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!!!

Sunday, 27 May 2012


As I was walking to work the other day, a man in a metallic blue car pulled up the kerb and asked directions. Recalling lessons from several personal protection/self-defence classes, I took a step back from the car and quickly shouted directions into his open window. After confirming the directions (which when repeated sounded incorrect) we both moved off towards the roundabout which was only a few feet down the road and stopped at the intersection, confronted with a rather unusual sight.

In the middle of the slightly raised roundabout was an amazing looking woman. Her prematurely grey hair hung think and well coiffed, falling perfectly to her slim shoulders. She wore rich earth-tones over a dark blue silk shirt which perfectly matched her brilliant sapphire eyes. However, what was most striking was that she was sitting very erect, like a professional dancer, perfectly poised atop a mechanical wheelchair - the type you would see advertised, very loudly, in a mid-day commercial aimed at hearing impaired old people who are yelled at that they CAN! GET! MOBILE! AGAIN! Her only accessory was a black, chubby, smooched-faced pug attached to a rope-like leash.

She must have seen the blue car stop to ask directions and seeing that the road was clear had started to cross the road diagonally only to have made it half way by the time we had finished our short conversation (she obviously had not attended the same courses where you are taught to keep your distance, be quick and pass them on to someone else or refuse to give them directions if you feel at all uncomfortable, or she would have known how quickly I can shout out wrong directions and move on).

While she was waving him around her and he was waving her around him, another car approached the intersection causing a rather stressful traffic jam. Like a trained traffic warden, she kept waiving her arms around for people to go, obviously embarrassed to be causing a bit of chaos on an otherwise sleepy road. But no one would budge. Finally she stopped waiving and with a huff of protest and a slight raise of her chin she started rolling towards the sidewalk where I was standing, still waiting to cross.

Everything was going just fine until, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, the pug stopped and just rolled over onto its back in the middle of the street. The woman rolled along for a moment before noticing that she was now dragging the pug, upside down, along the road. She stopped, glanced around at the cars that were now going to be late to wherever they were going and looked back at the pug and gently said "come on Pugsley." But Pugsley was going nowhere fast. He was LOVING the back rub on the rough cement and did not have a care in the world.

At this point I decided help was needed. I approached the pair and leaned down to Pugsley who got really excited at the expectation of getting a belly rub and started to do a little upside down happy dance. I picked up the squishy pug, set him on his feet and gave him a little push in the right direction. Meanwhile his "mom" was saying "it's okay, it just takes him a little time to get started..." Once we had all safely crossed and the cars had gone, I looked back over my shoulder and saw Pugsley rolled over on his back in the freshly cut grass doing the happy dance again.

Monday, 14 May 2012


A friend of mine who is getting married kindly invited me to her hen do/bachlorette party a few weekends ago. Being originally from Mexico, the whole night had a Mexican theme. We started with a tequila tasting, had some amazing Mexican food and went out salsa dancing (we were looking for mariachi dance club but failed miserably... how do those not exist?). While partaking in the tequila tasting, the bartenders asked for volunteers to help make some of the drinks. Two of us jumped on the opportunity and what was pitched as a friendly how-to course on making passion fruit mojitos (with tequila) quickly revealed itself as a competition to see who could make the best drinks in the least amount of time. Looking back, this may have had more to do with the participants than the bartenders.

For those of you who don't know me, I like a little competition... So I rolled up my sleeves, handed my sombrero and maracas to another hen/bachlorette and went for it - there was ice flying everywhere, tequila being poured a bit too heavily and lots of shaking and muddling happening. During all of this a SLEW of photos were being taken - our group had quickly turned from on-lookers to paparazzi. I imagine it was the manic flailing of arms, intense focus and total chaos that caused the frenzied photo taking. Ultimately we finished pretty much simultaneously (probably due to the fact that we were using the same utensils) so we participated in a penalty shoot out of sorts and had to do a shot of tequila, without using our hands, as the decision maker... she never stood a chance.

However, my glorious triumph was short lived once I saw the photos. I was expecting some cute, fun candids of me behind the bar with a shaker in hand - or cutting up some passion fruits, or mid-pour. Instead I was met with pictures of me looking super intense and actually kind of scary. I just jotted it down as being a bad photo or two taken in bad lighting from a bad angle by a bad photographer - that is, until the next morning when my husband and I were looking at the photos and he stopped on one of me bar-tending, zoomed way in and said "HA! that is totally your 'I'm working' face!" I took ahold of the camera with the 30x zoom I was now regretting paying extra for and examined the photo again.

I had a huge frown. My chin which had somehow become dimpled, was pulled in closely to my throat creating a twelve-chin-melding-into-neck effect that I was positive had never been featured on American's Next Top Model. My hair was a complete mess - my bangs/fringe, instead of hanging down in a lovely curtain were parted and oddly sticking out right along my ill-placed cow-lick. The rest of my dishevelled hair was tucked behind an ear with a little section somewhat stuck to my face like a weird sideburn. But I did have a pout... of sorts. My bottom lip was protruding as a result of my clenched jaw which somehow further accentuated my dozen chins.  THAT'S MY WORKING FACE??!!!??

I was in denial at first. I mean surely it was just a really bad photo. I could not POSSIBLY look like that on a regular basis. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that the occasional reflection I would catch of myself in my laptop screen, or the times I would turn my iPhone on to have the camera facing me... those were not fluke bad face moments... they were The Working Face (TWF) in full effect. It was one of those penny-dropping moments, where you have the little movie montage that runs through your head and suddenly that one piece of information explains so much.

I used to work in a fish bowl rrr..... I mean law office, where my computer and seat faced a window which had an amazing view of... wait for it... the hall. I know - you are seething with jealously! People (read partners) would pass my office and with a slight flick of the head look in to see 1) if I was still chained to my desk and 2) if I was still hard at work. I had a reputation for being a very diligent and hard working associate and would constantly have people (read partners) pop by to see how I was holding up and make comments like "sure looks like you are hard at work!" I never really understood these comments until the TWF photo. TWF is not only wholly unattractive, but it also makes me look like I am working so hard that I am actually in physical pain. The best bit is that sometimes people would comment on TWF when I was looking at something like dresses, puppies or houses or while I was reading the latest gossip on Lindsay Lohan (which would arguable cause most people to pull TWF).

Ultimately that weekend taught me a lot. 1) A passion fruit tequila mojito is only as good as the bar tender making it; 2) Jose Cuervo is not actual tequila (and is so vile that the makers decided to market it with salt and lime to make it remotely drinkable*); and 3) I need get rid of TWF. That statement just made me relax my features and grin a little at the computer screen. So much nicer than the twelve chin frowning monster. Maybe TWF is the actual reason my old computer kept crashing. This new one without the camera seems be be doing just fine!

*I am not sure this is actually true.

Saturday, 24 March 2012


When we were kids we had this dog named Muffin. At one point I am sure that Muffin was a stunning  lhasa apso - you know those little dogs that have perfect long hair and look completely put out when you make them do something outrageous...like walk. Muffin may have looked the part but she was no princess.

Mom had Dad had gone out to "breeder" (I use this term overy loosely) in rural South Carolina (read trailer park) and after about 20 minutes of nose to tail inspection, they had chosen a little black boisterous dog who was just about the most perfect puppy you could imagine. He had a shiny black coat, bright eyes and a white fur "sock" on each paw.  Just before Mom and Dad payed an extortionate amount of money for him, Dad heard a rustling noise and noticed a box kicked under a table in the corner which was moving ever so slightly. He made his way over to the beat up cardboard and discovered another puppy which was much smaller than the other dogs. "Hey there little guy." He said - peering in at the miniature sized puppy. The "breeder" said "that's a bitch (a female dog - not an evil backstabbing two faced evil dog)... she's the runt and she ain't really for sale." Dad corrected his cooing and said "hey there little one"as he leaned in and easily picked up the tiny pup with just a few fingers. As he gently stroked the top of her head with his index finger he asked "if she isn't for sale, what are you going to do with her?" The "breeder"sucked her teeth for a second, looked around with her hands tucked into her stone washed jeans and said with a shrug "flush her I suppose."

At this point all of Mamma's material instincts kicked in and she put her body between the puppy and the Flusher - with tensed arms, clenched fist and through gritted teeth said "No. You. Will. NOT!" - threw a twenty at her, grabbed Dad's free arm, swung him around and out the door. "Drive Will, Drive!" she shouted and off they drove into the sunset with our new puppy.

Muffin was a very well intentioned dog. It was obvious that she tried to be good, but sometimes she just couldn't help herself and her trailer-trash roots showed through. She was never an aggressive dog - that is - until she met Megan. Megan was one of those girls who was an evil backstabbing two faced evil dog. We hung out with the same group of people but I tried to avoid her as much as possible and she tried to make my life a living hell in about equal measure. She was definitely a household name but none of the family had ever met her - they just knew her from "the Megan stories" and no one liked her. One summer day we found out that Muffin shared the family sentiment.  My brother Freddie went to open the door and in his usual manner called back "GROMMIT!! SOMEONE'S HERE TO SEE YOU!" He was holding the screen door open for our guest when Muffin came bounding around the corner and literally hurled herself onto Megan and allegedly bit her on the knee. Megan instinctively kicked Muffin and she let out a pathetic, pain-filled yelp. The whole family - all five kids, mom and dad showed up at the door - Freddie had already picked up Muffin and was giving her a full once-over to ensure there were no hidden injuries. All of our attention was focused on Muffin while Megan stood in the doorway completely ignored and bleeding.

"THAT MUTT BIT ME!" Megan yelled - pointing accusingly.
"I beg your pardon?!" Mom exclaimed - glaring at Megan "Muffin has never bitten anyone in her LIFE."
"But look at my knee - it's bleeding from where she got me" Megan was starting to tear up. Fortunately for Muffin, she had had a bicycle accident a few days earlier so her knees, palms and a bit of her chin were already scraped up and I am still convinced that Megan's injuries were no more than Muffin accidentally opening a scab with her protruding bottom teeth because if she had really been going for Megan I am pretty sure she would be missing a knee cap.

From that day on Megan made a point of avoiding our house and our ferocious dog. However, Muffin, not quite satisfied that justice had been adequately served, sniffed Megan out and would leave steaming hot little packages in her yard as a reminder not to come back if she knew what was good for her.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Overly Organised

"Your thank you note arrived yesterday"
"For the dinner party?"
"Yes. It was for the dinner party."
"That you are here for tonight"
"Um... yeah"
"So you wrote it before you actually had the dinner... and said it was lovely and delicious"
"That got here rather quickly"
"When did you mail it?"
"On Thursday"
"For a dinner party you were going to be attending on Saturday?"
"I wanted to get it off my 'to do' list."
"I see."
"But I am sure it is going to be lovely... and delicious."

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Anonymous Flowers

For some reason women seem to want to get flowers from secret admirers. I cannot express how against them I am. While I freely admit that they do cause some excitement for about ten minutes they ultimately ruin any chance of a love life you may have for a good 5 years. At least.

If you are so unfortunate as to receive anonymous flowers you will undoubtably partake in the obsessive behaviour which always lasts until you figure out who the flowers are actually from. The process starts with a mental rolodex of every man one knows which is flipped through like mental flash cards - Andy? Nope... he has a Girlfriend. John? No. He would never send flowers. Peter? Gay. Noah? Does not know where I work. Or my name. Nor would he would recognise me if I ran into him and told him my name and how we know each other - until you conjure up that one good looking guy that you have had a secret crush on for ages... and you convince yourself that it is him. It's definitely Josh.

Soon your imagination takes flight - You see his face and it breaks into a large white toothy smile when you ask whether he is your admirer. Simultaneously you tap into his internal monologue (which obviously has a sexy English accent) saying "you clever girl you!" You notice his eyes are so full of love that you can't believe you missed it before. That is usually when the mental montage starts, and then ends unexpectedly quickly when you realise you have only spoken to him half a dozen times and mostly over the coffee machine in the break room. But now, every single one of those encounters seems so... so... signifiant. There is a connection there for sure and you are 100% convinced that Josh  absolutely was the one who sent you the flowers.

You pluck the card off of the bouquet, burry your nose in the petals and take a big sniff (even if they don't smell that great), re-read the card, brazenly strut across the office, knock on Josh's door and say in an oddly breathy voice "Hey there." He looks up in a sexy way - maybe even a little broody... or could that broodiness actually be anger? He does seem a bit put out by the interruption. It is obvious he can't place you but you choose to think he is playing coy. "Hey........... " he doesn't say your name (because he doesn't know it) but you don't notice because you are too busy batting your eyelashes, putting on your perfect pout and positioning yourself in such a way that your best assets are accentuated. Eta James'"At Last" seems to have cued itself up in your brain... and then... eventually... you cop on. Josh is not looking at you like a lovesick fool, there is no toothy grin. There is a hint of a scowl, and he is definitely starring at you... like you are crazy and he is scared he might contract whatever illness you have if you stand there much longer.

See THIS is problem number one with getting anonymous flowers - nine times out of ten you end up outing yourself to your secret crush and ten times out of ten he is not the one that sent them. Even worse is this is usually someone you don't really have a crush on and once "At Last" screeches to a halt in your head you remember that Josh is a total douche bag and you never liked him and would never even accept flowers from him- so you collect what is left of your dignity and walk away. Your brain pulls out the rolodex once again and you begin mentally flipping through the flash cards, continuously outing yourself to more and more people until you are picking up the phone to call Noah... maybe he does know who you are after all... and your cell rings. It's your Mom. She's calling to see if you got her "surprise."

Worse still is when Phil, the guy who has had a very inappropriate, overt crush on you for years, saunters up to your desks and raises his bushy eyebrows a few times at the flowers then points to his gold necklace clad chest and mouths "from me" smacks his gum a few times, winks and walks away.

Anonymous flowers are a disaster in the making. Even if you are SURE they are from that super hot guy who always flirts with you and has asked you where you work and what your favourite flowers are... send them back. I assure you there are from your mom... or worse, Phil.

Picky Eater

So I did my bit for the greater good this evening. On my walk home from a rather late night learning to make cocktails and having a lovely overpriced fussy meal paid for by my law firm, I passed a homeless man who was digging through garbage and picking out bits of food which he was smelling, inspecting, tasting and then putting back into the garbage bins. I figured the food was rancid and it broke my heart to see him scavenging around in the trash for food especially when I had not even finished my overly extravagant meal. So I ran into the only place that was open - McDonald's - and got him a McTasty, fries, a chicken salad and a water. Some protein, veg and hydration... plus some yummy McD's fries... who could ask for more?

I very proudly marched outside with my choices and handed him the bag and said "I saw you looking for food, so I got this for you" he took the bag without a word, opened it, smelled it, recoiled at the scent, closed it and handed it back to me and said "umm... I'm a vegetarian." So I did the only thing I could - I got him a veggie burger. Without cheese... I wasn't taking any chances on lactose intolerance.