Seeing double…?



Looking at this picture, which I took on the eight-hour-loooooong car journey back from Cornwall, it struck me that comedy-dog has surfaced again!

Is it just me or does he not bear bare (excuse the pun…) a striking resemblance to the cartoon Bernard the Polar Bear….?

Pink Pooch Tails

Getting in touch with his feminine side!

Getting in touch with his feminine side!

“I am sure you get asked this all the time…”

a lady approached me at the beautiful Trebah gardens in Cornwall last week. Expecting the customary – since we got a Samoyed puppy at the beginning of the summer holidays – questions about the breed, I complacently replied:

“He’s a Samoyed.”

Best to get that one in quick before she had the chance to question where others had gone before:

Is it a pomeranian? [Rendered speechless at this one: does he look like a toy dog? Is he peeking out the top of my handbag?!]

Is it an albino husky? [Did you seriously just ask me that?]

Having pre-empted the breed question,  I prepared myself for the next onslaught of:

“How big will he get?”

“Bet it’s a nightmare keeping him white!”

“Does he take a lot of brushing?”

“Does he shed everywhere?”

But she floored me with:

“Why is he pink?”

What a refreshing question and as it happens she was the first person to ask why this cute, male puppy was now a paler shade of pink!  I had wickedly-wondered (after a painting accident where he started off aubergine-coloured and then after a thorough bath by Tina, a beautiful baby pink) whether I should fabricate a much more entertaining version about his pastel-coloured dream coat, such as:

“It’s a girl puppy; they start off pale pink and gradually fade to white.”

Would people be sucked in? Would they all be hitting google trying in vain to find one of these rare mystical breeds of dog?

Two months after getting him and the questions are still asked daily.   I have flippantly considered producing a FAQ’s flier to keep in my pocket.  It would save me sounding like a broken record several times a day:

“He’ll be slightly smaller and much lighter than a Labrador.”

“He stays white by himself: he seems to have some magical dirt-repellant coat.” (Fortunately 😁😳 most of it falls off onto my kitchen floor…!)

“Not too much brushing…” (yet!)

“And no, at the moment he sheds less than my brother’s Labrador; although he will shed excessively every spring.” [That’s when I may resemble a Samoyed myself…We could enter one of those dogs-and-their-owners-lookalike competitions!]

But back to his comedy-dog colour. Will he need to stay in touch with his feminine side for a few months whilst we wait for the fur to grow and shed? Will he slink along the paths to avoid being mocked by other male puppies for his girly appearance? Will he forthwith be known as Flossie or pinky? No, no and no!  You see thanks to his weather-repellant coat, the pink has now virtually disappeared. Looking at him you are not sure if it’s a very, very pale pink or just a trick of the light!  Once more a masculine powderpuff of white…no more candyfloss shades in sight!

Who me?

Who me?

Navy nylon knickers: a bloomin’ delight of PE in the 1980s

Vacancy: one games teacher from the 80s. Skills required: (a seeming) lack of compassion. You must be able to show little/no emotion as:

  • children enter the communal showers, under your watchful eye, collecting their towels on the exit
  • you insist on showers after games, even if children forget their towel. Make them air dry!
  • children shiver during winter sports, wearing barely any sports clothes ❄️☔️
  • you insist that children play sport without parts of their uniform if ‘accidentally’ forgotten. What’s a bit of embarrassment?!

Benefits: no communal showers for you! 😄 And you can comfortably shout, from the sidelines of the sports pitch, in your tracksuit top and bottoms during our cold winters.

According to the Telegraph (June 23, 2009), almost a third (29.3 per cent) of those questioned said PE lessons were their unhappiest experience of primary and secondary school, with women more likely to have bad memories that men (34 per cent compared to 21.3 per cent).

“Hours spent climbing ropes in the gym and running across fields in little more than a vest and underwear are most adults’ worst memories of school, a poll of more than 1,250 people found.”

In contrast and seemingly a lone voice out there, I loved PE: whether climbing ropes, throwing myself into the high jump, racing cross-country or jumping into a sand pit, I relished every heart-pounding minute. It was the uniform, or rather lack of, that bemused me. Consisting of slip-on plimsolls, a white aertex short-sleeved shirt and most memorably; a pair of navy nylon knickers with elasticated waist and legs (shorts would be too generous a word for these tight-leave-nothing-to-the-imagination horrors). Navy nylon knickers, PE kit, 1980s

Jeepers creepers; these left nothing to the imagination!

Jeepers creepers; these left nothing to the imagination!

Is it any wonder women have more bad memories than men, wearing these bloomers!  Whatever inspired the design of these pants: was it Wonder Woman’s costume, or was there a fabric shortage in the 80s? In winter we were allowed to cover our navy nylon knickers with a short pleated skirt and, if we were really lucky, a sweatshirt!   We would look reprovingly at the PE teachers, standing on the sidelines in their tracksuit bottoms, shouting at us for not being more lively as the notorious British weather lashed our legs. Playing hockey or running cross country in the winter with exposed legs was not a barrel of laughs: we used to try and mitigate chapped and blue skin by smothering our legs in vaseline on icy days.

And don’t get me started on the horrors of the sweaty-smelling COMMUNAL SHOWERS: entering and walking through single file, having to collect our towels from a railing as we exited… 😁 There’s no doubt about it, times have changed!  Today, games/PE is a much more pleasant experience, with less-strict games teachers and weather-forgiving games kit.   Although, when I recently considered a second mortgage to purchase games kit for my daughter (a full tracksuit – no chance of cold legs there – a hoody, a thermal base layer, winter, summer and house-coloured sports tops, a skort, various socks and games and swim bag), I couldn’t help wondering if the simplicity of the 80s navy nylon knickers and its co-ordinating get up, including the stricter PE teachers, weren’t such a bad idea after all…?

Thank you for inspiring my trip down memory lane lovely AGMA 😘 with your post, Don’t be fooled by the smile.

Me and my mini cooper

four-door-mini-cooper-convertible-of-mini-cooper-s-convertible-photo-styleI love my mini cooper!  Ever since I passed my driving test, nearly twenty years ago, I have yearned for a mini cooper.  I would walk past mini’s idly wondering which colour I would, hopefully, one day choose: classy cream with black highlights, elegant black with girly pink accents, or classic racing green? And my long-held dream was fulfilled nearly two years ago, when at last I sat behind the wheel of a convertible mini – a perfect fit I should add – and drove it home.

So you can imagine how this recent statement – foolishly uttered from my husband – went down:

Now that I am working in the same town we live, we only need one car, so you can sell your mini…..

I stared at him agog!  Incredulous! Astounded! Why would my lovely compact mini have to go?  Surely the cumbersome family car would be more-easily forgotten!  For crikes sake my mini is in my son’s I spy Cool Cars book!

A few days later, he went back to work and I put the house on the market.  A family home somewhere far from his work should do the trick…!

Never come between a girl and her mini cooper!


Hysterics with a hula hoop!

Hooping for blogNo pain, no gain, right? That’s what I told myself when I discovered my waist was black and blue after my first day of weighted hula-hooping!  I can’t recall what inspired this latest hobby; maybe it was a rejection of the approach of so-called middle-age: a desire to reclaim my carefree school days, or maybe it was just another way to get fit that doesn’t involve going to the gym!

Jerking my waist in circular motions, I was pleasantly taken aback that I could keep the hoop circling my waist for a few rotations.  And the more I tried, the longer it stayed up, so the satisfaction that ensued meant I overdid the first day or two; just a wee bit!  Not that I realised at the time; it was the discovery of bruises on my waist the next day that gave my stupidity away!

Soon I became in synch with my hula-hoop and as the jerking gradually turned into a fluid rhythm, the bruises became a faded-memory.  But after a few weeks, waist-hooping was not enough and I found myself poring over you tube tutorials on how to give your whole body a workout.  And there I found my quest: lifting the hula hoop smoothly from waist-to-chest.  The tutorials made it look simple; so fluid and so fabulous and yet, however I contorted my body; trying to move the hoop up, it defiantly stayed at my waist.  Frustrated, I read countless articles and avidly-watched tutorials in my determination to achieve this manoeuvre and yet week-after-week and month-after-month, the hula-hoop refused to budge.  Throw in the odd twinge of back pain from jerking my waist into contorted positions and this manoeuvre remained a tempting, and yet, untouchable enigma.

So between frustrated attempts at the seemingly-impossible, I attempted neck-hooping.  Oh my!  As the weighted hoop kept rotating and slamming into my windpipe, I wondered, through the pain, if I was doing something wrong, or whether these online hoopers, who make it look so easy, have de-sensitised rubber necks from months and years of neck-hooping. Not one to give up, I persevered and was soon rewarded with pain-free, neck-hooping; it was just a case of finding the rhythm!

And then I had my eureka moment!  Unbelievably, maybe four months later, having thought it would never happen, I finally lifted the hoop from waist-to-chest and back again and I no longer looked like a strutting chicken in the process!

Fast-forward to the present day and I can smoothly waist-hoop, put my hands through the hoop to neck-hoop and then lower it back down again, as well as lifting the hoop from waist-to-chest.  All without touching the hoop or letting it fall.  Was it worth the months of frustration and regular back twinges?  Hmm…if you want an easy way to get fit, from the comfort of your own home and that is really fun in the process, I’d say so!

Childhood: today versus the 70s and 80s

Tina has a fantastic photo of our children re-uniting after several months apart. As you can imagine they are joyfully jumping up and down, chatting loudly over each other and embracing. Actually I tell a lie: the reason the photo is so brilliant is that it perfectly depicts today’s children;  they are all sat closely together on a hotel bed, heads down and deeply engaged in ipads. I found myself wondering if this is a sad sign of our times: where children are losing the art of conversation and spontaneous playing with their friends; preferring the online company of friends or strangers. Or where the creativity of den-building is forever lost to the creativity of city building, courtesy of Minecraft. I suspect the answer is not clear cut; as for some children the anonymity of computers may help develop their social skills and what the picture doesn’t show is the playful moments that came before this, or the cartwheels on the grass the next day. And although difficult to ascertain from a photograph, the way they were bundled together on the bed also demonstrated a deep bond and comfort they feel in each other’s presence.

Nevertheless, the photograph highlighted the stark difference from my childhood in the 70s and 80s: I recall den building, tree-house building, staying out all day, running through a field causing mayhem…the farmer shooting at us…yep, vastly different to today’s indoor, electrical and social media-focused children!

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve the bi-annual visit to my grandparents; who chose to settle three-and-a-half hours away in the coastal town of Clacton-on-Sea.  As a child sufferer of car-sickness (although oddly enough, usually only on this particular journey…) my elder brother must have really looked forward to the long journey cosseted in the back seat with me.  Predictably an hour or so into the journey, my window would wind down, as I desperately breathed in fresh air.   After eliminating the contents of my stomach, the car would stop, out would come my fresh clothes – specially packed for the occasion – and the journey would resume.  On one of these journeys I lost one of my favourite Christmas presents; an almost life-sized doll.  Taking her out of the car with me for the big-sick-clean-up, we forgot to put her back in and when we drove back minutes later to retrieve her, she had been taken! Sickness and wailing for the remainder of the journey; what a treat for my long-suffering brother!

On another occasion my brother, desperately trying to distract me from vomiting, came up with the ingenious idea of playing hide and seek with some used chewing gum.  After several innovative hiding places in the back of the car, I had the inspired idea of hiding it in the depths of my hair – he would never think to look there! Sibling rivalry points notched up for me as he looked around the car in vain. However, my imagined superiority was soon kicked into touch when we arrived at Clacton and I had to endure a bowl hair cut to remove said chewing gum, courtesy of my mum, with my brother smirking in the background.

Unfortunate haircut aside, I loved the excitement of staying at my grandparents house.  For a child, it was filled with treasures and knick knacks that inspired wonder and necessitated exploring! Together with my brother and dog, we would camp in the living room and raid their chocolate tin when all was quiet in the house. We assumed they never knew of our midnight feast, but looking back perhaps the tin was filled up precisely for that special occasion! I was intrigued by the small black and white television in their bedroom that had two knobs on it; one to turn it on and off and the other to wind up to locate each of the four television channels. I loved exploring their sheds; one where granddad would show me his war paraphernalia – mostly stored in jam jars – and the other creepy, long-forgotten-shed at the bottom of the garden; where my brother would push me in before him to clear his entrance of cobwebs and spiders. I loved the old-fashioned, musty-smelling board games; particularly scoop and mad marbles.

Mad Marbles board game

Mad Marbles board game



And was fascinated by their telephone with a wind-up-dial and a secret drawer at the bottom that popped out with people’s telephone numbers written on it. 312_black_small2I was puzzled (and still am!) by the toilet paper that looked and felt like crispy tracing paper and really, really hurt! And we used to hang onto the car seat in terror as our grandad drove us speedily into town, minus seatbelts I recall, not a care in the world. I used to think he was reckless, but now, considering the danger he faced as a rear gunner in WWII (Rear gunners: a perilous and lonely war), driving fast probably felt like a walk in the park and I doubt seatbelt safety had been fully-realized in those days.

As much as we might crave those heady days for our children, it’s worth also remembering the less-rosy aspects of the ‘old days’. Walking in the dark to find a vacant phone box to call my parents when I was at University was less-than-pleasant and I struggle to recall an average day at work before the advent of email! Even in recent years, contacting my husband on detachment relied on electronic eblueys, whereas now you can have immediate contact (if they are ever in their tent…) via FaceTime.  For me, today’s ideal for our children is a good combination of the old and the new…

Scaring new neighbours away

Our Guest blogger Iona is worried her sons have chased her new neighbours away:

Neighbours come and neighbours go…. rather more frequently for the military family than a civilian one. We are in a rather small quarter, and with three growing boys – the eldest of whom is now taller than me, when even in the highest of heels [me not him, I should point out] – we are all rather on top of one another at half-terms and holidays.

New neighbours arrived this half term.  As they have moved from overseas they have had a long and slow move in, with the usual hiccups from the various departments that deal with military housing, compounded with their stuff arriving from overseas, and furniture being released from storage.

My sympathies are with them; I have been in that position twice and it is an emotional affair, especially arriving at a small quarter and realising nothing will fit. Most wives I know in this patch have burst into tears, at some point, within 24 hours of arriving. For me, it was when the removal man brought another box into my tiny kitchen and asked where he could put it.  I couldn’t answer him, because every space was full and so I sobbed ‘I don’t know’.  At this point he made me a cup of milky sweet tea and reassured me it would be alright, everyone did this!

Back to my new neighbours: they have been friendly and don’t seem to have been overwhelmed by the move; even when their heating didn’t work, they seemed to take it in their stride.  Apart from today…I arrived back to see them leaving to return to their hotel. They didn’t look happy at all, nor did they look me in the eye, or even acknowledge me… it must have gone badly today I thought.

It was then that I heard the bagpiping, emanating at top volume from my house. No 1 son had been practising whilst I had nipped to the shops. Could this explain their bad day? I wanted to run after them and say ‘sorry’ or something to that effect, but I was too late, they were driving off around the corner.

If it is any consolation to them,  my boys go to boarding school; they can take some comfort that the bagpipers only return on half-terms and holidays and most of the time can’t be bothered to practise. I can just imagine how novice bagpipers at full volume must have been the icing on the cake during the chaos of an overseas house move…but at least when you get your next quarter allocation, you know the house next door to me is occupied…. for now!

Try a Tri?

Standing in a pen with four strapping men in Lycra might – in other circumstances – be the stuff dreams are made of, but when you are also dressed head-to-toe in Lycra and these are the people you are racing against, it’s pretty much the stuff bad dreams are made of.



Back on a sunny day in June, my good friend Mel asked me if I would like to take part in a triathlon with her; her to swim, me to cycle and Petra to run.  It seemed like a good idea at the time – especially as it was two months away…but before I knew it, the day dawned.  And I mean dawned – we had to be there at 0730, which meant my poor babysitter had to get up with the Larks too!

The five relay teams were up first, which is how I found myself in a small pen, in a school tennis court, with four strapping men, in Lycra.  One-by-one they disappeared into the rising dawn until I was the sole occupier of the pen; then suddenly like a scene out of Baywatch – minus the coiffed hair and liberally-applied make-up – Mel was streaking across the tennis court in her red swimsuit.  A few moments of fumbling ensued, as we tried not to lose precious time transferring the soaking chip timer from her ankle to mine.   The next part seemed to go in slow motion – and probably was in slow motion – as I had to recall the correct sequence of when to put my helmet on my head, when to remove my bike from the stands and where I could mount the bike.  Anything out of sequence and we incurred a time penalty.  Given that I am renowned for forgetting just about everything: school parents’ evenings, school photos, school socials… this was no small feat!

I had previously practised this 12-mile route with my husband barking orders at me and achieved a respectable 17.4 mph, but was worried that without my pseudo-sergeant major shouting at me, my time might slip.  I needn’t have worried:  as I  set off on a couple of busy roads, before reaching the quiet country lanes, my competitivity kicked in.  I knew that the boys had a couple of minutes lead on me and there wasn’t much chance of spotting them, let alone catching up with them, but what surprised me was my determination to equally not let anyone catch up with me.  Part of this, I should admit, was due to the drafting rules, where if someone overtakes you, you have to slip back a certain distance.  Seriously, I would have to temporarily fall back…is that really fair?

Confession time: I had not told my team members that I can’t remember how to mend a puncture and so had to scan the roads and lanes ahead of me for broken glass and visible thorns.  As I approached the end, I was so relieved that I had managed the whole route without a puncture, as well as not tumbling off my bike, remembering to smile [grimace] at each Marshall managing junctions and succeed in no-one overtaking me.   For the final part of the route, some comedian had chosen a hill and so I found myself panting as I entered the school grounds and only-just noticed a guy yelling at me to dismount my bike before the finish line.  Practically falling off my bike, so as not to incur a time penalty for the team, I then saw Petra yelling encouragement [determination to get started] from the pen and had to run with wobbly legs – pushing my bike and putting it back on the stands first, with my helmet – so that we could do another fumbling transfer of the chip timer.

Watching Petra run off into the distance, I could finally relax!  And sitting on the grass banks afterwards with a bloke who had completed the whole thing, he told me how the previous year he had been just like me and cycled as part of a team and did I think I would be like him and do the whole thing next year? Um no, I did not!  

The good news is that out of five teams we came fourth, which, as the only all-girl team, we are quite proud of!  Would I do it again?  Absolutely; as part of a team, as it was working with such an inspiring couple of girls that motivated me and made the triathlon fun!

Confession time (sent in by anonymous)

I love this confession sent in by an anonymous blogger!  Have you any funny, or embarrassing, or cringeworthy confessions you would like to share?  

Calpol confession….

I love the slot on the Simon Mayo Radio 2 show where people confess their extremely funny and sometimes cringe-worthy past sins. In homage to Simon Mayo’s confessions, here is mine.

Regimental life in the army is demanding on the soldiers, but also on the family. Whilst my husband was commanding his regiment in Germany, the battalion organised a wives exercise as a morale boost. For the uninitiated, this is where the wife becomes solider for the weekend and the husband takes on the children. When the training team approached me with the proposed date I enthusiastically gushed that although I would really love to come, I would sadly have to decline as I was taking No. 1 son back to boarding school that weekend.

A couple of weeks later, back came the news…. the weekend had been changed and what’s more, they had checked with the Commanding Officer and I was indeed free that weekend! The fixed grin, that I had learned to adopt, when I became the Commanding Officer’s wife, was fully deployed, as I gushed my appreciation at their thoughtfulness. 😀

I immediately set about recruiting some other wives to come along; after all, if I was doing it, then I was going to make sure others would suffer too! The day came, rumours had been abounding about the weekend: apparently we were going to be searched when we turned up, raided at night and all sorts of other delights. This was going to be grim! However, with the game-for-a-laugh friends I had recruited, I thought we would get through it alright; especially if I packed a morale boost for the long, cold night ahead of us.  Although chocolate normally works for me, I felt the occasion required something stronger and searching the house, I came upon a bottle of home-made sloe gin; perfect, although as the bottle was so huge, I would need something to decant it into. Time was short and the only thing I could find was a bottle of out-of-date Calpol, with some dregs in the bottom. Rather pleased with myself, I rinsed it out, and filled it with sloe gin, wrapped it up in a pair of socks and packed it in my bergen (army speak for back pack).

We turned up at the exercise with some trepidation and to a lot of rather amused soldiers who were unable to stifle their smirks. Off we set in the minibus, to a weekend in the wilderness. All my fears were unfounded and the weekend proved to be great fun. We embarked on off-road land-rover driving, we fired rifles in the laser range and we built our bivouacs – although there was the option of a tent – we decided to really go for it! My favourite part was the army survival expert, who had set up a stand of food he had collected in the wild: elderflower cordial, rabbit stew, and various types of insects he had prepared in interesting ways; such as caramelised crickets and meal worms sautéed in brandy etc. Nobody could stomach the thought of the cooked insects, so I thought I should lead from the front and tried meal worms and then cricket: apart from the legs, which were a bit weird, it was not as bad as I had thought! That evening, an amazing spread appeared, as if from nowhere, food and wine flowed in abundance. And my little bottle of sloe gin remained in my rucksack; largely forgotten…

Despite being full of food and wine, none of us got much sleep, as we had a snorer in the bivvy. So by the end of the next day, after mounting an infantry attack, complete with camouflaged helmets, rifles, and two magazines of blank rounds, we were all pretty tired. When I got home, I had a lovely bath and shunted the rucksack to one side. On Monday, my soldering experience was a happy memory, it was back to the routine of being a mum, and getting sons No. 2 and 3 ready for school.

Lovely Barbara, my domestic assistant, arrived for the morning and being so amazingly helpful, unpacked my rucksack and sorted everything out. The Calpol bottle was restored to the medicine cabinet, and forgotten.

Some months later, I was in London for the weekend, at a study day for the degree I am trying to do whilst juggling everything else. I had also met up with some university friends and we were having a great time, apart from the constant calls from my darling husband; who being a big tough soldier, has never really played much of a part in the day-to-day running of the children’s lives.

The ‘phone rang again. What drama now? Well, apparently this time, No. 3 was ill. I was a little sceptical, as No. 3 can sometimes magic up a sore waist (which is apparently totally different to a sore tummy) when mummy is going somewhere he doesn’t want her to go. I advised my normal practice would be to shove the electronic ear thermometer in, and try and persuade No. 3 that there was nothing actually wrong with him, unless the thermometer told me otherwise, in which case to give him a dose of Calpol.

The phone rang 10 minutes later. There was indeed a problem.  No temperature, but apparently the Calpol was off, as it had made No. 3 immediately vomit. Lots of ranting ensued about the quality of Calpol and how ridiculous this was.

The cogs started to whir in my brain.  I had never heard of Calpol going off before….. and suddenly the penny dropped. He had given No. 3 a spoonful of sloe gin rather than a spoonful of Calpol…. aaaaaaagh! I remained largely silent, not wanting to exacerbate the situation by suddenly confessing it was all my fault.  I made the odd sympathetic muttering, and suggested the Calpol should be disposed of, so that it didn’t get mixed up with the good medicines.

So my confession is now out there. I will beg forgiveness from No. 3, when he is a little older, and he will hopefully see the funny side. However, I will not beg forgiveness from darling husband, as really, by child number No. 3, he really has no excuse for not knowing what Calpol smells like!!




The benefits of playing the non-native speaker card!

Have you ever had one of those moments where you say something in a foreign language and then realise, by the reaction to your words, that you have made a major blooper?

On a school French exchange several [okay, many!] years ago, I stayed in a lovely household with a mum and dad, two children and a grandma.  One evening, the mother asked me in French if I would prefer to eat dinner in the kitchen or the living room.  Delighted I finally had the chance to use an expression I had picked up in a guide book, which apparently meant I don’t mind, I very proudly stated: ‘Je m’en fous.’  I was rather taken aback to see the grandma’s chin hit the floor and the children collapse in a fit of giggles.  Assuming it was my accent, or some grammatical gaffe, I asked my French teacher the next day why it was such a shocker.  You can imagine my surprise to hear that I had said the French equivalent of ‘I don’t give a f**k.’

The moral of the story? Make sure you refer to a reputable guide book!