.

And it's one you can share.

I'm giving away a Gift Box of Talentui skincare products worth €35, which includes Rose Face Oil, Soo-Sleepy Body Oil, Feel Soo Good Morning Shower Oil, and Salvation Balm.

And what do you have to do to win this fabulous treat?
Well - it's easy peasy, lemon squeezy (made with real lemons).

Just leave a comment below or go onto Writing from the Edge's facebook page, click 'Like' and then post your comment there - or even just send me an email.
Include a photo of your favourite flower OR
An interesting fact about a plant you like OR
Post a prayer tree message for someone you know and love OR
Just say hello

Or you can do all of those!
And you can leave as many comments as you like.
(Don't forget to leave a link so I can find you if you're the winner!)

As far as I can make out, life is never under our control, and is constantly tipping in a balance that is more fragile than a water droplet, but it is what we do with it that matters - and what we do with it is often tied in with how we see the world around us, so let's start by celebrating the bountiful earth. And the winner will be chosen when I get the feeling that everyone out there is celebrating - so join in, and tell your friends!

Oh - and by the way, Talentui is the name of the ancient goddess of Plenty.

The Talentui Organic garden, overlooking the sea

Happy first birthday, blog!

Additional comments:-

Margaret Roddy - see comment below - also posted this flower picture on Writing from the Edge's facebook page
Thanks, Margaret! Lovely photo.


Nicola McCutcheon - see comment below - posted this  picture of orange blossom on Writing from the Edge's facebook page.
Thanks, Nicola - it's lovely to see these pictures coming in. Another cracker! I can smell it from here!

Denise sent this photo in to the facebook page. Isn't it wonderful? Her comment is also below.

Thanks Carol for posting your favourite flower on facebook. Here it is:

And here are some sweetpeas for Lazonya. They first appeared on my blog in Oh, September...
but as they are her favourite, I think they ought to appear again...

Beautiful margeurites from Isobel. Thanks Isobel.

Rowan Berries from Edinburgh, received with thanks!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Big Game Hunter

Pixie caught a fly this morning.
No sniggering, please, this is a momentous event.
She caught one back in the summer too.

Pixie longs to catch a swallow. She sits for hours - when she can spare the time from sleeping - crouched in the doorway of the shed, watching them swoop past. Now that the swallows are long gone, she has transferred her hopes to the kitchen window sill where she watches the bird table. She ticks loudly to herself in anticipation of how she will crunch their meagre bones when she has her wicked way.
I'm not holding my breath with anxiety on their behalf.

I don't know how much she can even see of the birds. I expect it's movement mostly, as she only has about 25% vision, poor little dote. I rescued her in Sligo Town when she was a kitten, but the damage was already done thanks to a dose of cat flu.
But she's a very happy cat, and she was extremely pleased with her kill.

Hobbes, however, doesn't pussy-foot around with flies.
Hobbes is a multiple-meal cat
He is also bad and wicked and impervious to threats.
We opened the back door this morning to find him just finishing off his first breakfast.
Having eaten everything else, he was pointedly crunching the wing feathers.
It breaks your heart how hungry my cats are.

Poor dove.
Fortunately, Hobbes sleeps all day on the kitchen chair, because he knows he gets chucked out at night.
I chuck all the cats - except Pixie - out at night just so that they will sleep all day on the kitchen chairs. It gives the birds a bit of a breather, and hopefully gives the rats sleepless nights.
One thing is sure - the cats can't wait to climb into bed after breakfast.
But even so, the list of sins against Hobbes's name gets longer and longer.

Hobbes and Popsicle catching up

In celebration of Writing from the Edge's first birthday, 
I will be having a wonderful Giveaway! 
Don't miss it!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Game, Set and Match

What is it with machines?
My printer has just declined - several times - to scan something.
It flatly refuses to print anything.

The Silver Beast can be just as bad. Dare I mention the Silver Beast? Will it hear? Will it take a pet?
And let's not go into the two and a half year old washing machine I had to replace this summer, or the In-Charges's computer that just crashed, and crashed and crashed the moment it came out of its pristine packaging.
My printer informs me that 'something else has possession of the machine'.
Too right.

Forget aliens with green faces and robotic laughter. The actual aliens have been amongst us for years. It has been take-over by stealth, but machines now have the upper hand, they rule the world.
Electricity is their god, and batteries their archangels.
And meanwhile what are we all doing?
Alternately sitting back and nodding with a daft smile, like doting parents, or shouting and screaming, like parents who know they have lost control.

Game, set and match to the machines, I reckon.

(Come to think of it, isn't that how computers started off? With green faces and robotic laughter?)

In celebration of Writing from the Edge's first birthday, 
I will be having a wonderful Giveaway! 
Don't miss it!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Of Births and Birth Days

What sweetie pies. Under Dog and one of his sisters, called Easkey by her eventual owners

Today is a special day.
It is Under Dog's birthday.
Tomorrow is a special day too. It will be Top Dog's birthday.
I am afraid I can't remember what time Under Dog was born, but Top Dog arrived in the wee, small hours of the morning.
I don't feel too bad about not remembering, because it was quite a day, one that put me strongly in mind of the 101 Dalmatians.

Juno, my dear, beautiful hound who I haven't written about because I still miss her so much, was their mother. She died two years ago.
We don't normally keep un-neutered animals, because there are so many unwanted creatures desperately needing a home that it seems wrong to bring any more into the world, but therein lies the sting. We longed to have Beshlie's offspring, and have often wished we could have had Top Dog's pups because he is so fabulous - but these things are not to be.
With one exception.

My lovely Juno

When we got Juno we decided that just once, we'd have pups.
It didn't all go quite to plan though, but - c'est la vie, non?
The following summer, I went to England to visit family. In one house where I stayed, two new young puppies were wreaking havoc and on my return home I said to the In-Charge: 'We definitely don't want puppies. It's babies all over again, with no nappies, but with itchy teeth.'
'That's what I've said all along,' he replied.
A week later, Juno came into season.

For a fortnight we continued resolute, but then one day the In-Charge strode in.
'There is the most beautiful greyhound in the Post Office,' he said. 'What about it?'
For an agonising half-hour I umm-ed and aahh-ed until finally we gritted our teeth and he went, hot-foot back to the village.
Five minutes later he was home again, looking slightly startled.
'Well?' I asked. 'When's the wedding?'
'He's gone,' the In-Charge said. 'To Wales.'

It took awhile to get over this extremely cold, wet damper, but eventually we put it behind us and  realised that we had, after all, only given in to a moment of pure sentimentality.
What we didn't know was that Juno had, meanwhile, taken the matter into her own paws and formed a highly questionable alliance with Bruce, the Labrador cross who lived up the road. She had also galvanised Ezra, the dear but hopeless collie dog we had rescued from hideous abuse, into action that no one thought he was capable of.

Top Dog - probably the most beautiful puppy in the world

We didn't even know she was in pup until we couldn't help but be sure.
For a Lurcher, she was becoming quite stout.
In a fit of anxiety that I hadn't been feeding her extra, nourishing rations, while making sandwiches for the boys one day, I gave her a massive spoonful of peanut butter (I have no idea - don't even ask). It was eagerly accepted, but it stuck the poor lamb's mouth together so firmly I thought dental intervention might be necessary, but she seemed quite happy to spend the next half hour un-clagging it on her own. I stuck to random tins of sardines after that.

On the 9th November, my mother was flying over for a long weekend. At lunchtime, just as the In-Charge was preparing to leave for the airport, Juno suddenly went into labour. She was, not surprisingly, alarmed, in pain and very anxious that I shouldn't leave her alone. I knew exactly how she felt.
The first puppy was the worst. My poor Juno was a complete novice and - let's face it - for most of us giving birth is an extremely painful process.
'Good luck,' the In-Charge said, bolting out of the door. The look on his face spoke volumes. He would, I knew, be gone for a good two hours. I nuzzled the puppy into Juno's side and thought how lovely it would be to welcome my mother with a clean, warm basket of gorgeous pups and their proud mama.

They were all beautiful puppies. Here playing in their favourite tea chest in the shed

Ho ho.
An hour later the second puppy was born.
An hour after that I rang the vet, just as the third pup appeared.
'Is this normal?' I asked. She didn't commit herself, but told me to ring her again if I had any concerns.
I already had lots.
My mother arrived and said all the right things. Being quite a veteran in the maternity department, both personally and from playing midwife to numerous animals, I felt she could be relied upon to know what was going on, but alas, it made no difference to poor Juno. The puppies continued to arrive at hourly intervals. I rang the vet again, but she said it sounded as if everything was progressing - slowly, but progressing.
Around midnight the eighth puppy was stillborn. To be honest, both Juno and I were so exhausted that our sorrow was tinged with blankness. The In-Charge took the poor little mite away and my mother said she thought that was probably the last one, and urged us to go to bed and leave Juno to get some rest with her babies, but some instinct made me stay with my hound.

Tiny Calypso who lives in England

I'm glad I did. Four more pups were born by 3am, including Top Dog and one final stillborn baby.
By the time Top Dog arrived, Juno was so exhausted that she could barely raise her head and was unable to give him more than a cursory lick. He was born without a protective membrane, and was too weak to suckle. I gave him some arnica and aconite and held him between her legs, to keep him warm, and to keep him fastened onto a teat. Every few minutes he gave a feeble suck, and for awhile I feared we'd lose him, but slowly my determination paid off. Gradually he perked up a little and eventually she was able to wash him and he was able to feed properly. I know if I hadn't been there, he would have been dead in the morning and we would all have been heartbroken. The first dog we had when we got married was white, and of all Juno's 12 puppies, Top Dog was the only white one, and his sister, Calypso, the only gold. All the others were black, or black and white.

Beautiful, gentle Calypso, the sun to Top Dog's moon

I took them all to the vet the next day, the pups in a laundry basket lined with a blanket and Juno - although hardly able to walk - determined not to let them out of her sight.
'Oh, I see you've got two fathers to this litter,' the vet said as soon as she saw them.
It was only then that I realised the blindingly obvious. Half the pups were collies, the other half lab crosses.
The little minx, the trollop, the wanton hussy!
But she was the best mother you could have hoped to find. Ever.
And the dearest hound.

Birthday boy with Model Dog, who looks so like his mother

I can't believe it was 13 years ago today.

And I can't believe that Under-Dog is still with us to celebrate this birthday.
The back injury he suffered years ago has taken its toll, and he has dreadful lumps - he isn't at all well. I didn't really expect that he would make it to 13, but I'm glad he has.
They had birthday cakes for tea, and there are sausages in the fridge for breakfast.
And in England, Calypso and her family are celebrating too.
Happy Birthday, lovely dogs.

Apple tarts for tea

In celebration of Writing from the Edge's first birthday, 
I will be having a wonderful Giveaway! 
Don't miss it!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Tuesdays and Thursdays

The In-Charge takes a packed lunch to college every day, and being the perfect wife, of course I rise before dawn and make his sandwiches. This morning, only half awake, I pulled the lid off his lunchbox to find yesterday's banana still in residence.
I barely saw the banana, because the smell I had released in removing the lid had instantly transported me back through more years than I care to count. I was once again a young child, opening the lunch at school that my mother had prepared for me early, early in the mornings of long ago. 
She often put a banana in, and its pervasive aroma would mix inextricably with everything else the box contained. Smelling it this morning, I could almost taste the freshly-squeezed, frozen lime juice she also included, juice that by lunchtime would have defrosted to a sweet, delicious slush - more refreshing than water in the heat of a tropical noon.

I was no longer at my  kitchen counter, but back in the Barbados of my childhood. I was six years old again, with memories unrolling around me like film clips.

St Josephs, Barbados

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my mother picked me up after school and took me home. I presume we had tea, did reading practice, played with my brothers and younger sister. All the things that families do. Who knows?
I have no memories of Tuesdays and Thursdays.
What I remember are the other days, the days when my father had the car in town so I couldn't be collected when the school bell went. I remember the Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Of those three special days, Friday was my least favourite.
On Fridays I went home with another small boy whose glossy mother was a friend of my parents. We would sit at the kitchen table, he and I, and I would stare at the big, red checks on the gingham table cloth, and at the fly paper, obscenely blackening in the middle. I remember feeling a curious distaste for that fly paper, even though I wouldn't have known the word 'obscene'. Perhaps it was because my mother never had a fly paper on an old blue saucer on the kitchen table. Or a gingham cloth.
And all the while, the maid would make us peanut butter sandwiches, the glistening, sweaty butter heaped thick on white, cotton-woolly bread that was a world away from the bread my mother made at home.

All of us with my mother - although I was more than six in this picture

I suppose it all fascinated me, as did the boy's mother who floated around the edge of this scene - a doll who has no substance in my head, whose mouth moved around magazine words. She wasn't the sort of mother who slapped you for biting your fingernails, as mine did. She didn't notice fingernails. But deep down, I knew she wasn't the sort of mother who would sit all night turning a cool flannel on my head through the endless bouts of tropical sickness that plagued me. Without conscious reasoning, I knew this even then, as I also knew that at home we would not have been left alone to play the afternoon away down beside the walls of the house, without anyone coming to see what we were up to. To my young conscience, the games of doctors and nurses - innocent as they were - would not have stood my mother's scrutiny. But she just lay - my classmate's mother - on the cool verandah hour after hour and we did as we pleased.

On Mondays, there was freedom of different kind, because I would stay on at school after everyone had left, and the place was mine then. It was a big, two storey house. The school occupied the ground floor, while the headmistress and her family lived above. No one ever went upstairs - except on Mondays, when I did.

When all the children had gone, a vast silence would fall over the garden that was our playground. Hordes of small feet had reduced what might once have been grass to hard, bare earth interspersed with feathery tamarind trees, and - in season - these hung heavy with pods of tangy, acid fruit. Unable to resist, I would collect them, my mouth salivating spontaneously as it salivates now, just at the memory. Chipping off the crisp brown shell, I would eat them until my tongue was raw, even though for days afterwards I would barely be able to eat at all. But I never learned, either with those or the small green fruit we called Chinese gooseberries which caused tummy ache like early apples.

But on Mondays, I wasn't interested in tamarinds or Chinese gooseberries because I had a very special job. I used to stay and help Miss Boyce make buns for Tuesday's school tuckshop. Miss Boyce was stolid, uninspiring and very plain, but she was enormously kind. She was also very careful with her small charges, enforcing on us behaviour she envisaged our parents would want, yet untouched by many of those rules herself. At midday we would sit neatly at our small desks and open our lunch boxes - those same lunch boxes that have winged me down this chute of memory, and the intermingled smell of bananas and sandwiches would waft around us, locking us - had we but known it - into a time warp for evermore.

But while we ate our sandwiches and peeled our bananas, our eyes feasted on something altogether different and infinitely more fascinating. Miss Boyce, facing us from the teacher's desk, would lunch on hoops of baloney, slabs of bread and butter and whole lettuce leaves and we watched mesmerised as her hand passed seamlessly from her box to the gaping concrete mixer of her mouth.

But on Mondays, even Miss Boyce's table manners were forgotten in the excitement of bun-making. My reward for the laborious greasing of endless tins was the icing. We made oceans of icing in a shade of pink that only small girls love, and then spread it thickly over the buns until finally, my small sticky fingers could press pieces of bright, glace cherry into each one. Oh, how happily we would sit at the table in that quiet kitchen and sample our produce. The concrete mixer didn't appal me in that intimate setting - I was too busy luxuriating in having no other greedy little fingers competing to lick out the bowl.

In those days, there was no edible glitter, no sugar butterflies or fancy dragees to add the glitz that these days liberally sprinkle the cupcakes I make for the market, but the rows of cherry-topped, savagely pink buns gave me far more satisfaction than their modern counterparts ever could. I remember, years later my baby brother drew a picture of a woman on whose bosoms he gravely coloured in 'the cherries'. Those pointed, red-tipped breasts looked like nothing so much as my tuck shop buns which he had never seen.

My baby brother. I seem to remember making him pose for my photo in this ridiculous way!

But it was Wednesdays that I loved most of all.
After school, I was delivered to some old family friends who lived along the coast, a couple whom I called Aunt and Uncle, but who stood in lieu of grandparents to me then. They lived in a wonderful house that was only feet from the sea, something that never ceased to thrill me, even on that tiny, ocean-ringed island. From the courtyard beside the house I would climb up the stone staircase that led to the kitchen on the first floor, and there the elderly maid would laugh and fuss over me while in the background I would hear my Aunt's voice calling, and the sea calling, and the smells of hot food calling.

The ritual was always the same. My satchel was taken into custody by the maid, my hands were washed and then I was sent down the few steps into the dining room to await my 'lunch'. It was a remote and formal room, always cool and somehow disconnected from the rest of the house, but I loved it. A great, polished table stood in the middle, at which a solitary place was always set for me - the rest of the household having eating hours before. Through the slatted blinds and the railings beyond, the street beat hot and vibrant in the afternoon sun, but inside, the family silver gleamed dimly on the sideboard, flowers stood in a vase, and I would sit with my back to the window and drink in the room's gracious elegance as I ate the flying fish and potato pie, or whatever had been saved for me. Subconsciously, I felt my mother would somehow know if I misbehaved in that room, so I never did.

My mother and surrogate Grandmother, Aunt Ercell

But afterwards I would run up the stairs to the most magical place of all - the upstairs drawing room. And there I would chatter to my Aunt and Uncle, and play and 'rest', bouncing in the rocking chair that stood in the wide bay window overlooking that translucent, aquamarine sea. Down beneath the window was a small paved yard with a table and some chairs, and then just pale, dry sand, a few palm trees and the sea. And the sound of the sea, and the smell of it and the endless lure of it have drawn me back helplessly my whole life since, tinting the marrow in my bones and the unsung dreams in my head to aquamarine.

I couldn't wait to get out into it, but I would have to bide my time until 'lunch went down' but then, at last, it would be time to go and change into my bathing suit and walk with my Aunt down the beach. We rarely swam just there, in front of the house, we would walk a short distance and then go in.

I couldn't swim, to begin with, I would just play, revelling in the warm, clear water, the afternoon sun dancing in bright skitters across the undulating surface. We would take an orange with us, or a mango and she would peel it and dip it in the sea and we would eat it, warm and salty, the juice running down our faces. But soon the day came when I had to learn to swim, and she picked me up and carried me, screaming, to the depths of the ocean where the water must have lapped at her waist, and she dropped me, terror-bound into that sweet blue void and behold - like a dog, I swam, coughing and spluttering and totally unaware of her hands hovering around me.
And afterwards, walking back to the house, my face and the back of my neck where my bathing suit tied all tingling with sun and salt, I would be totally happy. Until, that is, the day when my happiness turned to cold, six-year-old despair as half-way down the beach I suddenly remembered that I had left my knickers on underneath my bathing suit, and now they were wringing wet. I would have nothing to wear home under my dress. My silent feast in the dining room, the bay window, the sea - everything was lost; and when my father's car finally turned into the yard, my misery was further compounded when I saw another man, a business man, a stranger, sitting beside him. My ally was gone, the chance of any confidences banished, my father in one instant changed from saviour to foe. My world ended in tears and I couldn't believe that he and his companion didn't know in one glance what had befallen me. In that moment I longed miserably for my mother, the only one who could set things right.

My father's desk photo - posing for it was an annual nightmare, but in hindsight, I'm glad we did

I never swam in my knickers again, but once, on my honeymoon, I went to the beach in a bikini with a sundress thrown over the top, and at the end of the day, with the bikini soaked and nothing else to put on, the sea and my childhood tangled in aquamarine around me all over again, and we laughed all the way back on the bus, my lover's arms around me, and me with nothing on but my dress, and I was a child again, who didn't go home after school except on Tuesdays and Thursdays.


In celebration of Writing from the Edge's first birthday, 
I will be having a wonderful Giveaway! 
Don't miss it!

Monday, 5 November 2012

The 32nd Amendment

Yesterday, for the second day in a row, and despite it being Sunday, I set out bright and early to take Model Dog to the vet. On Saturday morning she went in to be spayed - or 'splayed' as one ditsy old woman we knew used to say.
Poor Puffalump. (Model Dog's affectionate nickname springs from the fact that despite her long legs and undeniable beauty, she shares many characteristics with heffalumps.)
It has not been a good weekend for her. It started badly and only got worse.

We've had Model Dog for six months now, during which time she's never been out in the car on her own, so I quite understood her perplexity at being driven off without Top Dog and Under Dog. She didn't howl or whine, but there was a wary look about her that didn't respond to reassurances.
Although her nickname could be Tigger, because she is constantly bouncing, never far beneath her joie de vivre, remains the dog that was abandoned before she came to us. She is permanently anxious about being separated. We were told that she eventually found her way home again, tired, hungry and bewildered, the first time she was dumped, whereupon her owner immediately took her out and dumped her again - still tired and hungry. The second time he left her in a state of collapse outside a shop in some town, after telling someone what had taken place and saying he couldn't 'be arsed' about her.

When we got her from the Rescue Home, she immediately attached an invisible bungee to my knee. She somehow manages to slip through doorways simultaneously with me to avoid being left on one side or the other; she walks so close beside me that I have several times poked her in the eye with fingers hanging innocently at my side; and she watches me constantly, until she is sure I have 'settled' at whatever I'm doing, and won't creep away without telling her. If I'm inconsiderate enough to go off somewhere without her, she transfers her bungee temporarily to the In-Charge.

Of course, now that we are back into college routine, the In-Charge is not always at home, but mercifully as the months have gone by, she has become content to have the odd duvet-day if I have to go out.
It was not always thus. Before we realised the extent of her separation anxiety, we did have the Water Day, but perhaps it's unfair to mention it, as there was just the one incident.
Shortly after we got her, the In-Charge and I went to town to execute various commissions - as you do.
We left all three dogs happily ensconced in their beds in the kitchen - or so we thought.
When we returned a few hours later it was to find chaos of near-Biblical proportions. She had obviously jumped up to try and follow us via the kitchen window which - thankfully - yielded not, but in so doing she  not only managed to turn the tap on (the cold tap - lots of pressure!) but also to swivel it round so that it gushed not down the capacious sink, but into the extremely receptive window sill.
It is probably best to draw a veil over the rest. Suffice it to say that the In-Charge was Not Amused, and even Less Amused when I laughed. The wall was saturated through to the outside, the floor was awash and opening cupboard doors brought forth walls of water Moses would have been proud of.
I daresay you are getting the picture.
We won't go into the dirty paw prints the entire length of the kitchen counter. Or Model Dog's completely innocent demeanour. That would be hitting below the belt.

She is much less insecure now, but even so I would have taken the other dogs with us on Saturday morning, were that journey not Top Dog's particular Torture, and had we not been bringing Model Dog home barely conscious afterwards.
Fortunately our vet is very user-friendly and despite the In-Charge's mutterings about being surplus to requirements, we both stayed with her until she was out for the count, and were back with her before she woke up.                          

The operation itself was completely successful, but the Needle-Lady (Who-Will-Be-Obeyed) commanded Puff's re-attendance for a post-operative check-up the next morning, Sunday notwithstanding.
Yesterday, on our return visit, the vet declared all to be well, but poor Puff wasn't a happy bunny and proceeded to be hideously sick on the way home. The after-effects of the anaesthetic, no doubt, coupled with the morsels of bread and pate she'd finally toyed with at midnight after her 30-hour fast.

I stopped in a deserted car park to clean the car up. I'm not a good traveller at the best of times - let alone in a vehicle reeking of vomit. Reluctantly Puff got out and stood watching me in her shapeless hand-me-down dress - an old, baggy T-shirt adapted to prevent her from removing her own stitches, should the desire suddenly prove irresistible.
She looked heart-wrenchingly forlorn and stared around the car park bleakly. I wondered if she was weighing it up as an abandoning-site.
I found my mind straying to the person who'd dumped her before. They weren't good thoughts.

Poor Puffalump

As soon as I'd got rid of the worst of the sick, I helped her back into the car and stopped at the next garage to buy some hot sausages from their breakfast bar. Hot sausages are the food of dreams for Puff and I felt she needed cosseting. She ate two, after I'd broken them into little pieces, but apologetically declined the third. I put it back in the bag - I didn't want anymore cleaning up.

On the way home I saw a poster nailed to a telegraph pole. It was about children's rights.
Currently our Constitution doesn't provide a separate statement of rights for children, and Ireland has a referendum this coming Friday on whether to change the Constitution to include a new Amendment.

On the whole I think 'Rights' can be a difficult issue. Of course we need them, but people talk very glibly about their 'Rights', and it feels like we are obsessed with enshrining as many as possible in law; yet sometimes it also feels like the more 'Rights' we all have, the less well we all treat each other - as if 'Rights' somehow obviate both the need to focus on the individual and the requirement for the individual to assume certain responsibilities.

But be that as it may, the poster made me aware that I hadn't really thought about the proposed Amendment.
Yes - every child does have the 'Right' to be cared for (in every sense of the word) by its parents, or to be given over to someone else who will. No child should ever be abandoned or abused.

But neither should any animal.
And for that matter, every animal has a 'Right' to be cared for (in every sense of the world) by its owner, or be given over to someone else who will.
Maybe it's about time we had an 'Animal Rights' Amendment to our Constitution as well.
The 32nd Amendment.
Something that could then be enshrined in law.
And enforced.

(And maybe they could add in something about 8 out of 10 dogs preferring sausages for breakfast.)

In honour of Writing from the Edge's first birthday, I will be having a wonderful Giveaway! 
Don't miss it!