Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Pipaluk - The Little One

When Pippa first found us on the streets of Spain, we had two other dogs - Paddy and Prince. Maybe that was the attraction for him, a nice pack with two well-cared for dogs.

But what to call him? A Spanish name as he was a Spanish dog? One beginning with P like the other two dogs? All we could think of was Pedro, Pepe or Paco, and he didn't look like any of those suited him.

Even back then he was bigger than the other two, and with such a pale creamy white face and chest. He looked like a big cuddly polar bear. Yeah I know polar bears aren't cuddly - unless they want to squeeze you to death I suppose.

I remembered the little polar bear cub that had been born at Regent's Park zoo, (London Zoo) in December 1967. Pipaluk, whose name was Eskimo (as was) meaning 'The Little One.'

Aw, a cute furry little creamy white bear, just like our new dog. Except that Pippa wasn't remotely little, but when Pipaluk grew up, he wouldn't exactly be little either. And I quite liked the irony of calling a large dog 'The Little One.'

So Pipaluk he became, and inevitably Pippa, or Pipps for short. Oddly, when the Spanish vet spells it, he writes it Pipa, which is probably a better abbreviation.

I don't remember seeing Pipaluk as a cute cub, but I must have done, because why else would I have the book? And I do have a photo of me at the zoo with my mother and my older cousin who lived in London at the time.

Sadly, the cute little bear whose birth spawned a book, lots of souvenirs, and cuddly toys, was ignominiously shipped off some 20 or so years later to Poland to die there. Forgotten about and no longer a superstar once his cuteness had expired.

Friday, 18 March 2011


We met Billy in Cooma. In the park as I remember, where I think we wandered to (no idea why) after getting off the bus. Or maybe the train, although I see that the railway line is now closed. I think it was the bus. We probably went to the park to eat a couple of sandwiches and work out what to do next.

Cooma, as you can see from the pic at the bottom, is something of a one horse town. Or was at the time. It may be a huge thriving metropolis by now but I doubt it. Its claims to fame? Well, it's near the Snowy Mountains and a huge hydro-electric power scheme. I didn't particularly know about the second but we had gone so that we could visit Mt Kosciusko (as was spelled at the time) which is the highest mountain in Aus. At 2,228 metres it is not very high, but hey, still worth a visit to say, been there, done that.

So there we were in the park, sitting at a table, and this tall, slim, good-looking, long dark-haired lad approached us.

Until I saw this photo I had forgotten we had even gone to the pub. What I do remember was being asked back to his house for a few beers, which his mates would be bringing round. Well that solved what to do next. So off we trotted. Trusting souls us eh?

Naturally his parents were away for the weekend ..... more beer followed .. as did take-away pizza. I doubt we paid for anything apart from a few beers in the pub.

We stayed the night of course. While my travelling companion had escaped and was tucked up in a comfy little bed, I was watching a boring film (and the clock) with my host. Wishing I too was tucked up in a comfy little bed. Alone.

Next day we went on our Kosciusko trip after having swapped addresses and all that stuff. Billy worked at the hydro-electric scheme - hence finally hearing about it - and he and a couple of mates were planning to chuck their jobs and do their world trip in 12 months or so.

Fast forward 12 months. I'm back at my parents, complete with new spouse in tow. I was going through the whole job application process to get back into the Protestant Work Ethic career mode thing again.

The 'phone rang. It was Billy. He was in the UK with his two mates and wanted to come and stay. 'Of course,' I said, rapidly thinking that me and spouse could squash into a single bed, there were two spare ones and a sofa which could accommodate his two mates, so everyone would be happy.

'I'll ring you tomorrow for directions,' he said. 'Great, looking forward to seeing you,' I said.

I told my parents. Perhaps I should have asked first. I doubt it would have made any difference. They said no. Not just no, but NO! I could not understand this at all. They were always generous with their hospitality and encouraged me to be the same. People had always been welcome to stay.

Thinking they had forgotten the story I explained that Billy had beered us and fed us and provided a night's kip. Surely I should return the favour?

'Three boys?' they said horrified. 'Not a chance.'

I wondered if they thought I was going to dance around in the middle of the night to have group sex. A few years before, one of my friends had stayed for a couple of nights and my father had gone to great pains to point out that he set the burglar alarm every night and there were loads of creaking floorboards and .. and .. and .. leave my virginal daughter alone.

Billy rang back the next day. I was mortified. I had to say no. I never heard from him again. Sorry Billy. Got a great floor in Gib though if you ever pass this way.

Cooma, Main Street. Only street??

Sunday, 13 March 2011

My best friend

Moving swiftly back about 20 years from the last photo I posted to my very early days at school.

It's obviously spring, so I'm around four, or five, or say six at the most.

This is one of those rare photos where I look vaguely relaxed at having my pic taken - and the only ones where I ever look like that are with my best friend Tarquin.

We were much the same age, my parents got him about six months after I was born. He was of course, a pedigree boxer, as my parents were rather aspirational. In the absence of brothers and sisters or nearby schoolfriends, Tarquin, Wizard of Skelder, was always there for me to play with, to talk to, and console me when I was in trouble and had been a naughty girl.

He was the hero in my bedtime stories. Whenever my dad told me a story - Good Dog Tarquin would always come to the rescue.

When it was time for me to walk down the path at coming home time, he would be jumping on his chair to look for me out of the kitchen window. The chair had to be reupholstered more than once because of his claws digging holes in the fabric.

And yet, the day he died, I never even noticed he was missing. We must both have been into double figures by then, and I was full of school stuff, whether it was boys or homework or gossip I have no idea.

My parents eventually plucked up the courage to ask if I wondered where he was. Then they told me.

Still feel guilty to this day that I hadn't missed him.

Fashion details:
Navy blue (winter) school uniform, little knitted kilt thing and cardigan with light blue bands. Looks like I'd ripped the the shirt and tie off. Beige socks and Start-Rite shoes. I think they were my indoor ones. It was the sort of school where you had indoor and outdoor shoes and woe betide you when you forgot your shoebag on Monday morning.

Long, blonde and pony tail, no doubt with a navy blue ribbon.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Always a bridesmaid?

I don't think I liked being a bridesmaid. I seem to have a bit of a smell up my nose in this photo. This was the second - and fortunately the last - occasion on which I was dressed up in a particularly unflattering gown in an incredibly strong colour.

The bride and bridegroom were (and still are) my friends from university. The other two people in the photo are the bride's sister and the bridegroom's brother. We were all in our early to mid-twenties.

It was a winter wedding, New Year's Eve to be specific, held in the very cold north east of England, with the reception over the border in a Scottish hotel.

I dread to think how much planning went into it, but it was very well done, with absolutely nothing spared. Wedding breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on the day, taxis ferrying people to the hotel in the depths of the Scottish countryside, a pretty large reception - or so it felt when we were standing in line receiving the endless guests, and some lovely food. One of our other friends from university sang a solo in church. I thought that was a lovely idea by the bride and he sounded wonderful.

Our dresses were made by a posh dressmaker in London. The material for ours was a blue/green shot silk affair. There had been a choice of a bright pink/yellow fabric which I rather fancied, but the bride obviously decided that the final blue/green colour was slightly more tasteful. It probably was but it still looked a bit overpowering on blonde fair-skinned me. Nor is the style something I would have chosen. The other bridesmaid worked in the beauty business so she did our hair and make-up. I don't think my hair liked being styled in such a straight fashion, the fringe was already rebelling. But I suppose bridesmaids are meant to be ornamental sidepieces rather than the main attraction.

What else? Not much really. I had decided not to stay an extra night for whatever was happening in the evening, so got the train home, rang my parents from the station, found out a relative had died in the couple of days I had been away, and although it was NYE, I managed to get a taxi home.

And the next wedding I went to was my own. Glad I never had a wedding like that though. It's so not me.

Photo by Photo-Centre (D M Smith)


Here is an interesting perspective on being a bridesmaid.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Greensand Ridge Walk

I've always liked long distance walks. The idea of setting off to complete the miles, day after day, until finally, the journey ends with a huge sense of achievement, just so appealed to me, and I had to do one.

It seemed to me to be like youth-hostelling, but even better. What fun to follow the route and the little signs, and plan the route (hardly difficult) with the help of the official handbook thing. And buy all the OS maps and decide how far to go each day and where to stay at night.

Sadly my parents didn't seem inclined to undertake the Pennine Way as one of their holidays, so I had to wait a good few more years before I did my first walk.

Living in Bedfordshire at the time, the start of the Greensand Ridge Walk was literally a stone's throw away from our house, by the Grand Union Canal in Leighton Buzzard. It opened in 1986 so when we did it a year or so later it was still pretty new. It's a leisurely stroll across pretty Bedfordshire (and Bucks and Cambs) countryside of about 40 miles. Perfect for a weekend. I think we chose a Bank Hol weekend so that we would have a day off to recover.

The first morning we both drove to the far end of the walk to leave one of the vehicles, and came back in the other. Sorting round and packing seemed to take for ever, and our early morning start to the walk turned out to be after lunch. We must have covered a good eight miles or so in the afternoon because we reached Woburn Abbey early evening and camped somewhere on the other side of the estate. It was beautiful wandering through Woburn, seeing the herds of deer and just walking over the endless grassy parkland.

The next day, the weather was not good. In fact it chucked it down, and I was deciding that maybe long-distance walks weren't all they were cracked up to be. As we struggled along, totally and utterly soaking wet, I caved in, and said I would try the pub down the road and ask for a room for the night. So much for Ruffy Tuffy Me.

It was, back then, years before all-day drinking and the pub was shut. Well shut. I wanted a nice warm dry room and a bath. I went around the back and banged on the door and shouted and hollered. To no avail. Obviously the pub people did not want drenched scruffy walkers looking for rooms on a Sunday afternoon. No soft comfy bed. No bath. No drying out. No pub meal in the evening. Just more rain to look forward to.

I trudged sadly back to Partner and we made our dismal wet weary way onward. There wasn't exactly a lot of choice.

Then, I spotted the perfect discrete camping spot. There was, naturally, a sign saying 'Private.' It was some sort of a bird or nature reserve I think. I threw caution to the winds - and rains - and jumped over the fence. It was such crappy weather that the chances of wardens, or anyone else coming around were pretty low. And the tent went up so inconspicuously amidst the bushes and trees. Excellent.

The next day dawned slightly drier and we set off for the last leg. Luckily not on our last legs. Picked up the car, and home we drove. My first walk ticked off. And in retrospect, I was glad the pub didn't want scruffy walkers. It would have diminished the sense of achievement if we'd wimped out and spent a night indoors.

Woburn Abbey

Chatting to cows near the end of the walk

Fashion details: Helly Hansen waterproof, Karrimor rucksack, King Gee shorts, and Hawkins Cairngorm walking boots.

Yes, I know I said one pic one post, but rules are made to be broken and I thought the three together added more value.

Links below to 1) Greensand Ridge and 2) a forum which details the sad closure of Hawkins.

Greensand Ridge Walk official site

Hawkins discussion

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Queen of Hearts

I have never liked fancy dress.

Dressing up in your mum's clothes, putting plastic jewellery on your train, and pretending to be the queen at her coronation or wedding in the privacy of your own home is one thing, but dressing up for the outside world? No, thank you very much.

But sadly the children's party at my father's masonic lodge involved - dressing up.

And while my mother's skills at crochet, embroidery, knitting, mending, darning, were unsurpassable, for some reason she drew the line at dressmaking.

So a dressmaker was hired to make me a beautiful white frock with lovely red velvet hearts on it. And a red velvet cloak, trimmed gaudily with some gilt stuff and lined with white satin. The crown was hired from a fancy dress shop. My mother baked some tarts. Oh, I was to go as the Queen of Hearts, in case you hadn't realised.

I cringed. I felt so totally overdressed. And I am wearing a watch!! Is anyone else? Did the Queen of Hearts wear a watch?

I didn't win of course. I have no idea what the criteria were, but I suspect hiring a dressmaker and a crown were not included. Possibly being the child of the right parents was a good start. Mine were clearly not the right ones. I seem to recollect the fairy won something. Maybe first prize, maybe not, but at least she got a prize.

I remember feeling rejected. She had a short frilly frock, a tiara and a shiny stick. I had a beautiful gown, a cape, a crown, and a home-made tray of tarts. So much for show.

And as a separate point, this post is really for Dina - hairstyles from the past. Not sure my hair-do as QoH is any different to now!!