Category Archives: Non-Fiction

In Praise of Audible

Image free from Pixabay

How to read when you don’t have time to sit down with a book

I can’t believe how quickly I converted to loving audible! I adore reading and quite often I’m reading more than 1 book at a time nowadays

* one for research purposes for my writing

* one for my book club

* one for lunchtime at work & bedtime

  • now one for when I’m walking the dog / doing chores around the house!

The ability to “read” while my hands are doing other things like gardening or chopping vegetables, or when I am walking one of our dogs is a marvellous thing and has quite boosted my motivation to do boring things like clearing the attic and painting.

Podcasts are free with my monthly audible subscription and these can be informative, funny, thought provoking. They keep me company and they expand my mind – I enjoy having new facts to throw into the conversation and (hopefully) to impress my kids with!

I’m taken back to the days when my I’d lie in bed in the room I shared with my younger brother. We’d be in our PJs waiting for our father to get home from work. We’d hear him come upstairs, still in his suit and tie but with his jacket off so we could see his coloured braces. He’d sit down on one of our beds and pick up the book he’d read from the night before, and continue with the story.

We’d be spellbound as the story unfolded – dragons, princes, giants and tailors who could fly or fight or outwit monsters with many heads or poisoned tongues. My brother liked stories of Gumdrop, a car with a personality and I giggled at a wolf who could never catch a break with Polly or her younger sister.

Now accomplished actors read the stories aloud, their expression so skilful it’s like listening to a play. Sometimes I am listening to a play, with different voices for each part and sound effects, while some writers have chosen to narrate their novels themselves.

For the price of 2 fancy coffees a month, I am transported by my choice of 1 book and unlimited exclusive podcasts. I can listen to the stories as many times as I want, once they are downloaded and I can file them on my phone by categories I define, I can gift them to a friend or delete them if I don’t want them anymore.

By using the sleep function (a timer on my phone) I can even recreate the feeling of being read to as I fall asleep. Happy days!

Current Recommendations:

The Devil & the Dark Water : Stuart Turton [Crime/Mystery/Historical]

The Midnight Library : Matt Haig [Philosophical / Adventure]

What Alice Forgot : Liane Moriarty [Chick Lit / Mystery]

Sharp Objects : Gillian Flynn [Crime / psychological thriller]

The Girl who Fell from the Sky : Simon Mawer [WWII Spy / Adventure]

Crush It Like Cleopatra ~ Podcast [Humour / History / Life]

My Father the Spy ~ Podcast [Stuart Copeland’s Recollections / History / Humour/ Spy]

Hell Cats ~ Dramatisation of the True Story of Women Pirates Anne Bonny & Mary Read [LGBTQ+ / History / Adventure]

But Baby Look At You Now!

When people ask me to tell them something about me that nobody knows – well that’s a tough one – but something hardly anybody knows about me is that I used to be a model. Not a catwalk model (I’m only 5’4″) but a baby model. We lived in London when I was a baby and my siblings were a little older than me, so during the day when they were at school, my mother had time to focus on me. She says people constantly stopped her when I was out in my pram to remark on my looks – I know, I know, people say that platitude a lot, but I guess my mother thought it rang true.

I was an even tempered child, not shy with strangers and not too quick to cry. With white blonde hair and blue eyes, I guess I had the look they wanted as they filmed me for baby food commercials, soaps and bubble bath. My mother was not filmed with me, they would use a model for the parent. My mother would stand just out of shot so that I could see her; you’ll notice that babies in adverts look over the shoulder of the person holding them.

Recently, clearing my parents’ house, I found this typed schedule to which my mother and the film company worked.

6.30 Baby wakes up, is changed and goes back to cot to play for a bit

7.00 Is dressed and goes into playpen

7.45 Has breakfast with parents

8.15 Put down in pram for sleep, while Mother prepares food and kit for modelling session

10.15 Is dressed to go out, is put in pram and pushed to studios

10.45 Arrives at studios for modelling session. Studio staff carry pram up to quiet room where Baby can rest later on. Baby is dressed in clothes provided by studio, introduced to model mother and trained nurse who is there to see baby is well looked after and not overtired. The director looks Baby over, approves and …

11.00 Modelling session begins. This is a baby food ad. for television and they want shots of Baby playing happily with mother. After a few takes, the lights are turned off and Baby is given a rest and cools off.

More pictures are taken and Director is satisfied. Then he wants shots of Baby eating. The complete range of baby food is there and we choose her favourite for her filmed meal. This goes well because the baby likes the food, it is her proper lunch time and she is given every consideration.

12.30 The nurse and I decide she has had enough and tell the Director, who immediately says she should go and rest. He asks me what time she will be ready for further session, I suggest 2.15. He says “Right, but if she sleeps on it doesn’t matter, don’t wake her up specially, we wont shoot any more until she is ready.”

Baby is changed, put to rest in quiet, well-ventilated room and I go down to studio to have my lunch, which is provided.

2.15 Baby wakes up completely refreshed and happy. I take her back to studio where a few more scenes are taken. As soon as Director has enough film, we are told we can go. Again the studio staff are very helpful carrying down the pram.

I’ve unfortunately never seen any of the adverts in which I featured, they probably don’t exist any more, but it’s a fun fact about me that I can throw into the conversation occasionally.

A True Romantic

Pamela

Memories of My Mother

It is a fact of life that we will encounter death. Before our own time is up, we have to deal with losing people around us and it is a bitter pill to swallow. The loss of someone who you have loved, who’s been an positive influence and a cornerstone in your life is particularly hard, but your happy memories will buoy you up. Cling onto those memories, look back on good times and funny things they did or wise advice they gave to help move forward, gradually you’ll pull yourself out of the quagmire that is grief. You won’t forget and the gap that signifies their absence doesn’t close, but it becomes easier to bear.

At this moment in time, the house where my mother and father lived for the last phase of their lives, is up for sale. My siblings and I have taken away what is precious to us, pictures and papers and furniture to hold their memories safe. It has been hard to dismantle their happy home and consign it to boxes, especially as the Covid lockdowns have meant that we could not always be together during the process, but when we could the oral history was rich. We talked about incidents from our shared past and enjoyed looking back at our younger selves and the care and love our parents bestowed on us.

In the deep-clean of possessions that’s been forced on us, things have come to light which were forgotten or perhaps not even known by us. Some unpleasant, but many were good. I have now taken custody of my father’s scrapbooks and my mother’s diaries and photo album – their rich history will be safely stored.

I came across this message and an account in my mother’s words, shared with Jennifer Crusie‘s “Cherries” – a group of romantic writers – about how my parents met. I want to others to read it, because it holds so much positivity – we can all benefit from that.

— * — * —

Hey, all you youngsters of 50 and 60, I’m here to tell you that in your seventies, love and romance don’t stop – at least they haven’t stopped yet for me. (This was shared with the goup only a couple of weeks before she died).

— * — * —

Ok, this was back in the 50s, I was invited to a 21st birthday party, ball gowns and black tie. I wasn’t keen to go. In those days I was very shy and thought I wouldn’t know anyone. My mother urged me to go. I put on my favourite ball gown and the zip up the back broke.

“There you are, I can’t go,” I said to my mother.

She went to my cupboard and got out another dress, threw it over my head and zipped it up quite viciously.

“Yes, you can. You are to GO! If you hate it after half an hour, ring me and I’ll come and fetch you.” So I went. And stayed.

When I got there, this handsome guy was surrounded by a bevvy of giggling girls who obviously fancied him like mad. I did too, but I wasn’t going to let him see it. I asked someone who he was and was told he was the most fun guy in the room. I was determined not to be impressed.

When he asked me to dance, I said, “I hear you’re great fun, so scintillate.” Wind taken out of his sails. He grinned ruefully, and we kept on dancing.

Later in the evening he asked if he could take me home. Damn, I thought, I had already agreed to let someone else take me home so I turned him down. I was really disappointed because I would have liked to have gone with him. But as it turned out it was a good move. He had an old fashioned sense of honour and respected the fact that I wouldn’t go back on my word.

We started going out together and he was everything I ever wanted in a man. We married when I was 22 and he was 23 and have been together through thick and thin ever since.

— * — * —

My mother was evacuated from London to Exmoor to avoid the bombing in WWII. She was lucky enough to go with my grandmother and they lived on a dairy farm. Once my father retired my parents chose to settle in a very rural part of Norfolk and, with us four children grown up and making families of our own, she had more time to pursue her writing. This poem she wrote in 1993 celebrates the joy she found in this simpler life. We read it at her funeral in 2005.

I am a Country Child Again

Here in a rustic house I live

The summit of my dearest hopes.

Years did I dwell ‘mongst brick and stone

My children’s welfare my concern

But now they’ve gone – I am released,

I’m free to live howe’er I wish.

The country’s mine as ‘twas in youth;

The green grass gilded by the sun,

The fresh air free from toxic fumes.

My nostrils now nose sweeter scents –

New mown grass and fresh baked bread

Birdsong’s my blessing all day long.

The rain is gentle on my face,

When cold winds blow I do not care.

And though I’m wrinkled now and old

I’ve vigour as I had when young –

I am a country child again.

The evening air is soft and sweet

And still now after daytime blow.

I walk in fields thickset with grass

Waist high, seeds ripened by the sun.

We’ll make it hay ‘ere cuckoos leave.

Then sheep will come and gently graze

Reminding me of times gone by –

I am a country child again.

As each day ends I thank the Lord

That I, unworthy, have such joy.

The house I live in, thatched and pink

Is what I dreamed of while I lived

The rat-race life from morn to night.

From those to whom the Lord gives much

Much is required, the Bible says.

What will be required of me?

And can I pay the needed price?

I doubt it but I still enjoy

I am a country child again.

Pamela in her Riding Clothes

Don’t Mess with this Mermaid

BookReview : To Kill a Kindom by Alexandra Christo

I’m a fan of YA novels, I enjoy the fresher viewpoint and the additional turmoils that are experienced by a younger, less experienced protagonist.

This novel is based on a traditional fairytale but it takes a different direction from the outset. Mermaids are portrayed as calculating and vicious, to build their power they benefit from stealing human hearts. Using their mesmerising siren song, they lure their prey.

The Sea Queen is feared and revered by her subjects, choosing to channel her toughest challenges and most cruel punishments at her daughter, Princess Lira. When she transforms Lira to human form, robbing her of the ability to sing, Lira questions whether her agenda is to make her daughter the most feared Siren or to prevent her from becoming a rival?

Prince Elian is highly reluctant to shoulder his royal duties, preferring his life on the ocean with a motley crew whose loyalty is balanced by its ferocity. Despite being heir to the throne of the most powerful kingdom, he’s in his element hunting sirens, and despite the danger he uses his blue blood as bait.

This book’s plot is thick with political intrigue and danger, a challenging quest for an item which might only exist as legend. The Prince must barter and bargain; deciding who to trust will not be easy when most creatures he encounters have their own agenda.

Lira, in the hated body of a human, has much to learn about our values of loyalty and love. If she intends to be returned to her original form, she has a task she must complete before the winter solstice, which involves an impossible choice for which the clock is ticking.

I listened to this book on Audible, a 2-voice narration of the male and female protagonists really brought the story alive. I’ve downloaded another by this author, because I particularly enjoyed their treatment of the original folk tale.

Always a Lady

A beautiful, but poignant tribute written by my Father about his beloved spaniel – a working dog and key member of our family.

We first met when she was two years old. Her father was a famous field trial champion with similar achievements going back all down the sire’s line as far as the pedigree reached. On her dam’s side  there were one or two field trial awards sprinkled about, but mostly, there was clear evidence of a gamekeeper’s faithfuls like Jenny (no Kennel suffix) or Flikka. Anyway, her dam was a really cracking small springer who had the trick of keeping one eye on her boss however far out she seemed to be going. Her boss was one of the nicest gamekeepers I’ve ever met.

This small, 2 month old chubby chops was lent to me to try each other out. With my elder daughter I slowly walked and talked her up along the edge of one of the release woods near the keeper’s cottage: she followed with some hesitation but no attempt to break back or into the wood. When we got back (carrying some of the way, because small legs get tired) we popped her down by a likely looking wood pile and encouraged her to seek!  She gave that rat and rabbit smelling wood pile such a combing, with her fat little bottom and docked tail showing fully her pleasure in the work.

My daughter and I took her back to the outdoor run with her litter brothers and sisters who were just about to have their evening meal, as they were being weaned from their dam. Food, the most important event in any healthy dog’s life. Slurping and jostling each other with their backs to us, ‘our’ little bitch ignored the food. She sat facing us, looking unwinkingly at us with that peculiar intentness that is a gift beyond price. It was that which decided me to have her.

I left her with the gamekeeper for one more month as I had a rather jealous, stern Weimaraner bitch that I did not want to tyrannise her too much. My elder son came to collect the puppy with me and sat with her and the Weimaraner in the boot to see fair play. Within 24 hours of arrival she proved she had a memory. I had bought a rabbit skin back too and hung it in a tree for a later use as a dummy. In the night the wind picked up and blew the skin down. When I turned the pup out for early morning penny-worths and a run, she made straight for the shrubbery, where, unknown to me, the skin lay under a tree. She ate it whole and ran back mighty pleased with herself.

From then on her training was a pleasure. She had her mother’s trick of always keeping one eye on me whatever she was about. I found I did not have to bother about hares or rabbits. She would course them for about 20 yards, then return as she early found they were much quicker than her. Maybe she would not have ever reached a field trial, but she was a mighty putter up of game, quickly learning to get down-wind of bits of cover to save pushing through everything, she could also gauge content by nose. 

She had the usual particular stance and ‘yip’ when onto a rabbit. She loved water and swam quite flat with no fuss or tenseness. She played in the rubber boat with the children in the pool learning to trim to the set of a boat: anticipating its movements and shifting her feet. One of her favorite games, as a puppy, was hiding in the rubber inflatable boat on the grass with her two eyes peeping out of the top. She’d then run to nip my younger son’s bottom as he crept up, starck naked, to try and get in the boat too. Gales of laughter as this game went on for hours.

When she retrieved duck to me, she threw them sideways out of her mouth and turned back to the water. In this way I had to set her onto one or two runners that slipped straight into the reeds and had to be retrieved again. Once she realised this, she brought the duck to hand. She was always chancey on cock pheasants. On her first full working day she had a cock torn from her mouth by an aggressive labrador, one of a team of three worked by a gun’s wife; the bird spurred her in the mouth. I spent the rest of the season gentling her back to retrieving. 

On the last day of the season, our very last push through cover, I realised from the behaviour of both the Weimaraner and the young springer that a bird had drawn ahead of them down a ditch and hedge. I asked permission to follow up and set the dogs on again. Their eagerness increased each yard and from beside a pond at the hedge junction they pushed a cock pheasant. I shot it as it crossed the plough towards a wood and the springer was sent to retrieve. She had just collected it and was returning when the same black labrador rushed across the field and snatched the bird from her.

She adored wildfowling, starting at 18 months when she picked her first pinkfoot: a beautifully proportioned half-sized mutant. Even that was big for her at the time. If I was cross with her and swore at her (which I did I regret to say – having a low flash point and hot temper) she would not look at me for a while. She’d sit, back to me and very still, with her cheeks sucked in. All the family loved her dearly and if I or my wife had to scold the children, particularly the younger two, they would go and sit with the springer, resting their heads on her til they felt better. The Weimaraner accepted her and, latterly when I found my springer dog on Liverpool Street Station (nobody ever claimed him) he doted on the springer bitch, as did my wife’s grand little rough coated dachshund.

Sadly, all good things come to an end, and with tragic suddenness for the little springer bitch. She ran, as she thought, after me towards a road behind a sandy beach in Northumberland. My wife and younger son had just crossed, but I had stopped to watch a bird. I whistled and called but the noise of an old banger with three tearaways in it drowned my calls; with a sickening foreboding I thought “she’s going to be hit by the car”. I ran as fast as I could towards the road and heard the bang of the impact. My wife and younger son saw her turn to try to get back to me when she realised I was still coming from the beach. My younger daughter saw it all from our caravan. Lady died quietly while my wife and I stroked and talked to her. I knew she would never leave that Northumberland beach.

The children chose her name, Lady, which always seemed so opposite to her playful nature. As my younger daughter said to her mother: “When Daddy can bear to think about it, Lady was 10 years old and she had just had her most full and successful season. He would have hated seeing her getting gradually older ‘til the Awful Day.”

They say each man deserves one good dog in his life, and I believe in Lady I may have had mine. All I know is how much I still miss her.

4Thoughts

The #4Thoughts_Fiction meme is hosted on a #NSFW site, so be warned if you follow the link, but I’m no prude The prompt is currently ‘Longing’.

The Cowboy of Laredo

As I rode down thru’ the streets of Laredo,
As I rode into Laredo one day,
I see’d a poor cowboy wrapped up in a blanket
Laid out on a blanket and the colour of clay

“I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy,”

These words he did say as I boldly stepped by.
“Come sit down beside me and hear my sad story;

I was shot in the breast and I know I must die.”

“Let sixteen gamblers come handle my coffin

Let sixteen cowboys come sing me a song,
Take me to the graveyard and lay the sod o-er me,

For I’m a poor cowboy and I know I’ve done wrong.”

“It was once in the saddle I used to go dashing,

It was once in the saddle I used to go gay.

T’was first to drinking and then to card playing,

Got shot in the breast and I’m dying today.”

“Get six jolly cowboys to carry my coffin,

Get six pretty girls to carry my pall

Put bunches of roses all over my coffin

Put roses to deaden the clods as they fall.”

“Oh beat the drum slowly and play the fife lowly,

And play the dead march as you carry me along.

Take me to the green valley and lay the sod o-er me,

For I’m a young cowboy and I know I’ve done wrong.”


I can’t say why my father had saved the words to this song, but a typed copy was amongst his paperwork which I recently cleared. It struck a chord with me, because it seemed to relate to my father who was a very principled man. It conveys that, as a counterpoint to his playful, teasing side – he enjoyed a drink with friends or a joke of a saucy nature – his code of honour was very strong.

I know he felt the imprint of any mis-steps he’d taken for the rest of his life – I think plenty of us do. He took some wrong turns with his career, he could be hot headed and outspoken when he should have kept his own counsel. Right to the end of his life he beat himself up over moments where he lost his temper, hadn’t given enough support to loved ones, or failed to guide them in the best direction.

I know my father had regrets but in my opinion it’s too harsh to judge yourself for shortfalls in how you nurture or advise others, because the result’s very quickly out of your hands. In the end a person can only take charge of their own life, the decisions they make and the paths they take.

No matter how true the concept: “what other people think of me is none of my business,” I think we are all haunted by our past mistakes.

This post is submitted to the writing meme #4Thoughts_Fiction hosted by the site IfSexMatters – if adult content doesn’t offend, why not visit to see what others have linked up : the prompt is Haunted.



4Thoughts

Ear Worms

I love to listen to music, both in the car and as I work. Sometimes I’ll choose to listen to the songs I grew up with – music from the ’70s and ’80s but other times I choose radio shows or playlists which play current music. I’ve never wanted to have that ‘old’ mindset where I’m muttering that the words were unintelligible or that the songs were better ‘in my day’. That said, I feel that a lot of the solo females are currently encouraged towards a similar ‘sound’ while some rap tracks make me feel agitated , to the point of wanting to turn them off, rather than wanting to get up and dance!

Getting back on ‘track’ I want to talk about songs that commonly get stuck, on loop, in my head. The term I have heard for it is ‘ear worm’ and I’m not sure if there is a cure! Playing other music drowns it out for a while, but often the song comes back to play on repeat. It’s unfortunately not restricted to songs I enjoy, sometimes irritating songs play repeatedly, gratingly in my subconscious mind.

I think certain songs are more disposed to getting stuck – I’m talking about the cheesy ones, and the gimmicky ones. Their ‘hook’ is designed to grab your attention and reel you in, it’s a plot to make you sing along as if you liked it or (worse still) to buy/download the track. Other times it’s a particularly tricky section of the song, one which cannot be easily be sung or hummed, so it haunts you in a different way.

A music loving friend told me that if you sang the words/tune to Happy Birthday a few times, this cancelled the ear worm. This remedy has never worked for me.

Watermelon Sugar High – Harry Styles

Love Yourself – Justin Beiber

Your Girlfriend – Blossoms

Lucid Dreams – Juiceworld

California Girls – Katie Perry

She’s Got Legs – ZZ Top

All the Things She Said – t.A.T.u.

You Spin Me Round – Dead or Alive

I should be So Lucky – Kylie Minogue

There’s Your Trouble – Dixie Chicks

Another Nail in my Heart – Squeeze

I don’t Like Cricket – 10CC

Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin

Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen

Above are a few of my recent earworms. With some tunes stuck in my head it’s a nuisance and others are a pleasure. When bands write anthemic songs, segments of their songs seem more likely to stick in your head. When songs are played frequently on the radio, they are brought to the forefront of your consciousness, but I’m not sure they’re classified as an earworm.

The other (terrible) culprit of planting a song firmly in your head is when a song is used in an advertising campaign. It’s even worse if they warp the lyrics to fit the product, because this messes with your proper memory of the original song. In my youth this was done less, they made up special ‘jingly’ tune, or used soft classical music – if you’re from the UK you will always have an association between certain music and Hovis wholemeal bread / British Airways / Lloyds bank.

I’d be interested to hear what songs have been / are ear worms for you and whether you find them a comfort or an irritation.

This post is submitted for the meme: September Song Project – Encore

Emotional Rescue

[3 minute Read]

When I read Mrs Fever’s post for this prompt, as well as enjoying her narrative I was in agreement with her opinions regarding rescuing pets which have been abandoned by their original owner(s) for whatever reasons. I currently have a rescue dog but I’ve also been a regular supporter of a local dog and cat rescue initiative. I began volunteering when I lost a beloved dog to cancer and felt so wretched with that I hadn’t seen the early signs. In memory of her, I wanted to give back to the dog community.

My role was an ‘Auntie’ at this dog kennels, because my function was pastoral care. I was one of many giving rescue dogs love, while acclimating them to socialising with new people. I would pick a slot off the weekly rota (there was an 90 minute slot in the morning and another in the afternoon available) and come to the kennels in scruffy, warm clothes to sit with a rescue dog.

The kennel staff would either welcome me into their tea room, or the summer house (depending on the rota) where the surroundings were dog friendly. I usually brought my Kindle, a hot drink and some chopped up dog treats for my furry companion.  I’d wait for the dog in question to be brought out to me. Having been told the dog’s name and a little about them, I could then behave in the most appropriate way. The door was shut and I’d be left for an hour and a half in their company.

The sofas and chairs were dog friendly, there was also usually a crate in the room. The purpose of a dog spending time with an ‘Auntie’ such as me was to gain a soothing respite from their potentially ‘jangly’ kennel situation where they were, of necessity, kept in close proximity to other barking and pacing dogs. 

I was allowed to play with the dogs or read to them, strokes and cuddles were, of course, encouraged, but some dogs were not ready for that. Some sat by the door, or got into the crate, waiting for the kennel staff to come back for them. Even in those situations, I felt that I had at least helped the dog have a change of scenery and a rest from their usual noisy environment.

Can you imagine a well loved pet, used to living in a home with its owner, but their owner had to go into hospital, or worse still died, leaving nobody to care for the pet? It’s not cruel to be given to a rescue, but it is still distressing for that dog, because everything familiar is stripped away. Some dogs end up at rescues if they have been taken on by people whose situation changed – new baby, a move to a property where dogs were not allowed or the dog could not get along with another pet. 

The rescue I worked with was also a boarding kennels/cattery, led by a passionate owner. It had a wonderful team of kennel staff dedicated to walking the rescue dogs and playing with them, as well as carrying out regular duties of cleaning, feeding and training. It employed a full time behaviourist, plus someone qualified in animal reiki to soothe the dogs holistically. In fact the rescue encouraged Aunties to learn the technique so I’m now trained in reiki too. Other volunteers helped by joining a rota to walk the dogs and a team of us utilised Facebook. We created a page for each dog, which was updated regularly until each rescue found suitable people to adopt them.

Some of the dogs were cute as a button and wanted to snuggle, some mugged me for the treats I’d brought or tried to help me eat my biscuit and drink my coffee too! Others jumped from sofa to chair to sofa, like a monkey in the treetops. The greyhound breeds often wanted to rifle through the bin or stand up tall to the counter in the tea room, sniffing for food. Some dogs were old or injured, but all deserved love and care.

It was important to be mindful of the dogs’ state of mind, some dogs had traumatic experiences before landing up in rescue. Bending over a dog, even to make a fuss of them, can seem threatening. It is better to crouch down so that your eye level and theirs are similar, then they can assess you. It’s quite ‘personal’ to touch a dog on their face or the top of their head, in a wolf pack this would be seen as asserting dominance. Most dogs prefer a new acquaintance to stroke their back or rub behind their ears; if you’re getting on really well, many dogs love having their chest rubbed or scratches to their neck/ chin area.

On the topic of eye contact, this can feel like a challenge to some dogs, not intense like a cat staring contest but along the same lines. Hence me reading my Kindle: I didn’t seem to ask or expect anything of them, which usually worked well. When they settled down somewhere in a relaxed way, I would reward them with a treat. 

One staffie-cross rescue dog, whose previous owner had been a homeless man, preferred to approach me backwards, avoiding eye contact. He’d reverse his solid little body towards me and sit, watching the door like a sentry, his rump almost touching my toes. I was glad to hear he got a happy new home. Living on a remote farm, following his owner as he made his rounds of the fields and sheds of livestock each day sounds far preferable to watching over a homeless man’s sleeping bag and possessions, in all weathers, while he sleeps.

This reminiscence is submitted for Mrs Fever’s Memoirs prompt #8 Animal Click on the link to see what other’s have posted.

My Lockdown Survival Essentials

I suspect my strongest advantage in lockdown has been that my family enjoy being insular. It has meant that we have rarely felt limited or hemmed in by the requirement to stay home and avoid personal contact. I have not tackled food shopping – my husband deals with that.

Life felt rather pressured at the beginning of lockdown, trying to do my job remotely was intense and impractical. Once I was furloughed, I had plenty of time and opportunity to try writing. I set up this blog intending to populate it with the fruits of my labours. It’s seemed a good time to record family stories, lockdown caused me to look fondly back on times that were simpler. I don’t think that I’m the only one, television shows, music and sports have had to embrace ‘old favourites’. There’s a category for reminiscences on my site.

Reading – my number 1 tip!  I’ve always found fiction a great ‘escape valve’. Any time in my life when I have been stressed or needing distraction, reading fiction provides a healing activity. When my world is small, a book can take me somewhere else. Now I cannot mix with other people, I meet instead characters within a novel. If being in my own head is unsettling, sad or stifling then reading a book which is in the first person puts me in someone else’s headspace and takes their problems to a solution, which is a calming concept.

Exercise, this I let slide, but it’s necessary for surviving lockdown! Firstly I gave up my regular class. Despite on-line sessions, I lost the inclination to do them. My flesh now looks more spongy, less toned. I also lost my 2 daily walks with our dog, because he fell ill. My negative experience here was twofold: a combination of feeling ‘wrong’ walking without him and guilt, because he howled his frustration if I left the house without him. Knowing he was distressed resulted in me furtively taking 2 brief walks a week, a significant reduction in my regime.

While my family are quite introverted, I enjoy talking. I’ve used Whatsapp to catch up with friends, which provides a refreshing influx of news; using instant message or having a face to face chat. I have a book group of sorts with two friends, one is very busy so she listens rather than reads. We take it in turn to pick the books, concluding with a Whatsapp meeting to discuss the books once we’ve all finished. This has given my reading a productive outlet and pushed me to immerse myself in books I would not have chosen. It’s fun discussing different viewpoints, why we have/haven’t enjoyed a novel, comparing/ contrasting it with another our group has read. 

When lockdown restrictions eased, I joined my neighbour for walks. We’ve also had coffee together in the back garden, in the past we would have popped to a local coffee shop. I have also been able to gradually resume walking my dog, who is on the road to recovery. 

While I don’t miss eating out, or clothes shopping, I do miss having the occasion to dress nicely. I’ve tried to maintain a normal routine, but it’s too easy to wear leggings or tracksuits. I was despondent to have to defer our holiday and it’s frustrating being unable to plan ahead. Although I want to meet up with people, still feel wary, I value my family members’ health above the UK economy. I know it’s pessimistic but I’m braced for a second wave of the pandemic.

This post is linked to a meme I recently discovered where the topic is personal growth. It’s host, May More is a fascinating blogger but if you wish to follow the link, be warned that her site is very frank and often #NSFW

Shoe Boxes

[2.5 min read]

I don’t remember having any dress up shoes, nothing plastic and pink with sparkly or feathered embellishments. I don’t even recall trying on my mother’s heels to walk around. My obsession with boots started pretty early though.

I hadn’t started school when Nancy Sinatra recorded the hit song “These Boots are Made for Walking.” It was full of so much sass and attitude that it was a favourite of mine. At home we referred to it as ‘boots’ and anytime it came on the radio, turned the dial while I stomped round the house. This soon morphed into me wearing my mother’s leather boots to move to Nancy’s anthem of refusal to be the underdog.

The boots I borrowed then had a small heel and a pointed toe, the kind to be worn with the stirruped ski pants popular in the sixties. My mother felt it was very important for a child to wear well fitted shoes while their feet were still growing, so I was always taken to Clarkes to be measured for width and length for my school shoes. 

Towards the end of primary school, however, I began to long for shoes which followed fashion. In the mid 1970s everyone wore platform shoes, with squared puffy toes. Often in outlandish colours or graced with gaudy embellishments. I often tried on my older sister’s shoes, wishing her feet were my size so I could borrow them.

One trick I had fun with involved my shadow. In autumn and winter, when the sun is low in the sky, every shadow appears elongated. While waiting outside my friend’s house, I’d lift my feet off the ground, admiring the shadow versions of my school shoes that seemed to have fabulously high platforms, like the pop stars and models wore.

The year I was eleven, on our back-to-school shopping trip, I persuaded my mother to forget school rules regarding outdoor shoes, instead she allowed me to select from a glorious array of trendy shoes. I left the shop with a beautiful pair, more plum than brown which I could not wait to wear. Their solid black rubber soles were quite heavy, making my walking clumsy until I got acquainted with them, but I loved them enough to wear them at weekends too. I don’t know what my mother said to make my headmistress turn a blind eye, but wearing them my final year, I felt ‘a la mode’.

My secondary school had very strict rules regarding height and colour of shoes so I was unable to get away wearing anything attractive with my uniform. Desert boots were quite fashionable during my school years, footwear which looked more appropriate with long socks and skirts. 

I changed to a day school for the sixth form and was able to wear my own clothes, so my shoes could reflect my taste. The new romantic style I favoured meant scouring charity shops and market stalls, as well as mainstream shops, for items to provide an individual look. My favourite shoes were a pair of courts in gunmetal grey with stiletto heels, much more flattering against bare legs than white. I purchased low-heeled black shoes in a new shape, with a raised feature at the back of the shoe. Unfortunately this feature was impractical. If I wore them any distance, the rubbing caused me to bleed into those shoes.  Decades later, I still have bumps on my heels which my feet created in self-defence!

What about the ones that got away? Shoes or boots that were so beautiful that I had to have them, but found them impractical: too high, too tight or just didn’t work with my wardrobe. Sandals with a heavy rope wedge with every strap rubbing a blister. Knee high cowboy style boots in black with crippling heels; once I started walking I’d feel so unbalanced I couldn’t stop. I had the cutest black high-heeled ankle boots, a mixture of smooth leather and suede with flashy gold eyelets. Again I couldn’t walk too far in them before my feet began to cramp. 

Now I’ve reached an age where I can’t trust my knees in combination with high heels, so I don’t buy more, yet I can’t say goodbye to my beloved footwear. My beautiful linen peep toed shoes with two leather straps always remind me of vintage luggage. Brown suede boots which lace up to the knee with a stacked heel have had to concede defeat against my silver brogues or some pristine white trainers I now wear with summer dresses.

This reminiscence is written for the prompt ‘shoes’, the seventh in Mrs Fever’s summer writing meme Musings in Memoir where looking back is encouraged. Why not follow the link to see what others have submitted.