On toes and too much to do

The truth is that life has been truly, madly, deeply bonkers and busy this last ten days; too busy even to brag about my brilliant welcome-to-mum beetroot soup. Because, although I say it myself, it was rather good.

Mum arrived on one of those early morning flights about ten days ago and kept going all day. She didn’t have much choice. Bertie dog was ill and passing blood – my courtyard was a mess – and so we spent the first afternoon scrubbing down the paving stones and then had an hour-long appointment at the vet’s (he’s since recovered after lots of tests and mega doses of antibiotics). After the vet’s I had an hour to prepare dinner, change and get my head in gear for a meeting with a publisher in Carlton. I only just made it as I ran into heavy traffic and had to ditch the car and jump on a tram.

Our second day started well and ended badly. We took Bertie for an afternoon walk in the park and went off the path and under the trees to avoid the sun. Don’t ask me how but, within minutes, a stick with attitude had singled out Mum’s leg and gashed it in two places. What would have been a bandaid affair for me or you, resulted in a major wound for Mum. Just as Bertie had stopped bleeding, Mum started, ruining her new shoes in the process. Yikes!

We got an appointment with the unpopular male doctor at my local practice the next day. He’s a belligerent, opinionated kind of medic totally lacking in any bedside manner. Mind you, Mum can be quite a tour de force herself especially when it comes to insisting that they use her special dressings the had brought from England. Was she planning to have wounded legs? Did she fear bashing her legs so much that it turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy? Sometimes I do wonder. Mum is the one who banged her leg on bed post in Singapore, had a similar stick incident on a beach in the Mornington Peninsula and, on a holiday in Cornwall in 2001, dropped a TV on her head. That really was quite a drama; she had tried to tilt the television downwards but it wasn’t fixed to the bracket so toppled over.

This is not to make light of her recent wound. Her leg was very sore and swollen but, more than that, Mum was furious it had happened and frustrated at not being able to swim, walk Bertie and help me clean and clear out cupboards in preparation for my renovations. I probably added to her frustration by running around like a mad chook flipping from thing to thing – writing grants and feature articles, buying a finger glove and special chicken-flavoured toothpaste for Bertie (he’s got a bit of plaque on his teeth apparently), doing the body corporate accounts (I can’t make them add up), clearing out cupboards (Mum is appalled at the stuff I have amassed – “you never used to be like this”), taking stuff to my local charity shop, testing paint colour on the walls, and toing and froing with the builder and other suppliers on everything from shelf heights to electrical points, Laminex samples, tiles and telephone points. Renovations are like migraines; you’ve got to go through it to know what it feels like. Believe me.

Then I’ve been emailing the folks back in England and dipping a toe in world of eBay to sell some of my clutter. So far I’ve sold a dress and am two dollars out of pocket. It sold for a dollar and I underestimated the postage. And talking of toes, my sister in London has dislocated her toe and it hurts like hell. She got out of bed in the night to attend to her husband who has had major knee surgery and has his knee in a brace. Are we accident prone in our family or just Drama Queens, or both?

Anyway, in between all of this whirling around, we’ve had some lovely moments of R & R: a lazy lunch in the garden with gorgeous rose wine, lunch at a local cafe in between a gentle bit of window shopping and, the highlight, a visit to Tim and Bruce in Hepburn Springs where we sat on the veranda watching greedy cockatoos nibbling on pears, read books, chatted about all and sundry, and had a beautiful dinner (Chicken Coronation, none the less, and Nigella’s plate trifle). With renovations looming in my own house, it was gorgeous to get away.

Bertie's hair clip...

Bertie’s hair clip…

I came back wondering how I could de-clutter not just my house but my to-do lists. And I’ve come up with a way to make combing Bertie’s ears less of a chore (see my last post about the bossy groomer). Getting out the knots and grass seeds is one thing, but food gets stuck in his hair and makes it all matted and he hates it when I try to comb it out. So, short of coming up with an edible chicken-flavoured comb, I bought a hair grip, one of those Lady Jane things, and I pin his ears back before he eats. As he gobbles up his food in about 30 seconds, he doesn’t even notice and it works a treat. The only thing is that I get the giggles as his little face looks so funny with his ears back. So I have to work hard at keeping a straight face when issuing the SIT and WAIT commands. These are two of the commands we’ve got down pat unlike leash walking…

On Sunday morning, he yanked on his lead and nearly pulled me down the front steps. My sandals caught on the step and my foot got bent back and I ended up with a huge bruise and rather sore toes. What was I saying about our family and the Drama Queen gene?

Looks like a Greek sculpture gone wrong...

Looks like a Greek sculpture gone wrong…

A few hazards back and one forward…

Further to my last post, I’ve had more encounters of the insect variety. In fact, the more I tried to insect-proof the house, the more the various beasts and bugs seemed to pop out of every nook and cranny. I found a spider in my washing – did it go through the machine or just drop off the line and into my wet washing in the basket? Either way it was dead or, as that Monty Python sketch about the dead parrot goes, just resting. I prefer dead to just resting. Then the other morning I woke up to ants crawling over the kitchen sink and in the bin even though I’ve distributed discs of ‘Ant Rid’ about the place. And just to add variety, it being the spice of life, a large earwig had draped itself across my sofa.

However I’ve made progress on the spaniel scratch front. I visited a groomer to sort out the dreadlocks behind Bertie’s ears as he wouldn’t stay still enough for me to cut them out myself. If you’re familiar with spaniels – cockers in particular – you’ll know that they have very long, thick and curly ears which can become repositories for food, water, sand, fluff, grass seeds and more. I’ve done my best to keep on top of the combing but he doesn’t make it easy for me.

Anyway, it was day four of Melbourne’s recent heatwave when we visited the canine crimper. The melting asphalt stuck to my shoe as I got Bertie out of the car and so it was a relief to enter the air-conditioned haven of the pooch parlour and to be greeted by the upturned faces of lots of small, smiley-faced fluffy dogs, looking positively Disney-like in their cuteness. So far so good.

The groomer lifted Bertie onto the table and said, more like, barked: “Why haven’t you taken him to a groomer before?” Take aback by her abruptness, I stuttered something about not realising I should have done so. “The breeder should have told you to do it in the first six months. A dog needs to get used to a groomer otherwise they end up having to have an anaesthetic at the vet’s before you can cut their nails and hair,” she continued, accusingly. “And why haven’t you had him de-sexed?” Determined to stick up for myself, I replied: “Because I haven’t chosen to do so yet.” In fact, and I didn’t share this with her – the animal rescue stickers were enough to explain her strict stance on de-sexing, some of the research says that (population control aside) leaving a male intact until he is up to two years old is beneficial for joint and bone growth.

dog grooming

“See these grass seeds?” she said, grabbing a clump of matted fur by his ear and snipping and then shaving the area down to the skin, “they not only cause infections, they can get into his blood stream and affect his heart.” “Well,” I protested, “I have tried to groom him but he bites me and wriggles about.” “That’s because you’re doing it like this,” she retorted, miming yanking the comb through his ears. “With all due respect, I haven’t been doing it like that,” I said getting hot under the collar. How dare this woman imply I am a bad mother!

Little does she know I am the one who has read all the books (well some…), who put a ticking clock and hot water bottle in his bed in the early days to ease his separation from the litter, who made him a special digging pit, showered him with toys, who takes him for two walks a day, puts filtered water in his bowl, experimented with special diets for his sensitive tummy and tried acupuncture to make him a bit less hyper-vigilant!

On the positive side, she did do a good job and she also clipped Bertie’s nails. But that’s not the point. Did she really need to be so blunt, bossy and critical? Imagine if I were like that with my clients. Why have you not over-hauled your website before now? Had it de-jargoned? And what about the fluffy grammar? Had you left it any longer, I would have refused to help and sent you to the web doctor.

How we communicate says a lot about who we are. A generous interpretation of this woman would be that she has a closer affinity with animals than with humans. I found it amusing that she was modelling typical alpha female leader-of-the-pack–I’m-in-charge behaviour. For a short while I had a boss like that. She had a mane of curly hair and arms adorned with bangles. She’d sit down at a meeting, spout jargon and hammer out a point by clopping her bangles on the table and sweeping her leonine hair off her face.

On this occasion, however, I learnt a valuable lesson about grooming (I now comb Bertie’s ears daily) and Mum will be thrilled his nails have been cut. Just in time! She landed this morning and is now unpacking. What’s more my neighbour built the self-assembly fan for me so we’re all sorted.