Friday, January 25, 2008

Off to another Cursillo weekend in April - this time as Observing Lay Rector. That means that this time next year I'll be in charge! Eek! Am I ready for this?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Woof no more

One of Jonny-dog's less appealing traits is getting over-excited in the car. The noise he makes is not so much barking as screaming the moment his nose tells him the destination is in smell. Some destinations are more easily recognised than others and the humans in the car have to endure prolonged assault upon the eardrums. He then goes into extreme barking mode the second he's let out the car (of course he knows to go angelically quiet until you let him out) and keeps this up for approximately a minute, until he's a) watered the nearest tree and b) found a stick to carry. Once that's complete, he'll usually dive into the bushes for a crap and then walk placidly just ahead for the rest of the walk.

While I know this is classic dominant behaviour, I find it strange that he really only exhibits it at this time. Otherwise, he's an exemplary dog, but the moment he knows a walk or an outing in the car is in the offing he changes into the Hound of Hell. Rob and I have tried all sorts of ways to control it, but nothing seems to work. He's bitten me on a couple of occasions through being sky-high on adrenaline just before I let him into the car (both times when I was taking something from him) and Jess comes in for a lot of aggression too. At all other times he's the gentlest of dogs and much better mannered than spoiled little Jess!

So I finally capitulated and bought an anti-bark collar. If you follow the link you see that it was quite an expense, so that's how desperate I was (not quite desperate enough to call in the Dog-Whisperer though).

And it works!

No more woofing! We drove all the way to Ardentinny with quiet and it was almost eerie. The first time we tried it - yesterday evening - he nearly jumped out of his skin but got the message so quickly that I removed the collar as soon as the 'barking time' was over. The same today, only he didn't even attempt to bark. Quite amazing and definitely worth the sixty quid. Now if only they made an anti- jumping-up collar for Jess . . .

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Nature vs Nurture

Mrs Blethers and I were having a discussion about upbringing as we tramped round the Bishop's Glen, trying to keep ahead of the rain, and yet again it brought home to me how different her home-life was from mine. She had two extremely academic parents and an ethic of study in the house where homework was given precedence over chores (she didn't have chores to do!) and her parents were able and willing to help with the likes of Latin and chemistry.

My parents, on the other hand, were not academic - although my father could well have been had he not been forced through poverty to leave school at fourteen and enter the civil service on the bottom rung. Because, by the time I reached secondary school I had a baby brother as well as a younger brother, there was no quiet, academic atmosphere in our house and I had my share of chores - laying the table and helping with dishes, and later, when said baby was of an age to attend nursery school and my mother returned to work, I was also responsible for peeling potatoes and generally helping with the cooking. Homework was done after teatime, either in my bedroom or in the dining room, away from the family. There was no supervision and I was left to my own devices. I don't remember asking for, or receiving help very often and on the odd occasion I asked my father, who was a whizz with numbers, for help with maths, he would give me the answer but no indication of the means - and that wouldn't fool my maths teacher for a moment. My marks were fairly dismal and I only made an effort in things that interested me. My A-level results were barely sufficient to get me into teaching college, despite having been a promising pupil at primary school and being a keen reader and prolific writer of 'books'. I sometimes wonder why I wasn't more motivated at school, but to be honest, I think I was simply more interested in when I could get out to play.

But here's the thing: I don't regret being an academic failure. I learned enough to get me through college and allow me to follow a career, I've continued with my education informally and used the skills I gained from my parents and grandparents to lead a useful life, I think. I wouldn't have thought for a minute back then that in my sixtieth year I'd be studying theology and enjoying it, or learning to sing properly. And despite being so hopeless at maths all those years ago, I'm a whizz at sudoku. My parents rarely pushed me to do anything I didn't want to do - except tidy my room - but they did encourage me to take an interest in other people and their welfare, to talk about anything and everything, to make myself useful and be content with what I have. I'm not sure if those are fashionable qualities any more but they've helped me keep my head above water.

Most of my friends are far greater academic achievers than I ever was but I feel as if I hold my own with them. Only my younger brother attained anything like academic success in our family and he assures us that it wasn't his fault. My youngest brother was even more hopeless than I was academically but it hasn't stopped him being pretty darn successful.

I wonder how Mrs B and I would have fared if we'd been born into each other's families.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


I received this cartoon in one of those round robin pass-it-on emails. There were several more which all seemed a bit smug, but this one annoyed me particularly. Is it just me and my bee in the bonnet, or would anyone else rather the couple at the door of the church were same-sex?

Monday, January 07, 2008


Back to the swimming today after a couple of weeks off and - miracle - my cozzie still fits despite too many mince pies. Now that the schools are in, the mornings are relatively quiet and it's safe to swim up and down without fear of being jumped on or having to dodge too many flailing thighs and thrashing arms.

We regulars swim decorously, keeping to our lanes. We take care not to engulf one another in bow-waves and pretend not to compete, although we always notice if some expert comes in and swishes two lengths in the time it takes us to turn round. The kids in the swimming club, for instance. There is something demoralising about being lapped in the first minute by a ten-year-old or realising that the whey-faced, stick-thin teenagers who hog the showers are the same ones who streak past you up the pool, just when you thought your breast-stroke was really getting rather better or your back-stroke more graceful. I try to time my arrival just when the swimming club are finishing. That way I only have to compete with the other retirees.

Then up to un-decorate the church. It looks so plain without all the ebullient greenery everywhere, the crib shedding hay and the smug angels with the rolling eyes, holding up their pretty little candles. The Wise Men made it from the pulpit to the crib by way of the font in time for this Sunday, but now they and their camels are tucked away in their big wooden kist, wrapped in bubble-wrap, rubbing shoulders with St Peter, the Risen Christ and the Swooping Ladies who we'll be dusting down before they know it this year, Easter being so early.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


My brother tells me I don't update often enough, so my New Year Resolution is to be more communicative.

Another resolution is to be a more efficient Vestry secretary and therefore be more useful to my rector.

My first piece of efficiency will be to post the minutes of the AGM on the church notice board a week before the EGM, which we're having to hold because Kimberly succumbed to one of the many bugs floating round Dunoon (one of the perils of going into the schools is the number of ways you can catch the latest scourge).

My second piece of efficiency will be to consult my diary more often (ie sometimes).

I think two resolutions are ample. I'd much rather make resolutions such as to read more books, do more sudoku, play with the dogs more often and to write more fanfiction, but I doubt if any of those will make me into a better person and I'll be doing them anyway so they're a cop-out. However, I've probably got a better chance of keeping them beyond January . . .

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Text from Paul who's in Norway for New Year:

"Happy new year. Just sledged down a ski slope naked but for a pair of gloves. Having a load of fun . . ."

Oh to be young and crazy again.