………… and Bunty is about to explode.
Vets do say the silliest things at times. One once told me after my old horse Cassie had been on box rest for six weeks to turn her out but don’t let her go mad! Well the vet was mad to think a thoroughbred in for six weeks wasn’t going to bronco across the field at 90mph. She did and all I hoped was that the stitches had done their job… they had.
When the vet told me three weeks ago having stitched Bunty’s paw, no walks, on lead at all times and just generally keep her calm, that really was a daft thing to say. I wouldn’t have minded but the vet owns a Springer herself!
There has been a lot of “no Bunty, down Bunty, DON’T DO THAT Bunty, will you just CALM DOWN Bunty” repeated over and over again.
Finally at the end of week two I couldn’t cope any longer and decided to take her for a gentle stroll. There is a lovely flat walk along the river below the farm. It’s in a steep sided valley so the other dogs could go bananas up and down the sides, Bunty on lead and Merlin – aged 15 1/2 – could stroll gently alongside. Best Mate suggested to tie two slip leads together to give her more freedom. Like the vet’s idea that proved very STUPID too.
I parked up, three Springers burst from the car. Peppa being a pretty Labrador did a nice controlled jump. Merlin was lifted out giving his Auntie a hernia in the process. Before I could stop Bunty she had flung herself out landing heavily on hurty paw. I had only gone 50 yards, my arm was out of its socket, there was no feeling in my hand where the lead acted like a tourniquet and I hit the decks.
My predigree pooch had morphed into a cross between a meerkat and Zebbedee on speed. It bounced on two legs, it leaped, it turned itself inside out, it did a wonderful back flip that would make any gymnast proud. After a few more yards it seemed to calm down and moped alongside me, walking nicely to heel which it can do. Peace was regularly shattered as one of my other girls burst out of the woods in front of us sending Bunty into a Zebbedee overdrive bouncing like a dog possessed.
I gave up half away along and decided to turn back.
Just before the bridge where the car was parked, the path climbs higher than the river by about 10ft, in normal circumstances not a problem for a Springer scarpering around or anything to worry the owner. However, for me that lovely Spring day it caused a huge problem. Bunty had been calm but she spotted a pheasant on the far bank. It was one of those moments in life when time goes into slow motion. I saw her leap, I felt the almighty tug on lead as my arm left its socket again and Springer leaped off the cliff hurtling me towards the edge. I do remember – like in a cartoon – seeing Bunty flying through the air suddenly suspended for a split second as she reached the end of the lead before hurtling back towards me. I do remember hitting the decks – again – and I do remember the thud of a Springer Spaniel landing at speed on top of me. Before pain could hit, before I could get up it was off. I had let go of the lead……it was over the bridge and after that bloody pheasant, it was fine, not a scratch, not a leg or paw out of socket, boy did it move. In her manic mist she ignored the whistle, so owner did her very best fish wife impression and yelled. It stopped she knew she had gone toooooooo far, owner was annoyed and she had to return. While she might have been fine and there was no damage to hurty paw, I have taken out both knees of my jeans, knees skinned and a chunk taken out of my elbow. Other than that we are both fine……………….
There has been something in the air recently and sadly it hasn’t been Spring. Whatever it was has made an impression here at THF. We have had two outbreaks of skin rashes, one major reaction to a sting, one sliced paw and one very unhappy bank account.It started with me stupidly thinking spring and summer were on their way with lovely warm sunny weather, that out came the cropped trousers. Oh and the joy of not wearing socks. Trouble was I started to itch and itch big time on my feet and ankles. I woke up scratching, I couldn’t stand anything against my skin, the rash wasn’t much to look at but boy did it itch. Knowing I wouldn’t get a doctor’s appointment for weeks, I decided to go to a pharmacist instead. The first one in South Molton was rude and unhelpful. The other one was so busy I gave up waiting after half an hour and purchased a bottle of calamine lotion. Ohhhh a blast from my childhood past. I remember being covered in the stuff time after time and if you were really lucky Mum had put so much on you that the cotton wool stuck to you as well. My legs might have looked like they had been whitewashed but after two days the itching and little red spots vanished.Then it was Bunty’s turn. Now Springers do have a habit – as whirlpools of enthusiasm – of coming back from a walk with a mass of scratches over chest and tum as they hurtle themselves through the undergrowth, brambles and gorse. Most are kept under control with a wash in Hibiscrub and Camrosa cream. At times there has been the odd sort of whitehead type blister, which then bursts, creates a nice scab and heals. Only for the process to be done time and time again walk after walk after walk. Yes I can hear all you Labrador owners say “well what do you expect from manic dogs?” The trouble was that Bunty was covered in a mass of white pustules. So many that I decided it was best to go to the vets. She had a skin infection. So 70 quid, steroid injection and antibiotics later we were back home. Next day the pustules were bigger, the following day they had burst resulting in pus matted fur. More washing with hibiscrub. Next day a mass of scabs which meant Bunty had to be kept away from Auntie Karen. Karen, owner of Jack the horse, LOVES scabs and will pick any scab going. Mud fever, rain scald, you name the scab and Karen will pick, I just pity her children. So scabby Bunty was kept out of Karen’s sight and the scabs cleared nicely.In the meantime, Betsy in her Springer Spaniel wisdom decided to get stung. By what we haven’t a clue but within a matter of minutes her face started to swell. No, not an Adder, it was too wet and cold a day for them. I called the vet and drove straight there. 200 odd quid later, injections, blood tests and four lots of drugs we were back home with a very very unhappy swelling puppy. Next day she was worse so back to the vets, luckily it wasn’t affecting her breathing but her whole head was swollen. More injections, more tests and more money spent. It took four days and two more vet visits for the swelling to start going down. Then just before we were due at the vets for Betsy’s last visit, Bunty went lame.She had sliced her paw, so local anaesthetic, stitches, more drugs and MORE BLOODY MONEY SPENT. She is now on the lead, no walks, has a plastic bag taped to paw to keep the bandage dry. She may look ridiculous, but it is a Waitrose plastic bag… she has standards you know………………
I had wanted a different Christmas it being the first without my beloved Old Dears. A different Christmas was duly planned and planned to the last detail. I went away the weekend before Christmas, there were carols by candlelight in Molland church followed by din dins in the London Inn. Friends coming for supper. Friends coming for drinks. The Kellaways – best neighbours in the world – coming for Christmas Eve. A tradition started by the Old Dears which had to be continued. Christmas Day – a walk on the beach with Best Mate, Cousin and all the dogs followed by a late Christmas lunch with my fiancé joining us. Yes a fiancé, yes a long long story and yes a very very very long engagement and yes but no NO NO wedding!! Boxing Day back to the London Inn for the beagles and more drinkies.
What could go wrong I hear you say? What went bloody wrong was the bloody flu bug complete with a bloody vomiting bug. Boy were we ill and I mean ill. Cousin went first, she looked looked and sounded like shit. We spoke to her across her garden gate refusing to get closer in case we got it. Then Best Mate followed and what a cough she got. You could hear her half way across the farm nay you could hear her half way across the Bristol Channel. I hung out and hung out but by the Friday I was on the sofa dying and I don’t die quietly. I just don’t do ill. I don’t do sick and if I have to be sick EVERY one knows about it. Friday, Saturday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing day I died. The day after Boxing Day I moved from bed to sofa so I was getting better. I didn’t drink, I didn’t eat, I couldn’t move, I ached, my bones ached, my joints ached, my head ached I just bloody ACHED. The turkey went in the freezer, Cousin gave her mince pies to the chickens, Best Mate’s Christmas pudding is still in a cool dark place. My Christmas cake is in the freezer – cold and unloved, languishing next to the turkey.
January we just struggled, several relapses, no energy, no strength, just struggled and struggled. So we planned our Christmas dinner for Saturday 3rd February. Our Scottish mate from London was coming to stay,fiancé was around and the rest is a drunken history.
The following weekend I was in Surrey at the Old Dears house so I had my New Year’s celebrations there with my Surrey Mates and boy did we do it in style.
Then the Saturday was spent with my Big Brother dealing with probate. So after he finally left I sat by the wood burner, bottle opened, typing away, music blaring when I dropped a sausage on the floor. Panic hit and I fell off the chair while swooping down to pick up the sausage before the dogs got it! That’ll be my dogs that are 198 miles away in Devon………..still old habits die hard
Well Dear Reader, I lasted almost seven weeks on the wagon. To say it was boring is a lie, it was bloody boring. At present I seem to have broken my bad habits by NOT reaching for a glass every evening. Result. Another result of not drinking was getting back into reading. I was so bored, tired and achy, all I wanted to do was be in bed by 8pm, so reading became a nice distraction to make it to 9pm. I have always been early to bed – probably something to do with owning a horse. Getting up early is standard, especially when I had a proper job and needed to be in the office on time. I had huge dilemmas when the BBC moved the 9 o’clock news to 10pm. The 9 o’clock news was perfect, watch news, keep up to date with the world and go to bed at 9.30. But 10, and have to stay awake till 10.30… ridiculous – I rarely make it to 10 let alone 10.30. So early to bed it was and still is.
I have always had trouble reading in bed. I just can’t get comfy-womfy. I get back ache, neck ache, cramps in my hand, pins and needles down the arms, I just can’t do it. So during detox I purchased something I never thought I would purchase. A ‘V’ pillow!… yep one of those large V pillows which I have always associated with old people. Well now at the tender age of 54 I have one and very nice it is too. My reading in bed troubles have vanished, comfy-womfy has been achieved.
My next dilemma was what to read. This was partly solved by my mate Sarah wanting to set up a book club. There are five of us, Sarah, Best Mate, Cousin, Me and our friend Mrs Bedford. Trouble is Sarah is a BIG reader and of serious stuff. It’s not the only reason she is in our pub quiz team to answer the literary questions, we do like her anyway. But I do think the rest of us let Sarah down on the book club front. After all, my suggestions have been ‘Wind in the Willows’ and Monty Don’s ‘Nigel’. Sarah on the other hand came up with something quite challenging. I got through it, it was a struggle, I was able to input just the one comment into our book club meeting. So I decided I need to expand my reading capabilities. The Philippa Gregory ‘Three Sisters Three Queens’ was wonderful. The biography on Vita Sackville-West very interesting. The Virginia Woolf at only 102 pages took me three nights to get to page 32 and I still haven’t a clue what it’s about. Janine Ramirez’s programme was interesting but the book ‘Julian of Norwich Revelations of Divine Love’ was suicidal. While A L Rowse’s volume on Bosworth Field went back on the shelf for another attempt another year. But Mrs Bedford has come up trumps. Not only can I read in bed with comfort I can whole heartily recommend ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Club’. Ridiculous name but great book.
”I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s the best they are going to feel all day”. A great quote and oh so true. As everyone knows, I LOVE my drink, I am a BIG drinker, drink features strongly in my life. And the trouble for me with drinking is I get the nibbles, savoury nibbles preferred, so hence the size I am. Continue reading
I’m not really into cars, never have been and never will. I only know what a Mercedes SL or a Chrysler Crossfire look like because they managed to get down the farm track before it was tarmac’d! An amazing feat in itself. I loved watching the old Top Gear – only when the boys were larking around, the rest of the programme was of little interest. If I ever meet Mr Clarkson, I would like to ask him what “under steer” is or “over steer” and just what is a “tank slapper”?
I haven’t bought a new car in 23 years. Larry Landrover was bought new and is still going strong, so why buy another? It’s because of this distinct lack of interest that many times I have no idea who has driven past me and waved. If it’s a pickup then it’s probably a Gamekeeper, if it’s a Landrover it could be one of a dozen people, so I just wave back. People do give me grief when they have waved from their new car and I didn’t wave back. It takes me a blooming age to finally remember who drives what and then they go and change it. So I when I sold my dad’s old car to my mate and livery Karen, I was surprised when she had a go at me for not recognising it when she drove past. Admittingly having driven the car for many years I should have recognised it, but I didn’t. So I now clock every blooming Freelander that goes past. And if I wave at the wrong person well never mind, at least now and then I will wave at someone who knows me.The other thing I am not really into is technology. I do my best as I don’t want to get left behind, but I’m not really that interested. So put technology and cars together and you have totally lost me. However, I am pleased to announce that Larry Landrover has been brought up to date and is now bluetoothed! Yes bluetooth. It all started when I was thinking of purchasing an iPhone. I was sitting in the London Inn with my mate Sarah. She was giving me a presentation on what an iPhone can do and said “….and you can bluetooth your phone to your car”. Her face was a picture when she remembered what I drove and said “OH… your car” with a very disparaging look on her face. So it gave me great pleasure that the first person I called from Larry was Sarah. I just never told her that I had to stop driving in order for her to hear me over the distinct noise a Landrover makes.
Well Dear Reader a large chapter of my life was finally closed last Tuesday with Mum’s funeral. Luckily I was taken there and back by a taxi firm called “Best Mate” who proved to be much much more reliable than South Molton Taxis. However, it seems we can’t have a Barlow funeral without some sort of incident.I did notice – as we were all gathering outside the crem – that there was an elderly couple amongst us. To be perfectly honest I didn’t take much notice as I was desperately trying to hold it all together. Once inside, the service started with Chris Howe – the Civil Celebrant – saying “we are here to celebrate the life of Barbara”. A good start I thought as again I tried to hold it all together. However there was bit of a commotion at the back, raised voices of Old Dears saying something I couldn’t understand, followed by the distinct sound of people shuffling along and then of walking sticks clicking loudly on the floor – a familiar sound if one is used to looking after Old Dears. With yet more raised voices, me getting irritable, Chris continued with the service which then went without a hitch.Once outside I asked what went on? Apparently everyone thought the Old Boy looked remarkably like my late Dad, thus thinking they were relatives and didn’t question them. It was only when Chris said my Mum’s name that the Old Boy turned to his wife – clearly they were both DEAF – and loudly said “he said Barbara, I am sure he said Barbara, I thought we were coming to Phillip’s funeral!”. When Mum’s name was mentioned again, the Old Boy said again, and more LOUDLY, “he definitely said Barbara, we are at at the wrong funeral, it’s not Phillip’s funeral”. With that they had to get the rest of the row to get up, move out so they could shuffle along and leave with walking sticks clicking even more loudly on the floor.Teresa did a superb job catering for the wake again. Mum was given a lovely send off and I want to thank everyone for attending a second funeral so close after the first. It meant the world to me to have your support and friendship on both occasions.Also another HUGE thank you to everyone who has sent flowers, cards, phone calls, text messages, FB messages, stopped me in the street and the village shop, sent messages via Best Mate and Cousin and even the bottles of Gin I have received. Thank you thank you thank you in fact I can’t thank you enough. xxxxxxxxxAnd the photo for this short blog? Mum’s four best friends……..
Well my Dear Reader, it’s been a very stressful few months which sadly culminated in the death of my beloved father four weeks ago. The last few days were peaceful for him as he died at home with a house full of family and dogs, in his own bed in clean jim-jams… what more could we or he ask for. My brother was down from Surrey, while my cousin Lauren drove Auntie down from the Lakes arriving for – what turned out to be – Dad’s final day. I will always remember the sight of Mum and Auntie sitting with Dad – who was not really with us by then – but somehow I think he hung on for Mark and Brenda to get here.
I had forgotten how much organisation is involved with death and funerals. I called J Westacott and Sons in South Molton, and between Michelle and Dawn they provided me with the most professional, caring and friendly service. My first involvement with the firm was when they came to take Dad away. What’s that saying about getting older and policemen looking younger? Well the funeral chappie looked about 12. Professional and caring but far too young to work in the funeral business.
On the Tuesday I went in to the funeral directors to start the arrangements. Now before I go any further I must point out that my Dad by profession was a Chartered Accountant in private practice. He was also a business man with electronics factories in Haywards Heath and Rye. He dabbled in property and at one stage had a TV rental business, with the TVs stored in our conservatory. He didn’t part with his money easily and often said “how much” rather than pardon. He was very vocal about far too much money wasted on weddings and funerals. So I went to the funeral directors armed with that knowledge.
First question asked was what flowers we would like. “Er, none thank you”. I would pick whatever I had in the garden on the day. Limousines to follow the hearse? “Er, no”. Will you follow the hearse? “Er, no we will meet you there”. Next I had to thumb through the coffin catalogue. Blimey what a choice and what prices. There was little I liked until I was shown – unbeknown to me – the ‘budget range’ and there a choice was easily made. It was another “no” to an order of service. I turned my nose up at the ornate ashes urns so Michelle didn’t even bother asking if I wanted some of the ashes made into jewellery. Dad would have been proud of me the total cost… £2999.
Next I booked the wheelchair taxi to take Mum and I to the crematorium. It was booked to wait there and bring us back – a simple request or so I thought. My good mate Teresa Maddox was happy to do the catering for the wake back at the farm. I originally thought there would only be about 8 of us, but numbers soon spiralled and Teresa did me proud, very proud.
The day of the funeral dawned and I had a house full of people. I made enough tea to sink a battle ship and seemed to be constantly providing food and washing up. Cousin and Best Mate took dogs out for a long walk which was a great source of relief – at least some living beings in the house would be happy. I got the house and Mother organised. The taxi arrived on time. As soon as we hit the Link Road Mum started being sick. There is nothing worse than people being sick at the best of times, but I was really struggling to cope with it. I was desperately trying to keep myself and her clean, I jammed the blanket – to keep her warm- under her chin to stop sick going everywhere. On arrival at the crematorium she stared to feel better once out in the open air. The taxi drove off – I stupidly thought to park – after all he did have my jacket and sick blanket on the front seat. After the service I pushed Mum back outside to find the taxi or to find a distinct lack of taxi. Dawn – the funeral director – walked round and round the car park out onto the road desperately looking for our taxi but there was no taxi to been seen.The ********** taxi driver had driven off.
I phoned South Molton taxis to see what was going on – I won’t use them again. The chap confirmed the taxi had been booked to wait and do the return journey. There was no apology, in fact his whole manner was one of couldn’t really care less. He said he would call the driver and call me back. When he called back his attitude was still the same. So Mum and I were stuck. Stuck at the bloody crematorium while our family and friends left to return to the farm. I phoned Teresa to tell her to start serving drinks as soon as people arrived. My friends Karen and Vanessa stayed with us while we waited in the ‘book of remembrance’ chapel which was cold. Now I could make some comment about us being cold and Dad not, but perhaps a joke too far. Still no sign of the taxi nor any calls from South Molton taxis office, absolutely NOTHING. Nothing to keep us posted on where the car was or a grovelling apology… bloody nothing. After half an hour of waiting Vanessa called them again. She was calmer than me but her sarcasm was brilliant. I can’t remember the whole conversation but the bit about “Well of course the widow has to come back from the crematorium the only person NOT leaving the crematorium is the deceased!”. We had to laugh, we were stuck at the bloody crem, and I was starting to think it’s a bloody long way to push Mum home, but push I might have to do.
The driver came back and he clearly needs to attend charm school. There was some sort of apology but he didn’t register the severity of the situation. It was the longest journey back from Barnstaple I have ever made in the 10 years I have lived here. Mum was sick again, blanket jammed back under her chin, I couldn’t be bothered to talk to the driver I would just be rude. His driving irritated me, he irritated me, the car stank of sick and I had a headache.
The wake was lovely, Teresa’s food and service was brilliant. Wine flowed so I think Dad would have approved.
And on a final note. My big brother Mark came up with the idea of planting a copse of trees on the farm where we could scatter the ashes – overlooking Dad’s favourite view to North Molton church. Brother and sister walked down to the spot with dogs scampering around to contemplate his brilliant idea. My big brother said, with tears in his eyes, “…and we could bury the dogs here, Dad would like that. I could bury Meggie (his dog) here as well”. I turned to look at my brother, then his dog by his side and said “Bloody hell Marky she not dead yet, give her a chance”. Good job dogs don’t understand us…
PS Sadly we lost Mum last week, just 28 days after Dad. Eight years of courting followed by 62 years of marriage they are back together again.