Dog

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Dog

Dog buries under the bedclothes, snuggles up close, frightened by nurses and cold medical smells. Dog knows the meaning of needles, long thin silver teeth that sink into the flesh and make Dog feel woozy. Dog rolls its eyes and growls as doctors wearing long white coats walk around the ward talking to those patients who are still capable of responding. Long stethoscopes twist around the doctor’s necks like tentacles. Dog knows them well and doesn’t trust them. Dog shows its teeth, growls deep and low, draws itself in, even closer, shivers beside its mistress, in spite of the in-bed warmth. Mistress shivers too. She doesn’t understand how Dog got there, but she loves Dog’s warmth and companionship, and trembles at the thought of its absence. Nurse holds that threatening needle, the magic wand, as nurse and doctor call it, but Dog doesn’t believe in them nor in their magic. Dog’s cold, wet, wrinkled nose is out and its soft brown eyes. It sees and smells and senses and is ready to defend or befriend. The patient puts her hand on Dog’s head, smooths it, soothes it, ‘Good dog’, she says. Dog wags, a small jerky motion of a short, stubby tail. Nurse slides the needle into patient’s arm. “There,” she says. “You can sleep now.” Dog whines, gets out from beneath the blankets, lies beside the patient as she lies in her hospital bed. Dog licks the salt tears from her face. When she stops breathing, Dog howls. But nobody sees it, nobody hears it, nobody pays any attention, nobody comes.

Cows

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Cows

Underneath the bungalow, we find a secret space so small that only the young ones can crawl there. We go after coins that drop through the floorboards of the verandah and we hide there, in that cool, dark grave space, when we wish to be neither seen nor heard. At the far end of the bungalow, in a larger space beneath the floor, Nana has her refrigerator. This space, similar to ours, is where she keeps the thick cream off the bottled milk when she wishes to turn it into Devon Clotted. Here, too she places the jellies when she wants them to set. We have neither running water nor electricity, just the cool beneath the floorboards. We do have two water tanks, one a square, red-rusted, cast-iron tank that collects the rain-water off the roof, the other an old iron-bound wooden barrel that connects to a downspout outside the backdoor.

They have built me a swing in the backyard and on sunny days I throw my head back, thrust my legs forward, and squint at the summer sky through half-closed eyes, as the old folk push me. “Higher,” I cry out. “Higher.” We don’t have a push lawn-mower, though we occasionally borrow one from the neighbors. We do have a scythe, a sharpener, and a pair of bill-hooks. I have never forgotten that head down, half-shuffle of the scythe man using his scythe: one step sideways, swing, feet together, one step, swing. I loved the sweet smell of the fresh-cut grass as I played the grim reaper in the backyard, always with a grin.

I lived in the bungalow for the whole of one summer. I guess my mother had been placed in some hospital or other for the duration of the fine weather. Nobody talked about her and I never knew what was wrong with her or when she was coming back. It was all a mystery, wrapped in stealth and secrecy. Her absence was a pain in my side, a thorn in my heart, and I still don’t know what happened to her.

I slept in the back bedroom with my Nana in her big double bed. I slept on the far side, next to the outside wall. At night I would often hear the cows as they munched away at the grass and wandered through our un-fenced yard. I say ‘I slept with my Nana’ but in actual fact I fell asleep long before she came to bed, often when the sun was still high in the sky. She always got up early in the morning to prepare breakfast for the men and lunch for my uncle, who worked in town and usually took the early morning bus.  My Nana was up and dressed by the time I woke up, so I rarely saw her in bed.

Some nights I woke up during the night, needing to pee. I never liked using the Royal Doulton chamber pot that squatted coldly beneath the bed, especially if she was in the room. We had no indoor plumbing, nor running water, as I have said, and apart from the rainwater the only tap was at the far end of the bungalow field, a long way away, and all but rainwater had to be fetched by hand in large tin cans that we ferried, empty, to the end of the field and brought back, full, at the end of our excursions to farm, local shop, or beach.

Those cows that wandered through our yard at night really frightened me. We would meet them in the lane some times, a noisy, dusty, flowing, multi-colored tide that flooded the pathway and forced us walkers into the next field, if there was a gate close by, or high into the hedge, if there wasn’t a gate. The one black and white cow in the herd really filled me with fear. She had a crooked horn, had gored a dog, and had kicked out at several of the local residents, injuring at least one of them quite badly, a broken leg, I think. That cow had an evil reputation, especially when, isolated from the herd, she meandered around on her own.

When I wanted to pee, I preferred to walk outside, to the outhouse, rather than use the chamber pot. I would grope my way out of the bedroom, turn right, drop down the steps into the kitchen, and slide back the bolts on the door. Then I would half-open that door and peep out, listening carefully for any sound of the cows tearing out the grass with their teeth, or rumbling gently as they chewed the cud, churning it over and over. I would sniff the night air, and if I sensed a cow in the vicinity, I would pee through the narrow crack of the open door and swear in the morning, when someone found the little puddle, that it wasn’t me, that it must have been the cows.

One quiet night, I walked bravely out into the dark and stepped right into a cold cow pat that lay just outside the back door like a landmine, waiting for my unwary feet. I still remember the cow-manure’s soft squish as it sifted upward through my toes and rose to assault my nose. After I had gone pee, I wiped my foot again and again in the long grass beside the outhouse, then placed it beneath the water-spout from the rain barrel, trying to flush it clean before I crept back into bed.

That was the night I left the back door open. Next morning, my Nana woke us all up with a series of long, loud screams and squeals. The black and white cow had wandered through the open door and ended up in the kitchen where my grandmother had come face to face with it in the early morning light.

A cow in the kitchen, that really spooked me and I still have dreams, nightmares, really, of a herd of cows invading the bungalow, breaking down the doors, and climbing in through the windows, and me all alone, trapped in my bed, shivering ferociously, squeezing myself, trying desperately not to go pee.

Squirrel

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Squirrel

He’s here for the food on the picnic table, of course. He’s been here before, even in bad weather, and he knows where the treasure is: buried beneath the snow. I can’t believe he’s out in this. He should be in some little squirrel cave, tucked in, nice and warm. One of my best friends told me he was going to drive to Halifax today. What drives people out on a day like today when the snow is deep and still accumulating, when visibility is such that I can hardly see beyond the trees at the edge of the garden, when more snow, higher winds, drifting snow, and blizzard conditions are all around us. There is also the possibility of ice pellets and freezing rain when the snow finishes. “Stay home, little squirrel, stay home,” I told him. “It’s not a good day for travelling. I can hardly see the road through the falling snow.”

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Squirrels are tough, though. They must have Welsh blood in them the way they tunnel and dig. Unsnubbable on the trail of some winter seed and totally defiant against wind and weather. “Did you see him?” my beloved called out. “See who?” I asked, clicking away busily with my Christmas camera. “The squirrel,” she said. “You should take a picture.” So I did. And another and another. I caught him first head down, back towards me, guzzling, deep within his snow cave.

 

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He reminded me of Lorca’s roosters: “Los picos de los gallos cavan en busca de la aurora / the roosters’ beaks dig in search of the dawn.” I wanted him to come out and look at me, to show me what he had found. I didn’t have to wait for long. Then it was in (click) and out (click). What a cheeky chappy.

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I wonder why I always call this squirrel ‘him’. Maybe I never learned enough about the birds and the bees when I was a child. I find it hard to tell the difference between the genders of animals unless they have antlers (male) or, like the birds, they have distinctive plumage. Then it is much easier for me to tell them apart. I had a tortoise once, back home in Wales. I called him Henry, don’t ask me why. It took me two years to find out that Henry was actually Henrietta.  I guess I was slow on the uptake. Dai Bungalow: not much in the top storey. Or should that be story? There, I’ve looked it up:  storey in the Oxford Dictionary’s English English, but story in Webster’s American English. Oh dear, there are some things I still have to look up.

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So there he is, Mr. Squirrel, perched on the balustrade, about to make his final farewell. Fare well, Mr. Squirrel. Come back soon. I am so glad you didn’t decide to drive to Halifax.

 

 

Dickhead of the Year

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Dickheads of the World: Unite

So the nominations for official Dickhead of the Year are now open. You are all invited to nominate your favorite Dickhead and, if you choose, to write a brief encomium on the D-H of your choice. Brief: about 50 words should suffice.

I was going to leave this post until April the First, April Fool’ Day, aka Jour des Poissons d’avril in bilingual New Brunswick. I may reserve my own nomination for my cat, Princess Squiffy, who again vomited on my favorite chair. Luckily, I was not in it at the time.

It will be interesting to see whom you nominate and why. I have a couple of other nominations, but I’ll save them for a day or two. Perhaps the dog who urinated on my snow man and caused its base to melt, hence toppling it over. Then there’s the raccoon which ate all the birdseed in the feeder so the deer couldn’t have any. Or maybe the deer who ate all the birdseed in the feeder and didn’t leave any for the birds. Then there’s the midnight deer-dancing group who left their dance steps in the snow all over my lawn. And there’s the snowman who didn’t believe in global warming … nor spring warming … alas, he’s nowhere to be seen nowadays.

Other candidates include the pigeons who decorated the head of the famous man in the square (with guano). And the man who remembered everything, except his own name, address, and telephone number. The lady who lost her car in a snowdrift gets an honorable mention, as does the American tourist who was so addicted to the accuracy of his GPS that he drove right down the slipway into the sea at Tenby, South Wales, and still didn’t think the GPS had any problems when he did exactly the same thing down the lifeboat ramp on the Mumbles Pier (Swansea, South Wales).

A word too in retrospect for all those drivers, especially in the UK, who suffer from Real Red Road Rage, the strongest kind. And a double word (you clown!) for the driver who, while suffering from Real Red Road Rage, stopped his car, got out, and tried to start a boxing match with the then world welter-weight champion who just happened o be driving the car that gave the man the RRRR.

“It wasn’t a very long fight, Howard.”

Reyes 2019

 

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Reyes

On the night of January 5 – 6, The Three Wise Men, Los Reyes Magos in Spanish, visit all the children in the world as they travel to Bethlehem. They bear gifts to these children and January 6 is a time of visitors and gifts.

First: the visitors. Three deer walked out of the woods this morning (6 Jan 2017). They paraded in front of the garage, luckily we had the door open, and equally luckily, I was able to get these photos of them.

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This is the lead deer. At this stage, the road was empty and I hadn’t been seen.

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The camera’s click sounded the alarm. The deer froze … and so did I. We gazed at each other for several seconds. I was afraid to move.

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I took another photo. The feet picked up as the camera clicked and away the deer went.

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Baby came last, but didn’t stay long.

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Up went the tail and away baby sped. Wapiti, White-tailed deer, tail in the air.

After the visitors, came the gifts.

Below is a link to my first Poetry book of 2008: Iberian Interludes. It arrived just in time for Reyes … the little boy that still dwells within this old man’s heart is delighted with his gift: the majority of my best poems about Spain gathered together beneath two new covers. Click below and open the box!

https://www.amazon.com/Iberian-Interludes-Bulls-Blood-Bottled/dp/1539911411/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

May you all have a great visit from the Three Wise Men (los Tres Reyes Magos), and may you all have a prosperous and joyous New Year, full of excellent writing and wonderful new accomplishments.

Chairman Tigger

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Chairman Tigger and the Cult of Personality

My 110 lb dog, Tigger, decided he wished to become a cult figure. So he placed this photo of himself in a prominent position by the Nativity this year and was happy to see a gathering of puppies and other dogs coming to welcome him and admire his good looks.

I’m not yet sure if Tigger has determined to run in the 2020 elections. With 20/20 foresight, I would be able to predict the results if he did and with 20/20 hind(leg) sight, I’ll be able, in 2021, to analyse whatever has happened by that stage. Was it Caligula who turned his horse into a god to be worshiped? Tigger was reading about him the other day in Suetonius’s Twelve Caesars. He told me “Surely if a horse can be a god, albeit a Roman god, I, who am as big as a small pony, can be a member of something, an MLA, perhaps, or an MP, maybe even a Representative, or even a Senator.”

“Tigger,” I replied. “You are certainly big enough to be a Senator. If only you could skate, and shoot the puck, and find a uniform to fit, I am sure the Ottawa Senators would be proud to have you as a mascot.” “If I am to be a hockey dog, I want to be a Maple Leaf, lik eddy the Entertainer,” he growled. That should tell you something about his state of mind.

Anyway, he is determined to get out there and run, which he does most days anyway. But he doesn’t have enough money for a deposit, let alone a genuine campaign, and he wants to stand as an independent. He doesn’t want to be tied down with a party line, if you see what I mean. He wants to be off the leash, so to speak. So, I suggested Crowd Funding and he quite liked the idea of that. So, backde by plastic Lego worshipers and followers, Crowd Funded with Monopoly Money, and a determination to create a first of some kind or another, Tigger the Democratic Dog, will soon be heading for either the Senate Kennels or the Parliamentary Kennels. He just hasn’t decided which as yet. I guess with 2020 foresight, I should be able to tell.

By the way, if he actually makes it to the Doggy Dreamland of Representative Status, he’s going to sponsor a bill for a Two-Way Rainbow Bridge. Apparently, he wants to come back again. And we want him back too.

Nativity

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Nativity

We keep this beautiful, hand-carved nativity scene on the sideboard all year round. It is tiny, approximately 2″ x 2″ and came from Central Europe, possibly Hungary, where a friend was travelling in the mid-seventies. He brought it back for us as a gift and we revisit it every Christmas, moving it into a more central place of honor and beauty by the Advent calendars and the Christmas scenes.

It will soon be time to remove most of these Christmas adornments. Some will stay up longer though and this is one of the pieces that will remain in sight to delight us all year round.

 

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This is another piece that will stay with us. It shows our photo of Tigger being visited by Kiki the Cat and several little puppies. Tigger gazes at them from his Royal Portrait, making them all feel welcome and protected as he endows them with the seasonal spirits that will extend well into the New Year.