Thursday, March 31, 2005

Who needs expensive cat toys...




...when you've got the box the lawnmower came in and the handy strap on the camera?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

15:Too much talk, not enough rats



Robert Sullivan's Rats: A Year With New York's Most Unwanted Inhabitants promises much in the way of creepy rat-related thrills, as well as promising a history of some of New York's great rat high points, but I felt it failed to deliver on all these promises. Or else maybe my tolerance for rats has grown over the years. I was hoping for more talk about plague and about how rats live and about great rat outbreaks in the city, and I felt I got a little too much of him standing around in an alley with too much time on his hands and not enough rats. I also felt that some of the language likening people to rats was a little much (the scurrying, crowding, spending time in tunnels, living in cramped quarters, eating garbage, etc.) but maybe that's because some previous reader had helpfully highlighted some of these instances for me.

A little disappointing, but still containing some good rat tales (see what I did there?) and it's not a tough read at all.

Monday, March 28, 2005

16:Hercules Hunks and his friend Charlie



couldn't find a picture of this book anywhere. And yes, I know I could scan a picture of the copy I have, but I can't be arsed, see?
CV Wedgwood, as we all know, tramped across all of England and undertook Herculean research into the causes, course, and consequences of the English Civil War. Because everyone else was reading them, I too tried to read her Civil War books, but was not that interested in real history books at the time. However, having read a brief account of Charles I's trial in Virgin Earth (see below), I was interested enough to pick this book up (The Trial of Charles I) from the shop.

It's very interesting. The hilariously named Hercules Hunks was, in fact, a Republican guard tasked with watching Charles during one of his many imprisonments. Charles gave his gold toothpick case away to one of his servants just before he died. It took five days for the news of his death to reach Charles II in Holland, and even then he could only believe what he read in the actual newspapers, because there was so much rumour flying around up until then. This book is chock full of interesting little facts like these, as well as giving an excellent and clear account of how the trial went, and why it went the way it did. I am hooked on Wedgwood's writing style now, and am only sorry (because I am not that interested in reading about Mighty Wars) that she never got around to finishing her book about the English Republic.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Valentine's Day is over



This is Valentine. He's very *shy* and doesn't like having his photo taken, so we weren't able to get any good photos of him. He's a Yorkie who has some trouble with his back legs, but he's a little sweetheart of a dog really.

Poor Valentine was the most scared of all our fosters so far when he came to our house. I think it's because he was with another foster family and not being rescued by us from scary kennels. It took him hours to peel himself away from the front door, and days before he would actually be pleased to see me or Keith when we came into the room. But now he's going back to his other foster home where he can continue the physio on his back leg, and we can continue our search for Milo's best friend ever.

What we have learned from Valentine: Yorkies aren't just little balls of yap. They can be cuddly and they like to run on the beach too.

What Milo has learned from Valentine: small dogs don't like it when bigger dogs step on their heads and pee on them by accident. Also, the side passage of the house leads to the front of the house, so you can bark at your humans when they're around the front of the house as well as around the back (I could have done without Milo learning this, but oh well).

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

14:Really stretching myself



Wow, a Douglas Coupland followed by an Anne Tyler. I really am pushing my reading to the limits. And The Amateur Marriage feels like a real trudge of an Anne Tyler book, too. It's about families and how they weigh each other down and generate baggage and mess each other up, and all the things that many of her books are about, but somehow this one just seems, well, weighed down and full of baggade and messed up in a way that her earlier books are not.

I suppose it's partly the fact that she strips a lot of the romance out of this book. In a way, it's more real. These people aren't really quirky. They're not lovable and odd with cute careers that no-one has in real life. They don't have funny little mannerisms, but annoying little habits. It's as though, by making her book incredibly real, she has made it incredibly boring. I don't care about these people, and I'm pretty nosey.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

13:More bloody god-bothering



After the joy of Hey, Nostradamus, with its bleak outlook on life and total lack of any happy ending, Eleanor Rigby is a return to (for me, at least) Douglas Coupland's annoying, quirky, childish, simplistic view of the world. Oh, if only things could turn up out of the blue to change our lives! Oh, if only we could all believe in God and have love in our hearts! Oh, if only...

He's such a good recorder of people's mannerisms and sayings, such a quick-sketch artist when it comes to pinpointing a mood or a trend, but his plots are ridiculous and his lazy, schmaltzy endings are just too much. The silly scraps of mottoes and supposed visions in this book are like some teenager's dream diary, and I really don't want to read another one of these. Another book about Vancouver, sure. But not this.

12:Time to consult the salmon



Mr. Phillips is not at work today. I don't want to tell you why he's not at work, but you'll find out soon enough.

Instead, he's walking around London meeting different people, calculating the odds against various things happening (Mr. Phillips is an accountant) and thinking about sex. A lot. There is a lot of talk about sex in this book, and talk about closeness without there really being any closeness.

Some reviewers think of this as a slight book, mistaking Mr. Phillips' lack of a rich internal life as a shortcoming of the book, but I can't believe that. I don't know London well, but I was there with him every step of the way. I am not a fiftyish accountant, but I felt like I was looking out of his eyes. A writer this good has not omitted an internal life because he doesn't know what to say, he's left it out because there isn't one. Instead there are calculations and memories of bland conversations, fear of letting other people down, worry about one's family, a whole host of tiny things that go to build up a picture of a complete, if not very exciting, man.

I really enjoyed this book. It's very, very funny. It's a quick read but there's a lot to digest afterwards. Impressive.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Sunshine on Laytown



Freezing cold this morning, yet somehow Lady is managing to struggle through what could be her very last day with us.

I think I am a bit of a rubbish fosterer. I get too attached.

Also the house smells of wet dog now, because Milo's just had his bath. Having been used to the titanic struggle that ensued whenever Layla had to have a bath, I had completely cleared my schedule for the afternoon to allow time to recover, but Milo just stood there and took it like a little trouper.

We won't know the extent of the trauma till the next time, however.

Original comments:
We're thinking of getting dogs when I'm finished on tour. We think we'll get a great big dog like a Bernese Mountain dog and a teeny little one like a Jack Russell. That will be funny!
Posted by Ed on Mar. 07 2005, at 11:14 PM Delete
And will the big one be called Tiny?
Posted by watchdog on Mar. 08 2005, at 3:28 PM Delete
no reckon he's going to be called bert or sid and the little teensy one will be called tarquin or crispin, and have a little bruiser with a posh name running around and a really posh dog with an ordinary name. oh the irony
Posted by on Mar. 08 2005, at 5:44 PM Delete
oops i didn't say who i was
Posted by bunty on Mar. 08 2005, at 5:45 PM Delete
Maybe we should add the ability to change the name after the comment is posted. Hmm.
Posted by watchdog on Mar. 08 2005, at 6:02 PM Delete
Seems a shame we haven't had time to put up any photos of Valentine (crap name, cute dog) yet. Lady is so last week.
Posted by watchdog on Mar. 08 2005, at 6:08 PM Delete,

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

They never tell you this in Country Life



Caelen said "so this is what life is like in the country", and of course, it is one big round of dog-walking and fun. The great thing about being out here is that when the weather is cold and crap you could be anywhere, but when you've got a sunny morning, like this morning, you can really take the dogs out and let them run their little legs off. They've stopped bickering now, anyway, and are asleep in the kitchen.

The thing they don't tell you is that you're far more likely to get some sort of cold-related skin condition. I've had this terrible dermatitis for the last few weeks. The backs of my hands are red and itchy and sore and the skin is starting to crack on them. This condition has now spread to my legs, specifically the backs of my knees. I've never had anything like this before. The chemist said that he is seeing a lot of this at the moment and it's because it's bloody freezing outside and everyone's got the central heating on, so you're going from cold to hot to cold again. So far, so normal.

The thing is that out here in sunny Laytown we've got two extra factors that exacerbate the condition. One: the wind from the sea has salt in it, which saltblasts your skin. Two: the water is really, really hard here.

The only good thing is that the treatment for this skin condition is Silcock's Base, an aqueous cream that costs €4 for an enormous great tub of it. I'm not sure I'd go putting it on my face, because it is grease city, but it seems to do the trick.

Original comments:
Yes, Big Sam Glendenning suffers from this every year and swears by this stuff. Also that Norwegian hand cream that's in the ad with the norwegian woman who is wearing a wooly jumper and wellies and NO TIGHTS in a rowing boat.
Posted by Lorraine on Mar. 01 2005, at 4:39 PM Delete
I've become very familiar with Sicock's base of late. It's Denali's fav after bath threatment
Posted by Caelen on Mar. 01 2005, at 6:21 PM Delete
It's bloody great stuff. I shall never be without it again, even if I do have dreams about swimming the English Channel when I have it on in bed.
Posted by trish on Mar. 02 2005, at 12:47 PM Delete
Silcock's Base is great. I too have to slather myself in unguents (ooh er missus) in weather like this, or else I get horrible dry cracked skin as well.

If you feel like treating yourself to something more expensive but nice-smelling, Lush do a fancified version called Dream Cream that has various skin-nicening essential oils in it as well. It is lurvely, and doesn't frighten my sensitive skin.
Posted by Lisa on Mar. 08 2005, at 12:03 PM Delete

Stay Lady, Stay



This is Lady. She's staying with us for a while to be a friend for Milo. She could end up staying with us for a very long while, but hopefully her owners can be traced. Someone bothered to have her spayed, quite recently too, and she's a cutie of a dog. She has massive ears and big brown eyes and she likes to run like a loon. She gets that great greyhound face on her when she runs really fast, as if there are several Gs pressing her face into a grin.

For all that I'd love her to stay here, it certainly was easier to manage just one dog, and she could well have an owner out there somewhere pining for her.

Original comments:
She's a very pretty, dog though it's a shame that her tail is docked. She seems very *fond* of milo.
Posted by watchdog on Feb. 28 2005, at 3:01 PM Delete
It's very funny to see the dynamic between them. Lady keeps finding old bits of bone in the back garden from when Ned was here. She brings them inside and chews them and Milo takes them away from her when she's not looking, because they're his toys, even if he never showed any interest in them before she came along.
Although he was very excited this morning to have another dog to run around with, he's now in the mood for his afternoon nap, and she's a bit too perky for him.
Posted by on Feb. 28 2005, at 3:34 PM Delete
So this is what life is like in the country
Posted by caelen on Mar. 01 2005, at 1:38 PM Delete