If I could talk to the animals…​

Our dog has us very well-trained.

I’m sure she tells the one or two dogs that she’s actually friends with, ‘My hoomans are so clever, you know. I swear they understand every word I say.”

And to some extent, it’s true. In the (nearly) two years that we’ve had her, the pair of us have built up quite the communication system. That’s a vampire thing. An affinity and ability to communicate with animals. No turning into canines, just a knack for chatting with them.

She’s great, though. She has basic manners, better road sense than many humans, and we can carry on some great conversations, she and I. The intellectual content was never going to be devastating, but she can ask for things, tell me when she does or doesn’t like things. Oh, and she finds farts hilarious.

We’ve often been asked what breed she is. We simply say ‘Staffy Cross’. “Cross with what?” is the inevitable second question. We have absolutely no clue. This reply has so far left everyone unsatisfied for, instead of walking away and letting us get on with our day, they then spend the next ten or so minutes suggesting breeds.

Isn’t ‘Staffy Cross’ a good enough term anymore???

The Furball herself has never been able to tell me any details of her parentage. Dogs really don’t care about such trifling matters. To her, dogs are dogs. She doesn’t care about breed, colour or pedigree. All she cares about is whether they’re going to be nice to her or not.

So, we’ve decided, as this obsession with crossbred dogs seems to show no signs of abating, to refer to her as a Staffy-Noi, as in Staffy crossed with No idea.

Can someone please explain the current need to create strange names to describe simple cross-breed dogs?

Here are a few of the current ones out there. 
(Trigger warning- A quick note to anyone who likes seeking out offence – these are not actual descriptions of the breeds, okay?)

Jackabee– A cross between a Jack Russell terrier and a beagle. A dramatic little dog with a fondness for Old English tragic theatre. Needs training to wear a collar, as it prefers wearing ruffs. Not to be mistaken for the Old English Poo (which is what a lot of people think of Jacobean tragedies). Also known as a busy little dog.

Bichpoo – A small, fluffy dog (Bichon Frisé/Poodle) with a penchant for doing its business wherever it dang well pleases, and then getting in your face should you dare challenge it about it.

Zuchon – A Bichon Frisé/Shih-Tzu mix that just loves courgettes and mining for gold.

Cavapoo – A silky Spaniel/Poodle mix that should never be taken potholing/spelunking due to its nervous bowels.

Borador –  A beautiful, loveable mix of Border Collie & Labrador that will send you sleep with its stories.

CacaWhattaPoowoo – part Cavalier, part What-The-Heck, part Poodle, part Wouldn’t-Know-The-Breed-If-It-Bit-Me. It’s an amazing all-purpose gundog-hound-lapdog, specially bred for its bemused expression and skill at helping fill in tax forms.

Okay, so that last one wasn’t a real one. But it should be.

And another thing.

Obscure pedigree dog breeds. Why? You have these people who one-up everyone by having a dog that nobody’s ever heard of – only to be insulted because nobody’s ever heard of it.

ME: Beautiful dog.

THEM: Thank you.

ME: Is it a Shih-Tzu?

THEM: (horrified) NO! It’s an Ecuadorian Abacadrabrian Water Terrier.

ME: Oh. It looks like a Shih-Tzu.

THEM: (disgusted) Ugh. You clearly know nothing about dogs.

ME: I know what a Shih-Tzu looks like.

It’s like with designer clothes – you (generally) only get the kudos from people who know that designer. So unless you’re prepared to have the designer’s name splashed all over the item, I’m afraid your genius and superb taste are doomed to go unnoticed.

And by the way, pal, that pup’s definitely a Shih-Tzu.

 

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The Vamp Who Came In From The Cold

It’s cold.

It’s so cold, I can’t move my face.

This is what it must be like to have Botox.

Let me explain. I’m not too aware of the actual sensation of feeling cold, but I do tend to notice small things like having no sensation in my toes or fingers.

I remember back in school, many, many decades ago, we had a PE teacher who we called Witch Hazel for no apparent reason (but then I also got the nickname ‘Lily-Trot’ using similar logic).

It would be this time of year and hockey season was in full swing. Witch Hazel would be standing there in full North Pole gear, looking like the infernal offspring of a 1970s Football Manager and a Grizzly Bear. Sheepskin coat, wooly hat, fur-lined gloves etc.
Anyway, she’d be standing there with only her nose exposed to the elements (well, one element – ice!) and there was us in our shorts and T-shirts, icicles hanging off our ears.

Get moving!” she’d shout “You’ll soon warm up!

It was a lie.

And that’s when I discovered the existence of FOPs.

FOPs

Fluorescent Orange Patches.

The skin on my thighs would be so cold that these little bright, bright orange patches would appear. I have no idea why. I think it might have been some kind of protest march by my skin cells. Not quite sure either what my blood cells were up to. On the whole, they’re a bit like me  – they keep themselves to themselves. They were disconcerting, but they encouraged me to keep moving in case anyone decided to play join-the-dots with my legs…

And then there’s the human obsession with snow…

This confuses me…

I’ve heard “One swallow does not a summer make” but it seems one snowflake will a blizzard make.

Did that even make sense?

One flake, and everybody is going crazy. The scenes in supermarkets are like something you’d expect to see at the End Of Days. Yes, because when the end of the world comes, I want to make sure I have enough milk and bread to see me through Judgment Day.
And then there’s the other classic of confusion…

“It’s too cold to snow.”

TOO COLD?

Yup, the cold is so hardcore, even the snowflakes are too scared to come out.
But I’ll finish there with one useful rule of thumb.

You know it’s cold when washing your hands in hot water warms them up.
You know it’s really cold when you warm them up by washing them in cold water.

Stay warm, everyone.

It’s Good To Be Back!

Well, hello there!

How was your summer? Did you know that uploading your holiday photos on your screensaver at work (if you’re allowed to) is a great way of dealing with those horrible down-in-the-dumps feelings you get when you have to go back to work?

And boom! Straight in there with some useful info. Ah, I’m glad to be back home. Since we last spoke, I’ve got myself a new office. Very light, very spacious.

Light? I hear you say… Light?

But you’re a vampire.

You don’t do light.

Bright light, I don’t do.

Glaring sunshine, I don’t do.

But I also don’t do trying to write in the pitch black. I’m not an earthworm. Have you ever tried typing in the dark? Admittedly it’d be doable on a tablet or smartphone…

So here I am, dealing with a digital mountain of work that has built up in my absence. Where I was staying is infamous for having no phone signal, and wifi that couldn’t be accessed, even with multiple sacrifices to the gods of technology. Not that we bothered. It was actually really nice to shut off from the world… You know what I mean.

And here I am. Home. The furbaby’s gaze is boring into the back of my head. She wants to play. Oh, yes, she has a sofa in here with me. We got a new sofa, you see, so this one got moved in here. She thinks it’s hers anyway, so it made sense.

And here comes autumn. The evenings are that little bit cooler, the sea that little bit wilder, the atmosphere that little bit easier. I’m looking forward to getting back to these chats with you.

And… relax.

Drat!

It happened again, didn’t it?

Not only did I lose all track of time, but I said that last time I would write something about the internet, but I didn’t.

Not only do vampires have an absolutely rubbish sense of timing, but we (I say ‘we’, but…) also get distracted horribly easily.

What distracted me?

Well, not surprisingly, it was something shiny. I’m telling you, if anyone ever drops a pin or the back of an earring, I’m your vamp. I’m also great at spotting bits of foil, coins, suspicious wet patches on the pavement… The list goes on…

There was this one time when I was living in London and I went to a twmpath. It’s essentially a Welsh barn dance. Okay, so there aren’t that many barns in London, but there is a surprisingly large number of Welsh people there.

(Oh – pronunciation… in Welsh, ‘w’ is a vowel. It makes the same sound as ‘oo’ in ‘good’)

So, anyway, at the end of the evening, the person I went with is a friend of the band, so we help them take their gear back to the storage – which just happens to be in a crypt in a graveyard somewhere in the eastest of the East End. There were riots going on at the time, so we got an impromptu police escort to the church.

We drop everything off. We head back to Leicester Square (why, I have no idea), and from there, watch the sun rise over Taco Bell…

At which point, the guitarist starts complaining about his eyesight being fuzzy.

Cue jokes about putting more water in it, being emotionally affected by the sight of a sunrise etc.

I’m fine with sunrises, by the way. As long as the light isn’t too bright. I just have to be asleep before the sun comes up because after that, there’s no chance. I just have to wait it out till the following day.

And as soon as someone cracks a joke about ‘something in your eye?’ that’s when he realises… No, there isn’t something in his eye – but there should be!

He’s only gone and lost a contact lens, hasn’t he?

Now, in those days, they cost a fortune. None of this daily disposable thing. They were the equivalent of designer bespoke tailoring for your eyeballs.

Everyone looks around the immediate area.

Nothing.

Bad luck, mate.

You’ll have to be more careful in future.

Why don’t you just wear glasses?

So we all peel away and return to our various abodes. Most to sleep like the dead; me to, well… stay awake until the next sleep window comes around.

Then that brain worm starts niggling. It niggles me until I admit defeat and grab my coat. I head for the cemetery, which now looks quite different in the (rather bright) Sunday morning sunshine.

And no – I know what you’re thinking. Cemeteries are not like a second home for me. That’s a myth. They’re just nice quiet places where a vampire can sit and gather her many (many) thoughts without being distracted / pestered / annoyed by the residents.

So… I walk around a bit. The grass is lovely and wet around my ankles (please let that be dew, I’m thinking). And there it is… twinkling like an errant diamond (or a half-sucked Jelly Tot) in the grass is the missing lens. I managed to find this tiny piece of whatever in an area of over an acre of grass, gravel and tombs.

What was I talking about?

Oh. Yes.

The sun.

It was the sun that distracted me.

Bright, yellow and very, very shiny.

And almost unknown in this part of Wales (or any part, come to think of it)

Here comes summer?

Summer’s here! No it isn’t… Well…

People always joke that you can tell it’s Christmas because Easter eggs are in the shop. Well, we’ve just done with Easter (there are still loads of eggs in the shop, mind you) so, one could be forgiven for thinking that it must be summer now. Is it just me that gets confused by this, or do you humans have a problem with it too?

True, it rains all the time here, so it could very well be summer and nobody has told me. But the rain slamming down on the conservatory roof feels at odds wth the flip flops and picnic paraphernalia I saw half an hour ago in the shops.

The clocks have gone back. The body clock however is having slightly more difficulty adjusting. I’d hate to wake up late one morning and realise that I’d missed summer. It is, after all, the best day of the year. Yes, I know. I don’t like sunshine. It hates me back. But a summer’s day is delightful, if confusing in the wardrobe department.

Sunhat and wellies?

Scarf and sandals?

Waders and sunglasses?

Oh, the combinations are endless.

The furball continues to take me on long walks (she’s currently mapping the local area in her little doggy brain, and enjoys knitting places together in the oddest combinations). She also continues to try to drag me into the sea after her. And all the while, she still refuses to stick her nose out of the door if it’s raining. Consequently, she’s in the conservatory, surveying her kingdom from the warm, dry safety of her sofa. And while she’s out there doing her ‘Mistress-of-all-she-surveys’ routine, it’ll hopefully give me the opportunity to squeeze in some yoga without her

a) giving me an impromptu face wash

b) mistaking my ‘downward dog’ for me wanting to play with her (that often ends up with a rope toy swung into my face)

c) showing me up with how weirdly bendy she is

Our earlier walk was, surprise surprise, on the beach, which this past week has been increasingly populated by tourists with their free-range mutts. Next week, she’s got a shock in store. I’m starting running again. And she’s coming with me.

Ah! I know what the giveaway thing is. I’ve remembered why I keep thinking summer might be on its way.

Endless holiday adverts and people bashing on about being “beach body ready”

Huh?

The beach is ten minutes down the road.

I have a body.

Boom.

Job done.

Oh! You mean the body has got to be perfect?

And by that, you mean so skinny that I could snap in half if caught in a high wind?

Well, that’s going to take a bit longer.

Because I refuse to be told what to look like.

Because even if I did, the vox populi (which thanks heavens, is not vox dei) would still find something to binch about.

Because I prefer to be strong than skinny.

And because, in order to fulfil this impossible and fake ideal, I’d probably have to give up chocolate.

And I’m no quitter.

 

There’s no business…

…like snow business.

First of all, I hope everyone is keeping well and warm. I don’t have a problem with the cold weather. One of the advantages of my vampire metabolism. I don’t feel the cold the same way that you do.

I have to admit, the only problem I do have is that when I’m writing, my hands have a tendency to get a bit chilly, but that’s about it. I think they move so fast over the keyboard that the blood gets confused and doesn’t know where it’s supposed to be… Still, it’s a great excuse to have lots of hot drinks.

Here’s my current favourite: turmeric latte. Get your spices mixed… 3 parts turmeric, 2 parts cinnamon and 1 part each nutmeg & ginger. Throw in a pinch of finely ground black pepper (helps absorption). Keep it in a cute jar. Heat up a mug of milk, stir in 1/2 teaspoon and sweeten. All those lovely spices will warm you up and just taste downright naughty. Obviously, I use non-dairy milk (coconut works best with this), because, well, vampire metabolism… Can’t touch most animal-based stuff. Ironic really.

The furbaby is refusing to leave the house. While other people are posting photos and videos online of their doggies leaping around like joyful loons in the snow, mine has turned into a teenager.

She’s staring at me, sandwiched between two (yes, two!) duvets.

“You need to go outside.”

Silence.

“Food?”

Flicker of interest.

“Walk?”

Death stare.

Last night, just after midnight, she leapt up and decided she had to go out. Now. Right now. Now! Come on, hoomin!

You have got to be kidding me, pup.

So she darted out, neatly dodging the knee-high drift at the back door. She hared around, did what she needed to do, and threw herself back inside, in much the same style as a stunt man in an action movie.

And, pretty much like a stunt man, she decided to make use of available props…

Like the snow drift.

Cue internal explosion of snow. A wall of cold froth boomed its way into the conservatory (the same one she’d been sunning herself in only a couple of days previously).

Result? Snow on the floor. Snow on the walls, the windows, the ceiling (what the-?!), and one snow-coated vampire. Head to foot.

So while she thunders her way back upstairs (probably nicking my space in the bed), I’m stood there picking potential snowballs out of my ears, mouth, nose…

We’ve gone from action movie to comedy in ten seconds flat.

Thanks.

Stay warm. Stay safe. And if you can help anyone else to, please do.

Take care.

Domus Melis Domus

Yeah, I know.

Worst Latin ever.

I did learn Latin as a child. Before you ask – no, I’m not a native speaker of that as well. How old do you think I am?! I know I said I was old right at the very beginning of all this, but I ain’t that old! And no, I don’t remember the dinosaurs either!

I do remember things like:

  • humans landing on the moon
  • if you missed you favourite television programme, tough – no video recorders, no cable, plus only having three television channels
  • colour televisions being a luxury, not a basic life staple (as were cars)
  • Non-decimal money, often referred to as L.S.D. No, nothing to do with lysergic acid, but back to good old Latin again… Librae, Soldi, Denarii. Don’t know if it was some kind of joke (and why would I have cared anyway?), but it was meant to be the Roman equivalent of pounds, shillings, pence
  • BYO carrier bags
  • encyclopaedias, not Wikipedia
  • ‘Burger’ being something you muttered (quickly) under your breath when something went wrong

Oh. Massively off track as ever.

Focus!

So, it’s been nearly six months in our new little safe haven.

People are lovely here, and no one has a clue what I am.

So far, so good.

Long may it remain like that! One of the good things about living here is that it’s not an area exactly known for its sunny weather, so that in itself is a blessing!

With the differential in house prices in the two areas being what it is, we have moved from a one bedroom flat (no kids or dogs allowed) to a simply huge four bedroom house with a massive garden that one can get lost in! And dogs!

Well, we already have the dog, as you no doubt remember from the previous post

Like me, the house is something of a mongrel.

It had been in the same family (not mine) since Victorian times (when it was built) and each generation has added something to it particular to their lifetime. It’s a live-in Museum in its own right. You can walk around the house playing “spot the era”. There are things here from the 20s, 30s, and so on and so forth. The 70s were a particularly active time in this house’s DIY history… Heaven help us…

A lot has been added to it. And when I say a lot I mean a lot. It had a patio, that became a conservatory that became a workshop, that became a kitchen. Well, the kind of kitchen that Dr Frankenstein would wake up in the night having the shakes over. Every time we prepared a meal, the uppermost thought in our minds wasn’t “Now, what drink would go well with this?”

No.

The uppermost thought was “Will I survive long enough to actually eat this?”

But it’s now a kitchen, a proper one!

A proper bathroom was added on. As was a utility room (that’s actually quite utile), which is about the only part of the house that doesn’t need something doing to it. Thankfully, It’s all cosmetic. But it’s a level of ‘cosmetic’ that would have Max Factor running for the hills.

But we love our conservatory. As does the dog. She can often be found in there, sat on the sofa, surveying her kingdom. When we want to get into the garden, sometimes we’re too lazy too unlock the back door, so we just go through the conservatory windows instead. I was born by Caesarean, so I have absolutely no problem with this.

There’s a lot to do.

And doing it is a cross between Pass The Parcel and Russian Roulette. While channeling Heath Robinson, who I believe may well have been the inspiration for much of the original alterations…

So here I go, paintbrush in hand.

Wish me luck.