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Monthly Archives: May 2016

‘For me, the cinema is not a slice of life, but a piece of cake.’ Alfred Hitchcock.

Stories from my Sketchbook  . . . 

Plaza 1The Plaza Theatre (Laurieton) was originally built in 1959—the same year I was born—so it really can’t be a coincidence that it happens to be one of my very favourite places to spend my time.

It’s not one of those huge monstrous cinemas that hold thousands of people, with screens so huge you have to sit in the very back row just to see the whole picture (and bad luck if you get stuck in the front row as you will come away with a severely stiff neck from having to ‘scroll’ your head back and forth and up and down the screen to try and see everything).

Plaza 2Our little cinema is much cooler than that.  It has only one main screen in the ‘Auditorium’ and one smaller screen in the ‘Deluxe Cine Lounge’, but the whole place is seriously fabulous—all red velvet curtains and gold brocade tassells, art deco statues and lights and old fashioned framed movie posters on the walls.  It’s  a step back to a more luxurious and decadent time.  (It’s not old fashioned enough that you can’t still get all your modern day yummies at the Candy Bar—but just enough so that bad behaviour will not be tolerated.  Woebetide anyone caught putting their feet up on the seat in front—David will be after you with a big stick . . .)

Plaza Theatre, Laurieton

Cake it might be for Hitchcock,
but for me the cinema is more of an ‘extra large flat white coffee and a box of maltesers . . . ‘

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Everyone thinks they have the best dog, and none of them are wrong.’ W. R. Purche.

best in showI recently re-watched the fabulous ‘mockumentary’ Best in Show.  (If you have never seen this movie you are missing out.  You don’t even have to be a ‘doggie’ person to enjoy it as it is, in reality, much more about the people who own the dogs than the dogs themselves.)  Anyway, watching it again made me realise that, in spite of my love of dogs, I don’t think I have ever been to a real-honest-to-goodness dog show—and I’m talking a ‘proper’ (note the inverted commas) dog show here, where all the dogs of a particular breed look exactly like each other (at least to me) and you have to have a PhD in Rules and Regulations to fill in the entry application.

ChupeeI have, however, attended lots of smaller local events, where showing off your best friend is a much simpler, and much less serious affair.  In my experience these shows often involve someone having to break up a fight (not necessarily between the dogs), or call for volunteers for a cleanup crew because somebody ate too many sausage sangers, or send out a search party for a mischievous pup who’s gone walkabout.  Categories usually include ‘Dog with the Prettiest Eyes’, ‘Dog with the Waggiest Tail’, ‘Dog with the Silliest Smile’, or ‘Dog You Would Most Like to Take Home with You’.  (So, more of a Ruffs than a Crufts.)

dog-biscuit-clip-art-690442‘Proper’ dog shows have been around for over 150 years.  The first bonefide modern dog show, was held in Newcastle-upon-Tyne (England) in 1859 and was an ‘add on’ attraction to their very successful annual poultry and cattle show.  It was very much a country affair though, and only setters and pointers were shown.  (The prizes were all guns too—although hopefully the actual competitors were rewarded for their efforts as well).

dog show plaqueLater that same year the first show to include non-sporting breeds was held in Birmingham and was such a huge success that the first National Dog Show in 1862 attracted 267 entries, 30 breeds, and was judged in 42 classes. The Victorians loved their dogs so much that the next 14 years saw massive growth in this new and fashionable hobby. The Dog Shows themselves were mostly for the city folk, as they were available to people of all classes and popular both with exhibitors and spectators.  The Field Trials were mostly popular with those living in more country areas.

dogwalkdog(Many years ago I took my first puppy, Harry, to watch some local field and agility trials.  I thought it could be a fun thing we could learn to do together, but he showed very little interest and slept through most of it.  Thank God for that.  Until that day I hadn’t realised just how much running around the handler was expected to do as well.  Phew.  Dodged a bullet there . . . )

I have never been tempted to show any of my dogs, even at the fun local events.  Harry never really considered himself a dog anyway and would have been mortified beyond belief if I had tried to show him off as such.  His younger brother Frankie, on the other hand, was very much a doggie-dog but he would have caused bedlam just through his sheer unadulterated joy at being around so many other four-legged friends.  (He also had the attention span of a gnat so I doubt anyone could have got him to stand still long enough to be judged anyway.  Bless.)

shydogAnd as for my girls—Mabel is so shy that being in the company of more than two people at a time causes her to hide behind my legs or bury her face in my sweater and refuse to come out.  Maudie is far more outgoing and would, I am sure, thoroughly enjoy the whole process.  She is also, however, Frankie reincarnated, and her capacity for joy, and chaos, is unmatched.  (Oh, and if someone touches her tummy when she is not expecting it she will either shriek or pee—possibly both.  I’m not certain, but I imagine she might lose points for that.)

And then there’s Molly . . .  well, you would have to catch her first.  Molly prefers to stay low key and out of sight—while issuing instructions and opinions from under the sofa.best dog award

So no, I can’t really see us participating in a dog show any time soon.  But that’s okay.  I don’t need anyone else to tell me that my dogs are fabulous, I already know that.

And, truth be told, most people who love their dogs already think they have hands-down-no-argument-best-dog-ever, and nobody else’s opinion (even a judge at a fancy dog show) is likely to change that.

Whether your dog is massively huge and slobbery or teeny-tiny small and dainty . . . or beautifully proportioned, or looks like a keg on legs  . . . if her coat is bright and full and shiny or he is going grey around the muzzle and getting bald spots . . . if he’s a picky eater, or she prefers to eat your furniture . . .  if she’s quiet and shy or he’s boisterous and madcap . . . or even if he (or she, let’s be fair) is just really old and grumpy and farts a lot . . . no-one should tell you otherwise.

You really do have the very best dog . . .

Group of twelve dogs

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.’ Dr. Seuss.

When I went to see the movie Deadpool I knew even before I went in that I was going to like it.  And I was right.  It was fast, funny, violent, hilariously profane and starred Ryan Reynolds.  What’s not to like?

deadpoolSo I was happy.  I had fun.  But not nearly as much fun as the young man sitting four rows down on the left.  This guy was having a seriously good time.  At one point he was laughing so hard I thought they were going to have to carry him out on a stretcher.  And it wasn’t obnoxious laughter either—he was laughing in all the right places—he just seemed to be having so much more fun than everyone else.  And it was contagious.  I think I spent at least as much time laughing along with him as I did at the movie itself.

Which made me wonder—would I have found the movie as amusing if I had been sitting watching it on my own at home—or even if that young man hadn’t been in the audience?  Probably not.  A shame really, because I’d like to be able to laugh like that more often, and I’m not really sure why I don’t.

It’s not like I never find anything funny.  I giggle a lot.  And probably even smirk, chuckle, snicker, titter, and maybe even snort (very unladylike, I know) on a fairly regular basis—but that real full-on, from-the-gut, makes-your-eyes-water-and-leaves-you-gasping-for-breath belly laugh . . .  not so much.

fartBut the thing is, you don’t really ‘decide’ when you are going to laugh, do you?  Or what you are going to laugh at, or how hard you are going to laugh.  It just happens—and often at the most inopportune moments. I’ve just read a blog where a man told a story of when he and his brothers were at their mother’s funeral and their grandmother unexpectedly sent forth a very loud and unapologetic burp, sending the brothers into fits of ‘quiet hysterics’ . . .  (I guess they should be grateful granny didn’t fart—that might have sent the whole congregation into meltdown . . .)

But sometimes it doesn’t even take a granny-burp.  Sometimes there is no obvious reason to be laughing whatsoever, other than someone else is already laughing and you seem suddenly, and inexplicably, incapable of not joining in.

laughing-image-0182Scientists think this ‘contagion’ effect might be because laughter may have been a precursor to language and that our ancestors may have laughed to show they were friendly and meant no harm to others.  Consequently we are hard-wired to respond to laughter.  (I guess that is also why sitcoms still use the ‘laugh track’.  My advice, they should track down that young fellow that was at my cinema—he was a laugh track all on his own.)

And it seems that we humans don’t hold the exclusive rights to laughter either.  Experts (I always want to put that word in inverted commas, but I don’t want to offend anyone, so I won’t) believe that other animals laugh too, although, at this stage they seem to believe that apes and rats are the only others to do so.  The chimps and gorillas I get—closest living relatives and all that (and we all know someone who actually sounds like a chimp when they are laughing, don’t we?)

lauging ratThe rat thing is just a tad weirder.   Tickling‘ experiments done on rats (because why wouldn’t you want to do a tickling experiment on a rat?) discovered that when rats were being tickled, they produced high-pitched, ultrasonic vocalizations (chirps), and these sounds were only made when they were playing.  And, what is more, these rats actively went out of their way to get more tickles (as you do), further indicating that they were actually enjoying the process.  (These giggly rats also preferred to play with other ‘chirpers’, which stands to reason really—why spend time with the grumpy old codger in the corner when you could be having a chuckle-fest with the fun crowd?) 

dogrollingI was a little surprised though, to see that there appears to be no evidence that cats and dogs laugh.  As an owner of three incredibly silly and giggly dogs, I am absolutely convinced my girls spend the majority of their (awake) time laughing. (The same experts who did the rat experiments above would no doubt call this ‘anthropomorphizing.  I have one thing to say to that—have any of these experts ever owned a dog?)  

Grumpy-CatAndokay, sureI admit that you don’t often see cats rolling around on their backs, tongues hanging out, eyes rolling madly, while waving their legs in the air with gay abandon when something amuses them (behaviour far too uncouth for most cats)—but you can just tell from their expressions that they are laughing (hard) on the inside . . .

smiley dogsAnyway, I am not quite sure how I managed to get from Deadpool to tickling rats but the long and the short of this story is that I am planning another trip to the movies this weekend and I am kind of hoping that young man is going to be there again.

I am feeling in need of another really good belly-laugh . . .

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.’ Michael Scott.

ladder1I have never really thought of myself as a particularly superstitious person. Sure, I ‘knock on wood’ when the occasion warrants it, and ‘break a match’ when two things have gone wrong and I don’t relish a third, and I never, ever put new shoes on the table. (Only ‘new’ shoes mind, apparently old shoes don’t count.  I have absolutely no idea why this is a thing but my Mum was always adamant—no new shoes on the table.  Ever.)  But other than that . . .

oh, and I don’t walk under ladders becausewellwho does that?  That’s just asking for trouble . . . .

But when it comes to Friday the 13th I admit I have never really given the day much thought, so I was quite surprised when I read an article recently about how many people there are in the world who have really serious issues with the day.  And I mean scared (hopefully not) to-death, can’t-get-out-of-bed-or-leave-the-house issues.

thirteenI knew there was a name for the fear of anything associated with the number thirteen (13), although I didn’t know what that name was.  When I looked it up I wasn’t surprised I didn’t know it—Triskaidekaphobia.  Triskaidekaphobia is apparently so widespread as to be the main reason that so many high-rise buildings, hotels and hospitals don’t have a 13th floor and many airports do not have gates numbered 13.

(Imagine going on holiday, having to travel on Friday 13th, flying out of Gate 13 and finding out your hotel room was Room 13 on the thirteenth floor.  That would give even the most sceptical amongst us pause for thought.)

Some theories about why 13 is such a unlucky number include:

  •  A Norse myth tells of a dinner party for 12 gods at which a 13th guest showed up uninvited. The gatecrasher—the trickster god Loki—killed (or at least was the mastermind behind the killing of) Balder, the god of joy and happiness.  (I can see how such an event might cast a slight pall over any dinner party.)
  • Likewise, the Christian tale of the ‘Last Supper’ names Judas, Jesus’ betrayer, as the 13th guest at the table.
  • Traditionally there are 13 steps leading up the gallows.  (Again, I can see how this might be considered unlucky for some.)bullshit
  • According to Mr Krabs on Spongebob Squarepants, there are 13 ‘bad’ words.  (Okay, not really a good reason for it being unlucky, unless you really need to know all 13 words for some reason and you don’t, but a fun fact anyway.)

Interestingly, in other cultures the number 13 is not considered unlucky at all.  In China the unluckiest number is 4, because the pronunication of the word is similar to that of the Chinese word for death. (Maybe the Chinese should give ‘4’ another name like hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia (fear of the number 666. I don’t think that word would sound like any other word, even in Chinese.)

So then, with so many people already freaked out about the number 13, when you go and add the Friday to it the fear goes to a whole new level and, of course, you get a whole new name for it—or, in this case, twofriggatriskaidekaphobia or paraskevidekatriaphobia. (I guess only one long, almost unpronounceable scientific name for this fear just wasn’t enough.)  

Friday13Apparently ‘frigga’ affects millions of people worldwide and it is estimated that many businesses incur huge losses on that day.  The bad news for suffers (and businesses it would seem)—is that every year will have at least one Friday the 13th. The good news is, there can’t be more than three Friday the 13ths in any given calendar year.  And although studies have been done (do we know of anything there hasn’t been a ‘study’ done on yet?) there seems little evidence to suggest that Friday 13 is unluckier than any other day (although rabid fans of Jason Voorhees might hasten to disagree).

But you know, if you are not worried about the number 13, and Fridays in general hold no angst for you, then there is probably not too much for you to worry about . . .

. . .  if you don’t spill any salt . . .  or break any mirrors . . . or open your umbrella indoors . . . or light three cigarettes with one match . . . don’t (obviously) walk under any ladders . . . and you speak very nicely to any black cat who crosses your path . . .  what could possibly go wrong?cat feet

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘The most affectionate creature in the world is a wet dog.’ Ambrose Bierce.

The weather bureau says we are in for more rain this weekend.  Well, of course we are.  It has been gorgeous while I have been working in the office all week—warm, bright, clear and sunny.  If rain is coming it is sure to be here just in time for the weekend . . .

walking in rainI don’t deliberately go out walking in the rain any more.  I used to love it (providing the rain wasn’t torrential enough to flatten you onto the pavement of course) but then I had my ‘boys’ to walk with me, and inclement weather made no-nevermind to them.  Harry and Frank were born and bred in Armidale—tough country boys through and through.  Freezing temperatures, snow, rain, storms—nothing stopped them from going outside or wanting their daily walks.  We (or rather I, as neither of them would be seen dead wearing anything resembling a coat) would just bundle up and out we would go.  Their enthusiasm never waned.  Harry was still demanding his daily walk at 19 years of age.

My, how things have changed . . .

muddy-dogMabel has a deep-seated aversion to rain.  As she does to having baths.  I used to think it was just the water itself that upset her, but she is quite happy to go and stand up to her oxters in any muddy puddle she can find, so that can’t be it.  She doesn’t seem to be scared of the rain either—which in itself is notable, as she is scared of almost everything else.

(Did you know that ‘fear of rain’ is a real thing?  I didn’t—it’s called ombrophobia I’m fairly confident that Mabel doesn’t suffer from that.  I think it’s more a case of she just doesn’t like to get her ‘hair’ wet.)

legscrossedMaudie isn’t quite as ‘precious’ as Mabel (although she will scream bloody murder if you try to put a raincoat on her) but the rain does always have a hilarious effect on her.  A rainstorm always makes Maudie want to pee (it never fails) and she will inevitably hover around the back door with her legs crossed for an extraordinary amount of time (always looking at me as if I should be doing something about it) before eventually giving in and making a mad dash out into the garden to relieve herself.  (Rain or no rain, when a girl’s gotta go, a girl’s gotta go.)  She will then hurtle back inside (joyously triumphant in having completed her mission) and then make a huge song and dance about drying herself off (on the carpet, or the rug, or (if I can’t catch her in time) my bed . . . )

And then there’s Molly.  Ah Molly.  I love her to death you know—but sometimes . . . .  Offer to take Molly out in the rain and she is all smiles.  Running in circles, barking and doing her little ‘happy’ dance.  All good. Until I get her out of the house and maybe as far as the end of our street and, that’s it.  stubborn-dogShe will then decide that perhaps a brisk walk in the rain was not the best idea after all, and she will plant her little fat bottom down and flatly refuse to go any further (backwards or forwards) and I’ll end up having to carry her home.  (Are all pomeranians that stubborn, or is it just her?)  It’s honestly not worth the aggravation.  (Note: The picture at right is not of me and Molly, but it was heartening to find a pic that proves other people have the same issues . . . )

PouringRainLast weekend it rained and it rained and it rained.  On Sunday I held off ‘walkies’ as long as I could (due to all the reasons listed above) but once I saw a slight break in the clouds we were off.  The girls were so excited, I got them all the way down to the end of the breakwall before they realised the rain hadn’t quite stopped.  I started to get those ‘you brought us out in the rain?’ looks.  We turned for home, and picked up the pace.  I was hoping the girls wouldn’t notice that the rain was getting heavier.  They noticed.  We were still out on the breakwall when the rain turned into the sort of deluge that Noah had been waiting for.  ‘Come on,’ I cried, “Run!’ and I started running myself (no mean feat I can tell you).  When they didn’t all overtake me like they usually do, I looked over my shoulder to see the three of them, heads down and ears flattened, all trotting forlornly in a single file behind me.

Dog-shaking-cartoonTo make matters worse, Mabel would stagger three steps, stop, shake herself vigorously, stagger another three steps, stop, shake, stop, shake . . . holding the other two up in the meantime (there seemed to be some unwritten rule about ‘jumping the line’). Unreal.  (God only knows what the neighbours must think.  Anyone looking out of their windows to see me laughing hysterically (it was all pretty funny) waving my arms about and dashing back and forth chivvying up three bedraggled, pitiful looking little dogs must have thought we were rehearsing some weird circus act.)

20141228_105902Once back inside the house of course, all the horrors of the past half hour were immediately forgotten and they reverted to their usual seething, writhing mass of wriggling, giggling, yay-we’re-at-home silliness.   Little feet, heads and tails were duly dried off (using, judging by the amount of washing I had to do later, almost every towel in the house) group hugs were duly dispensed, and that ‘special’ doggie aroma began to fill the air.  (‘Eau de Wet Dog’, mmmm. . . )

Finally, calm, dry, fed and exhausted from the trauma of the day, it was time for a nap.  On mum’s lap.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.   Let it rain again this weekend.  See if I care. There is nothing quite like the love and affection of a damp, tired-but-happy little dog—or three . . .

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘My little dog—a heartbeat at my feet.’ Edith Wharton.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

Mabel doesn’t sit at my feet (unless we are out of the house of course, and my feet are the only thing to hide behind).

But inside the house—I don’t think so.  Being a teeny-tiny dog, Mabel learned very early on that it was in her own best interests to avoid anyone else’s feet but her own.  (It should be written in the doggie handbook—two-legged giants stomping around on big clumsy feet rarely bother to look down.)

Besides, why on earth would she sit on a cold, hard floor when she could be sleeping between the pillows on mum’s bed, or snuggled between her two sisters in a blanket on the couch, or, better still, on mum’s lap.  I mean, really . . .

Mabel-May 2016

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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