Ingratitude! thou marble-hearted fiend...

“Ingratitude is treason to mankind.” James Thomson

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Disease and drama.

So where was I?

Isn't that relentless barking irritating? Sorry about that.

There is some kind of lurgy dogging me yet again and if it wasn't for the persistent meatiness of my physique, you might imagine I was a tragic consumptive, what with all the snotty hacking and reclining on my fainting couch in my bohemian garrett draped in diaphanous gowns holding a bloodstained hankie to my lips, etc.

And in other news, despite all the evidence to the contrary, turns out I am not getting any younger. How very disappointing.

I'm not sure why I thought this sounded like a good idea, but to celebrate my upcoming birthday I'm going to face my fears, dance with the devil and/or frolic in the forest Thursday night. Apparently.

I'm a little trepidatious about the whole 'breaking the fourth wall' thing. Theatre means, for me, that everyone knows who is in the audience and who is performing. Because otherwise what else is there to distinguish it from real life? If I wanted to live in fear of alarmingly unpredictable interaction with strangers, I could save some money and take the night bus.

The food should be thoroughly stonking though, so that's nice.

What are you up to?

Wednesday 10 August 2011


I made the decision yesterday to clear my front garden of potential missiles, including windowboxes, potted plants and recycling odds and ends just in case the destruction carried on a further half mile from South Ealing down to my street. We are blessed with a truly crap high street, so far not deemed worthy of looting, and long may it continue.

Of course my neighbours didn't worry about clearing their front gardens, so I guess it was all kind of pointless, but how stupid would you feel the moment your terra cotta plant pot came sailing through the window followed by wine bottles and the entire cast of Lord of the Flies? Pretty stupid I guess. Like, I wish I'd come out during the adverts and removed the temptation instead of turning over to Road Wars and eating the rest of the prawn crackers.

Are these looters "disaffected youth" or are they very avid participants in their own culture? I think we're witnessing the ultimate triumph of consumerism on the streets of London. It has worked so well at stirring people into a frenzy of aspiration and acquisitiveness that they've gone out and jolly well acquired all the real branded goods they can get their hands on. No more market knock-offs! No more Korean Uggs off eBay! The real deal, carried with one's own fair hand through the window of J D Sports and ready to wear once the broken glass is dusted off. And a sense of achievement to boot.  

Friday 29 July 2011

I really should try to learn.

Despite having grown up in the States during the Just Say No era*, it turns out I am not very good at saying no, and despite my best efforts (jimjams wardrobe, general dishevelment, allowing my communication skills to atrophy until social intercourse is prohibitively trying for all involved), I seem to have a social life and friends and a fair amount of interaction which involves alcohol. Apparently I cannot refuse alcohol.

I belong to a group of Ladies in my neighbourhood who sing together. Yes. I have finally achieved the status of suburban singing matron, which, if I am honest, has been my life's goal along with eating in nice restaurants and antiquing. Ah middle age, where have you been all my life?

The singing Ladies drink wine. I love wine, but I am not very good at it. My increasingly elderly metabolism is easily bedrunkified and I can't be counted on to maintain any decorum at all. Don't even get me started on spirits. I can drink a little real ale with some dignity, if I can get past the feeling of looking like a hod carrier in a dress.

I'm feeling a bit fat and exhausted, which I put down to regular alcohol consumption. It must stop. I have no confidence that I can Just Say No and am searching for a passive way to get people to stop offering it to me. It seems mean to just stop bringing wine to rehearsals. Maybe bring a bottle of soda water instead? Hang a sign around my neck? Antabuse?

I'd like to join a book club as well, but it could kill me.

*...or perhaps because of it. I am contrary.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

How stuff is going around here.

Phew. Turns out what I really needed to make me feel whole again was a shakeup of my blog banner. That's better.

Hmm, it's been a bit of a mixed bag here at the Ingrate Homestead. I am mostly not leaving the house. That happens sometimes. In the wake of a spectacular griefy meltdown last week, I decided that it was time to visit the doctor, and came home with some magic beans, 20mg of which will be planted daily until the vine of good mental health shall burst forth (in approximately two weeks, though your mileage may vary).

I was pleased that the lovely man was able to accompany me to my appointment, to act as a witness. The doctor was chatty and nice but also laughed at odd times and then, at what I felt was the world's most inappropriate moment (you know, having just asked about suicidal thoughts), told a lengthy and completely irrelevant anecdote about his young daughter. I mean, sure, I have no doubt that she's snowflake-like in her perfect uniqueness, but context is everything. Also, that unexpected 45 minutes we spent in the waiting room while you presumably regaled each patient with similar anecdotes maybe put us in the wrong mood for your gentle humour.

In the meantime, I've kept the expectations low. I was required to cater a small dinner party for neighbours, on account of having invited them a long time ago but cancelling when my grandmother died and I had to fly to New Jersey for the funeral. Yes, it has taken almost two years to get the date back in the diary and, although my dog recently died, I couldn't bring myself to reschedule the dinner party because you know, damn, if I have to reschedule this thing again, who knows when my neighbours are going to stop causing the deaths of people I love? Their supernatural invitation-related wrath knows no bounds. Allegedly.

About three hours before they were due to arrive, the lovely man and I swept through the supermarket in less than half an hour, rushed home and while he raged though the house cleaning and moving clutter and mess up the stairs, I made chicken with lemon and olives. I forgot to add the olives, mostly everyone got quite drunk, and no one was hurt. My remaining loved ones can sleep soundly in their beds.

I don't know about you, but when I am feeling off-colour, I like to hunker down with something that is absolutely guaranteed to divert my attention from whatever is ailing me. This time I'm going for the entire 9 seasons of Seinfeld, plus a few choice weblogs. I open a blog to a random page in the morning, and read my way through a chunk of the archive throughout the day. Undoubtedly, stats will reveal my hours of lurking so let the record show that my intentions are entirely benign. If you find I've parked myself on your blog, it is likely that you are cheerful and soothing. Thanks for that.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Feeling sorry. For myself, that is.

For obvious reasons, you will never medal in the grief olympics when your dog dies. You won't even make the team. Possibly no one outside your immediate circle will notice, and not two weeks after the event, a friend will ask if you still feel bad.

But from inside, it feels different. I am lonely for my friend, who I loved and cared for daily for more than thirteen years. I miss the smell of her head, and the sound of her breathing and the way she was always there. The house is very quiet.

I expected to feel sad, but I am kind of taken by surprise by the existential turn of my thoughts. Ashes to ashes stuff. It's like I'm in a hole where nothing makes any difference and what does any of it matter and it's all lost in the end anyway and there's no god and I can hear the emptiness of space, etc.

That's why I'm not doing much here, because I'm aware of, on one hand, hello hyper-melodrama and on the other, oh my word my heart is broken and oh look my guts are all hanging out and I'm sure that isn't good.

I must admit, I did find this bizarrely comforting as well as fucking funny, so maybe read that instead.

(And now this my most recent post and not that last one. Thank fuck for that.)

Thursday 28 April 2011

We had to put my lovely girl to sleep tonight. She had a restless night last night, and despite having had a strong painkiller earlier today, she was in a lot of discomfort and I guessed that we'd reached the end of the road. I feel dead guilty, and also like I might wake up and find I've just dreamed it.

Bye little sausage. I hope that where you are you're sleeping in the sun and you can eat all the chicken bones you want.

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Maybe I should try rubbing it on my face.

So go on and call me a bore but I just came home from another vet appointment. Stuff was achieved - steroid injection, antibiotics, er, rectal exam (sorry dog) - and before I left I asked about the eye infection which wasn't yet completely cleared up.

(If I'm honest, I was trying to squeeze some extra value out of the, what, fourth? appointment in six weeks, cause in my mind's eye, I could see myself rocking up there in a couple of days to deal with the eye thing again. Even the lovely man, who doesn't have a stingy bone in his body, said after the last appointment "Every time I leave that place I feel like I've been mugged." I wouldn't like to sound disrespectful/inappropriate/cheap - delete as appropriate - but we have poured an awful lot of money down this particular hole and still we have a speculative non-diagnosis, a rubbish speculative prognosis and thus a probably-dying dog, so it's not the expenditure I mind as much as the fact that we don't seem to have anything to show for it. Not that I'm bitter, etc.)

Anyways, the vet does this test which involve sticking what look like strips of paper in her eyes for exactly a minute each, which, you know, after a rectal exam brings to mind the words 'insult' and 'injury.'  Then he fetches a small box of ointment and tells me "it is very expensive, so you only need to use a tiny bit."

Now, hang on a minute pardner. This is an expensive corrective treatment for my imminently dying dog's eye which has had a little infection because it is not as moist as it should be? I mean, I will do anything for my dog, but having recently been given the news that she probably has an untreatable cancer - so untreatable that it is considered unnecessary to find a specific diagnosis - this eye ointment gave me pause for thought. Why be stingy? What am I saving it for? Why not just bung it all in there like we're havin' a party?

It turns out that you can just use ordinary moisturising eye drops. The kind that you can buy at Boots for £3. But he advised me that if I do that, I need to do it eight to ten times a day, and my dog diary is all full up what with the antibiotics, fresh food, cleaning (oh the cleaning), managing the effluvia, not to mention yay! vet visits! And worrying.

I bought the damn ointment. Cha-ching!

Sunday 24 April 2011

*Insert swearing here.*

My beloved girl dog was, up to her thirteenth year, an absolute cracker; she ran and jumped and I was regularly asked if she was a puppy. She has been in decline for almost a year. First, she began to drag her front left paw. When I got home from New York last October, she had a disconnected look in her eye and wouldn't be held, preferring to pace and wander. Her gait became increasingly wobbly and crabbed, and she fell over. She began to sleep on the floor to the side of the cushion in her bed, with just her head resting on it, and no matter how much floor space I filled with her cushions and blankets, she lay to the side of them.  She lost an alarming amount of weight and we fed her up and she put some of it back on again, but remained wizened and shrunken-looking.  She failed to respond to commands she had known and followed all her life. She stopped grooming herself, which meant I had to have a surprising discussion with the male vet about gynecological hygiene.* She developed a series of opportunistic ailments which meant she was pretty much always on a bland** diet.

Despite having been in and out of the vet's office over and over again, nothing out of the ordinary was found and pretty much everything has been chalked up to age. I've seen three different vets (from the same practice) for three different reasons over the last six weeks, and the last was the only one to tell me that my dog probably had a lesion on the brain and I needed to think about my "options" sooner rather than later.

On Good Friday I had a total and complete meltdown saying we'd have to have her put down on Saturday. The next day. What if she were suffering out of office hours and we were forced to ring the emergency cover veterinary service while our usual vets were enjoying their Easter holidays? Hi, you don't know me but can I come over so you can kill my dog? Will you take a cheque? Then, taking advantage of a brief gap in my wailing and rending of garments, we took her for a long walk in the park and she seemed perfectly fine, so who knows. By perfectly fine, I mean no worse than normal. Does that mean I've acclimatised to her being this fucked up and I'm prolonging her discomfort? She seems to enjoy eating and going for walks still. Is that not a good enough reason to let her carry on? That, and the fact that I am a gibbering, blubbering wreck at the prospect of life without her?

I've adopted the totally mature adult emotional response of eating stuff I don't really want and compulsively wandering about the intertubes, reading, browsing, shopping and lurking. I exhibit the demeanour of someone who reasons that averting their eyes and whistling means it isn't really happening. Lalalalalalalalalalalala can't hear you lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalala. So that's working then.


*Not mine. Ha ha she laughed cheerlessly.
**Read "homecooked." She's probably doing it on purpose for the good grub, the wily minx. As if I want another three fresh meals to prepare daily.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

And now I'm going to have a little lie-down.

Oh my word, but it's been a while. I've been out and about. 

Apropos of nothing, isn't this place amazing? It's a recently restored Victorian theatre in Teddington, with original scenery and paintings and a balcony and loads of gorgeous stuff.

So today I have a headache like there is an ice pick in my head. And what have you been up to?

Saturday 22 January 2011

Couple-friends: pros and cons.

Quick question off the top of my head: if you are one half of a couple, and you socialise with other couples, what's your take on the dynamic? Is there a love-me-love-my-dog aspect? Beloved dear friend and barely tolerated boor of a partner? Is there an element of marital drama, or perhaps political debate, for which you provide a convenient audience? The lovely man and I have few couple-friends, and when we have dipped our toes into the couple-friend water, we have found it not always agreeable.

We frequently chuckle about the evening we enjoyed a spontaneous takeaway with one of the lovely man's friends and his wife and they bickered all night, culminating in Mrs berating Mr at the table for always ordering too much food. "Oh X! You always order too much food!" she cried, as he decanted all the various dregs of tins and boxes into one container. (In my head, after she leaves the room, he takes an appreciative glance at it all and says, "There! That was just enough," before he puts it in the bin, but maybe I'm imagining that.) Frequently, a satisfying takeaway chez nous is completed with one of us accusing the other of ordering too much, just for the fun of it. I know, it's all quite madcap here.

Memorably, there was the time when we were invited for dinner at the home of (other) friends of the lovely man,* and the conversation turned to the fact that they were no longer having sex. By which, I mean that the husband shared that with us during dinner. I will add that 1) this was the first time I had met either of them and 2) for four of us, they had served no more than a single bottle of wine (while the two bottles we brought remained unopened); it's safe to say I wasn't ready in any way for that level of disclosure, or the manner in which it was achieved.

I'm a little gunshy now.

* Hmm, perhaps a theme is emerging.

Friday 14 January 2011

Stuff I thought about on the way to the post office.

I'm pretty sure there was one of these in my window when I was a kid.
Image via

Apparently they are no longer de rigueur as people don't want perverts to know where their kids sleep.
Were there fewer perverts in the 70s? Or maybe not, but people weren't as frightened of them?
I can't think of a time when children were known in the general vernacular as 'tots.'

Monday 10 January 2011

Some listy oversharing of a domestic nature

1) I have never cleaned my laptop keyboard. N.e.v.e.r.

2) I had "friends" round for Thanksgiving a few years ago, and, as dinner wasn't ready until *nightmare* 10pm, my "guests" filled the drunken hours by pounding Champagne and carrying my computer around iChatting to their friends and family in the States, and in gormlessly holding it aloft onehandedly, "someone" put their thumb through the keyboard. I had it replaced. I don't think that counts as cleaning it.

3) Even so, when I'm using the computer, I always make sure I wash my hands before handling food. Except when I a) forget and b) am too lazy.

4) I have also never cleaned the screen.

5) When it came back from having the keyboard replaced, someone had cleaned the screen.

6) There are multiple jars of peanut butter in the cupboard. Some of them are supposed to be used exclusively for filling the Kong. The rest have NOT FOR DOGS written on them with permanent marker. Every so often, I get suspicious that someone (you know who you are) might have used the wrong jar, and - even worse - double dipped the knife. I then move the suspect jar onto the top shelf, where it sits with other half-jars of suspect pb, some of which have NOT FOR DOGS written on the lids. Then I buy a new jar, write NOT FOR DOGS, and the cycle begins again.

7) I am kind of a toilet fascist. I badger the lovely man endlessly about stuff to do with the toilet. Basically, I want it to be like no one has ever used the toilet. If he must insist on using the toilet, I want him to leave no indication that anyone was ever there. In the loo, I want the illusion that I live alone.

8) Once a week, I wash the whole loo - walls, skirting board, floor, door, sink, toilet and bath where applicable - with bleach. I feel guilty for refusing to reuse cloths - kitchen roll only please - but I cannot be doing with the way a cloth just moves dust and dog hair and schmutz around. If there is *urk* hair or any such thing, it is not clean. And I must know that the only cloths used on the toilet are not used on other stuff, and then they have to be washed on their own and putting a cloth through the wash on its own is hardly green, so... No.

9) If the toilets and sheets are clean, and my cupboards are tidy, I'm golden. I can tolerate, and I positively radiate, all other kinds of disorder and chaos. This trait is crazymaking for anyone who has ever had to live with me.

10) I don't mind washing up, but I quite dislike loading and unloading the dishwasher.


Thursday 6 January 2011

That's why the carpet is red. article rticle here.

I read that as 'head injury.' Happens all the time.

It seems less newsworthy now.

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Being yourself.

I've just had the really odd experience of seeing my memories in a stranger's photos online. Isn't Flickr weird? You Google a random phrase and up pops someone's completely unprotected personal photo album for everyone to see.

I'm not sure this is of any interest to anyone but me, so I won't link to them (well, not more than one or two) because it's just weird, isn't it? What's the protocol for using someone's personal photos for your own vain benefit? (I actually pored over some of these pictures in close-up mode to see if I was in any. I'm still not sure. Freaky.)

What was of interest to me were snaps of a marvellously filthy club I frequented when I was younger and tireless in my pursuit of drink and squalid amusement in the wee small hours, where the crowd and the evening were corralled, agitated, thrilled, provoked and exploited like so many circus animals by the peerless siren of individuality, Mx Justin Vivian Bond.

I've never been very confident about being myself, but there are some inspiring individuals who execute the maneuver beautifully.

Elegant, awkward, crude, glamorous, funny, thoughtful and poignant, glib and profound in equal measures, Justin exudes a compelling aura of strength and vulnerability. 

Justin is welcome at my table any time (though a phone call beforehand would be helpful).

(More thoughtful and comprehensive posts here and here.)

Tuesday 4 January 2011

No, that's vomit.

When the boy dog first joined us, he, uh, vomited a lot. A lot. Like every day. I think it might have been stress-induced. And also, he ate - eats - a lot of random stuff, stuff you don't even know you should keep from him, like dog poo, or a wodge of crumpled up masking tape, or the splintered plastic coating on the steering wheel lock.

Soon after he arrived, I discovered that he quite likes squeaky toys. He didn't do much aside from barking, biting and pissing on the garden door, so it was kind of a joy to see him so het up about something. I dug out the box of toys which the girl dog had studiously ignored for many years, and found one shaped like a Christmas cracker. I enjoyed his ecstatic reaction for a moment, and then when I left the room, he ate it. What I mean is that he tore bits off and ate them and by the time I returned maybe five minutes later there was only about a third of it left.

Then he vomited a lot too, on top of his already pretty taxing vomiting schedule. So despite all the scrubbing and shampooing and enzyming, our carpet is... unlovley. And for some reason it makes me uneasy that people might thing that the dogs had been, I think the word is toileting, on the carpet. As though that would be worse. I have to stop myself saying to the electrician or dinner guests "I know the carpet is pretty grotty, but that's not because the dogs go to the toilet on the carpet. Those are vomit stains." Because that's better, um, how? And also, I don't think you should go around using the word 'vomit' in general conversation.


Okay, that's it. Enough alfuckingready. I'm declaring war on fatigue, and sleeplessness and the pervasive condition of being so tired as to be completely inactive all day and then lying in bed at night unable to drop off. Regardless of how I sleep, I have to get up with the dogs once or twice in the very early morning. Then when the day starts a bit later I am hallucinating with exhaustion as I did this morning when I could see trippy iridescent colours radiating from what looked like a magic feather on the floor but turned out to be a small, torn piece of green plastic.

All the unpleasant fallout from this schedule? It must end. I am throwing down the gauntlet.

(Out of the blue and apropos of nothing except the title of this post, I was thinking earlier today about the women's studies professor I had in college who advised me to read some book about archetypes because I was so angry and maybe I would gain some insight about myself via the archetype of the woman warrior. I really liked her and wanted her approval, so I read it, but just ended up feeling confused and a little hurt. That was a long time ago when I was a tender young lass; now that I'm old and bitter, I feel confident that if you are a feminist and you aren't angry ur doin it rong.

There's your insight right there.)

Let battle commence with valerian tea. (Officially the lamest hippie trash talk ever. By the bye, did you see the episode of The Sopranos where valerian tea was revealed to be a gateway drug? If you don't hear from me for a few days, I'm probably shooting heroin between my toes. Oh dear god at least I would get some sleep.)

If that doesn't do the trick, I'm taking a pill of some description. Antihistamines, or a little something something my mother left here when she was last visiting. The senior citizens get all the best drugs.

Sunday 2 January 2011

I'm a hypocrite.

Wouldn't you know it: I ridiculed all that Princess Diana hysteria, and it came back and bit me in the arse when John Peel died and I discovered I was just as capable of mourning a sleb I'd never met and completely imagined I knew. Poetic justice and that.

Via the joyful chaos of the intertubes, I stumbled on this transcript quite by accident this morning and even though it was hurting my eyes to read it, it wasn't the migrainous white-on-black text that made me cry.

Coincidentally, my marvellous friend Kelly asked me this morning to choose three people (in time-honoured fashion, they can be living or dead) who I'd invite to dinner, and all I could think of was that last time I had a stranger at my dinner table I practically had a nervous breakdown,* but when I made myself get into the spirit of the thing, I decided on Patti Smith, John Peel and Justin Bond, with John Cooper Clarke** stopping by later.***


*I'm not sure what I would cook. I think I'd be entitled to order a take-away on this occasion. John Peel famously enjoyed a curry.
**Kelly posed the question but then felt free to invite four people, so rather than sticking to the rules like the nitpicker-crybaby I am, I opted for four guests too. Even though that's breaking the rules.
***He doesn't look like he eats.
****I love an asterisk.

Saturday 1 January 2011

HNY, etc.

Despite the pestilence, some beautiful food has been cooked and eaten here over the Christmas period: pheasant with stuffing, roast potatoes and cranberry sauce; chicken, leek and ham pie with spiced red cabbage and watercress; beef hailing directly from a field behind the Dorset home of the parents of the lovely man; and an enormous almond and orange cake. There was also a bûche de nöel, which was easy and gorgeous and very moreish. Behold the blurry phone-camera goodness! (Feel free to make ooh and aah noises. I'll wait.)

It is gone. Would it be wrong to eat make another one? Now?

Why is it that swiss roll recipes (let's just call it a swiss roll, shall we? I'm not French or very affected) want you to separate six eggs, beat the whites and yolks separately and at some later stage, fold them back together again? I chose, cleverly some might say, to make the one recipe I found that began, "beat eggs for five minutes." I am nothing if not lazy. I deliberately choose recipes with a skewed effort to reward ratio. (Like the easiest ganache ever. Meringue mushrooms? Made in the microwave. Applause.)

(Lazy has a lot to recommend it, but I do envy this.)

In unrelated news, the boy dog (aka the devil dog) had been taking an unusual interest in my bedside tray of sickness paraphernalia, which I attributed to some cough syrup residue, but which turned out to be all about the box of wax earplugs he ate yesterday. He left behind bits of the box and the small enclosed instructional leaflet. (I guess he didn't need the latter; it doesn't tell you how to eat them.) In the past 24 hours, I've also had to wrestle from his steel-trap mouth a chicken bone, a humane mousetrap, a bin of used tissues and a tyre off a Lego combine harvester.

And on the subject of dogs, I also found myself, thick-headed with flu, discussing canine gynaecology with the (male) vet and his (male) veterinary student sidekick. I'm now super-well informed and can swab a dog vulva with the best of them*. Fun!

So just by the bye and to wrap up the flu talk, have you heard that, in addition the usual fever, chills, aches and snottiness, it can make you feel chronically crap and exhausted for three weeks, leave you with a sinus infection and lingering cough for another week (and counting) and then, to top it all off, make you bawl uncontrollably?

It's the darndest thing. About a week before Christmas, before I was aware of being ill, I accosted the lovely man with tales of my persistent weltschmerz* and wept and wept late into the night. (I should add that I was also premenstrual, thanks to my propensity to menstruate at the onset of birthdays, holidays and special occasions.*) A couple of days later, after we had both succumbed, we were watching what should have been perfect sickbed telly, which made us both burst into tears simultaneously and repeatedly, and there was one day when it was absolutely ridiculous, where every news bulletin and tv advert got one or both of us going. I'm not sure what was going on, but I feel it was related to the flu. I'd be very interested to know if this has happened to anyone else.

*Happy Christmas!