Friday, 30 October 2015

Halloween for Cowards

Bob’s Blog

Halloween – oh no!

OK, so I’m an old grump, but Halloween, that cauldron’s mix of under-age witches, kitted out with hats, broomsticks, greasepaint and intimidating pumpkins, is systematically trawling our streets. Those tiny little satanic angels are at it again, bless ‘em. Predatory droves of them are probably scouring every street near you. And they are backed up by their very-own parental security force, glaring at you from over your hedge when you open your door, encouraging you to Treat their kiddies graciously. Has anyone ever dared to say ‘Trick’?

I fight against it. In the past I’ve tried leaving my house and creeping back on all fours under the cover of darkness when I think it’s all over. A feeble ploy, they were hovering in midair on their broomsticks somewhere and swooped to knock on my door as soon as I clicked it shut. I’ve also tried pulling the curtains, turning off all the lights, hiding behind the settee and tethering my dog behind the front door, prompting him to bark until hoarse. That was a total failure as he considers himself more of a sloppy, licking, tail-wagging greeter than a snarling, barking, canine deterrent.

This year I have a master ploy: I’m going to a Halloween party myself, to escape it all. It’s for adults only. Strictly no kids. Should be fun.

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Friday, 23 October 2015

Bargain Hunt

Bob’s Blog

Bargain Hunting at Home

Do you watch those antique programmes on the tele? Antiques Roadshow is my favourite, but there are plenty of others in various formats. Their basic premise is for members of the public to bring their family heirloom; something obtained under mysterious circumstances by a distant relative (Great  Uncle 'Fingers' Fred? ); or an item they’ve picked up for a quid at a car-boot sale. And to find out if they are holding something worth a small fortune in their trembling little hands.

For us viewers, part of the appeal is that one day, perhaps, something might be shown on the television screen during the programme, and you have that identical article in your loft, or propping open the shed door.

This happened to me: a piece of sculptured pottery bought for a song was found by the TV expert to be worth several thousand pounds. The key, they said, were the markings under the base. The Antiques Roadshow experts can tell the year/issue/artist just from that. They confirmed that the said item was indeed the definite article - no fraudulent copy. The owner looked pleasantly surprised but said it was a family keepsake and it was not for sale. I concluded however that they would probably put it immediately on EBay with a huge reserve, or be on the phone to Sotheby's pretty pronto.

As I watched, slouching on the settee, directly in my eyeline on the coffee table in front of me, was a very similar looking ornament indeed. Needless to say, my heart pounded, gathering speed rapidly, and I sat up sharply with intense interest. But I couldn’t recollect where my antique had come from. Was it from my wife’s or my side of the family, and what would we spend the windfall on?

I picked it up very carefully and turned it over to look at the base. And there revealed in front of me was the evidence I needed, clearly marked . . .

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Saturday, 17 October 2015

Dog's Blog

Bob’s Blog

A Dog’s Blog

We love our dogs, don’t we. But they aren’t perfect, especially mine. If I was asked to describe him best, I’d say he was a cross between Goofy and The Hound of the Baskervilles. My dog Alf is now in his dotage. In his sixteenth year and rapidly losing both sight and sound. And has some obligatory arthritis of course. These ageing problems don’t seem to bother him too much as his happiness indicator still wags vigorously on command. Country walks are now a venture too far, but luckily we have a large garden and he knows every inch by memory and locational sniffs. His sense of smell is fantastic and he can identify anyone in our family or circle of friends ten yards or more away. He gets into difficulties indoors however if a piece of furniture is moved or we have a change around. We hear a crash and find that he’s walked into the ironing board or whatever wasn’t lying in his path the day before. He doesn’t like potentially slippery floors, like tiles, as his back legs are quite weak, so if he reaches the edge of a carpet, he stands psyching himself up for the doggie long jump, leaps and lands where he thinks the next safe surface lies.  His habit of dunking any loose carpet he finds in his water bowl doesn’t help things at all. Also his short-term memory is lacking and he scratches the door to go out, then barks to come back in, then scratches the door to go out, then barks to come back in . . .  and so on. You get the picture I’m sure. Yes, his memory is poor, but on the plus side, his bladder and bowels are magnificent. If he exits to the garden and it’s particularly inclement, he immediately turns about to return indoors, leaving his day’s toileting until another day. Magnificent! He never was a yappy dog but now sits in the garden, jowls raised, barking at nothing in particular for as long as I think the neighbours can put up with it. If his barking is interrupted by a very loud bang from a car exhaust or low-flying helicopter, poor Alf literally spirals three feet in the air.

But he’s our pet dog, and you get very attached to your pet dog, warts and all. He started life as an Alfie but he’s much more suited to Alf these days I think. But Alf has never ingratiated himself to humans, ever. He looks happy and cuddly on the outside, but he’s made of sterner stuff inside. Never bite the hand that feeds you has never been a maxim for him. I exaggerate: he wouldn’t bite - quite, but his whole body goes rigid and he makes nasty growly noises to emphasise that he will not comply with instructions, and then does just what he wants.

So Alf’s life is drawing to a close. But suitable medicated he will happily last a little longer. He still has a good quality of life. And we still have a great quality of pet . . . ‘Do shut up that eternal barking Alf!’

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