You may have noticed that things have gone a bit quite over here. That’s because November was a difficult month; our Norwich Terrier, Pepper, got sick, and we had to make the difficult decision to put him to sleep on the 13th. I’m still processing my feelings on the matter, but suffice to say it was heartbreaking and he’ll be incredibly missed.
He was sick when I went to Aberdeen to visit my high school friend, Amy, and her new baby. We had a lovely visit, in between being worried; she and her husband seem to be settling into parenthood very well, and their little boy is all kinds of adorable. Her cats also did their best to convert Adam to the feline dark side. Adam got two nice hill walks, and Amy and I had a good catch up.
Otherwise, we celebrated our godson’s second birthday, and helped our local friends welcome their new baby girl; it was a little person sort of month! And I handed in my final coursework for my Introduction to Counselling skills studies. Next week is the last week for this iteration, but I’m hoping to return in January.
The final weekend, we got together with my side of the family to celebrate the four birthdays which take place in November/December. We went for a nice forest walk (with a tea and cupcake picnic after), then went back to Mum and Dad’s for raclette, presents, and a game of Settlers of Catan. It was a lovely weekend, but bittersweet; Pepper should have been there.
Lastrean Kris Kringle, as his kennel name suggests, was born on Christmas Day 2004. Dad and I drove all the way to Lincolnshire to collect him in March 2005. He lived with us in Aberdeen, Binfield Heath, and Ashford, and accompanied us on many family adventures, from walks in northern Scotland to the very southern tip of the Isle of Wight. He was such a good little dog, and the best companion that four Canadians living in the UK could ever have asked for. Also known as Mr Peps, Sausage, Piggy, Lord Pepperington, Pepperoni Pizza, Spooch, and “the dang dog”, he would have been 15 on Christmas Day 2019. He could have lived 100 years and it would never have been long enough. I hope he is snuffling in hedges, hogging beds, and running across open spaces over the Rainbow Bridge. RIP Peps.
Pinocchio, like Snow White, was not one of the Disney films which I watched often as a child. In fact, I don’t think we even had it on VHS. Re-watching it as an adult, I can see why; it’s a weird film.
For starters, who is Jiminy Cricket? He appears to be a homeless bug who has zero qualifications for the role of Conscience. He gets the job by interrupting a conversation which he was eavesdropping on, and then messes up by oversleeping on the first day and letting his charge get abducted on the way to school. He is obsessed with pretty feminine forms, getting distracted by them on more than one occasion. At one point, he identifies the smart thing to do – get an adult (tell Geppetto) – and then decides not to do it. He gets snippy when Pinocchio calls someone else his best friend, and spends a lot of time feeling sorry for himself: “A fine Conscience I turned out to be…” Well, indeed, Mr Cricket.
Furthermore, why doesn’t Jiminiy look like a cricket? He has no antennae, only two legs, no wings. This bothers me.
What’s more disturbing are the, frankly, quite adult things going on this film calling itself a children’s classic. There’s kidnapping, exploitation, entrapment, false medical diagnosis, and human (well, donkey) trafficking. No, really. Everyone remembers the scary whale scene, but this film has a lot more sinister stuff going on.
And the worst part is, not one of villains in this piece is ever punished (on screen) for their bad behaviour. Not the child-abducting team of Honest John and Gideon; they actually receive financial reward for their efforts. Not the profiteering and emotionally explosive puppet master Stromboli; aside from losing his star performer, his show goes on. Not the kidnapper and animal abuser Coachman; his donkey supply business continues. This lack of retribution is highly unusual for a Disney film, which tends to see the antagonists hoisted by their own petard, or meeting a grisly end.
Speaking of grisly ends, and ‘unusual for Disney films’, let’s not forget that the titular character dies at the end. Yes, he’s brought back to life by the Blue Fairy, eventually – after she said she couldn’t help him anymore, then proceeded to help him again, twice – but there is an actual shot of him lying face down in the water first, which is somewhat disturbing.
It’s also illogical: we just saw Pinocchio and Jiminy walking (and breathing) underwater in their quest to find Monstro. How, then is it physically possible for the little wooden boy to drown?
The only redeeming feature of this film, to my mind, is Figaro the cat. Not only is he a very good pet, but him trying to sleep while everyone else persists in talking is adorable.
And yes, that is a pipe which Geppetto is smoking in the clip above. There is a lot of smoking in this film; and a number of uses of the word “jackass”.
Overall, an odd movie. Not one I’ll be hurrying to watch again anytime soon.
October started off on a sad note, with a trip to the Isle of Wight to honour my late maternal grandmother. She passed away in Canada in July, and asked that there be no funeral – she never did like being the centre of attention – so we decided to have a little memorial for her here. Why the Isle of Wight? Because she had happy memories there; she visited with her schoolmates in the summer of 1939, just before the outbreak of WWII, and again with us in 2015. We went to Alum Bay, where Nanny had enjoyed making made sand ornaments, and read some poems and made speeches. Then we went for her favourite meal: fish and chips. It was a difficult day, but a nice way to honour an amazing lady.
The next weekend a work friend and I travelled to visit two ex-colleagues (now married) in Brighton. Unfortunately, much like the last time we visited this particular couple, it was horrible weather, wet and windy, so we mostly just chatted and watched TV. It was nice to catch up though, and we finally managed to watch Rogue One together, having seen all the other Star Wars films as a group. (My husband got me into them when The Last Jedi came out, and then the girls said they’d never seen any so we started at New Hope and worked our way through the main series in release order. Much nerd knowledge, we now have.)
The next Saturday was home based, with some errands around Basingstoke and a quick coffee with local friends of ours. Then we went to Wellington Country Park with other local friends and their little boy on the Sunday. It was the perfect place for an autumnal walk/ runaround; we all went home shattered.
Last weekend we went to the seaside again, this time a trip to Portsmouth Dockyards with the in-laws. It was another grey day, but that just added to the effect when standing on the deck of Victory or Warrior.
In between the weekends there is not much news to report. We’re dog sitting for my parents, and we’ve been looking at a few houses, but otherwise just carrying on. We managed to avoid the trick-or-treaters last night too… but not a 2019 election!
What I Read
My reading habits this month have been somewhat remiss, actually. Between movie nights, busy weekends, and all the good TV at the moment I haven’t had much time. I’m working my way through a few books (possibly part of the problem) but haven’t finished any.
The Big Bang series finale was kinda ‘meh’ for me, to be honest. So is this season of The Apprentice; both were/are as expected, with no stand out moments or characters. Seven Worlds is only one episode in, but pretty standard Attenborough stuff.
Meat Eater is one of Adam’s new favourite shows, and I find it an interesting perspective on a different way of life. Hosted by ‘Meat Eater’ Steven Rinella, it follows his various hunts in different parts of the world, usually places in America. He tracks, hunts, and gathers all sorts of different wild animals and ingredients, usually with a few buddies in tow, then teaches you what to do with the animal once you’ve killed it, so nothing goes to waste. Not one for your vegetarian friends, but worth a look if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to stalk a bear in the wilds of Alaska.
The Good Place continues to be both interesting from a character perspective and hilarious; I look forward to seeing how the story concludes.
Living With Yourself was one recommended by Netflix; we’re only a few episodes in, but I am fascinated by the premise. An average guy (Paul Rudd), who is mildly dissatisfied with everything in his life, goes to an experimental spa in an attempt to improve things. It transpires that this spa is actually a human cloning facility, which makes some tweaks on the clone to give it genetic advantages and a better outlook. They usually bury the originals in the woods, but in this instance he survives. So, the ‘new improved’ clone (also played by Paul Rudd) and the original have to learn to live with each other. This includes things like sharing their job, and their wife. From the look of the trailer, things are about to take a dark turn, but I’m willing to go along for the ride.
As we all know, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was Disney’s first full-length animated feature film, released in 1937. It’s loosly based on the Brothers Grimm story Snow White. The film was never a favourite of mine as a kid, as I found it too scary, and lacking in good songs/characters.
As an adult, there even more elements which miss the mark, not least of which is the very weak love story; the meet-cute is more meet-creepy. The (un-named) Prince hears Snow White singing while riding past the castle one day, and decides to climb over the wall and frighten her by joining in. Snow runs inside to hide, then realises the stranger is a) a Prince and b) handsome, so decides to come out on the balcony to listen. She kisses a pigeon and sends it down to him as a token of her affection and he leaves. They don’t actually exchange a single sentence, yet she spends the rest of the film talking (and singing) about him.
After meeting her Prince, Snow White is taken into the woods and nearly murdered by the Huntsman, at the orders of the vain and jealous Queen. When he realises he cannot kill her, he tells her to run away. Cue the scary woods scene which put me off as a kid. Snow then meets some charming woodland creatures who lead her to the cottage of the seven dwarfs.
The cottage is, as one would expect from seven men living alone, a mess. (Why they kept it so dusty, when Sneezy clearly has allergies, remains to be explained.) Snow recruits the animals and birds, who apparently have nothing better to do with their lives, to clean the entire place from top to bottom, and do the dwarfs’ laundry.
Meanwhile, the dwarfs are out at work, mining diamonds and rubies. As a child I sort of accepted this, but as an adult I have so many questions. Who are the dwarfs mining these gems for? Are the dwarfs rich? If so, why is their house so small, and didn’t they think to hire a housekeeper? (Is ‘dwarfs’ even grammatically correct? Should it not be ‘dwarves’?) The little men themselves admit, in song, “we don’t know what we dig ’em for”, so I doubt there are answers.
More pressingly: why don’t any of the dwarfs have moustaches!?
Anyhoo, the moustache-less bearded men arrive home after a hard day’s work to find their home not as they left it. They find the guilty party, Snow White, asleep on their beds, and, after discovering that she is on the run from the Queen, invite her to stay. She repays them their kindness by making dinner for them, but insists that they wash their hands first.
What follows is a series of (fully clothed) bath-time gags, culminating in a ‘funny’ scene where Grumpy, who did not want to wash, is forcibly dragged over to the tub and scrubbed within an inch of his life. Lets just say 1930’s Disney was not overly concerned with the idea of consent…
The next day, the dwarfs head off to work, each lecturing Snow White not to speak to anyone or let anyone in on their way out. It begs the question, if they were so concerned with her safety, why didn’t one of them stay home to protect her?
Snow decides to pass the day baking blueberry pies for the men – presumably after sending her animal minions out to fetch the berries. She is interrupted by an old hag (the Queen in disguise), offering apples for her pies instead. The Queen lies and says that one particular apple (the poisoned one) is a ‘wishing apple’ and convinces Snow to take a bite. Snow collapses, seemingly dead.
I’d like to divert from the plot for a second to make two observations. One, Snow White does not pass the Bechdel Test; the only scene in which the two female characters interact is a scene in which they discuss making pies for the dwarfs, and wishing for Princes. (It’s also debatable whether the Queen counts as a named character; apparently she is named Grimhilde, but this is never mentioned or referenced in the film.)
Second, after Snow faints, and the dwarfs arrive home in time to chase the hag Queen to a cliff top in the rain, she becomes the first of many Disney villains to meet her end as the result of an unfortunate fall. This is, of course, because the dwarfs are Good Guys; Good Guys cannot kill. So, having the antagonist meet their end due to gravity serves to both punish the bad and save the good having to be bad. (Misters Grimm had no such qualms; their version ends with the Prince ordering the Queen to wear a pair of red-hot iron slippers and dance in them until she drops dead.)
Back to the film and it’s happy ending, sort of. The dwarfs, believing the poisoned Snow to be dead, decide to entomb her in a glass casket above ground, as she is too beautiful to be buried. Of course, this is a lovely image for the scene where the Prince, having located his lost love, comes to pay his last respects and kisses her awake. But, given that they dwarfs didn’t know this was going to happen, how weird is the idea of a glass coffin? Don’t they realise that her body will still decompose? (Probably faster, if there’s a greenhouse effect…)
Thankfully for all, the Prince does come and kisses the beautiful Princess away, and they literally ride off into the sunset, happily ever after. Presumably the dwarfs return to their mining bachelors’ lives, not washing, and shaving their moustaches but never their beards. Perhaps a sequel, where the Seven Dwarfs meet the Queer Eye Fab Five, is in order?
The Airedale Terrier, like many others, is named after the geographical area where it originates from; the valley (dale) of the River Aire, in Yorkshire, England.
Originally bred by factory hands and mill workers during the Industrial Revolution, the Airedale – a mixture of Otterhounds and other local Terriers – was used for vermin hunting and general farm work. It was formally recognised as a breed by the UK Kennel Club in 1886. The American Kennel Club followed suit two years later.
Since then, the Airedale has distinguished itself, famously being used as messenger dogs during World War One, and subsequently working with the police and the Red Cross. They’ve won Best in Show at Westminster four times, most recently in 1933, and at Crufts twice, most recently in 1986. Three of them have lived in the White House, and two of them sadly sank with the Titanic.
Also known as the King of Terriers, this is the largest member of the Group, standing at 22 – 24 in (56 – 61 cm) tall on average. They have hard, dense, wiry coats, which are generally tan with black or grizzle accents; powerful muscular thighs; straight forelegs with small compact feet; V-shaped ears; and alert eyes.
The UK Kennel Club describes their temperament as “Outgoing and confident, friendly, courageous and intelligent. Alert at all times, not aggressive but fearless.” Anecdotally, they are tough, hardy, delinquent, and faithful.
Unfortunately, the Airedale is not as popular as it once was. This is probably because large-ish, independent dogs are not best suited to our modern lifestyles. The Airedale requires plenty of mental stimulation and up to an hour of exercise every day.
In America, the breed currently ranks 60th out of 193; it was extremely popular there in the 1920s, but this represented its peak.
In the UK, it registered an average of just 617 puppies per year over the past ten years. The bad news is that this number is relatively low; the good news is, it’s consistent. Hopefully the Airedale will be delighting people for many years to come.
On our recent trip to Montreal, sister Claire and I were delighted to stumble upon a temporary art exhibition featuring colourful canines.
The work of multidisciplinary artist and designer Mélanie Crespin, Dans ma cour, ç’a du chien, is a free open air exhibit which allows members of the public to interact with silly dog statues.
Here’s Claire playing with a German Shepherd, for example:
There was an inquisitive pink Beardie, a Bull Terrier working on his meditation, a Boxer rolling in the grass, and an English Bulldog with his tongue hanging out, as well as these others:
I thought the exhibit was a really neat idea, especially how people were encouraged to sit on the chairs/hammocks and relax among the art.
Apparently, in 2013 there was another art installation with a canine theme; two statues called “The English Pug” and “The French Poodle”, symbolising the historical relationship between the French and English Canadians in the city. (It’s interesting that the artist chose a Pug to represent England, given that the breed originated in China. They are, however, very popular over here, and were famously owned by Queen Victoria.)
I have a theory that dogs are ubiquitous; I have yet to find a museum which doesn’t feature them somewhere. So, I was also happy to spot this handsome Spaniel elsewhere in Montreal. (He’s on the Maisonneuve Monument, outside of the Notre-Dame Basilica, keeping merchant Lambert Closse company. )
September was a busy month right off the bat, with a trip to Crete from 30 August to 6 September, and then a trip to Montreal and Toronto from the 8th to the 16th.
We went to Crete with my parents and my sister and brother-in-law. It was my first time visiting Greece and will not be my last; the scenery and the food were both so incredible. We rented a three bedroom self catering villa with a pool, and did a mix of touristy things and relaxing, so it was an ideal trip for me. My favourite day was when the four ‘youngsters’ did a walk in the Agia Irini Gorge, meeting Mum and Dad at the beach in Sougia at the end. I have never been so happy to see the sea in my life! We also visited Knossos, an archeological site, and a local vineyard, as well as the beaches of Elafonissi and Falassarna, and the old town of Chania.
After we got back, I had one day to turn my suitcase around before flying to Canada with my sister. We have family in Newmarket, Ontario, so when Claire said she had been invited to Canada for a work trip, I offered to keep her company and pay them a visit. We did two days in Montreal, which I have never been to, first, and then five in Newmarket, seeing our paternal grandparents, both sets of uncles and aunts, and the two cousins on that side. I also found time for an afternoon in Toronto with my future sister-in-law; we went on a long, hot walk to see the Kim’s Convenience external set. (PSA: It’s the best show you’re not watching; the first three seasons are on Netflix.) It was a flying visit to my native land, but a good one.
After that fortnight of adventures, I returned to work and the real world. Nothing much to report, except that on the 24th I celebrated ten years of dating the man who is now my husband, and on the 25th I started an Introduction to Counselling course at the local college.
What I Read
The Testaments and The Edible Woman, by Margaret Atwood
The Day The World Came to Town, by Jim DeFede
The Taggerung and Loamhedge, by Brian Jacques
Wasn’t overly impressed with The Testaments, I have to say, though I did read it in the space of about four days. It was incredibly interesting, in terms of expanding the world which we were introduced to in Handmaid, but rather predictable, and doesn’t actually answer the question as to what happened to Offred.
The Edible Woman I read on the beach in Crete. I’d enjoyed Alias Grace on honeymoon in April, so I figured I’d give some of Ms Atwood’s other works a try while waiting for The Testaments. The Edible Woman is actually her first published work; the former English student in me is tempted to draw comparisons between the feminist messages of the two books, published some forty years apart. I think I will be putting ‘more Margaret Atwood books’ on my Christmas list this year.
Having seen the musical Come From Away this summer (highly recommend), I was intrigued when I saw The Day The World Came to Town on sale at the airport. It’s an old book (2002), but made for good airplane reading. Adam is working his way through it now.
As for the other two, I was obsessed with the Redwall books in my teens. Brian Jaques passed away a few years ago, and I bought Kindle versions of the entire series to console myself. So, I took advantage of some poolside days to revisit a few old friends.
What I Watched
The Lego Movie 2; The Second Part
American Dad, season 14
The Good Place, season 4
The first was on the plane; it was actually funnier than expected, but not as good as the first. Maya Rudolph put in a star performance as a long-suffering mother.
American Dad, via Now TV, continues to entertain. Some hit and miss stories this season, but the writing and the humour remains consistent. Not sure about Rogu though; I hope he’s an arc rather than a new character.
We started The Ranch, on Netflix, when I got back from Canada, just as background noise in the evenings really. So far it’s…okay. I’m not sure if the central premise will hold up for much longer, but I’ll keep you posted.
The Good Place, also on Netflix, deserves a separate blog post all its own. For now, let me say that I really respect the creators for choosing to make the fourth season its last; better to make four awesome seasons than three good ones and seven mediocre ones. With new episodes being added weekly from 27 September onwards, I am really intrigued to see how they finish their story.
What I’m looking forward to in October
A trip to the Isle of Wight to honour my late maternal grandmother
My name is Laura Patricia, and I’m a frustrated writer. At 31, I work as a Claims Assessor in the insurance industry. I don’t mind the actual day to day job, and it pays well, but it’s not creatively fulfilling at all.
So, I’ve decided to re-launch this blog as my outlet. Somewhere to dabble with writing and to say what I have to say, to whomever cares to listen. At this point I’m not exactly sure what my ‘brand’ will be, but the point is not to worry about that too much. It’s about the words, not the packaging.
I hope you enjoy reading. If not, I hope I enjoy having written.
What will I write about? I’m not sure yet. Most likely food, travel, and television. Possibly some short stories. Perhaps nothing. I’m certainly not brave enough (yet, in the current climate) to write about current affairs and politics, but maybe I’ll get there. Watch this space.