Wednesday, October 19, 2016

If you want something done, and raspberry thief *

After more than two weeks and many disgruntled forum posts, it became clear Blogger wasn't going to do anything about fixing the broken blog roll widgets, the masses of individually collected, mostly not-backed up data from numerous blogs they inadvertently flushed down the toilet being, presumably, lost forever. Maybe some bright spark somewhere has a red face about it but maybe not; Blogger has clearly become a very small and unimportant fish in evolutionary terms swallowed by the great Google whale, as blogging itself has become to social media generally. (This is a really a tired and self-piteous old refrain; if it matters it's up to us me to do something about it and blog, or just shut up and move on.)

So, deciding there was no point in cutting off my nose to spite my face and insisting that, as they broke it, it was up to them to fix it, I re-entered the links I had managed to retrieve from the cached copy myself. It didn't really take very long, and now it feels as though my blog has at least the potential to live again; without a live feed blog roll it really did seem a very dead thing. I mostly put it back as it was before; of those who are simply dormant I will know if they do ever re-animate, and even one or two who surely will not post again are still there for old time's sake. However, it no longer seems to be possible to limit the number which actually appear to, say, the most recent twenty-five, as I did before, so those who hadn't posted for a very long time slipped discreetly below the horizon. Some very long-lapsed blogs lingering visibly right at the bottom, sometimes with four years or more since their last post, was just too melancholy, like a pile of old correspondence left out on the table, and I did end up removing quite a few.

Anyway, we are back home. It is surprisingly good to be so, even though the work is still not all finished; it feels familiar, comfortable and safe, yet the enjoyment of it sits quite comfortably with a strong desire to be moving on as soon as possible, plummeting exchange rates and other uncertainties notwithstanding. The initial urge to scrape all our savings together and get something new on the go even before selling this place have been shelved; it's a terrible time to do that (aforesaid economics, savings mostly over-the-water), and it would be sod's law if we settled for something we could afford but weren't really happy with, the house would sell shortly afterwards and maybe even the exchange rates would improve (hein, cochon volant!) we'd regret that we hadn't held on (the sod's law corollary of that of course being that we will sit here forever waiting for a sale, while the pound dwindles to the value of three small cowry shells, but I prefer not to think about that). Anyway, running two properties at the same time wasn't something we wanted to be doing.

Tom's working away like a trooper getting things finished and tidied up before the painters and decorators come next week, jobs he hates like repairing and rubbing down plaster but which will never have to be done again. Inevitably there were many things which ended up falling between two artisans' stools, or which appeared on the assessor's report but somehow failed to appear on the artisan's quote, or which an artisan (the electrician is the particular bête noire in this) succeeded in buggering up, breaking or making a hole in. However, mistake me not, we continue to be grateful and cognisant of 1) how lucky we are to be alive  2) that while we will be somewhat out of pocket our insurance is nevertheless paying for a large number of things, finishing some of our unfinished work, upgrading the electrics, decorating, cleaning carpets etc, that will, we hope, be to our final material benefit, and 3) that we happened to give a thought to the matter of our house insurance and went and got all the relevant information on it updated and accurate a few months before the fire, without which we would have received only a very small fraction of the costs incurred; I would advise everyone, but especially anyone who has extended or improved their home, to make sure you do this.

Elfie has finished her training course for the moment. She will now sit, lie down, stand up (handy when she doesn't want her 'trousers' brushed), 'look', do some quite fancy heel work and more, to order indoors, but still sees most barriers outside as simply an interesting challenge, if she sees them at all, being let off the lead as carrying an obligation to quarter the surrounding hectare at a flying gallop regardless of the terrain, and the presence of so much as a worm wriggling beneath the soil as her cue to stalk, pounce and dig like a maniac. Nothing is safe in the garden, from bumble bees' nests to baby grass snakes to the cock pheasant taking refuge in the long grass (she was under the hedge into next door's garden before you can say gundog) to the neighbour's cat which she climbed half way up the eucalyptus tree in pursuit of (she got dragged off, given time-out and shunned for an hour for that, we fetched a ladder and rescued the poor terrified cat). One of the attractions of moving would be to a smaller, better-fenced plot with a bit less wildlife in it where we could keep closer tabs on her. Interestingly though, while normally friendly to other dogs and humans, despite her hunting dog behaviour, she hates hunters, giving them her rare, full-throated 'see-em-off' bark when she sees or hears them, and rejecting their dogs' overtures of friendship in no uncertain terms. We love her enormously and feel that the bond with her is stronger all the time, that we know and understand each other better; she is loving and affectionate and eager to please, and even open fields and hedgerows are slightly less irresistible when she knows I've got a clicker and a piece of cheese or sausage in my pocket. And the lessons have been a very good thing to do anyway, a welcome focus of activity and encouragement away from house and fire related matters and our displaced state, a pleasant trip in the direction we'd like to move in, a chance to have an Indian lunch in Dinan afterwards, and above all the benefit of Suzie's calm, wise experience and advice on doggy matters.

Natalie asked Tom if he could show a photo of our new staircase, and I said I would, which I will, but not till later when perhaps I'll do a 'before and after' post when the job's finished. Just for now here are some photos of Elfie scrumping. One of the unexpected delights of Hénon we discovered when staying there was this marvellous park:

It was vast, next to a settlement of beautiful old mill houses, and contained children's swings and a slide, boules courts, great open areas, ponds and streams and little bridges, terraces of apple and chestnut trees, and a long hedge of fruit bushes: currants (these were finished), cultivated blackberries, and raspberries both red and yellow, all free for the taking.

Elfie loves most kinds of fruit, berries in particular (she also tries to crack hazelnuts with her teeth, which I discourage, and it makes me wonder if she had to live off the land at times before) and she used to avail herself freely of any within reach:

Yet despite the park's beauty and all these free treats, and though it was the school holidays and glorious sunny weather, except for one group of older people playing boules once, a couple of over-aged adolescents brooding on the swings once, and one sweet family of three generations, a young couple, grandfather and baby, sitting with a guitar singing a Christian song once, we seemed more or less the only people ever using it at any time of the day.  J, who lives in Hénon, says the 14 July fireworks always take place in the natural amphitheatre of the park, and the municipality lays on minibuses to take the elderly people the couple of hundred metres from the village centre to the upper levels to watch them. The access is quite steep, which may be a valid excuse for the older people not to go there, but I found it sad that as the new-build houses and lotissements spread progressively outwards from the village centre, most of them with their smallish gardens completely filled with hideous plastic slides and paddling pools and enormous netted trampolines (when did it become de rigueur that every child should have its own trampoline at home?), there was this excellent, well maintained, rich public space going almost entirely unused. We enjoyed it anyway.

* While we were in exile, a delightful package arrives all the way from the land of Oz, a 'Red Cross parcel' from a lovely erstwhile blogging friend, long since disappeared from blog roll and blogosphere, but still a faithful and cherished correspondent and reader, I gather, who had had similar experiences to ours only more extreme and drastic. It contained sweeties and nut cake and a toy for Elfie, and a little bundle of pretty blue fabrics, including a miniature blue-toned version of William Morris's 'Strawberry Thief', which I've always loved.


Catalyst said...

Congratulations on the house, on at least partially restoring the blogroll and on having a beautiful dog who loves fruit! Nice to read you once again, Lucy.

Nimble said...

Thanks for the image of the Raspberry Thief and the link to the Strawberry Thief, both are delightful.
My spouse and I are discussing finding a new rental house next summer. Sadly this does not make me want to go through boxes in the basement as I ought.

marja-leena said...

Wonderful to read that you are experiencing many joys in spite of all the work on the place. Sorry to be one of those lapsed bloggers, with good intentions but poor performance. Thank you for still being here!

Zhoen said...

Still, we've had a good run, and are not done yet, eh?

Elfie continues to grow and explore, so much personality in her story. So much story in her personality.

We are going to get a good smoke alarm for the back room, when they start construction.

Jeff said...

Thanks for adding me to the blogroll!

Really, places like Facebook and Twitter are the shopping malls of social media; blogs remain the used-record shops in the seedy part of town where the really interesting people hang out. (Or so I enjoy telling myself.)

marly said...

I like Jeff's comment!

We, too, had a dog that loved fruit and vegetables. I finally gave up on my raised beds once she figure out how to pull down the English pea vines--that's what took her longest to figure out. She loved strawberries and green beans.

Avus said...

It's good for you, and us, to have you safely back home and blogging again, Lucy. That you have continued despite the attempts of the Google giant shows your perseverence. It seems that Elfie is able to take instruction better than my little bitch, who is delightful in every way (she is our first dog to make me laugh out loud at her antics), but just not seem to understand (or want to?) repeated commands when something more interesting takes her eye.

Good, too, that Susan is in touch still. I know how much she empathises with your experiences!

Lucy said...

Thank you, you are nice to show up so quickly when I've been such a slacker!

Cat - thanks. It's funny about the fruit, she's not so keen on veg!

Nimble - I hate going through clutter, but somehow the fire turning things upside-down made it easier and actually quite imperative. There were some horrible musty corners I'd been ignoring, actually and metaphorically, I don't want life getting like that again.

ML - it is a lovely time of year, if a bit melancholy, and being back in one's own space is good. Being busy is no bad thing, though I think Tom would like to be able to take it a bit easier, but it's not forever. I don't reproach anyone for letting blogging slide, I think perhaps we all have a certain span for such things and it goes as it goes. I generally feel better when I have paid a bit of attention to my blog, and always appreciate those who stop by, I can't imagine not having it in my life at all, but sometimes the motivation is difficult to find, or I even get a bit averse to it, funny business really.

Z - indeed, we're still hanging on! We seem to have done wonders for the sales of smoke alarms among our acquaintance; we had none, and were lucky that it wasn't stipulated in the insurance contract. The assessor said it's not a question of getting cover or not, but of saving your life. I certainly feel safer now we have them, though I have to remember to ventilate well when cooking, in the Hénon house I set theirs off a couple of times very easily with a singed pan. glad you enjoy following Elfie's antics.

Jeff - a lovely metaphor that made me laugh aloud. I love your blog and wouldn't miss it, though I often save it for later as it's so rich and satisfying! I don't do other social media, except Ravelry and Pinterest which I don't really see as social, more just personal record keeping and occasional exchange of useful stuff, but it seems to me that perhaps FB and Twitter are slowing down a bit too, compared to the obsessive way people used them a few years ago when they first appeared. It's as though our compulsion to share our lives like that just gets spent, dwindles and runs out after a certain span of time.

Marly - me too! Molly was a great dog for veg, would hang around in the kitchen for cabbage stalks and carrots, was a devil in the garden for peas but didn't much like any fruit that was too acidic (she liked pears and melon). Elfie doesn't care for veg much, though she has French beans in her dinner for fibre, but will go for all kinds of fruit, even quite sharp things.

Lucy said...

Avus - have you tried a clicker with Roxy? I wasn't going to do clicker training and I'm still not 100% convinced about it, not least because I simply find it hard to get the timing right and practise enough, but it's our trainer's method and it does seem to serve to pinpoint and fix the desired behaviours a bit more precisely. Higher value treats can make a difference, frankfurters really do keep her attention on me better than a dry old biscuit, but there are times like you describe when Elfie's just oblivious, whatever I've got. One of the ways in which Suzie, our trainer, has actually been a help is to reassure us that there is no such thing as a perfect dog, they all have their issues and limits and sometimes the best you can do is anticipate and control the environment, which relieves the sense of failure that so much dog training theory (like child rearing and teaching!) imposes that if things go wrong it must be your fault. For letting her run, have you tried a long line? A proper strong flat one, not just string, ours is about 10m I think (sorry, not sure what that is in imperial ;~) ). It's a bit of an inconvenience to cart around but they do seem to perceive the weight of it as constraint and a connection with you, and it does mean they can run better than on a Flexi-lead. Then if she does do a runner, you've got a better chance of grabbing it in time to stop her. I tie a bit of bright orange (or it was, before it got trailed in every kind of dirt!) cord to the end, so I can see where she is when she disappears into the undergrowth. Probably teaching my grandmother to suck eggs here. It's interesting though, that dogs with a sense of fun and charm seem to also have a wild and mischievous streak; GSDs, for example, can be beautiful and kind and of course highly intelligent and trainable, but you don't very often hear them associated with fun and laughter. Our girls by contrast are full of joy and whimsy and winning wiles but will probably always keep us on our toes not quite knowing what they're going to do next!

Susan has been wonderful, a friend for keeps, I hope.

the polish chick said...

what a soft and silky looking nose your elfie has! must be a real joy to be nuzzled by such a beastie! glad you are home and here's hoping everything goes as well as such things go regarding the sale etc.

it's always such a pleasure reading your blog, glad you are back.

Avus said...

Thanks for all that info, Lucy. I tried a clicker and a liver treat when she returned and it worked for a while. Then she saw something interesting one day and went "deaf". She went through a deep stream ,disappeared and was eventually returned to me(soaking wet) from a busy road by a lady who stopped her car ! Now she stays on her 12m extendable lead!

I have reached the conclusion of your trainer exactly and your final sentence about our girls says it all. GSDs are magnificent, but seldom "fun".

Lucy said...

PC - oh she has! though she tends to foam at the mouth a bit when she runs and gets excited, which you can see in these pictures - I tend to think it's a bit like those bubbles which collect at the sides of our mouths when we get a bit animated, very uncool and embarrassing! Thanks for the good wishes, we are trusting that somehow it will all work out.

Avus - that sounds very stressful. I don't think in fact when they go over that threshold of control they're actually very happy, just driven and wound up. The other day we were joined on a walk by a little pal, a young dog in the area who exercises himself and tends to join up with anyone who's out walking. Elfie doesn't mind him, is usually pleased to see him but clearly finds him a bit bumptious and in-yer-face. They had a lovely run together - I think she stayed in a bit closer because she saw him as potential competition for the treats! - but by the end he was getting silly and she was running in a rather stressed and desperate way, and I think times like that she's glad to be back on the lead so she can slow down and let me be in charge. Off-leash she can't just potter along in a relaxed way like many dogs, has to be running and quartering and generally 'working', even though I'm not asking her to.

Even if she never gets to run off-leash again, your Roxy has a lovely full life; she has the freedom of a comfortable home and garden, good walks with plenty of opportunity to run and explore on-leash, and she's safe and connected to you. And we do need to think about keeping ourselves safe too; when I go away for a few days in December, there's no question of Tom letting Elfie off the lead or even giving her the freedom of the garden, I don't want him here on his own having to risk his neck or ankles chasing through hedges, over fences, across fields etc after a reprobate dog!

However, I was proud of her today, she found a crow with an injured wing that couldn't fly, she chased and circled it but came away from it on command very quickly, so pleasing me - and getting meaty titbits - over-rode the predatory instinct on that occasion.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Lovely to read you, as always Lucy. "scrumping'...I needed the link, never heard the word before but it' s a great word. Stealing and clumping? Scrumptious and cramping? Scrimping and slumming?

Looking forward to the staircase photo - am imagining a spiral staircase disappearing into into blue fluffy clouds.

Pam said...

Elfie looks beautiful. (I expect that if there were the equivalent of trampolines or slides to give joy to dogs, you'd have one or two in your garden?)

Lucy said...

Thanks Natalie - I put the link in because it's a word I've used before and people always pick up on it with puzzlement. I think it's probably rather old-fashioned British English. I took some photos of the burned wall today as it will soon disappear behind plaster and paint.

Pam - nice to see you! Point taken, but, while people do indulge and spend on them in silly ways, one of the beauties of dogs is that, apart from feeding them, the best way to make them happy is simply to give them your time and get out and about with them, preferably in suitably adapted public spaces (and always carrying a plastic poo bag in my pocket, I hasten to add!) and I feel, probably rather sententiously, that perhaps the same might apply to children? While not having any children myself, I do vaguely remember being one, and I know that bouncing and sliding was great fun, but I have to say I rarely remember seeing the children of the houses with the slides and trampos actually using them much, despite the glorious weather and the security and sterility of the gardens. Perhaps the outdoor play equipment was the parents' vain attempt to get them off their Play Stations and such like?

Sorry, I'm coming across as a judgemental and grumpy old woman!

Roderick Robinson said...

No doubt the bone on Elfie's dangling name plate has been explained but I'll make do with my own reaction.

I believe some people carry cards with them that say, in effect, if the card-holder is found dead in the street please saw off any useful parts that can be used to reconstruct anyone lacking these parts.

This was then parodied to read: If the cardholder is seen to be depressed and/or thirsty please take him to the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel and force cognac between his lips.

The canine equivalent: If found looking at you with soulful eyes take this dog to the nearest butcher, lift her up so she see into the display cabinet, and meet her every wish.

Would grubbying-up various pristine surfaces in your refurbished house make it seem more like home?

Pam said...

No, no, I'm sure you're not grumpy! And slides etc aren't pretty. But I think that these days, parents can't (or feel they can't) just (as in our day) send children off to the park by themselves, so having a slide or whatever in the garden means that the children can amuse themselves and get some exercise for a bit while the parents do household chores. Or maybe it's that it assuages parental guilt for being so busy that they haven't always got the time to take their children out to playgrounds as much as they feel they should.

But I agree with you really. Kids are remarkably happy playing with sticks and stones. Much like dogs.

Rouchswalwe said...

Here is the smokey swallow, fluttering about late to share her joy at reading this post, sweet Lucy! My internet connection was knocked out over a week ago by one of those dastardly Midwestern windstorms. Phone also, so my Onkel Klaus was frantic with worry. I reminded him that in the days of yore, letters travelled on ships across the Atlantic, but he wasn't mollified.

I love Jeff's metaphor and must admit that I spent an afternoon last week in a local used LP shop. What fun! Thank you for re-adding me to your blogroll ... it is nice to see the links and updates back on the right side.

Sending fur ruffles to my favourite raspberry thief! (My hobby as a little girl in the Wetterau region.)

Lucy said...

Thanks again.

Robbie - in fact it's one of a matching pair with our name and address on it, sent her by her fairy godfathers Glenn and Andrew in the UK, who know of her flightiness, along with the posh orange rolled leather collar! But your interpretation is lovely. I finally got around to buying her a good raw marrow bone section the other week, and wished I had done so before, her enjoyment was enormous, and still is, despite its being simply a pure white gnawed down cylinder, she is still loving it, pounces on it and chews it and plays with it. I occasionally smear a bit of peanut butter inside it.

Pam - Indeed. In fact I remember the rec when we were kids was a rather horrible, unsafe place, fraught with broken glass, vandalism, dog poo and bullying older children, as well as the kind of play equipment - witch's hats, swing boats, see-saws, those rickety wooden roundabouts and big steel slides - which, though rather more fun than the modern safe stuff, was all fairly hazardous. We, and our parents, were generally happier to stay in our own garden where we had a big old swing made from angle iron and chains from my dad's haulage yard which had moved house with my older siblings and served all six of us very well. I think perhaps the problem with the little plastic slides is they really have fairly limited appeal, both in terms of the kids' immediate attention spans and the age range that they appeal to, so they end up being garden junk which I imagine it's rather difficult to get rid of. The trampolines I must say seemed to be getting more use, but they take up a huge amount of space and I imagine need quite a lot of protection over winter, sometimes one sees a broken down discarded one in the corner of a garden and it's an unlovely sight. Anyway, we did rather enjoy having the park to ourselves, and it was maybe only in such good condition because it didn't get used very much!

R - nice to see you. I'm pleasantly surprised old record stores can still keep going! I have no means of playing vinyl, though our grandchildren do, I think!