Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful (2)

I went for a walk in Portreath today and found this stone on the harbour. Presumably it’s a message for all those exhausted fishing folk who return after braving storms and sea monsters to bring in their catch. But it’s a message that applies to us all in one way or another.
Here are some pictures of the harbour today.

And here are some of the delights the beach had in store for us.

After all that action, spouse decided to try levitating again…

… and then we were thankful as hell for a good dog-welcoming cafe. If you’re ever in Portreath, go to Tideline. You get good food, comfy chairs, water for the dog and jokes.

Here’s their Facebook page.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful

This week’s photo challenge word is ‘thankful’.

THANKFUL. That’s a tricky one. I’m not American, you know. I’m not accustomed to being thankful for things. I’m British. We are sarcastic about things. The more we love them, the more sarcastic we are about them. That’s the natural order.

But I suppose I can make an exception just this once and admit that I have reason to be thankful for loads of stuff. Through sheer luck I married an excellent human; we turned out to be fertile, we have somewhere to live, we’re not orphans yet, we have some unbelievably satisfactory friends, pets, heating, Internet and a box Yorkshire Tea bags. Not bad.

But that’s enough of that sick-bag stuff for another year (or until I am forced to drink alcohol again). In the meantime, a thing I am also thankful for – something I enjoy every single day of my life – something that is as quintessentially British as… erm… British things – is the eccentricity of humans. I love them. Us. Here are some of the many examples I have photographed.

Nature versus Sofa

The thing is… well… dogs and me… we have different elements, see.

In winter my element involves lolling on the sofa with a fleecy blanket, a mug of Yorkshire Tea at the optimum temperature, some excellent reading material and/or something splendid to watch and/or some of my favourite humans entertaining me.

Dogs, on the other hand – well, their element tends to include a lot more weather. And when a person spontaneously becomes responsible for a spaniel (here), it becomes that person’s job to ensure it gets a regular dose of its element.

So, never one to shirk my responsibilities (cough), today I willingly(ish) accompanied spouse and hound out into the weather that lies beyond my sofa. Today’s elements had a treat in store for us with lowering skies and winds that were genuinely howling, but spaniel was practically delirious with joy at the whole thing. When he’s delirious his ears and tongue have minds of their own.

Once we were out of the town and into the gorse-lined scrub-land that surrounds it the wind was so strong it felt as though it was trying to rip my scalp off. It’s difficult to show wind photographically when there are no trees, so I tried to show it using the plastic covering on the hay bales.

It rained all day yesterday, so the ground gave me the perfect opportunity for feeling pleased that I own a pair of wellies.

After plenty of satisfactory squelching we found a sign to Gwennap Pit and decided to visit. Gwennap Pit is an amphitheatre that John Wesley preached in many times during the 1700s. Here are some photos.

One of the signs at the entrance claims that God is here and that visitors should behave accordingly. Maybe that’s why spouse suddenly acquired the ability to levitate at the bottom of the pit.

On the way back we encountered a bunch of long-necked creatures batting their considerable eyelashes at a lady in a hat. The alpaca, said the hat lady, love to have their photos taken. When people pass by without a camera she sometimes asks them to hold up their hands and make clicking noises just to satiate the alpaca desire for celebrity. Fortunately, I had a camera.
The alpaca above are three of the characters that live in the boys’ field. Sadly, all but one of her original boys are gone since she had to have them put down due to TB.

Animal Health policy is to prevent animals from witnessing the death of their fellows – so pigs go in one by one to the slaughterhouse, for example. But hat lady knew that she couldn’t separate the alpacas from each other on the day the infected ones were to be put down; if the others didn’t know what had happened to their family they would restlessly look for them everywhere. She had to fight the Animal Health officer to have her own way, and she wept a little as she told us how it happened.

The whole herd were led into a field together and the infected ones kept slightly apart. A friend helped her hold up screens so that the alpaca couldn’t see the shooting happen, and when it was done, the herd were allowed to come and say their final goodbyes. They surrounded their dead friends and nudged them with their noses to try to make them get up again, all the while making humming noises to express their grief. Then, after they alpacas had finally accepted what had happened, they turned and walked slowly, in single file, out of the field.

Hat lady is devoted to her alpacas, and told us amazing stories about their characters and endearing habits. I did a bit of research when I got home and found that she’d missed one important story out. I found it here. She travels the country now, teaching people how to look after alpacas and how to prevent what happened to her happening to others. Her website is here.

On the way home, I saw two more things.

                 The wind had ripped a bit of wall off the Millers building in Redruth
Regardless of elemental mayhem, people still obey the rules of the road

So, in the competition between nature and sofa, I suppose nature has its attractions. If I hadn’t got off my arse I wouldn’t have seen my spouse levitating in an amphitheatre or discovered a new fondness for Peruvian mountain creatures. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have had to bath a dog-shaped pile of wriggling mud, either.

Rhytiphobia: f**k that.

Something weird happened to me this week when I was standing in a shop changing room about to try on some jeans.

The woman I beheld in the mirror was wearing slightly too-loose charity shop jeans held up by a man’s belt, a pair of army-style boots, a baggy man’s jumper and a wooly scarf. Under the jumper she knew there was a roll of flesh that had not been there a few months ago. Her hair could have been used as the ‘before’ image on an advert for anti-frizz serum, and where the dye had begun to grow out there was a touch of grey at the temples. She was the sort of scruffy middle aged lady that Dorothy Perkins changing rooms are not designed for.

But instead of looking at her with the sort of helpless distress I have become accustomed to as an actual carbon-based female life-form negotiating a culture’s demands for a moulded plastic exterior, I experienced a MOST unexpected sensation: I thought she was a bit beautiful. I mean, I though that I was a bit beautiful.

I know we’re not supposed to say things like that about ourselves, and I’m certainly under no illusions about my actual looks, but what I felt was that I looked just right. The woman in the mirror was an exact reflection of what I am supposed to look like. It was as if, for the first time I can remember, my inside and my outside were in a kind of agreement with each other.

Five months ago, I didn’t feel like that. I felt like this. I was terrified, like so many people in this culture that overrates youth, of the process of visually aging. We even have a name for the fear of wrinkles: Rhytiphobia.

I put the word ‘wrinkles’ into Google and here are a couple of the first things I encountered.

“So, first of all, try to avoid these wrinkles. Always apply suncreen cream before going out. Try not to wrinkle your forehead every time you laugh, smile or cry.”

If we’re female we’re dead familiar with this sort of thing. Three imperative sentences not suggesting, but telling us we must work hard to avoid the natural marks of having been alive for more than a couple of decades. The third sentence is just plain hilarious. Remember: never move your face or nobody will ever love you. Here is the illustration that should have accompanied that advice.

On another site there was a horrified discussion about some celebrity female who had the audacity to have lines round her eyes:

Contributor 1:

I don’t understand why Lauren Conrad already has so many wrinkles around her eyes. I’m like 5 years older than her but I’m 100% certain that I–or any of my friends–have crow’s feet. It’s even noticeable when you watch her show.

Contributor 2:

You can also see LC’s wrinkles in magazine shoots too. Aren’t they supposed to photoshop them out?

Contributor 3:

Some women pass these off as “laugh lines” or “smile lines”…on women, it’s gross…but on a man? Now that’s different because men can look downright sexy with some eye wrinkles.

Contributor 4:

Hasn’t she heard of sunblock and eye cream? She’s too young to have those wrinkles.

The language is brilliant – it’s clearly morally wrong for this woman to have lines: “hasn’t she heard of sunblock”?! It’s evidently a weakness in her character. Women like that try to pretend they have lines because they’ve laughed or smiled, but we all know it’s really because there’s something wrong with them. And doesn’t the magazine know any better?! They’re supposed to Photoshop them away so that poor innocent smooth-faced people don’t have to be grossed out! It’s a bloody outrage.

Here’s a picture of the aging monstrosity of whom they speak. There is no hope for the rest of us if this woman is gross.

So clearly rhytiphobia is a real thing. People are scared of and repulsed by wrinkles. But when I looked at my face in the changing room mirror and I saw the crinkles at the sides of my eyes, and how they all go upwards as if I have been smiling a lot, I thought, I like them. I really, really like them. They made me feel like a real, valid person with a history and a character of my own; with a sense of humour and something to say; with skills and abilities and something to add to the world. And I realised that I like being older.

There’s a liberation in aging that I never expected. When I was young, strangers never took me seriously as a person – I was treated like a girl, not a human. Boys tended to speak to me if they fancied me or if I was their friend’s girlfriend – very rarely because I was a person in my own right. Younger women were (are?) always sized up in terms of their sexual attractiveness before they were seen as an individual.

But now, with my wrinkles and grey bits, I am treated with respect. I’m sure this is more to do with the confidence I project now I am grown up than it is to do with the world in general, but whatever is causing it, it’s excellent. Even when I am occasionally found attractive by a male, it is expressed in a much more respectful way than it ever was when I was young. And the outcome of this is that I finally, finally feel that I belong in the world in a way that I never did as an insecure young woman. There is a place for me as I am, with crow’s feet and unruly hair, not as I feel other people think I should be. If only we could give this kind of confidence to our daughters when they’re young, they wouldn’t have to waste time obsessing over perfectly functional bits of their bodies and what people think of them, and could spend time working out who the hell they really are instead.

I don’t know how to to give our daughters this freedom to be humans instead of girls, but I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Green

This week’s photo challenge is “green”; a word with all sorts of connotations to do with nature and the environment and people who ride bikes, eat tofu, boycott things and wear hemp grandad shirts.

I may scoff, but I too have been known to experience paroxysms of delight over mossy stones in the middle of rivers and that special green light you get through leaves on a sunny day in the woods. I have hundreds of photos of that sort of green, but I wanted to include the other type of very man-made green as well – you know, the one that those 1980s flourescent socks came in. Green can be transcendently peaceful and deafeningly jangling. I quite like both.

Doggie dilemmas and canine conundrums

Most sensible humans might be alarmed to hear that their new neighbours with whom they share an internal wall, a bedroom that sits over their hallway and a tiny concrete yard separated only by a thigh-high barrier, have five dogs. But we are made of sterner stuff than that.

I was mildly concerned that the dogs might be the bitey type, or the cat-shreddy type, but mostly I was looking forward to meeting them as I assumed the neighbours wouldn’t have bought a house in such close proximity to civilisation if their dogs were rabid, drooling maniacs.

On the day they arrived, I was stroking our cat David Pouncey (not MY fault) who was perched nosily on the front windowsill when a van pulled up, the doors opened, and two charming humans introduced themselves as the aforementioned neighbours.

There will now be a brief intermission so you can look at David. You may be able to see why I might prefer him not to be crunched by dog jaws.

After some entirely satisfactory introductory conversation came the kerfuffle of decanting five curious canines into their new home without losing them up and down the street. The neighbours opened the front door to the house, arranged themselves in dog herding positions and then pulled open the sliding door to the van.

I know I’m probably vulnerable to ridiculous waves of emotion at the moment what with having to walk about with the brain of a perimenopausal empty-nested middle-aged woman in my skull (where the hell did THAT come from?), but I wasn’t expecting to see a glow of celestial light and hear a choir of angels singing beautiful choral harmonies just because two Scotties and three Springer Spaniels jumped out of a van in front of me. And that’s what happened. My dopamine levels must have been high anyway from stroking the cat, leaving me at a high risk of love at first sight, and I was immediately infected. Smitten. Doomed. The dogs were bloody lovely.

And it’s only got worse. The Scotties are exactly like two pleasingly grumpy old men. When they’re not standing huffily in the yard on their too-short legs peering through their massive face beards, I’m sure they’re inside the house sitting in leather armchairs reading the paper and puffing on pipes.

Here’s a picture of one of the old men poking his beard out of a dog hole.

And here’s one of them responding patiently to being washed with a hose after a particularly sandy walk.

But it’s the Spaniels… oh, the Spaniels! It’s the Spaniels who have really plucked my heart out and buried it in their secret Spaniel hiding place. They are ridiculously endearing creatures – all alert and sparkling eyes, full-body delight in the world and a curious combination of extreme idiocy and gleaming intelligence. If I could write odes, I would write one for the Spaniels. But instead I took some photos.

Here’s the oldest and calmest of the three. He takes a back seat much of the time, but it was he who first leapt the wall to greet us the day after they moved in. LOOK at his intelligent EYES.

The second one spent an afternoon on our side of the yard stealing all his siblings’ tennis balls, chewing them up and trying to bury them under a shredded plastic bag and some leaves. Here he is after being washed.

And the third one. Well. All I can say about him is LOOK.

After we all came home one day to find that the Spaniels had jumped over the wall, trashed all our bins and deposited some piles of stinky all over our yard, their long-suffering humans decided to put up a bit of trellis to prevent further embarrassment. The result  is that every time we go out of our back door now we are greeted by this:

And this

And this

BUT, I hear you all not particularly asking, ‘why does the title of this post include the words ‘dilemma’ and ‘conundrum’? Well, the problem is that not only have I (and spouse, although he pretends he hasn’t) fallen for the Spaniels, but the Spaniels don’t find us intolerable either. In particular, the two above, and in particular, the brown one. Every time we open the back door they are up on their haunches on the gate wagging their entire bodies from the neck down and trying to get in.

And now our lovely neighbours have informed us that they need to rehome some of their smelly babies to make way for a new human one… and would we like to keep the brown one… our favourite one… the one who loves us the most?

So that’s the dilemma. There’s David to consider. He would be put out. There’s the mayhem to consider. Brown Spaniel wags his body with such violent enthusiasm that he wobbles himself sideways and knocks into things. And he has more energy than I’ve ever seen in a living being before. And I’m middle aged and quite like sitting down.

We took brown Spaniel for a walk today to see what it would be like. This is what it was like.

So, yes. It was quite enjoyable. Hence the dilemma.

To adopt a dog or not to adopt a dog. That is the question.

Pros

  • the addition of a creature to our house that will always be enthusiastic even if it’s raining outside
  • he is ridiculously cute
  • he is someone to use up all our surplus nurturing energy on

Cons

  • he will wag the house down
  • he might eat everything
  • we’ll have to put our hand in a bag and pick up his warm poo
  • the cat will be offended
  • we’ll have to go for walks when we’d rather lie down
  • he will have to be left on his own when we are at work
  • nobody will want to look after him if we decide to travel round the world on a tandem
  • we will have to wash him after every walk because he bulldozes the earth
  • there will be vet bills

It would seem there are many more cons than pros. I hate it when logic insists on imposing on emotions.

Goodnight.

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