Wednesday, December 20, 2006

they’re singing my tune, but I’m not dancing yet
Watch out! A bandwagon is speeding out of control and it’s heading this way. If I was a political blogger I would write witty a précis of each of the numerous newspaper articles and politician statements focusing on calls to legalise or otherwise make prostitution safer; improve services for drug addicts; and take action on domestic violence to help reduce the negative impact on women and children by minimising disruption and making it easier to prosecute. The trouble is I’m not a political pundit, armchair or otherwise, and I fear that, although the bandwagon is clearly gathering speed and passengers, ultimately it won’t get us anywhere.
TA, Skye and I are off to the Isle on the 5.30am train to Portsmouth on Thursday (the tickets were ridiculously cheap) for two weeks of eating, drinking and making merry with the Badger family. Tomorrow will be spent cleaning, doing laundry and packing.
Merry Christmas, my friends, and let’s hope 2007 is a fine, fine vintage.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

white wash
We bathed the pupster on Sunday. He is now possibly the only dog to smell of Aveda Shampure shampoo and conditioner. He rewarded us by jumping out of the kitchen sink, avoiding my attempts to catch him, hitting the floor and running straight into our bedroom. He then spent ten minutes soaking TA’s side of the bed and avoiding all attempts to dry him with the towel. Luckily there are photos. TA has taken to calling him the white demon, while I am beginning to consider getting him a sister to play with (the soap suds must have affected me).

All's well that ends well, however:

Thursday, December 14, 2006

letter in a bottle
I have been watching with increasing alarm recent events in Suffolk and have been moved to write. As one of your constituents, I am writing to you to ask that you work on my behalf to legalise soliciting, and campaign to remove the stigma and associated dangers attached to sex work. Although this week’s events have been a catalyst, I would deny that this is a knee-jerk reaction. I believe passionately that the criminalising of sex workers is in itself a crime. There are many wider issues that our society needs to address – such as our treatment (or lack of) of drug addicts, equal rights, equal access to education, and better training for social workers, police and outreach workers – but I would like to take this opportunity to ask you to please campaign for adequate licensing of, and protection for, sex workers.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The confit is in progress, the terrine is made, next step is to make the stuffing I guess. Crikey – Christmas really is just around the corner.
Last night I was waiting for TA to come to bed. Skye jumped on to the bed as I was sitting up against my pillows. He looked at me (I ignored him), he looked at TA (who smiled), he looked back and forth again and then he widdled all over TA’s half of the duvet.
Me: You’re really, really going to have to work on this “top dog” thing.

new Jerusalem
Home isn’t enough to keep my thoughts away from Suffolk. Those poor, poor women. It makes me enraged. How many times will we allow the most vulnerable women to be murdered before the law gets changed and we change our society to protect them? My skin crawls at the thought of it and the idea that the police’s slow response – drug-addled prozzies go missing, who cares? – might have contributed to the body count makes me want to vomit. It’s enough to make me want to get vigilante on their asses. It’s time to get strong and go on the offensive: violence, all violence, against women (all women) is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated. I will not be complicit: she did not (and never could) “ask for it” – not through her dress, lifestyle, social class, substance abuse or any other “mitigating” factor. Domestic violence, date rape, sexism in the workplace, verbal abuse, media witch hunts, advertising that objectifies or glorifies the oppression of women – I’m not going to be a silent witness, I will not acquiesce to another woman’s subjugation. My feminism has been slumbering because I’m lucky: I’m middle class, I’m married to a truly gentle man, I work in a woman-centric company, I’m surrounded by civilised people, I’m sheltered from the raw edges of our society…but it’s time to wake up. It’s time to stand up because if I don’t who will? Legalise prostitution and protect sex workers. Eradicate inequalities of education. Increase outreach for drug addicts. Change the law to ensure that more rapists are successfully prosecuted. Establish a register for the perpetrators of domestic violence. Increase training for social workers. Extend compulsory parenting classes to all new parents. Impose tighter regulations on the media and advertising. Fund more Sure Start places. We need to work together to help each other. I can’t change the world, but I’m going to plant my flag: this is how I’m going to make my Christmas more meaningful; I am going to devote four hours a week to helping make our society a fairer, safer place for women and children. I will volunteer, I will campaign, I will fundraise. Can stand up; will stand up.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

on the campaign tail
How to campaign for top-dog status Skye stylee:
Tear up the media by eating the newspaper on the kitchen floor
Stop sleaze by widdling on the carpet anytime anyone so much as kisses their spouse
Wear out the opposition by placing tactical poos that keep them running from room to room with the dettol
Nip other candidates in the bud by nipping their buds

Yes, the war continues…as TA keeps saying: you are varminty, but I do love you. You and your blue tartan collar.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

regime change
The book is called The Dog Listener (and is based on horse whispering) and TA and I are endeavouring to aggressively listen and whisper very loudly indeed. TA read the book from cover to cover yesterday and started implementing its advice; apparently he was making progress until I arrived home.
TA briefed me on my new role – ignore him for five minutes when you come in, yelp loudly if he bites you, only we are allowed to play with his favourite toy, if he lies on your feet push him off. I’m pretty good at ignoring Skye anyway, but still my presence obviously destabilised the fragile order TA had managed to impose. Skye spent the entire evening trying to re-establish his position as top dog, or at least more top than TA. Events culminated after we went to bed – when gnawing chunks out of TA’s lovingly hand-built bed frame didn’t illicit a response, Skye decided to infiltrate the bed itself. He launched three leaps into my half of the bed and was repelled twice by TA and once by me; then he attempted to burrow under the duna on TA’s side.
Me: [sniggering] Don’t laugh! We’re trying to ignore him.
TA: [guffawing] I know, but really!
This morning there were no unpleasant surprises for me to step in, but the pupster continued to try his luck and regain status. Ignoring him meant delaying breakfast by half an hour – time enough for him to sneak off while our backs were turned and widdle under the sofa, the bastard. I hope he gets the message soon: I’m top bitch and TA is my number-one homedog.
Did I mention that work is suddenly very, very quiet? I’m extremely bored as well as being “dog tired” – a deadly combination. I can barely keep my eyes open and sit here wondering whether I can get away with pulling a sickie. Somehow I doubt it. I’ll be lucky to get away with working from home one day this week.
We’ll have house guests for most of the week – talk about bad timing! – G&M are acquaintances from Oregon (I used to work with G a bit and we bonded over e-mail, her husband M is English) and we are proper nervous about them staying in our very tiny home for the best part of a week with the wilful rampaging piddler on the loose. Oh dear. I get so anxious about the state of the Sett when we have visitors at the best of times and this is most definitely not the best of times.

Monday, December 04, 2006

green, blue and Skye bites back
Skye has grown in the week he’s been with us and has graduated to a new travel carrier: a Cyberdog DJ bag. He rides about town with the insouciance of a style leader, surveying the world from his palanquin. Only two more weeks and we’ll finally be able to put him down on the ground in public. We are counting the days.
A very busy weekend. Saturday was completely swallowed by party preparations and then a pre-Christmas party with lethal homemade eggnog (adding extra rum to cut through the creaminess a bit was, on balance, a mistake) and a surfeit of pastry products – the pup was the star of the show and I bailed early (very drunk) and went to bed, leaving TA and Skye to entertain everyone.
Sunday I woke up bathed in sweat and knew it was going to be a rough day. Still, no matter what, the pup has to be fed at 6am. I pulled on some pants and sat on the floor while he ate. Note to self: no more topless play with the pupster. Mid cuddle he “playfully” bit my nipple. It was even more painful than getting them pierced! Then, following a hangover-postponing breakfast of eggnog latte and mince pies, we took the pupster on an adventure. Luckily he’s totally relaxed about public transport since the adventure involved a bus, a train and a taxi, not to mention a long return journey in the back of a cramped car.
There are lifestyle changes one prepares for and then there are things that totally take one by surprise. Usually I ration my weekend newspaper habit and shun the competing free papers that litter London’s evenings. Now I greedily grab all the free newspapers I can on the way home and, having bought my usual Guardian on Saturday, chose a Sunday paper at Waterloo purely on the basis of size – hopefully it will take a day or two for Skye to get through the Times and all its various supplements.
We went to Kingston (upon Thames, not Jamaica) to visit my friends S&M and meet their little daughters (18 months and six months) for the first time. My friends have two chocolate labs too (they can, they have a huge house and garden) and the pupster handled himself with aplomb only widdling once and not biting the little uns or getting too freaked out by the good-natured giant dogs. But it wasn’t a restful visit – three dogs and two under twos, what on earth did I expect? By the time TA and I got home it was all I could do to get ready for bed. Which is when the chaos really started. A flood of widdle escaped the little furry monster only to be followed by vast quantities of poo that he felt it would be a good idea to deposit in every room. At one point TA was trying to clean up two carpet messes at once, at which point I took pity on him and cleaned up the legal poo that Skye had put on the newspaper.
TA and I are not doing so well. We’re tired and this morning I got out of bed at 6am in the dark and on my way into the kitchen to feed the pupster his beef mince and rice with carrots I put my foot in what he had made of the previous night’s supper. I was not amused. We have borrowed an obedience training manual from my friends and I have instructed TA that he has to read it today. Skye sits, he stays, he lies down on command, but getting the little fecker to consistently use the newspaper is proving impossible.
I sigh resentfully, all this disruption – why couldn’t we have just had a baby instead? I am so envious of what S&M have: a barrister’s lifestyle and inherited wealth; a beautiful house; wonderful daughters. There are things about my life that I love, but why does it have to be such hard work? Why can’t I just rip up that horrible carpet and put in the reclaimed oak floor I dream of? I’m seriously contemplating rejigging our finances and taking out a loan to get it done.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

crush hour
I’ve written before how a certain song can encapsulate a time and set of emotions so completely that to listen to it is akin to time travel. And now I find myself doing it again as my moogie has thrown up a surprise and suddenly I’ve been whirled back to another time and a younger, fresher, softer self. It’s a song I used to sing to myself under my breath when I was working in a fish and chip shop in Lancaster.
A second-year university student; one life and one set of certainties had evaporated when Jay (fiancé number one) and I split up at the end of the first year. No more returning to the Isle as a farmer’s wife once I graduated. No more plowing a straight and narrow furrow through life, no more protection; now I was alone and free. And with freedom comes fear.
Staring out through the condensation on the glass into a dark, wet and cold northern night and feeling lonely, I’d hum and gently rock, trying to make sense of what was going on. I’d fallen in love with – as a different song would have it – someone I shouldn’t have. And that person (or was it persons?) had introduced me to a new world and new songs. And so it was that, as I was waiting for the pubs to close and the late-night regulars to come in asking for chips and their sausages to be well and truly battered, I would hum this song to myself.
Him: [lecherously] “Hello, chip girl!”
Me: [with added sauce] “Would that be an extra-large sausage, sir?”
Staying up north to work at the chip shop while everyone else left town for Easter, working with the Greek Cypriots who had a drug addict black-sheep adopted daughter and a doted upon natural (their word) son, teaching myself to throw up the midnight pie-and-chip suppers, writing essays and, much more importantly, poems for assessment, breaking down: all of this is wrapped up in those plaintive words — I expected summer to be there in the morning.
That year did more to shape who I am now than the previous 19, and sometimes I wonder if I’m on the same precipice now. Except I’m not writing poetry these days and fiancé number two didn’t leave, but became a husband. Perhaps I’ll never be a farmer’s wife or an author; perhaps my life will be one long crushing compromise; perhaps I’ll always need the happy pills; perhaps I’ll drown in Cote du Rhône; perhaps I just need to change the record.

Friday, December 01, 2006

I feel a bit like I imagine reluctant fathers do. I love and adore Skye, but I also resent him just a little bit. He’s hard work; he’s sweeter than sugar, but that doesn’t stop him from being hard work. The world – our world – totally revolves around him. If the Sett was a television programme he’d be the guest star that totally upstages everyone the moment he appears. Has he widdled? Is he chewing something? Is it time to feed him? Would he like to play? Is he asleep? Is that poo a bit runny and has he got fleas? Seemingly there is no let up. And I’m worried that we’re not really very good parents.
TA has no such doubts. Each morning he puts on his knapsack (the Skyemobile) and walks a little bit further towards the West End with me. Today he introduced Skye to the smells of Borough Market before letting me go on to work alone. And here I sit, drinking my fifth cup of coffee, totally exhausted from the disturbed sleep and constant running after him. TA – as he promised – does the lion’s share: he takes care of the soiled newspaper, he gets up in the night when the pupster widdles, he arranges the vet visits. However, when TA gets up I wake. Every night this week I’ve had disturbing anxiety dreams about the pup. I’m supremely conscious that this is another mouth to feed and another set of responsibilities to shoulder. Skye is not yet responding to training – in fact, now that he knows he’s safe with us, if anything his behaviour is getting worse. More little accidents, more whining.
It’s fascinating the way he reacts differently to the two of us. TA is definitely a brother in paws. They wrestle and Skye chews on his fingers. I seem to have inadvertently acquired a higher status. I am den mother. I get shown a lot of belly and given a large number of licks. This means that already it is more difficult for TA to set rules and have them obeyed and now, against my wishes, his bed has been moved from the kitchen to next to ours. I feel like I have no control.
I tell TA, only half joking, if Skye doesn’t shape up and if TA can’t control him, I’m going to send that dog to the soap factory. And yet here I sit, sipping coffee, staring longingly at my second monitor and feeling homesick for the smell of pupster and the feeling of his fur. I've become a reluctant puppyfather.