Stories from my Sketchbook . . .
Well folks . . . Christmas is coming . . . which means so are the summer storms, sweltering heat, and bushfires . . .
Be careful. Be vigilant. Be safe . . .
“Only 15 Sleeps to Christmas” the sign outside one of our local shops shrieked at me as I walked past today. Oh good grief! That means I should probably have posted the family’s gifts off to England weeks ago. Now they might get them in time for Easter next year (if they’re lucky). Sigh.
It’s no good . . . I really do have to ‘get with the programme’. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about how quickly Christmas is closing in on me, because I have. (How could anyone not—with the constant bombardment of Christmas shopping and food catalogues, bouncing elves and those incessant Jingle-Bell ditties which have been playing in every supermarket and boutique since early November . . . how those poor shop assistants do not go into complete meltdown and start poking candy canes into customers’ eyes long before Christmas Day arrives is beyond me . . . )
However . . . as I was saying . . . I have (honestly) been giving some thought to the holiday season—albeit possibly only in the deep, dark recesses of my mind—and I do distinctly remember thinking about putting a Christmas List together way back in September . . . and then again in October . . . and then reminding myself again in November that Christmas wasn’t all that far away . . .
What I try to do, of course, is buy potential Christmas gifts for friends and family throughout the year, wherever and whenever I see them—because I want to choose something a person will really, really like, rather than a last minute rushed ‘Oh my gosh this will do’ sort of present. So when I see the perfect gift I buy it, put it aside, and by the time Christmas comes around I am then (hopefully) well ahead of the game. This makes perfect sense to me.
What doesn’t make so much sense, however, is that I always seem to pack these lovely purchases away and store them ‘somewhere safe’—and then promptly forget all about them! Not only that, but when I do eventually come across them again (often after Christmas is long gone) I have usually forgotten who I bought them for in the first place, because, apparently, I also think my memory is good enough not to warrant the attachment of a quick post-it note with a name on it . . .
15 days. Mmmmmm. That’s okay. I can do this. There’s still plenty of time left to get everything done. All I need is a plan . . .
So—from this weekend I am going to make a determined effort to ‘get into the spirit’ of it all. I am going to drag out my Christmas decorations (kicking and screaming from their dusty boxes) and shooz up the house. The girls will love that. (Oh Oh. Thinking of the girls has just made me remember—Cinder is coming to stay this weekend. Remember Cinder—the now six-month old cavoodle puppy who stayed with us back in September? She is a darling girl but there is such a thing as tempting fate. A boisterous puppy, tinsel, and sparkly balls? I mean . . . what could possibly go wrong . . . )
I am also going to scour the house for buried treasures as there are bound to be all sorts of surprises hidden in the unlikeliest of places. I might even score a couple of nice little pressies for myself . . . you know . . . if earlier purchases are no longer needed, or inappropriate, or might look better on me . . .
Then I am going to finalise my ‘List’ (after I have started it of course). I’ll wrap and tag what I found during my treasure hunt, decide on what I still need to buy (online shopping here I come) and then . . . if we are talking about getting into the Christmas Spirit—I might just have to finish the weekend off with a nice bottle of something red, along with an assortment of Christmas yummies (which I have been studiously avoiding until now but which really do need to be taste-tested before I could possibly send them out as gifts . . . I’m a good friend like that . . . )
12 sleeps to Christmas.
I have a plan.
She’ll be right . . .
3.42am and I was woken by an earsplitting, inhuman howl which seemed, inexplicably, to be emanating from directly behind my left ear. I peeled myself off the ceiling, flicked the light on and was attempting to calm the dogs down (who were by this time all running up and down the bed, barking and growling and snapping at each other in their fright) before I realised that the sound was actually a cat fight going on underneath my bedroom window.
Now I like cats but—damn—why does it always seem to happen outside my bedroom window. Going outside to shoo the cats way only seemed to wind them up a notch, thus inciting dogs Harry and Sasha from next door, and Max, Storm, Caesar, Turbo and Rosie from further down the road to join in with the unholy racket. Somehow I don’t think I am going to be the only cranky-pants, bleary-eyed pet owner on my street today.
Eventually the caterwauling stopped. I guess they got bored—or realised they had successfully woken every person and every dog in a three block radius and had therefore done their work. My girls went back to sleep immediately (so irritating) and I was left to lie there, waiting, hoping, to fall back asleep. I didn’t.
By the time I was beginning to get sleepy again the ‘dawn chorus’ was starting up. One lone kookaburra started to chuckle quietly to himself and I remember thinking, ‘Here we go’. Sure enough, he was followed by an answering giggle and and then a full on belly-laugh, and before long they were all laughing hysterically—no doubt gossiping about the outcome of last night’s cat commotion. Then the magpies joined in, in full voice, and once I heard the first black cockatoo screech I knew it was all over. Who can sleep through that? Time to get up.
It was barely light yet but at least it was dry (we’ve just had four days and nights of absolutely torrential non-stop rain) so I decided to walk them down to the beach. This morning Molly decided she wanted to come with us. This was unusual. Molly doesn’t ‘do’ mornings. In the world according to Molly, mornings are for stretching, breakfast and straight back to bed. Mornings are definitely not for walking. (Molly could give Garfield a run for his money when it comes to laziness and food).
But today she came running up and did her little ‘take me, take me’ dance. In spite of the fact that she was so enthusiastic (and she definitely needs the exercise) I was hesitant. I have been bitten before (figuratively speaking). I like to stride out with Mabel and Maude in the morning and get a good long walk in. Molly gets all gung-ho and raring to go—and then we get to the end of the road and around the corner, and she will suddenly stop dead, and sit. And sit. And sit. Once she has decided she will go no further there is no moving (or dragging) her. Believe me I’ve tried.
Once, in my frustration, I even dropped her lead and walked away with the other girls. I walked blocks and blocks and when I looked back, there she was, a tiny black dot, sitting in exactly the same place I left her. Stubborn as. And by the time we got back to her she was still sitting, unmoved, like a little doggie stuffed toy—and, once she realised I was no longer going to try to persuade her to go further, she happily trotted all the way home. I can still see that little smug smile on her face.
(Seeing how well it worked for Molly, Mabel tried the same trick once. I dropped her lead and walked away from her and got maybe ten feet before she came hurtling up behind me, crying ‘Don’t leave me, don’t leave me’. Bless.)
Anyway today Molly swore to me she would walk the whole way, so I gave in. And, surprisingly, she was as good as her word. She huffed and puffed a bit but she didn’t pull up once and we got to the beach, just as it was coming light. I did a quick scan up and down and saw we were the only ones there so I let the girls off their leads so they could have a good run around.
Or at least Maudie could have a good run around. Maudie loves the beach. As soon as she hits the sand she is away, and she runs and runs and runs. No direction, no purpose, just pure joy. Mabel (you may have already guessed this) is scared of the beach. She will stay as close to my ankles as she can without tripping me. The delights of the beach are totally wasted on Mabel. And Molly, on the few occasions we have actually managed to get her that far, likes to potter around in the bushy, grassy areas of the dunes, looking for good smells and dead things to roll in.
So I was a bit taken aback with slow and steady Molly, whose top speed is usually a slow waddle, suddenly shot past me at full throttle and hurtled back the way we had just come. It only took one look over my shoulder to see why. #$%&*. Kangaroos. A small group of ‘roos had silently appeared and were grazing quietly in the dunes close to the bush.
‘Oh how lovely’, you might think. And you’d be right. They are beautiful, gorgeous creatures. When seen from a distance. And when not being chased by a small, fierce, hopped-up-on-adrenalin Pomeranian. Up close and cranky they are a lot bigger than you’d think and they can be pretty scary. One could easily kill a Molly-dog if provoked. Molly, of course, could give two hoots about that. Molly is a Wolf in Pomeranian clothing.
There was nothing for me to do but run along the beach after her, calling desperately for her to ‘Stop. Stay. Heel.’ All to no avail. She was ‘in the zone’. What a sight we must have made. Kangaroos bounding gracefully along the deserted beach. Molly, little legs going ten to the dozen, pelting after them. Maude, running after her, laughing, and looking over her shoulder at me—with no idea what all the excitement was about, but loving the game anyway. And me, a long way behind (me—running on sand—dear God—seriously?) and carrying Mabel, who was so upset by the sudden dramatic turn of events she looked like she might need resuscitating at any moment.
And then, quite suddenly, the kangaroos and Molly left the beach and vanished into the thick bush. #$%&*, again. Even if I could have seen where they went I couldn’t take the other two girls into the bush after them, so all I could do was wait on the beach, pacing and calling, my heart in my mouth, and hope that Molly would soon reappear. Thankfully, she did.
Fifteen minutes later she wobbled out of the bush, exhausted, covered in sand, bits of bush and other debris sticking out of her fur at all angles, and her little pink tongue hanging out about a foot. I was so relieved she was all in one piece I couldn’t even be cross with her. Besides, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her quite so happy . . .
Of course, she was also so pooped I had to carry her all the way back to the house.
An hour later we were all safely home, clean, fed, and in the case of the girls, sleeping again. What more could three little dogs ask for?
They got to shout abuse at cats in the middle of the night and and encourage all their doggie friends in the street to do the same. The got to go to the beach in the early early morning and play in the sand and bark and run and chase kangaroos—or at least, chase Molly who was chasing kangaroos. They all got hugs and kisses from their Mum for being good brave girls during all the drama (even Mabel) and they all got a yummy Christmas breakfast when they got home. And now they are sleeping on their brand new Christmas beds, with their new Christmas teddy (which Maudie has killed twice already) and the remnants of the Christmas wrapping paper (which was Mabel’s favourite present). Best.Christmas.Day.Ever. And the day isn’t even half over yet.
So they’re happy, and that means I’m happy (and also in need of a stiff drink and lie down). And I hope you are too. Happy I mean—not in need of the drink and the lie down . . . although it is Christmas. I also, most sincerely, hope you had a gentler start to your Christmas Day.
So—from me to you— ‘Merry Christmas, nearly everybody.’ (I am not extending that greeting to the owners of last night’s cats. I am still pissed off about those cats . . . )
I am now officially ‘on holiday’ until after the New Year. Yay!
All around it’s been a good year at work, but a very busy one, and I know it’s going to take me a little time to wind down. But I am really going to try. I do have a list (I know, I know, me and my lists) of things I should do over the holiday break. It runs something like this: catch up on my reading . . . and sleep . . . do some writing . . . and sleep . . . go to the movies (‘Star Wars’, here I come) . . . and sleep . . . play with the dogs . . . and sleep . . . eat too much . . . and sleep . . .
I may, or may not, get to everything on that list.
Apart from the fact that this was the last week of work and things should have been slowing down but in fact seemed to be doing exactly the opposite, we did manage to finish the week off in a really nice way with our staff Christmas Lunch. We are a little college so it was only a small group of lunchers (lunchees?) who got together—only 11 of us, but, as Gandalf said, “Oh, they’re quite a merry gathering. Once you get used to them.”
A number of our team don’t work regularly out of the college premises (they train students at other venues) so in some cases people hadn’t seen each other since the last Christmas lunch, and the newer staff members hadn’t met some of the others at all, so it was a really good chance to catch up on everyone’s latest news, talk about holiday plans—and swap our latest doggie stories.
Oasis by the River had been warned of our impending arrival, but in spite of that they had set up a lovely table for us, all decked out in Christmassy fashion with little Christmas trees, tinsel, Christmas crackers, tiny gingerbread men—and a great many wine glasses on the table. (Like I said—they knew we were coming). No really—I am joking—we were all very well behaved (it was only lunch after all). Having said that, we did manage to get a good number of those glasses filled up, and emptied, and filled up again in very short order . . . In our defence—although we don’t technically need a defence as the Christmas rules do state ‘eat, drink and be merry’—we had to have something to wash down the very yummy ‘traditional’ Christmas dinner of roast turkey, ham and all the trimmings that was laid out before us.
(There was so much food that I don’t think anyone completely finished their meal, and the leftovers were all passed along the table to me, wrapped up in serviettes and went straight into my handbag to take home for my girls. Courtesy of the college staff they will be getting some extra yummies with their dinner over the next couple of days. Christmas is for dogs too, you know.)
But—and there is always a ‘but’—for all the lovely table, and the food, and the drinks, there was one thing really not quite right—the Christmas Crackers. It turned out that the Christmas crackers supplied by the restaurant, although very pretty and Christmassy and sparkly—TOTALLY FAKE. Shock. Horror. No bang, no pressie—no joke! It could have spoiled the whole day (or at least it could have spoiled Joneen’s whole day). Just as well then, that Santa (Steve in a Christmas baseball cap) had also seen to it that the Santa Sack was not only stuffed full of Secret Santa pressies, but also an abundance of (fully functioning) Christmas Crackers. Phew.
So the crackers were passed around, cracker-pulling-partners chosen and then the usual bangs, shrieks and scrabblings about on the table as we all went search of our hats, jokes and prizes (which, after the explosion, always seem to shoot across the table and vanish into the table decorations).
Once all suitably decked out in our paper crowns (having swapped them back and forth across the table so as to make sure each of us had one that complemented our outfit) we all took it in turns to read our jokes out, tried to guess the answers, and groaned loudly in the appropriate places. Joneen actually came up with some better answers (and when I say better, I mean more groan-worthy) than those that came with the jokes. It could be a new career path for her should she ever decide to leave the adult education sector.
Towards the end of the meal, when we had finished our desserts and were on to the coffees (or just one last glass) the chef came out to tell us that there was a hail in Port Macquarie and the storm was heading our way. We didn’t think he was trying to get rid of us but it was enough to start breaking the party up. This turned out to be a very good thing as the chef was later vindicated when we did, in fact, get hit by a humungous storm, complete with lashing rain, wind and bone rattling thunder. With luck, everyone was home and dry, or very near it, by the time the storm struck.
So, now we are all done and dusted for another year. We have now all gone our separate ways for the holiday season and hopefully it will be a happy and safe time for everyone.
I am going to do my bit to help with the safety side of things.
After I sign off here I am going to go and write a very stern letter to Santa about a certain person’s Secret Santa gift—a Balloon Animal Making Kit. Why? you might ask. Surely a fairly innoucous type of gift you might imagine. And you might be right—in the hands of any other person. Judging by her enthusiasm for, and her antics with, her new toy at the Christmas lunch, the local ‘elf and safety officer’ is going to need to know where to find her.
I really don’t know what Santa was thinking . . .