The many and various ways I pass the time now has a new addition. Usually it involves drinking coffee whilst sitting at a computer keeping in touch with chums, or sipping wine sitting on our tiny terrace catching the sun, and wondering what else I can do to avoid any cleaning or tidying or putting away of stuff and things that aren't even MINE. And now I am going to type this blog. Provided that doesn't become a chore as well, in which case...

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Picking Up Threads

It's quite a while since I troubled the ether with my inconsequential tippy-tap-typing, which is usually a sign that there is nothing happening worth setting down, or so much happening I don't have time to gather my thoughts and write.  As ever, it's a bit of both.  When the weather is warm and dry I am outside in it, if it is overcast or raining, I am catching up on the chores that were neglected when the sun shone, and if we have visitors I am too busy nattering to them to natter on th'interweb.

We have also been away again, on a sort of royal progress through Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire staying with close family and dear old chums.  Last Thursday we drove the MGB over to Gloucestershire on a very hot and sticky day, and stayed with my nearest-in-age sister.  Her husband was away elsewhere, so it was just the three of us humans, and two dogs, ours and her new granddog, a five-year-old chihuahua. 

He elder daughter has taken this little creature into her life as an urgent re-homing and into the family's hearts, but she was away on holiday so the granddog was with granny.  The little dog has had a troubled and unsettled past so is an anxious creature, and as is often the case with little dogs this anxiety can translate into a huge show of aggression with strangers.  We ignored her yapping and snarling and snapping at our ankles and let her approach, held out the back of our hands to sniff, and - eventually - lick, so that after a time her neurosis abated and she let us fuss her and even pick her up for a cuddle.  Trouble was, every time we left the room she forgot who we were and so the whole rigmarole started up again! 

Thankfully she is fully accepting - but unfortunately a little too protective of - her new female humans, my sister and my niece, but slightly less so of my brother-in-law, who occasionally comes in for the being-kept-at-bay treatment.  But it has only been five weeks, so her confidence that she is somewhere safe and accepting has yet to grow. 

It's lovely to see my sister fussing over a little life as, like with me, there are no grandchildren even on the horizon yet, even though our three daughters are all in their thirties.  She chatters away to the dog very soothingly, so it's easy to see why she is one of the humans the little creature has bonded to and feels protective of, even if the expression of her attachment can be this annoying running up and snapping at ankles.  On the second day I decided to show some irritation with it and barked at her to get in her bed, which she did immediately, somewhat stunned, so that may be the way to go in future!

Our next port of call was the Cotswold market town of Witney, where I lived for two decades whilst in a relationship with and then married to The Daughter's father.  He has moved to France since he retired, renting out the erstwhile family home, so I could relax knowing there could be no annoying bumping into one another on the street.  See some of my earlier postings for why I feel like this!  It's mostly that he goes on and on about himself and shows nothing more than a fleeting perfunctory interest in our doings, The Husband's and mine.  The Young People would say he is a long way up his own arse. 

An excellent expression for extreme self-absorption, don't you think?

We stayed overnight there with old friends of mine I have known for almost thirty years, our daughters were playmates and school contemporaries, we socialised and helped each other out with childcare, all that young parents sort of stuff.  The husband is a recently-retired GP, and the wife is a part-time singing teacher and choir conductor, she and I have done a lot of gigs together over the years, and shared the same singing teachers when younger.  A lot of growing tendrils are intertwined which - although we see each other only annually, at most - means the conversation never wanes when we are together.  There is something so comfortable about conversing with people who need little or no explanation and background-filling.  Picking up the threads and catching up is so easy.

Of course, The Husband has only known them a relatively short time as he isn't from the same area and only knows them through me, but he and the husband of the other couple share a surprisingly large number of interests and get along famously.

The sun shone, we sat at the shaded outdoor table in their pretty walled garden and felt easy and relaxed.  I suppose as one ages one appreciates the friendships that go a bit deeper even more, without actually relying on them.  After all, we all have our families and other friends we see more often to turn to in emergencies, and the like.  The more distant Old Chums aren't for that.  They are for touching base with who we used to be and celebrating who we have become, they are a way of plotting the journey, and sometimes even the struggles, between the two.

So after an enchanting interlude of twenty-four hours with them we moved on to Oxford itself, where The Daughter, Her Husband and Our Grand-dog live.  We had two nights with them, another couple of days of ease and relaxation with nothing intense or jarring about it.  They have been together for seven years now, married two of them, and we have gradually got to know our son-in-law in that time and to see him for the sterling character he is.  Of course, The Daughter wouldn't have chosen him, and married him, had he not been, but it's wonderful to have it confirmed every time we see him.

Their dog, a beautifully bonkers springer spaniel, is also a re-homed animal.  They acquired him two years ago when he was five.  He is affectionate, calm and welcoming to both us, and also to his "uncle" (our Westie), who is a senior statesman next to him, being now eleven to his seven.  There has never been a growl or a snarl between them, they just co-exist alongside one another with perfect equilibrium. 

How different would our lives be if The Daughter had that chihuahua, and not my niece!  EEEK!
  Funny how life pans out for the best...


  1. Gosh, I feel tired just reading all that activity and travelling, Marion. Glad your trip south-east was so enjoyable, though choosing the hottest day of the year for your trip was an unfortunate coincidence.

    The new granddog will probably settle down once she realises that her life really has changed, but in the meantime patience has to be the order of the day. One of these days I will have cats again, not a dog - but not yet.....

    1. It wasn't tiring at all, Perpetua, and really no more taxing than if you yourself had a couple of days with your m-in-law (also Glos) and then two more with DS and family (also Oxford). It was a delightful change of scene with lovely people in mostly beautiful sunny weather, so it was not an exertion or a chore at all.

      And driving in the MG with the top down is very cooling. It was mostly when we stopped or slowed down we felt how warm and humid it was. The Dog loves the MG - he never needs to ask to have the window wound down so he can hang his head out, like he does in the Peugeot.

    2. I must be showing my age, Marion, and imputing to others the way I'd feel. ;-) However much we enjoy their company, by the time DH and I had spent time as you describe, we'd be tired and ready for some peace and quiet. I think that's partly because neither of us sleeps well at first in strange beds, so we're usually very short of sleep by the end of it all.

    3. Yup, I think the eleven-year age gap may be showing here, although I do appreciate what you mean about one's own bed (and easily being able to find the loo in semi-darkness!).

      So you will be doubly amazed that we have just taken delivery of a much bigger tent (one we can stand up in) and an inflatable mattress that is 18" deep and of very robust construction, so rather like taking one's own bed to a campsite. We need a few more accessories and additions to the kit and then we will be good to go, although the plan is not to cook ourselves but to eat out.

      I've had enough bangers and beans done over a camping gas stove to last a lifetime already...

    4. Not surprised at all. If the mattress is good enough you'll sleep like logs after living in the fresh air all day. :-) Don't forget, it's 11 years since we got our tiny campervan to go out and about independently.

    5. The campervan is a mite easier in that it doesn't need putting up or taking down, and has very civilised accoutrements like a table and seating and sleeping space, a kitchenette, a shower and a loo. You have had plenty of use out of it in your decade+ of ownership. I wonder how many times we will use the tent? Perhaps we need to start going to some of the smaller music festivals (a few of my Witney friends who are all now grandparents have taken to going to WOMAD every year, camping and letting their back hair down, and The Husband was a Cambridge Folk Festival regular in his younger days). Sounds like a fun way of keeping old age at bay!

    6. Or there's the Green Man festival at Glanusk next week, to which Daughter-in-Law will be going with a friend and Grandson#3.

    7. Yes, yes, one of my WOMAD friends was at Green Man in 2012. It is on the list...

      ...but for this year I must be content with seeing WNO doing Butterfly in June, and our going to Brahms' German Requieum at The Proms with friends a week tomorrow. Sitting down tickets; too old for standing about! The Dog will be with a friend in Surrey who is pooch-sitting.

  2. Hari OM
    Gracious, you HAVE been busy! All sounds marvellous though and a great way to spend summer... must say as a dog person, Chihuahuas are not top of my list. They are known for this behaviour and it is often mistaken for fear aggression when in fact it is an attempt at dominance.

    It easy for folks to overlook the fact that size matters not - a dog is a dog is a dog. I think you may have stumbled on this yourself by responding even more dominantly! Each must find their own relationship with the newcomer though. I wish the family well. Lovely to 'read' you again &*> YAM xx

    1. They have a chihuahua not at all by choice, it was done as a humane act to save the critter being taken to a re-homing charity when the owner was ill; She has since died, and there are no relatives, so the dog has nowhere else to go. But she is happy with her two new female humans and yet wary of so many new strangers in her life, I suppose.

      If it is dominance behaviour she will respond to strong body language and tone of voice and find her place in the pack, and we don't visit frequently enough for it to bother us, thankfully. The behaviour does come across as "guarding" and may emanate from when her previous owner was ill. She has the loveliest softest fur and is very therapeutic to stroke, so I can see the appeal there, but I am with you, it is not a breed I should ever choose!

  3. Hari OM
    Ah yes the guarding instinct is strong in these littlies so I think you just hit the bingo button on that one! Poor wee thing though, I agree that for any dog (or child - or let's face it, any living breathing thing at all) that sort of sudden change and insecurity go hand in hand. Highly commendable of your niece and partner to take this adoption on. Here's to happy outcomes.

    On another note, the tenting arrangement you commented on above sounds fab - and all the better for the eating out! Hope you have many fun times in it. xx

    1. The dog's "two new female humans" are my niece and my sister (aka The Dog's Granny), Yam, my niece isn't part of a couple. Although the way I phrased it, I can see how it would be an easy mistake to make. As things have panned out any new chap in The Niece's life will now have to like and be accepted by The Chihuahua. I wonder if that will make the acquisition of same easier (I have known of another couple who met when walking their dogs) or tougher (he'd have to be keen to tolerate the initial ankle-snapping).

      I guess we shall see in due course...