Friday, 29 February 2008

Norma and her food

This is Norma in her favourite spot; that is next to the food bowl. The only other time she looks at me like that is when she wants a fuss. Otherwise she just looks grumpy!
Actually she can get pretty grumpy even around food! If it is not forthcoming after several seconds of staring like this she follows me around making a sort of whine like miaow and pretends that she is starving. She does this with all the neighbours as well; many of whom succumb to her pleading and threaten to report me to the RSPCA for not feeding my animals. Fortunately her large belly gives the game away!

Thursday, 28 February 2008

More on blogging

Today I have had a good day playing with the Blog! I learnt how to put in a gizmo thing that gives you details of the latest weather, how to count the number of people who visit the site (not very impressive at the moment but then I only put it on today) and how to put a reasonably sized photo on my 'header'. The above photo is of the land in France. It will be the view from the bedroom window.

Cyling co-incidences 2

I wrote before how there is a cycling connection throughout various aspects of my life. Yesterday in my French class Keith, one of my fellow pupils, said that he used to race when he was younger and had all the programmes from the Tour de France going back to the 1950s and 60s! He used to race for Barnet cyclists and he raced at Crystal Palace so he probably raced against Ian's father at some point.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Llama facts

I found a few websites today that tell you how to train and handle llamas. I learnt this fascinating fact! When training llamas you must make sure that there is

NO FIDDLING WITH HUMANS' BODIES. That definitely includes playing with shoes and boots -- an action that is a prelude to fighting behavior.

Apparently this is common behaviour in bored young llamas who pass time fiddling with another animate being. This includes ear or neck mouthing, head-ducking, neck-pushing, and usually leads to some sort of wresting match. However, a bored llama may make the human the focus of his fiddling and then you have a problem!

for more details!

For an excellent video as to what you can get llamas to do with patience look at


Bambi's owner is called Marjorie. In the past I have picked up the dog and taken it to the agility class and not really had much chance to talk with Marjorie. Now she comes with me we have a chance to talk in the car. It is not so much of a conversation as a monologue from Marjorie, as her hearing problems prevent her from understanding what you say to her with all the background noise from the road. Never-the-less I got a feel from Marjorie yesterday that her story is very interesting and if I had the time and the patience to listen to it I think there would be a lot that would be of value. She started telling me about how, at a young age she was placed in children's home as her mother couldn't afford to care for her, how she talked her way into an office job in a legal firm and really enjoyed it, how she had no money to buy herself lunch, that she was married at 18 but after 9 months he died.. (She did not tell the story in that order; I had to piece it together!). Unfortunately I didn't get to hear any more as we arrived at the dog class!

Thursday, 21 February 2008

What happened to the cat flap?

I noticed last night (while making a cup of tea) that it was really cold in the kitchen; especially around my ankles! I couldn't work out the problem at first until I looked down and saw that the cat flap was missing. It took me a while to figure out what had happened and many theories went through my mind. The first was that someone had been trying to break in and had tried to get in by removing the cat flap, sticking their hand through and somehow unlocking the door! I soon realised that this was unlikely as the door was still locked and nothing was missing. I was confused as I couldn't see the cat flap anywhere. However, after a look outside with the powerful torch I found it half-way up the garden, the door broken beyond repair. Later I noticed that Mandi had a few cuts and scratches and I figured that the most likely explanation was that one of the neighbourhood cats had come in for food, Mandi had tried to fight him off and they had both gone crashing through the cat flap in a hurry. I have ordered a new cat flap but in the meantime it's still cold in the kitchen! Ian says that if he catches any other cats in the kitchen he will take them outside and pee on their heads and that should stop them coming back!

Monday, 18 February 2008


I spoke to my next door neighbour at the weekend and asked him if his wife was okay after the incident last week. He said that she had just got pissed and that was why she had been unable to get in. I must admit I didn't smell any alcohol on her and she certainly looked to me like she was sedated rather than pissed. She told me that she was being treated at the local hospital. I think it is quite sad to think that there is still so much stigma about mental illness that it seems more acceptable to explain erratic behaviour as being self-inflicted rather than being due to something that you may not have any control over. Maybe I have misread the situation but somehow I don't think so.

Doggy agility

After a break due to winter, the cold, a bout of kennel cough and being busy I returned to my job of taking Bambi the hearing dog, to agility classes. Bambi's owner is now well enough to join us so we all piled into the front of my old Ford Fiesta and drove off into the freezing cold to the class. The one thing that always strikes me about dog agility classes is the noise. There are usually over 30 dogs, from naughty terriers and poodles to collies and even papillions! The excitement is overwhelming, the dogs are faster than the owners and mostly the handlers and dogs forget where they are going and end up going the wrong way over the fences, missing poles in 'the weave' and opting out of the see-saw! My favourite dog is Barney the bastard, a rescue Jack Russell who in the past has attacked several of the other owners and a few of the other dogs. Given the chance for a minute he would like to do it again but now he is mostly under control and tears around the course in a frenzy. When he has finished he plays 'tug' with a long rope and his owner. He has one of those looks that lets you know that he is so nearly in charge and he knows it! I would love to have a go at it myself but need to find a dog first!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Pas Merde

Well, quelle suprise, I got 64% for my French exam!

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

More from the neighbours

I don't know what I would find to write about if I didn't have such colourful neighbours. My next door neighbour tapped on the door this evening and asked me whether we shouldn't do something about the young woman who lives in the house the other side of me. Apparently she had been standing on the doorstep for over 2 hours. Millie (next door) had seen her arrive in a taxi about 5.00pm and she had been unable to get in the house. When Millie returned from the gym 2 hours later she was still there. I hadn't noticed her as the front door was in darkness, she was wearing a dark coat and was almost motionless. It's pretty cold tonight so we asked her if she was okay and if she needed help. She said she was okay and didn't need anything but looked very sedated. (This was the neighbour who set fire to the house; see strange dream May 2007). Well, we were worried and didn't know where her husband was or where her family live so initially I reported it to the police as I didn't want to wake up to find a frozen body on the doorstep tomorrow. After a while I decided to take her a cup of tea and I think maybe her medication had worn off a little and she was a bit more communicative. She knew her husband's mobile number so I called him and he came over and let her in. (He then went straight back out again to his brothers). I must say I am quite sympathetic to their situation. He is only 20 and she is even younger, they have a young baby and now she has mental health problems and a forensic history. I don't know the exact problem but it looks like she is on some pretty heavy duty medication and can't be much company for him. I think he probably does the best he can for someone of 20.

Progress on the land

We had this response from the builder the other day (after we emailed him to wish him happy new year and to gently remind him that we are still here!)

Bonsoir Monsieur ,

Je viens de lire votre message et m’empresse d’y répondre. C’est un peu tard mais à mon tour je vous souhaite une bonne et Heureuse année 2008. J’ai pris un peu de retard sur mes chantiers mais je suis en mesure de vous dire dès à présent que j’ai commandé la semie De blocs pour votre chantier et je vais démarrer les travaux avant la fin février.
J’ai bien noté la précision pour l’escalier de la cave. Si vous voulez me joindre pour plus d’informations je vous rappelle mon numéro De portable :

Je vous dis à très bientôt. Cordialement.

Jean Soulier

I think it means I am sorry but I am bit late, I am just about to order the bricks for your house and will start building by the end of February!

Saturday, 9 February 2008

A good end to the week

Last week at work was busy but culminated yesterday with the winter graduation. My first and only PhD student flew in from Austria with her family to accept her award. The whole thing is a mix between theatre, ceremony and high camp but as I have said in previous posts it is so nice to see students able to finally celebrate all their work. My PhD student puts everyone to shame as she not only finished her studies in record time but also got a second PhD in Austria and managed to fit in having a baby! A colleague was also getting her PhD and another professional doctorate. I had been around when she was trying to decide what to do and had encouraged her to have a go so it was so nice to be there at the end. It is such a privilege to be able to help people go some way to achieving their potential and the thing about my job that I still enjoy!

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Street of fire

Early evening I was relaxing on the sofa after a long day. I thought there was a lot of action outside; I could hear the kids laughing and shouting. After a while I got up and noticed blue flashing lights through the curtains. When I peeped out there was a fire engine outside and the house 4 doors away was on fire. Mark and Emma live there. They are a slightly unusual couple. The house looks like it needs a good coat of paint and the garden is overgrown. For ages they never spoke to anyone but after the last lot of trouble in the square they became friendlier. I never could work out what they both did. Mark never seemed to go out much at all but Emma used to disappear for a few days at a time looking quite smart. I got to know them most when Vodafone wanted to put a large phone mast within a few metres of our houses and they led the campaign to stop them. I rang their bell on a couple of occasions to drop off various letters and things for them and Emma would never answer but call out of the bedroom window and say that they were working. Ian and I joked that she ran a telephone sex line from her bedroom (very unkind of us!). Anyway, on occasions they were both pleasant, quite keen on environmental issues and wildlife and things seemed to be improving for them. They have an open fire in the house and burn logs and today the chimney caught fire. Nothing too serious but after the fire brigade had squirted a few gallons of water up the chimney the house was a bit of a mess! Once it was clear that the situation was not life threatening the local kids mobbed the fireman. They stared in wonder at the engines and the water and collected autographs from all of them; in their eyes they were obviously heroes and at least they were real important people (in that they save lives) and not silly celebrities that do nothing for anyone, so I thought it was great and it looked like the firemen were enjoying it as well.

I spoke to Emma and Mark. They said it had been a bad day as this morning they had to have their cat put down, at lunchtime they had estate agents round to value to house and this evening the chimney caught fire. Emma told me that they were separating and that she was going off WWOOFing which apparently means willing workers on organic farms.

I am beginning to think that the square may be a bit jinxed. There are 15 houses and in the five years I have lived there, 3 have caught fire. That is 20%! Surely that must be higher than average!

Monday, 4 February 2008

Health and well being of older people

Today was the first day of a new module that I am co-ordinating looking at health and well being of older people. We have a small group of 5 students and I started by asking them all to introduce themselves and say why they were interested in the module. The first girl started by saying that she thought that all older people became a bit like children the older they got. There was a sharp intake of breath from some of the others in the room and nods of agreement from one other participant. Both were international students from Africa, where the best thing that you could do to improve the health and wellbeing of older people there is to ensure that more of them live to adulthood and then don't die of some treatable disease before they get to 50 and the notion that you might have to eat a healthy diet and do more exercise is laughable in a place where many people don't get enough to eat. One of them told me that where he comes from if someone has a stroke they think of it as witchcraft or a sign of the devil. I feel horrendously out of my depth as half the group want to look at how you optimise health in a society where we are at liberty to abuse ourselves for as long as we like and then expect to be cared for whilst the other half don't really understand the culture of elderly care as there is limited need for it where they come from. Could be a difficult week!

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Reflections on blogging

We encourage our students to reflect on what they do. We ask them to write reflective accounts of things that have gone well, or things that have gone badly and hope that somehow this in-depth refelction will make them better therapists. I don't know whether there is much evidence to suggest that this is the case. Some students can think reflectively with ease whereas others don't really get it and I don't know whether practising helps! Of course reflective practice was unheard of when I trained and apart from a few occasions when I was appyling for various courses and jobs, I have never done it myself. I have been blogging for a year I thought I would reflect on what it has been like. Maybe it will make me a better blogger!

I started not really knowing what I would write but I had been inspired to start by reading the book Blood, Sweat and Tea, based on the blog Random acts of Reality and by the thought that one day our collective blogs may be used by social historians to find out what life was really like in the 2000s. I also remembered that at school I used to like writing but now never get the time to write anything other than comments on students' work, dull papers, even duller lectures, quality reports and course documents (I can feel the tension mounting when I just start thinking about them!). So, practice makes perfect and a year ago I thought it would be a good time to start writing for myself! At first I felt very self-concious about writing something that other people might read....although of course I write all the time for other people to read, but this is much more personal and felt strange and a bit exposing for myself but also for other people that I might mention. I also soon realised that writing is quite hard. Although I do and did write many things quite quickly I still had to give some thought to how much sense it all makes, whether I have really expressed what I wanted to say with the sentiment that I intended, whether the grammar and spelling are okay (spell checker seems to be out of action today so no doubt this will be full of errors). I soon learnt writing a blog is not like writing a story as you need to ensure that each entry makes sense in its own right and can sustain interest using the minimal number of words.

So harder than I thought but actually much more enjoyable. During my mothers illness and the clearing out of the family home I found writing the blot positively therapeutic and I think those entries are some of the better ones although I would hate to think that in order to write well I have to be that stressed all the time! I have loved the fact that it has been an alternative way to communicate with friends, especially friends that I don't see very often, and I love the way that you can develop a community of likeminded bloggers. As the year has progressed I have become more brave with the addition of pictures and links and I think I now feel that it doesn't matter if not every entry is interesting or well written as the important thing is to communicate something, intially between me and the blot, and maybe other people will read it or maybe not but either way it doesn't matter. So my plan for next year of the blot is to keep doing it, but to be more adventurous with it.