Wednesday 8 August 2018

One Christmas Mom had decided she was going to make a Buche de Noel. For those of you who don't know what this is - I will save you the Google search and say it is translated as a "Yule Log" - a very fancy Christmas cake that looks like a log and apparently takes three days to make. Mom spent the requisite three days getting this thing perfect and it was literally all we heard about the entire week. The anticipation for this cake was more than what most children feel in the lead up to Santa's arrival. The fat man had slipped down the charts this particular year and had been replaced by a log.

We all sat down to Christmas Eve dinner - Mom had mad an absolute feast - French onion soup (just called onion soup as we were living in France) with home-made bread and perfectly melted cheese on top, roast beef, potatoes, broccoli in butter and breadcrumbs, french beans (again- just beans) with toasted almond slivers and perfectly roasted carrots. While it was all amazing, our stomaches thought of nothing but the Buche. But we had to wait until after the candle-light service at the American Church in Paris to indulge. We filled our entire Hunt-family pew, sang lovely Christmas hymns and dreamed of our chocolate Yule Log waiting in the middle of the dining room table, tempting us home.

The service ended and we walked back to our apartment, humming the tune of Silent Night as lights twinkled in the bare trees that lined the Parisian avenues. We huddled under our winter coats and fought over who would get the first slice of cake. It was decided we would cut it evenly (my middle sister would be the judge of fairness in size) and then all partake together.

We climbed the winding staircase to the house and once unlocked rushed through the door and into the dining room, jostling for a space near the chocolate wonderment. My brother stopped dead and tilted his head a bit to swing his skater hair out of his eye and get a better look. He swore. My sister and I ran into the back of him and peering around him saw what he had seen... The Buche de Noel was unrolled on the table, all of the chocolate had been licked off by our runt of a dog, Muffin who was consequently now stuck on the table. My sister turned to go get mom and I reached to get Muffin off the table when a moment of genius struck. WAIT! My brother shouted and then barked out orders: Kimbers, go distract Mom and Dad, Laurie - go turn on the record player and the big speakers.  Greg dashed off to his room on his secret mission. He raced back and threw on Bob Seger's 45 "Shakedown" and moved the needle to the chorus with the lyrics "Break down, Shake down... YOU'RE BUSTED!" and turned the volume high enough to warrant a visit from Mom to tell us to Turn. It. Down.

When she swept into the room she found the three of us dancing around like it was party night at the insane asylum, hands outstretched in jazz hands formation, pointing our shimming fingers towards a now violently shaking chocolate-covered Muffin. Mom's eyes grew bigger and bigger and she jerked her hands to her face to cover her gaping mouth to suppress the scream we were all doing our best to distract her from. Even Muffin seemed to know that all of our dancing, and shimming and song-playing was not going to save her from the wrath of a chef scorned... so she shook even more violently, looked up and mom with her big brown eyes and then vomited all over what was left of the cake. This coincided with the end of the 45. We stopped dancing. We stopped breathing. We all stood there waiting to see which way this was going to go. Mom's eyes narrowed in anger, all focused on Muffin. She pulled out an accusing finger and gesticulated to the dog. Before she could get anything out, all of the anger drained from her face, and she looked around at all of us kids, registered the humour in the situation and burst out laughing. We joined in, tentatively at first and then Muffin let out a loud fart and it was all we could do to remain standing. 

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Aced It!

I the UK, before your little munchkin starts Reception (read Kindergarten) the teacher pops by for a home visit. We assumed as long as we did not have a meth lab in the kitchen, dog bowls on the floor with the kids names scratched into them and we had at least one books around and we'd be okay. What I had planned was well dressed and groomed children, a clean house, hot banana bread fresh out of the oven, some classical music playing and be dressed.... maybe even showered. 

However, that was not to be. I don't work on Fridays and my husband had taken the day off so that we could have one last hurrah before Luke started school. Since Ms Link was supposed to be coming over for our home visit on Saturday morning at 9:45, we decided to go to Legoland on Friday to avoid the crowds since most kids would be back in school already. When we got up and threw our curtains open to greet the day, it greeted us back - by spitting chilly sideways rain at us. It was not just miserable it was like a depressing scene in an already traumatically sad movie. 

We shifted gears and since our 4-year-old starts every day asking to watch TV and refuses to get out of his PJs  - we decided we would embraced the rain and the inclinations of our post-toddler/pre-boy and made it a PJ/movie day! I was wearing the equivalent of hot pants (as soon as I fall asleep my body radiates more heat than an atomic bomb - so hot pants may sounds risqué but they are a necessity) and it was about 50F (that is.... rrrr... something cold in Celsius) outside in the freezing rain, so I changed into a pair of PJ bottoms I had not worn in forever and threw on a really comfy cardigan. We had only given the kids some Cheerios and a banana as they watched the first movie of our marathon (The Good Dinosaur - SO GOOD) so we sat down for second breakfast (yes, we are Hobbits) around 9:15 and had porridge (so messy - our 2 year old gets it all in her hair and Luke always ends up dropping a few sticky spoonfuls on his shirt any time we have it - and this time was no exception).  I finished eating and got up to grab something when I realised that the reason I did not wear these pj bottoms was because I had caught them on a nail and literally ripped the entire backside out of them. So I did what anyone would do - I shouted for my husband to look and did a bootie shaking dance in his direction. Luke had finished his porridge as well so I asked him to please go and take off his night nappy and put on big boy pants - which he obediently did - but managed to put them on backwards and then refused to put his pyjama bottoms back on (I CANNOT WIN). I was chasing him around when I saw something odd. Maddie, our two year old was standing without any bottoms on (no nappy/diaper -nothing) and saying "poo poo" - which I found, to my horror in her nappy which was lying on the floor in the entrance to the house. I cleaned it all up and was getting her dressed again when I stepped on something which I knew I did not want to step on. I had missed a poo! I want to sit back down in my torn out bottoms and have a cup of coffee - but as soon as my bum hit the chair I heard a knock on the door. George and I turned and looked at each other to see if one or the other of us had some kind of recognition as to who might be knocking at our door when neither of us  were showered, or dressed and still had our hairy morning teeth (and breath) kicking. Nope. Blank face from George, inquisitive wrinkle-making face from me. Luke ran to the door in his backwards undies and opens it to HIS TEACHERS. They were there for his home visit. Oh! Joy! I had the day wrong. 

George grabbed Maddie and legged it upstairs to get themselves dressed. Meanwhile, in my state of shock I think I welcomed them in and ushered them (walking backwards to avoid them seeing my knickers) over toys, half eaten bananas and a discarded nappy that I had not run upstairs to the nappy bin yet - into our living room where the lovely set up train looked as though it has been hit by a magnitude 12 earthquake and a tsunami where Maddie had sprinkled her water. (I really hope it was water). I then failed to offer them drinks or food and explained that we were expecting them tomorrow when we would have had banana bread and showers. George joined us, dressed but with hair sticking up in various directions. While we got Luke to demonstrate his impressive pj-bottom-putting-on skills the teachers engaged him in conversation which went like this: 

Teacher: what did you do this summer Luke? 
Luke: Watch TV 

It is important to note here that we were militant about TV with Luke. He was literally not allowed to even face it until he was 2. And his summer? He went to the US, to Switzerland, to the beach and for walks in the woods. We explored bugs in the garden and built intricate train tracks with Duplo villages nearby. We went to the zoo and botanical gardens, swimming and adventuring. But what does he tell the teachers he did all summer? WATCH TV! Cheers kid. 

Luke disappeared for a moment and I talked to Mrs Alikhan and Ms Link about some things he likes to do and I apologised that we did not have his "All About Me" form filled out since that was on the day's to do list. As I was trying to redeem him by explain his genius artistic streak (he really is the most talented 4-year-old artist in our family) - he came in donning his newly purchased pencil sharpener/eraser (rudely called a rubber in the UK) combo and to my horror went up to both teachers and shoved the eraser under their noses and said "smell!"  They both raised their eyebrows and nodded in agreed fake excitement saying "it smells like a rubber". "Please, Please can the visit end now?" I scream internally. My eyes then fall on Maddie who has climbed inside the Duplo box and is rocking like a child in a horror-film-style orphanage potentially sucking her thumb for the first time in her life. I can't be sure because I think I started to block things out at this point.  While I was distracted looking at crazy-pants, Luke takes Mrs. Alikhan by the hand and leads her into the play room where he starts to show her all of his toys. 

Sadly (in no ones opinion) it was time for them to go - so I summoned Luke back into the living room to say goodbye (no way was I getting up and leading the charge to the door with my drafty bottoms) when they remembered that they needed to take a PHOTO of Luke with the class's stuffed hedgehog for THE WALL.  I know I mentioned that Luke was in his PJs - but what I failed to mention is that he was wearing his FAVOURITE pjs. His REINDEER Christmas themed pj top. Covered in porridge and with his sweet surfer hair sticking up in that fresh-out-of bed fuzzy look. It was the first (and hopefully the last) time I did an all-time cliche lick of the hand/smash of the hair move. It did not work. I think they got a photo of him with his eyes open but I could not bare to look. All I could do is thank them for coming and crab-walk them to the door. 

Wednesday 17 August 2016

The Scent of a Young and Modern Woman

"Peach Trees in the Fall"

YM (Young and Modern) Magazine was one of my favourites in college. It was likely aimed more at the adolescent than the young adult - but that appealed to me - plus I had a friend who had submitted her boyfriend to the annual "boyfriend of the year" competition and he was one of the runner-ups. Their photo and her article about why he was a great boyfriend filled an ENTIRE page of the magazine. She was kind of my hero (even though they had broken up by the time the magazine went to print - but hey ho... The life of a young and modern woman is anything but predictable.)

So - in one such magazine there was an intriguing article about scents that boys like. Essentially the article said that boys like food - so make yourself smell like food and they will love you. Thankfully they left out suggestions such as "stand next to a BBQ before you go and speak to the guy you are eyeing up" or "rub your wrists and neck with bacon and stand near the boy you have been dying to talk to all year". Instead they suggested vanilla and fruit tones and cinnamon.

Being a Young and Modern woman - I took this advice to heart and bought some peach body spray that was on sale at Bath & Bodyworks. (Body spray was ALL the rage in the late 90s). After buying it, I was totally cool, and totally modern, and could not wait to try it out on my unsuspecting victims... Rrrr... Boys.

So, before my roommate and I headed out I doused myself in the stuff. I mean, if you are going to catch a boy with your scent: He needs to be able to pick up your scent....

We parked ourselves at the bar and were just chatting to each other when I heard these two guys who were standing a few feet behind us talking to each other. One sort of sniffed loudly and said to the other "do you smell that?" I sat up in my seat and sort of opened my eyes and nodded slightly to my roommate as if to say "see.... It works!!" As the other boy sniffed the air and said "yes... It kind of smells like..." And before he could say "amazingly delicious peaches mixed with the gorgeous smell of a beautiful woman who I must now seek out with my nose" his friend finished the sentence for him saying "a Glade Plug-In?!" And his friend laughing and nodding in TOTAL agreement said "YES!!!! That's it!! A Glade Plug-in!!" Then to my total horror the first friend turned towards us and nodding in our general direction said "I think it is coming from over there. It's a little overpowering - let's step outside and get some fresh air." I turned to my roommate and said "next time I am just rubbing myself with bacon".

Sunday 11 May 2014

Learning to Drive... Again.

I finally caved and bought a car. While this may not seem like an extreme purchase to some it was to me. For one thing, the steering wheel is on the wrong side. When we first moved to London it totally freaked me out that the "drivers" never seemed to be paying attention and were sometimes non-existant. It took me a few years to get used to looking right first before crossing roads and not totally freaking out and grabbing the drivers arm to pull him into oncoming traffic before realising that we SHOULD in fact be on the left hand side of the road. But after five and a half years, I did it.

Unfortunately, the dragging of my feet caused me a lot more pain than was strictly necessary. I had been informed that one had two years to exchange a U.S. licence for a U.K. one. I should say MISINFORMED - the rule was a year - from the date you become a resident - which is stamped boldly on your visa, which is in your passport, which you also need to send in with your paperwork (yes, the original... to the DVLA (which is British for the DMV)) and you just pray that the black hole of bureaucracy does not somehow swallow it up for eternity. The long and the short of it is that there is no getting around it, which means... wait for it... I had to take driving lessons and then I had to take a theory test. And then I had to take a driving test. Yes. Seriously. At age... ahem... never-mind.

I decided to approach this with a good attitude and to treat it as a learning experience. So I called AA (British for AAA) and booked 5 hours of driving lessons on a manual. I specified that I would like a car that drove on the left. They assured me that this wish could be accommodated but asked if I understood that I was going to actually be in control of the car and would have to myself ensure that it stayed on the left. It may have been because of my questions, or my comment that I might just drive on the right and make people go around me - but they then decided that I need the instructor with no sense of humour. At all. Literally. None.

The Brits are known for their wittiness and seeing the humour in just about any situation. They name food things like Bubble and Squeak and Pigs in a Blanket - I mean, you would have to have a sense of humour to do that... and even more so to then order it with a totally straight face and not a hint of a tongue being firmly pressed into one's cheek. It is an entire race of people who can laugh at themselves and others with abandon. That is, everyone EXCEPT MY DRIVING INSTRUCTOR. I got in the car on day one. He introduced himself as "John"(names have been changed to protect the innocent) and asked me about my experience etc. I told him I had been driving for *cough* a long time and that I needed to take all of the tests because I had missed the deadline to turn in my licence for a UK one. I said something pithy and fun and he turned to me with a very straight face and said - "so what do you know about driving a manual" and I said "I've done it drunk a few times." this may or may not have been true - but it was meant to be funny. I did not even get a courtesy smile. This just made the situation worse because now it was a challenge to get Mr. No Sense of Humour to laugh. and the more silly I got, the more serious he got which made me nervous which made me giggle which made me laugh at how insane it was that I was taking driving lessons in the first place - at my age. So my first lesson was... how do you say? Not so great.

But I decided to give John another go - and he surprisingly showed up for our appointment. It is a recession after all...  This time, I was all business. I had decided to have a little wine with lunch to calm my nerves and I did brilliantly... Like I said I've done it drunk a few times (the wine was in the sauce by the way - for all of you who are judging). The third lesson was after work, wineless at the wrong time of the month - so both he and I were having sense of humour failures and we were back to the basics - literally back to the way I was on my first lesson where we drove up and down a road and took maybe two turns. Very different from my second post-wine lesson where I was on main roads and going through drive-threws... but this was a nightmare and so. not. fun.

So I threw pride (and John) out the window and ordered up a new instructor. Bill. Bill taught people (read Americans) on automatics. I was told that there was only one instructor in my area - so we had to get along. Bill showed up on the first day and asked me how long I had been driving. When I told him, he buckled himself in and told me to drive. I starred at him... "just drive?!" "Yup" he said and crossed his chubby arms over his enormous belly. I would not have been surprised if he'd cracked open a beer just then, he was so relaxed. So I put the car in drive, pulled off the sidewalk (because that is how we roll her in London - small roads = half on sidewalk parking) and DROVE! The first thing he said was "do you usually do that push-pull when you are driving normally?" UM... NO!! JOHN TOLD ME TO DO IT!!! I knew it. He was a crap instructor. He was teaching me outdated methods. I moved my hands from the 10 and 2 push-pull position that I had tried to master under John's tutelage and did my usual hand on the bottom of the wheel other hand somewhere around one o'clock... the way my dad drives. I leaned back in my  seat, rolled the window down a little and was about to ask Bill to put on some tunes when he asked me to pull over. Once we were in a safe position he informed me that I would have failed my test had I driven like that.

I was starting to think that this driving in the UK was so not for me - I mean there were signs I did not understand, bus lanes I was not allowed to use, bikers... EVERYWHERE, motor-scooters scooting in between cars and pedestrians who dart in front of you car just to see if you are far enough along in your driving lessons to have learned how to do an emergency stop. So I surrendered to Bill's learning methods and learned how to drive again. Our first two hour lesson was over very quickly - we literally went on a joy ride. He took me up to this road in Wimbledon and was all "check out the view from here" (NO WE WERE NOT PARKED... perverts) and then we swung by the Wimbledon tennis club and headed home. It was all really non-eventful and he just corrected some things that I needed to know to tick the preverbal boxes so that I would pass. We set up our second lesson (another two hours) and during those two hours I mastered all the moves I might be asked to do - parallel parking (totally normal), pulling up and stopping at a kerb (totally normal) and backing around a corner (the most ridiculous manoeuvre known to man). I mentioned how ridiculous this was and said "why do I need to know this??! This is INSANE." Bill looked at me and said "every American I have ever taught has said exactly the same thing - you have to be able to do all of these things because the tester can choose any one of them to test you on - so just do it." Fine.

After a total of nine hours of lessons I was ready to take my test. Bill came over and picked me up. I was in my best pastel sweater set and pearls, hair curled - obviously. My heart was pounding, my hands sweaty and I tried to get into the passenger seat... (the drivers seat in the U.S.). Things were not going well. Bill looked at me and I thought - is it too late for me to grab a glass of wine for the road? But alas we were off (is it weird that I was surprised that I drove myself to the test? Thinking about it  - of course I would drive myself - but then I was like - why is Bill not chauffeuring me?? I realise now it was just the pearls talking...) and I was driving (!!) to the test (!!) I felt like a sixteen year old and when I blew through a stop sign, I turned to Bill and said  "I totally paused." He didn't laugh then, or when I hit the curb (known as a kerb around these parts) going about 40. In fact... he yelled at me... on the way to my test. I wanted John back - and that was saying a lot.

Bill warned me that we needed to pull over so he could check the tyre (British for tire) because I might not be able to take the test today if the tyre was damaged. Not take the test??!!  You have to book these things MONTHS in advance. I had to get my licence then - that day or I would not be able to drive the car that I had ordered and was arriving the NEXT day... (it was very positive thinking - I do realise that now). Bill was going on and on about how he had just had that tyre replaced because another student had hit a kerb and how it costs a lot of money and the examiner didn't let her take the test and blah blah blah blah blah - I felt like I was with a nagging mom (not mine - she is great and very non-nagging), not my "mate" Bill. So I pulled over, barely resisting the temptation to practice my emergency stop in his precious car (WHICH IS A DRIVING INSTRUCTORS CAR BY THE WAY.... BILL...) and he got out, slammed the door and walked to the back tyre to check it out... it was FINE. So he got back in and now I am super stressed, and sad that Bill and my relationship which was about to come to a natural end was falling apart in a most spectacular way, and not relaxed at all and I still have to take my driving test - which everyone fails the first time any way.

We make it the rest of the way to the testing centre without incident and go into this tiny room and hand in our paperwork and one by one the lovely examiners come out - the first one is a smiley woman who grins even bigger when she reads out the name of her examinee - not me. Then is the lovely man who puts a kind arm around his examinee as he leads him out to the car.  The next man is a kindly looking older gentleman who gives his examinee a light reassuring pat on the back and says "let's get you a licence!" as they walked out the door. The next examiners skipped and hummed and whistled until all the examinees were gone and it was just me and Bill and a man who looked like the Penguin from Batman waddling into the room. I heard Bill take a sharp intake of breath "$#!t" he said under his breath as my name was shouted from the depths of the Penguins bowels (remember there was no one else in the room) as he stormed down the stairs. I had been summoned.

We took the eye examination which I somehow screwed up with 20/15 vision and had to take again (to be fair I mixed up a 1 and an l... you can see how hard that would be - until you note that all registration plates (British for license plates) in the U.K. are two letters followed by two numbers and then three more letters - unless they are personalised - so I should have known it was a one not an "l".) We get in the car and start off - and we drive for a long time and he makes me do ALL THREE manoeuvres and since I was pretty sure this epic journey was going to end in failure I just started chatting and ended up thawing the Penguin's frozen exterior and dare I say, befriended him at a level crossing, where I sat,  leg shaking from being pressed on the brake too hard, for too long, waiting for the THREE TRAINS to pass through. THREE.

We got back to the testing centre and the Penguin said "congratulations, you've passed" and gave me the run down on my three minor infractions 1) hesitating at a round about (which I am going to do forever - no way am I charging into those things without hesitation!) 2) not putting the parking brake on at the level crossing (I actually contemplated that but thought it might be an automatic fail if I was wrong so opted for the shaky leg option) and 3) I can't remember so it must have not been that bad... I hope... anyway - as soon as he gave me my paper saying I passed, Bill about rips the door off the car yelling "where have you been? the last examinee got back 15 minutes ago!" Then a belly to belly screaming match between the stout Bill and the Penguin ensued... there were words and gestures exchanged. To be honest I was just hoping my "pass" would not become a "fail" because of Bill's (so not my friend) little outburst.  Bill kicked me (the newly licensed an now ready to drive driver) out of the drivers seat and drove me home... as we pulled away - the Penguin angrily noting Bill's registration plate - the car jolted to the right as, in his anger, Bill hit the kerb (insert self satisfying smirk).

Tuesday 13 November 2012


Growing up, we moved a lot. Dad, recognising the instability that not having a place to call home can cause, found a small barrier island just outside of Charleston called Seabrook and bought a plot of land and designed and built a house for the family. After months of sand piles, the whirl of the table saw, the fresh scent of wood shavings and the constant beat of hammer on nails, we had a place to call home with a room for each of us. 

While having an ideal, bespoke house built with love and tailored to our wishes as a family was something special it is not what made Seabrook so magical. It was a gated community with a speed limit of 25mph - as much for the kids as for the alligators regularly seen crossing the roads. As kids, we were free to bike to the beach, the crabbing docks, the tennis courts, the pool and most importantly for me, the stables. 

I would get up most days and jump on my bike (that was so big for me I had to run into trees, posts and other immovable objects to stop) and cycle over to the stables. Jessica, the stable master who always smelled of hay would greet me with a brush and some treats (apples, carrots and sometimes oats) for me to give to Snickers who was "my" horse. ("Mine" in that I took care of him, not that we in any way had any ownership rights over him.) 

Snickers and I were very good friends. He was a lovely chocolate brown thoroughbred with a blond bushy tail and mane. I would spend hours brushing Snickers and telling him all of my stories and we would go on little adventures together. I was not strong enough to get a saddle on him myself - so I would climb on him bareback and we would trot through the woods on the horse trails and over the sand dunes onto the deserted beaches where we would gallop on the soft sands. Both of us free. Both of us happy. 

About a year after moving into the house, Dad got stationed at the Pentagon.... so we were off to Washington D.C. After all of our bags had been packed and the rest of the house boxed up and loaded into a moving van, we piled into our station wagon and after a lot of begging Mom made one last stop at the stables and I soaked Snickers neck in tears and promised to come back as soon as I could. I got back into the car and pressed my face to the cool glass and watched out of the window and he galloped over to the wooden fence and followed our car until the road stretched out longer than the fence and we watched each other until a bend in the road put the field just out of view.  Tears streamed down my face as I watched the canopy of live oaks wiz by us and too quickly change to the constant passing of the highway street lamps of I-95. 

The next time I made the drive under those beautiful oaks I was in tears again. Ten years had passed with multiple moves both in the U.S. and abroad and after three years in Quito, Ecuador my Dad retired and we moved back to Seabrook.  Mom kept saying we were going "home" but this place was not home. It had grown up, I had grown up and we had grown apart. I was not interested in bike riding to the beach. I wanted to be in Quito, going out to night clubs and hanging out with my friends. Seabrook was full of retired people and I did not have a friend for 500+ miles. We went through the now unfamiliar gate with the unfamiliar guards and then we passed it.... the stables. It looked much smaller than my child's eye remembered but that feeling of familiarity and comfort I had with Snickers came flooding back. "Stop the car!" I yelled. Dad put on the breaks and let me get out. "I'll meet you back at home in a bit." They did not protest and drove off, leaving me to walk down the dirt road in my inappropriately short shirt and high heels. 

The closer I got to the stables the more obvious and self conscious I became. Then I smelled that familiar mix of horse, hay and the slight dank of manure and a familiar silhouette in jeans and a rolled up button down shirt turned to look at me. Without a hint of judgment in her voice Jessica asked in her strong southern drawl "well what can I do for you my dear?" I suddenly lost all of my bravado and teenage angst and melted back into the little girl who was saying goodbye to her dear horse and dealing with the first of what would be one of too many painful goodbyes. 

"Come here and sit down" Jessica said and pointed to a tree stump turned guest chair "let me get you some sweet tea."  By the time she returned with the already sweaty glass of iced tea I had brushed away the tears and pulled back on a relatively brave face which I had perfected after years of being a diplomats daughter. "So... to what do we owe the honor of such a lovely visitor?" As she spoke, she continued to brush the mane of a black horse who she had been grooming when I had first walked up. I took a sip of tea before I proceeded. I had scanned the fields for Snickers when I came in and had not seen him. Something inside of me knew he wasn't there but I wasn't sure I could deal with actually hearing the words. 

I swallowed hard and looked down at my hands, wrapped around the tea as I spoke. "You don't remember me, but I used to come here almost every day one summer when I was little." I struggled to continue as Jessica looked over at this over-dressed, over made-up self-obsessed teenager and searched hard for a child she might have known years ago. Expectedly she did not remember me or the child version of me. "Well," I continued trying to compose myself, "You used to let me groom a thoroughbred named Snickers. He was a beautiful brown horse with a blond mane and tail?" I asked hoping that would jog her memory. 

She stopped brushing the black horse who stomped his foot and swished his tail in protest. She instinctively patted his neck reassuringly and furrowed her brow as she searched her memory for Snickers the thoroughbred.  After a moment a smile creeped across her face and she looked at me. "Snickers you say?" I looked at her expectantly "Yes... Snickers." She maintained her mildly embarrassed smile and said "We did have a Snickers here who has recently gone to another stable for retirement..." she paused and then looked right at me "but he wasn't a thoroughbred sweety... he was a Shetland Pony." 

I cocked my head to the side, trying to take in this information and then the logic of how implausible  it would have been for a seven year old to groom (much less ride) a thoroughbred, bareback, struck me. I gasped and covered my mouth as, with horror, I remembered all the people I had told about Snickers and visualised them nodding, not believing a word. Then I melted into fits of laughter at the visual of me, as a seven year old with my Shetland Pony, trotting on the beach with Snickers short legs trying his best to run like the thoroughbred I thought he was. I conjured up the memory of our goodbye and realised that his head was pushed through the middle and top slats, not over top as he stared after us. He was a pony. But he was just the right size for me. 

Jessica, realising what an emotional wreck I was, kindly left me to my own thoughts and took the black horse back to the field. When she returned I handed her back the glass and thanked her for the tea. "Listen darlin' you come back here any time you want. I can always use an extra pair of hands around here." I gave her a weak smile "Thanks Jessica, I'll think about it. And thank you for telling me. About Snickers." She looked down at her feet for a second and kicked the dirt, contemplating saying something more. Mercifully she left it unsaid and I began my walk back down the dirt road and headed home.  

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Humphrey & Toppins

Every morning on my walk to work I run into Humphrey and Toppins and Lucy their walker. The trio is notable for several reasons. Humphrey is a Tibetan Mastiff, Toppins a long haired dachshund and Lucy is an older Philippino woman who, standing no more than 4'9", wears baggy sweat pants tucked into wellies, a hunter's hat and a massively oversized green coat and would have no trouble blending in at a soup kitchen. Humphrey, Toppins and I developed a morning routine which consisted of Humphrey marching over for a quick ruffle of his silky fur atop his gigantic head followed by Toppins who would wait patiently for his ear-scratch which would get just the spot his little legs could not reach. Then with a pat for both of them, I would be on my way.

I would find myself timing my morning departures not in accordance with the train schedule but in order to get that precious pet or two in on the way to work (I do realise how badly we need a dog... I really do). One morning, Toppins did not bound up to me in his usual short legged bouncy trot and I noticed that Lucy had him on leash. He looked downtrodden and kept looking up at Lucy expectantly, hurt that he was not able to roam freely like his bigger brother.

"What happened Lucy?" I asked pointing to his new accessory. "He bad dog" she said in her thick accent, shaking her finger at him. Toppins had somehow arranged his pointy face into a doggy scowl and I tried to suppress a smile as I enquired as to what he had done to lead to such a punishment. All the time, continuing to stroke Humphrey's head who was now leaning most of his weight on my leg and soaking up his reward for being a "good" dog.

"He was chase joggers again!" She exclaimed in complete exasperation. While I could see the seriousness of the situation I was having a hard time picturing this chubby short legged sausage dog doing any serious damage to any joggers... if in fact he was able to get his squatty legs going fast enough to catch even the slowest of pedestrian. "Really?!" I replied "well then, I guess he should be on a leash."

"Yes," she said "you should have seen jogger run - even the fat ones go real fast when they see Toppins coming."

"Lucy!" I scolded "that is not a very nice thing to say!"

"I think they should thank me - he like free personal trainer. Make them run up hill very fast." The thought of some poor overweight jogger being bullied by this runt of a dog as they tried to huff up our enormously steep hill set me into fits of giggles. Lucy, not seeing the humour in the situation, turned her attention and her wagging finger on me as if this emphatic gesturing would somehow convince me "really, he very bad dog" she reiterated.

Toppins, taking advantage of Lucy's distracted state, took off running after a jogger we had not even noticed fighting his way up the hill. Toppins covered an impressive amount of ground in an extraordinarily short time and before either of us knew it - he was upon the jogger, herding him up the hill at a faster and faster pace. Only when the jogger had reached the crest of the hill did Toppins relinquish his pursuit.

I turned to Lucy as Toppins sauntered back down to us, enormously proud of himself, and asked if I got a discount if I signed up for 10 sessions now.

Lucy crossed her arms "No discounts! But we start on Monday. You need it girly."

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Bout of POD

The Monday after the Closing Ceremony I was having a major bout of POD (Post Olympic Depression) brought on by my recent Olympendectomy. I needed something to cheer me up and get me out of my funk. As I rounded the corner to come down my street I saw my nine-year-old (mildly chubby) neighbour in the crouched "mark" position in the middle of the lane. You could almost hear this internal-monologue-announcer saying "set" and then he was off at the shot of the "gun" sprinting about a mile per hour down the road. As I reached my door I said "getting ready for 2016?" He burst into a huge grin and said "Yes I am!" This was the perfect cure for my POD as I realised that while the Olympics may be over, the Olympic spirit lives on!!!