Friday, July 29, 2016

Repost on Mal's Factory - On Listening to Mahler

Having been totally absorbed by a performance of Mahler's Symphony No 3, conducted by Bernard Haitink, from the BBC Proms courtesy of BBC4, I thought it time to repost a poem of mine on my poetry blog. The poem On Listening to Mahler can be found on Mal's Factory here - 

If you're wary of clicking links the address, which you may cut and paste is:

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Flummoxed by Circumstance

The heat and humidity of the past week have certainly, but unsurprisingly, had a detrimental effect on my relative state of well-being. Even before the hottest day arrived, I was already suffering payback, for over-exertion, in my desire to optimize the length of time & distance spent walking our gorgeous dog Piper.

Already impaired by that payback I'm somewhat flummoxed when trying to determine how much of my current ailments, tenderness of lymph nodes (both axillary and cervical), aching bones feeling somewhat as if they've been hollowed out and lined with lead and undergoing extreme gravitational tugs of war, are a continuation of the earlier payback and how much solely a response to climatic conditions.

I've reluctantly had to resort to supports applied to wrist, elbow, knee, ankle, and even tubular bandages covering most of my arm. I don't know whether this use of tubular bandage serves as some kind of lymphatic massage but, it certainly helps. Unfortunately, alongside the physical ailments, a re-active depression has had a deleterious effect on my ability to respond rationally to any minor physical or emotional setback.

Yesterday morning as I lay on my bed, chokingly sobbing, Piper ran up the stairs, placed his head beside mine and lay with me for a few minutes; that in itself demonstrated that his presence in our life proves therapeutic. I have actually managed a couple of shorter walks with the boy in the cooler parts of the evening.

Piper is certainly becoming more confident since joining our family, barking a confident disapproval of large darkly coloured dogs encountered on his walks, yet offering friendly sniff-based greeting to many other canines that he had at first cowered away from. Judging by this behaviour, I suspect that the scattering of scars on head and torso, received whilst in the pound, were caused by a really large dark coloured canine. He has certainly gained a good knowledge of our nearby footpaths and bridleways and seems to let his walker know when he's ready to head back home.

his mistress's scent



Although I spend much more time with the dog at home, than my beloved OH manages (owing to other commitments), she is definitely his dominant other. Fortunately, he now spends less time dolorously searching for his mistress when her other duties call and, this weekend he has been left solely in my charge, as his chosen other ventured down to the south of the country for a couple of days and nights. Now, after 10 hours of Helen's absence he has just been casting a few longing glances at the door of the lounge but, then goes trotting around the garden, looking for possible sources of mischief. On returning to the house he welcomes my attention before checking out the door once more, anxiously awaiting his mistresses return.

These days I hate, almost fear, spending evenings and nights alone in the house, feeling rather vulnerable, due no doubt, at least in part to my sundry physical (and reactive emotional) ailments but, I'm sure that Piper's companionship will help.

Friday, July 15, 2016


HOUDINI HOUND brings on payback but provides much therapeutic HEALING – the PIPER chronicles

Wednesday night was a time of moderate payback for the additional (voluntary) exertion / exercise I’ve been taking since the adorable Piper came into my life. Generally though, the dog is proving almost miraculously therapeutic, enabling in me a calm which I’ve not experienced in more years than I care to remember, as well as taking longer walks than I’d been able to manage in the preceding 13 years.

The form the payback took was not at all conducive to sleep, not even of the far too prevalent non-refreshing variety. A simple flick of the bedsheet across the top of my toes, or even an individual digit, caused an unwitting flailing of lower limbs and a hard to suppress need to scream out a string of expletives. Big toes were overwhelmed with a throbbing ache, whilst the full complement of subservient digits tingled with what felt like a potent electrical charge.  During Thursday I experienced a not insignificant degree of confusion and reduced power of concentration.

To be perfectly honest, I’m quite relieved that the payback has remained relatively mild! Our little Piper seems quite sensitive towards my de-energized state of being, leaning in to me rather than demanding a deeper rough & tumble commitment.

I’m constantly amazed and charmed by Piper’s character and personality, especially the winning way in which he commands one’s attention and affection. The sudden burst of energy which emanates from an apparently dormant canine must cause terror in any feline character that dare trespass on his territory, his home patch. The vigorous way he wags his tail, when greeting his people, is a sight to behold – more like a full body shake. I’m pretty certain that a simple greeting, from Piper, expends far more energy than any (so called) long-life / heavy duty battery could ever produce!

His late night bounds into the garden will occasionally produce a basso profundo woof that belies the originators size! Sometimes it may be a feline intruder, which swiftly flees from his territory, at other times he’s somewhat bemused by the little sphere of spikes which appears as he approaches a strolling hedgehog. The boy seems to have an inbuilt hedgehog sensor and, as a result we’re discovering that our long term efforts at developing our garden a wildlife friendly environment is proving successful. On one occasion I observed a couple of juvenile hedgehogs, snuffling along, at one edge of the longer grass area whilst Piper found another source of interest at the opposite side of the same area. Quite remarkably he responded to my wilfully distracting call, made to lead him away from the juvenile ‘hogs path, as he came and trotted by my side, tail held aloft, back into the house.

After he’d found it possible to utilise a garden bench as a springboard, to surmount a quite high fence into our neighbours garden, an immediate re-siting of the planter laden bench was essential. The amazing thing is that he gave us a demonstration of how easily he’d managed this astounding feat shortly after returning home from the scene of his accomplishment.

The day following the great escape, Piper demonstrated, to yours truly, that with a clearer run-up to that section of fence he was already close to making another leap to freedom. Immediate DIY work was called for, as an old Mothercare fireguard was quickly dis-assembled and it’s component parts utilized to add additional height to that particular section of the fence. Our bundle of boundless energy has certainly brought much added colour and joy into our lives.

                             Piper tries out his new bed

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Those who pay the Piper are made to follow his tune

It really is amazing how quickly the world, at least in one’s personal sphere, can be turned upside down and inside out. Less than two weeks ago Piper came to visit us and, different facets of his character seem to appear almost daily. Compared to his physical stature, 15 kilograms of energy – his personality is absolutely enormous, lets imagine it in weight – 1500 kg as a minimum!

It seems quite strange, to me at least, that a creature always so eager to please can at times prove even more stubborn than the proverbial mule! Piper knows his own mind, and, he’ll always jump at the least opportunity to turn our will into a mirror of his own desire. He has eyes that could melt the hardest of hearts and a mischievousness that entertains substantially more than it irritates. By now you may have guessed that I love him.

Alongside the love, there is a modicum of anxiety at the way he frets when my OH goes out of the house and, I start to wonder how he’ll react when she goes away for a couple of days. At least his little whine at the door as she departs, sans Piper of course, now dissipates rather quickly as he manages to attract my full attention. The settling down period also involves his desire to run upstairs, bound up on the bed and placing paws on the headboard as he looks out of the window for any sign of his mistresses person. The next step often involves placing his paws on my knees whilst I tickle and stroke him under his chin and the top of his chest.  Of course, he’s always on the lookout for treats having the appetite of a Desperate Dan (with his cow pies) and, proffers a downhearted look of dismay if a food treat is not forthcoming.

At present, I have a cast-iron resolve not to yield to his (innocent) greed; but he still loves me, I think. His bouts of apparently boundless energy are balanced with more than an equivalent amount of relaxation and sleep; admittedly I have little record of what occurs when his master and mistress are upstairs asleep. He quickly started to recognize my nocturnal routine, as I put on the outside light whilst he bounds, or slowly meanders, following a multitude of scents, around the garden.

My beloved, Helen, invariably heads off to the land of nod a little while before me, but once I start to switch off TV or radio and the aquarium light, he settles himself on the sofa, having first made a little nest out its sundry throws, but is sometimes distracted as he grabs and growlingly shakes a soft toy. Even then, as I move towards the door of the sitting room he casts a doleful glance my way before I switch off the light and wish him “good night”.

As well as the sofa, which he often shares with ma belle during the day, he occasionally has a penchant for my armchair, and thereby hangs a tale / tail! On Monday my beloved went out for an early evening meal, with her friend Hilary, at a time shortly before Piper’s feed time. As my beloved went out Piper seemed quite sleepily settled on their shared sofa. At that point I went through to the kitchen to prepare his evening feed, knowing he would dash through as soon as the food sounded into the bowl.

As he entered the kitchen he appeared to have a shamed look on his face, tail curled beneath him. This seemed most unusual as he’s usually so eager to ‘wolf’ down his food. Now I have to explain that I have a table beside my armchair, on which I keep and use, my laptop; on this table my beloved had left some buttered bread and a package containing Shropshire Blue cheese. As I moved back to the armchair I began to understand Piper’s signs of guilt, when I saw the cheese, now partially unwrapped, on the seat cushion of the armchair, the dairy product itself displayed some give-away canine (no, not human canine teeth) toothmarks. In a matter of a minute, the drowsy canine had moved across the room from sofa to armchair and found the proximity of,  cheese bearing, computer table to his olfactory organ overwhelming!

The day that the boy arrived, chez nous, Beth brought him (amongst other delights) a synthetic chewing bone with a tasty filling. During the following days it has been buried in gravel adjacent to the house, in previously compressed ground near to the summerhouse  and, in ground behind the large shed, In that bone he’d met his match; long lasting chews or Bonio biscuits are devoured almost as swiftly as they’re presented to him, but that bone really took a gnawing between the intermittent relocations.

Today, when Helen went out to the local shops, Piper came through to join me in the front room, before jumping on the sofa in the sitting room. Next thing, I noticed him bouncing upstairs, quite obviously to his lookout point to check on his mistresses whereabouts! When I heard a burst of growling woofs, emanating from the bedroom, I went upstairs to check on what was going on.

Piper was on the bed with his nose, snuffling away, underneath my pillow. Having told the boy to calm down, I lifted the pillow only to find the soil laden bone, and a generous selection of paw spread soil paintings on the undersheet.

 No doubt about it, a complete change of bed-linen was called for and the “buried treasure” has found its way into a waste disposal bin. There’s maybe more I could tell you but I’m beginning to tire; so I bid my readers a fond adieu.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Times they are a changing as the Piper calls

A time of change; as all things turn, there is always a return made, an apparent centring to what has been a slow created essence of one’s being! Quite why I scribbled down that opening line, I’m a little uncertain but, I am aware that certain changes, so rapidly, assimilate to one’s sense of place that they swiftly seem as if they had always been!

We have swiftly adapted to the revamped home, following the many weeks during which the extension work, chez nous, took place. Somehow it seems as if the adaptations had been made to accommodate our family’s latest arrival. As yet we await confirmation that we will be able to adopt our foster boy ‘Piper’.

Piper is a beagle and (assumed) Labrador cross, he certainly has many of the traits that are typical of beagles, always following scents of potential prey wherever he goes, and he has an insatiable appetite for food. The beagle trait is unmistakeable in the head and his colouring is quite like a less saturated version of a red fox Labrador.

Having spent five years in a pound in Spain, where he was bullied and attacked by other dogs, he has a slightly nervous disposition but, has settled in wonderfully into our household. At first he seemed to have a wariness of homo sapiens males, much preferring the female of the species but I was surprised how quickly he accepted me. Piper is definitely a people dog, and has swifltly re-organised the days for ma belle et moi. He’s just so endearing!

Ma Belle generally takes him for morning walk before he has his first meal of the day, so she’s getting the most exercise she has had in quite sometime, sometimes I accompany them both, for at least some of the time, in the evening! Thursday evening I actually managed the longest walk that I’ve had since 2003, and only had minimal payback in terms of a minor degree of shatteredness. Admittedly the back support came into play last evening, as I’d sprained the muscles on the left hand side of my back, probably caused when competing for space in my favourite armchair!

In the morning it’s wonderful to be greeted by the bounding energy ball, that is Piper, as he races upstairs and pounces upon the duvet,  expressing his joy in being here to share my life. Usually a quite boisterous greeting but, this morning, as if acknowledging my back-aching jadedness, he just flopped beside me, forepaws placed gently over my arm.

We are fortunate in having a reasonably well secured, sizeable garden which he always enjoys exploring, in his preparedness to see off any trespassing felines. Just like us he enjoys a reasonably sustained chilled out flop, between bouts of exercise and/or feeding.

In the eight / nine days he has been with us I’ve not needed to resort to wrist, elbow, or shoulder supports, nor have I needed to increase my pain-killer intake. If being part of our family is as therapeutic for him as it is for me, we are both well and truly blessed. My step-daughter Beth who lives, with her four cats, across town is totally smitten with the boy and happily proffers her dog walking services for Piper.