Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A fickle female

My grey mare is the most wonderful horse in the world. She has eyes like melted dark chocolate, a velvety muzzle, and in the summer, dapples are scattered across her bottom like the splodges on an Ayres rocking horse.

She (usually) canters over when I call; she rests her head on my shoulder and blows in my ear, while expecting nothing in return but her dinner. She is my passion in life.

I am not alone in that opinion. The little minx has not one, but two, boyfriends. You can’t blame them for being besotted with her. I imagine she’s the equine equivalent of Marilyn Monroe with her Bambi-eyed gazes and voluptuous figure.

Boyfriend No.1 is a charmer, a long-legged bay former point-to-pointer. I always thought it was a proper love thing going on between them.

Boyfriend No.2 is also bay and although not the tallest horse in the world, he's quite possibly the biggest in Northumberland. Standing 18.2hh, he’s built like the proverbial brick outhouse. I consider the grey girl’s relationship with him to be political, as he’s a great Lord Protector and doesn’t let anyone chase her away from the hay in the field.

The first chap has been on box-rest because he had a poisoned foot. He gets pretty stressed when he’s kept inside, so imagine his delight when madam came in for her tea. He whickered repeatedly with a rhythm like a road drill, sounding like one of those overly vocal actor-horses on Rough Diamond. It’s funny how horses in dramas seem to spend all their time whinnying. I mean, have you heard the horses shouting away at each other on Black Beauty?

“Look,” I said, “there’s your boy.” Madam gave him a cursory sniff, turned to me as if to say: “Where’s my tea?” then proceeded to ignore him. I don’t know what he’d said to upset her. She was rather off with him the next couple of times she came in too, even though he shouted piteously in a Rough Diamond-esque fashion when I took her back to the field.

Today he was well enough to be turned out. After being inside for nearly a week he was on his toes and, ignoring the rest of the herd, he tit-upped over to my mare. They arched their necks, sniffed, leapt and bucked, then went off for a hoolie around the field together. Love, eh?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

This is the modern way

People used to wave lighters at gigs but now they hold up their mobile phones to take photos. They lit up the first few rows of the Academy as we waited for the Kaiser Chiefs to appear.

But then again, you would’ve been lucky to make it through the security with a Zippo. I had a burly bouncer-type paw through my bag. What was he looking for – a sharpened nail file, a penknife, or maybe a gun? I didn’t think I looked especially like a homicidal maniac. However, I was comforted when my mate’s bag was similarly manhandled, and she told me they confiscated a pen from her friend last time they were there. Well, they do say the pen is mightier than the sword…

In the spirit of tameness, even the support acts were sipping from bottles of water (that’s what it looked like from my vantage point, admittedly, it could have been gin). The first lot bounced around energetically. The second lot bounced as well, while sounding like a cross between Siouxsie and the Banshees and Goldfrapp.

I like my rock stars to be rock stars, so was gladdened to see the Kaiser Chiefs opted to swig beer in between their bouncing around. Ricky Wilson had obviously been brought up properly, as he collected all the T-shirts that were thrown on stage and folded them up them nicely. But he was pretty damned marvellous at the rock star stuff too – mid-I Predict A Riot he snarled “Not very sensible” and launched himself into the crowd.

Writing NME-esque music reviews has never been among my journalistic ambitions, so I’ll leave it at that. Suffice to say, the Kaiser Chiefs were amazing and we came away very taken with Mr Wilson. Stage presence and plenty of stamina are very attractive attributes in a man.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The futility of frogs

Spring may not have sprung but I’d say it’s definitely crouched back on its haunches and poised to leap into action.

A frog orgy has been going on in the pond in my parents’ garden for the last few days. From a distance, it sounds like a long, low purr, then as you approach, the plop, plop, plopping starts, as the couples dive for cover under a carpet of frogspawn.

Once, it seemed every blade of grass around the pond had its own tiny frog on rainy summer days. But for the last few years, no tadpoles have made it that far. Not since the arrival of the ducks.

They even have their own warning sign on the outskirts of the village near the golf course. It’s a shame the tadpoles don’t realise they should beware of the mallards, too: because before they have time to sprout back legs, they will have been gobbled up.

Last year, my dad put netting over the pond to protect the taddies. It didn’t last for long; the ducks managed to overcome the defences and not a single tadpole survived the siege. It must be futile being a frog.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Move over, darling ...

I have spent much of today feeling very stupid.

No one told me that driving a car without a fan belt could make it very ill.

I dragged a male colleague out to the car park to have a look. I pulled the lever to open the bonnet and it came away in my hand. A Paddington Bear hard stare and a string of expletives - the sort normally used on drivers who don’t indicate, pull out in front of me, drive more slowly than me and commit other such crimes against commuters - miraculously did the trick and the bonnet opened.

“It’s gone,” said Male Colleague, pointing to where the fan belt used to be.

“But where’s it gone?” I said, peering hopefully into the engine, imagining it was nestled somewhere in the car’s insides and could be retrieved like pennies down the back of a sofa.

“It’ll have fallen out on the road somewhere,” he said, looking at me as if I was stupid.

I felt even more stupid when I couldn’t remember the name of my insurance company, to which I pay lots of money for a breakdown recovery service. I did remember it had been taken over by another company which had something to do with pigs, because they sent me a nice metal piggie keyring at the time. Then I couldn’t remember my car’s registration.

But eventually, Zurich sorted out a nice man from Green Flag. He took rather a long time to put a fan belt on. Every time I looked out of the window, he was elbow deep in engine innards. Apparently none of the fan belts he’d brought fitted and he’d had to go and find another one.

“You should’ve just used a silk stocking,” said Male Colleague, “like the woman on that advert.”

This time, it was my turn to look at him as if he was stupid…

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The cats' paranoid mother

The face at the window was Sylvester the Cat made flesh and fur, only with more plaintive eyes. I first saw him when I was moving things into the bungalow a couple of months ago. He sneaked through the open door when I was carrying boxes in from the car. “Nice cat," I thought and mentioned him to a friend who lives around the corner. “No he’s not,” she said. “He goes around beating all the other cats up.”

My two – the boy is a big black and white fella more of the Felix variety and his sister is sleek and black – are mainly house cats. In the flat where we spent an unpleasant few months before moving here, they didn’t get to go out at all. Now they play in the garden under supervision. I am a paranoid cat mother who doesn’t let them go on the wander.

I’m even more paranoid since this Sylvester character and his alleged thuggish tendencies appeared on the scene. He keeps popping up on the bedroom windowsill at night, and this morning, he was gazing into the living room. My two are fascinated by him and the feeling appears to be mutual.

I wonder if he wants to play – or whether he’s teasing them because he’s outside and they’re not? Perhaps he’s saying: “Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.”

I think not. My cats’ ears are little black silky triangles devoid of battle scars. I’d like them to stay that way.