Goodbye, Oscar

On Saturday 10th March, at 6p.m., a wonderful dog had to be put to sleep.

Osky 001He was my Uncle’s dog, a chocolate Labrador who lived in the same house as my Dad, my Uncle and my grandparents.

He was eleven. Still is eleven, wherever he is now. As a puppy, he loved to chew shoelaces, especially the ones on Converse trainers. When faced with dog food in a bowl, he would carefully pick out the dry biscuit-parts and put them on the floor before eating them.

He was a fan of Human biscuits as well, as well as chicken (with or without gravy) most types of vegetables and most types of fruit, although he was prone to funny stomachs.

He absolutely detested oranges. Whenever someone tried to persuade him to eat one, he would growl, long and low.

Whenever someone came to the door, or just past the door, or outside past the window, he would bark until your ears rang.

If you grinned at him, he tried to grin back…exposing his front bottom teeth only. He liked to lean his forepaws on the chair you were sitting on and stick his face into yours, asking for a cuddle. His wagging tail often hit furniture and people’s legs, but he didn’t seem to mind. He liked it when my Dad made nonsense whispering noises in his ear or whistled in one of his ears. He liked it when my Dad held his muzzle and clacked his jaw up and down. He loved walks (what dog doesn’t?) on the riverbank.

He HATED having his feet touched, and had to be anaesthetized to get his nails cut.

He once cut his tongue on a stick at the riverbank, the blood from which prompted a murder investigation.

He had big, hazel eyes. Whenever I walked through the front door, he would greet me by making a huffing noise through his nose. He shed hair like there was no tomorrow. He liked to rub his sides against my legs, like a cat, leaving me covered in the stuff. I will miss that.

He liked having his lower back scratched, near the tail. Sometimes he would lie in his basket and make grumbling “I’m bored” sighs, then doze off. He followed my Uncle wherever he went.

He would lie on his back on top of a toy in the garden and wriggle around to give himself a massage, which gave me the idea to try that myself for my back pain. (Genius!)

An aggressive form of cancer was what happened to him. It started as a lump on his chest, which was removed. The biopsy showed it was malignant, and would return. The last time I saw him, he had lumps everywhere, he had not eaten for a week, he lost weight. All he did was drink and could not decide whether to sit or lie or stand, and he kept making low groaning sounds. He kept standing there with his head lowered.

He was in an obvious amount of pain and discomfort. I hope that wherever he is now, his tail is wagging.


Winter novels

I thought I’d compile a list of my favourite books to read in winter. Living in a relatively sheltered area of England, I don’t get to see much snow, but I see a lot of rain and glaring white-ish grey skies that, while also giving me headaches, makes the old seasonal blues a frequent thing. So, I turn to novels containing winters as they SHOULD be.

1) Northern Lights by Philip Pullman.

Talking polar bears, witches, a journey to the Arctic. An alethiometer-wielding child in a place where every human has an animal familiar. Love it.

2) North Child by Edith Pattou

And another sentient polar bear. I seem to have a thing for polar bears. This is a really strange retelling of an old fairy tale, with weird troll people and amnesia-inducing hot chocolate thrown in, which would be great if it existed in real life because then nobody would have to get drunk.

3) The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper.

I got into the entire series this book is part of after reading my mother’s copy of “Silver on the Tree” when I had glandular fever. The way the evil forces are equated with the twelve nights of Christmas gives one a warm fuzzy feeling.

4) The Weirdstone of Brisingamen.

OK, so it’s not very wintry, but it contains ravens and tunnels and goblins, all part of an atmosphere that you equate with autumn at least. (No, we do not get goblins in winter where I live. But hey, the weirdstone was once owned by Freya of the Norse gods, which I equate with all things snowy.)

5) Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman.

Talking of Norse gods, here they are again in the service of a boy with a lame leg and an unusually persistent smile. One for the kids, but I’ve never let stuff like age limits get in my way.


part 2 coming up soon. All of you stay warm.

Only Time

What is time?

What’s it meant to be for, exactly?

I mean, you can do an awful lot of stuff with it – spend it, save it, kill it, keep it, waste it, half it (well, at least in sports) and you can even make it. But you can’t actually see it. It has no physical appearance whatsoever. It hasn’t got a sound (or has it? What if we could hear time?) and those of you who presume it ticks, you’re stereotyping. You can’t smell it, or hold it or do anything to prove its there, except maybe stuff with light. People try to measure it with clocks and watches and calendars, but these are all man-made objects, so is the notion of time just a man-made abstract idea for something else? We try to describe it with words – today, tomorrow, last year – but that puts limits on it that don’t really exist. Because whatever time is, or isn’t, it is endless. It’s been with us since the beginning of time and I dare say it will keep going until…until what?

What then?

Inevitably we’d call it something mundane like the Day After Time or something that just mitosisizes it.

I would sit here some more and cogitate about this, but I don’t know whether I have the time.

Book-finding Frustration

I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence–and it is mainly down to frustration. I have a long list of poetry excerpts by people such as T.S. Eliot, Walter de la Mare, Christina Rossetti, W.H. Auden, etc, and they were excerpts I copied down from an old library book, aged twelve or so. I neglected to note down the title, the author, or anything else specific about this novel. Thus, when I went to find the book in the library and it was no longer there, I realised I couldn’t remember the title/author for the life of me.

Which brings me to this blog post. Perhaps if I can describe what I can remember, one of you crazy clever folks out there might know the thing I’m on about.

It was a children’s/young adult fantasy fiction. The cover may have been green and silver. Poetry was quoted before the start of each chapter, e.g.:

“I could come here and concrete the dark” – Anon.

“‘Oh where are you going?’ said reader to rider,

‘That valley is fatal where furnaces burn,

Yonder’s the midden whose odours will madden,

That gap is the grave where the tall return.'”

The story borrowed from Greek mythology, I think, in the sense that somewhere inside its pages it claimed that sleep was the brother of death. There were three brothers in the story who were banished from another world – not because they were evil, but because one of them fell in love with a human woman and had a daughter. The brothers might have been lords of sleep, death and dream, but my memory is nebulous. It is told in the third person, mostly from the girl’s point of view, about how she lives with her father (no mother?) and they meet up with her two uncles at a funeral for somebody in a big house in the countryside. She meets her cousin, a boy, for the first time. She is shy, and has a kind of crush on him (ergh) and won’t talk much, hiding behind her long hair. I remember her thinking she could watch him through her hair without him seeing her or something.

They find out their uncles/fathers were the three lords of this other world we go to when we die/dream, and that the two of them are their successors and should be able to visit that world to see their grandmother. Anyway, a doorway opens up to the other world at a certain time, and the other world is constantly changing depending on every random thought you have in your mind, which is why it is dangerous. Their grandmother rules it and she’s like a witch. She was the one who banished the three brothers. The boy and the girl have the idea that the three brothers would like to return, if only they could find it (they couldn’t any more, as they were kicked out). So, one night the two kids find the portal and go through, not fully aware of the danger. I don’t exactly recall why they went through – curiosity? Wanting to see Grandma? To steal a magic sword? Anyway, the three brothers find out when it’s too late, and can’t go after them. I’m not sure, but I think the kids went to the otherworld in their sleep, and the three brothers have to guard their sleeping bodies and hope they will wake up. They must hope their kids get out in time, because after a length of time they will be trapped in the otherworld. I’ve a feeling the childless brother deliberately arranged it so the kids would overhear them talking about the other world and go in, in case it would make the witch let them back in again.)

The rest is even more vague. The kids go through a sort of maze, then a desert, and all kinds of other things, losing track of time and trying to discipline their thoughts so nothing frightening appears. Finally they get into their grandma’s castle or whatever and it’s all topsy-turvy and sinister. Their grandma isn’t so nice. They nearly get hurt or trapped or something, but manage to make it back and “wake up”.

At the end there is a section where the two kids are outdoors, the girl is hiding behind her hair again and the boy tucks it behind her ear and holds her hand. (They don’t snog. That would be a bit yuck, in a children’s book.)

So there we go. Any title/author suggestions in the comments would be very welcome.


winter window 001 I doubt we'll be getting any snow in these parts this year, so I made my own and stuck it to my window. It throws interesting shadows when the moon's out. Regarding my piece of writing that is appearing in Poetic Diversity, it will be in next April's issue.

I doubt we’ll be getting any snow in these parts this year, so I made my own and stuck it to my window. It throws interesting shadows when the moon’s out. Regarding my piece of writing that is appearing in Poetic Diversity, it will be in next April’s issue.



Snowdog like Lola

Well, I live in a country where it doesn’t snow often. Didn’t use to, anyway. But this year it did, and having already made a man, then a woman, I decided to make…a dog. As with everything I make with snow, it looks creepy (according to my mother) but that isn’t exactly the intended effect. My next-door neighbour is convinced that it was an Egyptian statue I was creating and now probably thinks I’m into Alternative Religion. It’s meant to be a White German Shepherd. Can you tell?

Snowdog 2

Moon-faced Witches

The Blackthorn Witches, siamese moths 001

A strange dream that I had: In a smoky yellow sky fly witches on brooms and other likely implements, in front of a dying sun. Their faces are the Moon, and the shadows on them are sad. Twigs are their hair, and their arms are dry branches. Their bodies are only desiccated leaves, thrown about by the wind.

Am I on drugs?…Only Ibuprofen.