Tag: London

The Seafire Spitfire and dogs!

Ray offers us a guest post.

As can happen from time to time, I was contacted by Ray Dunthorne in England. He very kindly said that he had been following Learning from Dogs for a while and also was aware of my previous interest in flying.

So I emailed Ray saying that I would love to publish his account as a guest post and lo and behold in came the following story.


The Story of Lulu

Ah hello again, I’ll try ever so hard not to give you my full life story, but just stuff you might find interesting and relevant, but can’t promise to get the balance right! 

Willows Activity Farm St Albans 

My adult dog journey began with Lulu, 15 years ago, but the seed was sown some 5 years earlier at a city farm. We’d gone with the then middle-born five-year-old for his birthday party. The shepherd who did herding demonstrations was over from New Zealand and had two dogs who’d just had a litter of puppies, which we were shown. We’d never heard of the New Zealand Huntaway, it was described as a combination of German Shepherd, Border Collie and Labrador, with a few other breeds thrown in for good measure. 

They’d been consistently bred in, yes, you guessed it, New Zealand for over 100 years, specifically to help move large herds of sheep or cattle over long distances. The agile New Zealand Huntaway became known for its ability to move across packed, penned herds by leaping from the back of one sheep to another. Its loud LOUD bark was also required, as if not busy barking to get cattle or sheep moving, the Huntaway would be sent after a sheep or lamb that had strayed out of sight, hold it down (I don’t know how) and BARK so the shepherd could locate the unruly pair. 

Little thought was given to the New Zealand Huntaway for a few years, when – on the other side of divorce – my then ex-wife and I decided to get a dog to raise collaboratively, to keep the disparate family united in some way. Divorce-wise, it wasn’t so amicable initially, as these things usually aren’t, but soon settled down with the three growing boys being the priority. 

Lime End Farm, Sussex

Of course we couldn’t agree on the type of dog. I’d always wanted a German Shepherd, madame a Border Collie and a Labrador was a popular choice with Stanley, Arthur and Sidney (the aforementioned three boys). I bet you can tell where this is going. Yes, I remembered the New Zealand Huntaway. In 2006, it was a lot harder to find a litter in the UK than it is now, but I did. Down on a farm in Sussex. Lulu’s mum and dad were also over from New Zealand with a shepherd, this one herding cattle at Lime End Dairy Farm. 

Lime End is in Herstmonceux, East Sussex, which is as Olde English countryside as it sounds, with a castle and an annual Medieval festival to complete the picture.

As soon as we arrived in the classic farm yard, all the puppies bumbled out to say hello, emerging three at a time from under an old caravan where they’d been sheltering from the sun. Their dad, Lord Toro was tied to a nearby barn, doing some general barking ‘he’s frightened of the puppies’ the lady told us. The nine puppies all toppled about us for a few minutes, then all rushed off to find dinner. All except one.

Eight week old Lulu came back with me, Sidney and Helen, my new girlfriend at the time, who I’d charmingly had to borrow the £300 needed to secure Lulu from. It was a four or five hour round trip for the three of us, four including Lulu. A bonding opportunity all round.

I always remember that – to add to the idyllic Sussex farm scene, as if it wasn’t enough like a scene from a film Hugh Grant drives a Mini in – just as we were leaving, an old barn door got pushed open from the inside and a litter of Border Collie puppies and their mum and dad ran out, to say hello to the remaining Huntaways and good bye to us.

Best Laid Plans

The wisdom of bringing that hard-working herding dog into two separate St Albans houses didn’t cross my mind. It probably should have, especially as my ‘house’ was a rented Maisonette, no dogs aloud. The theory was Lulu would be at the children’s house in the week, mine along with the children at the weekends. It didn’t turn out like that.

After a few months both me and my ex-wife got short contracts that meant heading off to work in an office for the day. Far from ideal, but no money at that point meant no choice. At least it was only temporary. Lulu would have been about six months old by then and absolutely should not have been left alone FOR A SECOND.

The office was just 15 minutes away (PC World, Maylands, Hemel Hempstead). I did manage to pop back at lunchtime most days and a child would pop round a few hours later after school. New Zealand Huntaways are like any puppy only more so. They need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation, or else you will pay.

A novice dog guardian then, I learned everything the hard way. Before her first birthday, Lulu had removed the floor covering in the kitchen and the lounge. She’d moved a large old cathode ray TV across the room, knocked bookshelves over and generally done over £1,000 of damage. I know it was that much because I got a bill from the landlord. I paid. 

What dogs do

I will cut to the end here. That was in the first year of Lulu’s life.

The contract I mentioned was my first proper BIG company for the digital stuff I was doing, without it I wouldn’t have been able to have the career I’ve had, which started late as I accidentally tried to be a musician for ten years. Not too successfully. That doesn’t matter though.

The 14 years has gone by and even Sidney, who was about five years old when he came with us to East Sussex to meet Lulu, has gone off to university, the older two long-since moved away, to Nottingham and London respectively, leaving me, Lulu and my Helen, that new girlfriend who’d come to Sussex with us on that early date, who moved in a year or so later and is still here. 

What Lulu did was tie us all together. Yes, she was a nightmare initially. Yes, she would run away, out of sight chasing imaginary deer, for 30 or 40 minutes at a time. Yes, she’d bark at everything, constantly herding the children when they were small, stopping them from fighting among each other as they got bigger, becoming more and more generally in control and charming with each year. Almost without us noticing. All of a sudden, she was one of us. Not a pet, not a ‘furry friend’, not even a dog really.

She could sense when someone was ill or in distress and would attend accordingly. She loved small children and even when in a fierce mood, if a small child the same size as her approached, she would sit down and raise her head waiting for a pair of tiny arms to be thrown around her. It had all just got normal for us. Pretty much every time when we were out with her, she’d do something that would further add to our respect for her understanding of what’s going on. She WAS one of us. 

Lulu loved an air show, going to several with us over the years. Here she is at Eastbourne air show, enjoying the Lancaster Bomber and a Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. 

Now it’s all gone

It’s only when Lulu was finally gone I noticed everything else that’s passed too. All that time, pretty much my entire career, moving from acrimoniously divorced to getting along just fine and concentrating on giving the three boys as good a start as we could manage.  The three boys no longer the children they were when Lulu was working out her role in the family, now all long-since scarpered and working harder than I ever have. 

My career is pretty much done too. I’m finding it harder to get new contracts or jobs in digital. ‘What are you doing working in digital? I thought that was a young man’s game’ one marketing director interviewing me for a dull digital role I didn’t want tactfully said, almost ten years ago too. I won’t say where, for reasons of professional discretion (David Lloyd Leisure, Hatfield, Monday 4th March 2013)

When I was working from home and madame, who I now call Mrs Tagmaster, was coming home from London, me and Lulu would go and pick her up. I trained Lulu to sit in the middle of the station and wait for Mrs Tagmaster for as long as 10 minutes, which meant several packed commuter trains unloaded past her. I’d hide out of sight, watching to see how many pats on the head she got. Usually several.

Lulu’s Legacy is Ten Year Tags

Phew, we’re getting up to date at last. Lulu lost dog name tags like it was something she was born to do. Sometimes in a few months, sometimes in a few days. We got through dozens. I’m a bit slow on the uptake, it took me a while to work out the dog name tags on the market just might not be up to the job.

It took about a year of fact-finding, market assessment and trying to work out how to make a better dog name tag before I was ready to start planning the equipment we needed. Having wasted months liaising with companies in China to get the tags made in volume, I gave up on that idea to both keep our carbon footprint down AND have more control over any supply chain and not have to worry about any one critical supplier. 

With over 9 million dogs in the UK alone, there’s a good sized market. Research quickly revealed this ubiquitous, low price point product has largely been ignored, especially digitally. Consequently many competitors are getting away with minimal product quality and poor customer experience (I’ll come back to this).  This surprised me, as not many products pretty much anyone can manufacture are actually required by law in the UK courtesy of a stupidly out of date Dog Tag Law

I pretty much, at least subliminally, thank Lulu for every tag I press out and when it’s a busy day that started at 6 am and is only drawing to a close with a 6pm trip to the sorting office with a sack of 50 or more orders, I’m ever so grateful to Lulu, as without her showing us the flaws in all those substandard products over the years, patiently waiting until Raymond here got the hint, we probably wouldn’t be coping at all right now. Lulu is still looking after us.


Thank you, Ray.

This is such a delightful story. So much so that I am going to post another story for Saturday. Namely, a short article, broadly written by Ray, and featuring the Spitfire.

Ray’s company Ten Year Tags is linked to Ray’s website.

If there’s any doubt ….

…. there’s no doubt!

My title and sub-title comes from commercial aviation. It’s one aspect of the safety culture that safely the millions of passengers who embark on a commercial flight each year. (IATA estimate that it will be 3.6 billion in 2016.) In other words, if the flight crew have even an inkling of an issue with the aircraft while in flight they will make an immediate decision to land.

Why I chose this title will become clearer as you read on.

The end of the Second World War so far as Europe was concerned came on May 8th, 1945. In other words: VE Day. London was not a pretty sight in 1945.

Toni Frissell’s famous image of an abandoned boy clutching a stuffed animal in the rubble of 1945 London.
Toni Frissell’s famous image of an abandoned boy clutching a stuffed animal in the rubble of 1945 London. (Image taken from this website page.)

What’s the relevance of May 8th, 1945 to me? Well exactly six months, to the day, before VE Day yours truly was born in Acton which was just six miles West of Marble Arch in the centre of London.

It has been a family legend that when VE Day was announced my mother looked at her six-month-old baby son and announced that he was going to live! For those first six months of my life in London were very dangerous. From that same website page where that photograph above came from one can read (my emphasis):

Nazi Germany continued to bomb London up until 1945 using a variety of delivery methods including V-1 and V-2 rockets. In total 1,115 V-2s were fired at the United Kingdom. The vast majority of them were aimed at London, though about 40 targeted (and missed) Norwich. They killed an estimated 2,754 people in London with another 6,523 injured.

I have very clear mental images of playing in and around bomb sites near our home right up to 1953 when there was a real push to clear the sites away ahead of the Queen’s Coronation on June 2nd, 1953.

German V-2 bomb damage on Uppingham Avenue, Stanmore, just a few miles from home
German V-2 bomb damage on houses in Uppingham Avenue, Stanmore, just a few miles from home. The bomb exploded on March 16th, 1945.

So what’s this all about and why do I see it as relevant to today’s world? Stay with me for a little longer.

Yesterday, Patrice Ayme left a comment to my Private Power post. He opened that comment by saying:

With all due respect, and abundant apologies for the daring image, we can’t write exclusively about dogs, lest we want to finish as dog food. As Paul is suggesting. Indeed I view seriousness in global inquiry as a basic moral duty.

Imagine Jews worrying just about dogs, while Auschwitz was being built; it’s arguably what happened, said Hannah Arendt (I’m paraphrasing; she was hated for it, though…) Some will scoff, but Kim in Korea is building one new H bomb every 5 weeks… One single H bomb, in the ‘right’ place, can kill more than Auschwitz.

On December 27th, Patrice published a post under the title of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. It started:

In the Real World, Foundations Saved Civilization Before:

The combination of imperial collapse followed by re-birth from Foundations within happened several times already, for real.

Civilizations collapsing into Dark Ages from the actions of dozens of millions of people occurred more than once. And then very small groups arose, often within the collapsing empire, and imposed new ways of thinking which enabled civilization to restart.

After I read his post I left a question as a comment: “Are you saying that our present civilization is on the point of collapse?”

Patrice replied:

Well, we are certainly tottering at the edge:
Playing Russian roulette works only that long. Unfortunately demoncrats did not care.

I then went across to that article carried by The New Yorker. It was an article written by Eric Schlosser, author of the book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety and a producer of the documentary Command and Control from 2016.

It’s a long article but an extremely important read. Here are some of the key extracts:


World War Three, by Mistake

Harsh political rhetoric, combined with the vulnerability of the nuclear command-and-control system, has made the risk of global catastrophe greater than ever.

 A dilemma has haunted nuclear strategy since the first detonation of an atomic bomb: How do you prevent a nuclear attack while preserving the ability to launch one?PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDY CROSS / THE DENVER POST VIA GETTY
A dilemma has haunted nuclear strategy since the first detonation of an atomic bomb: How do you prevent a nuclear attack while preserving the ability to launch one? PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDY CROSS / THE DENVER POST VIA GETTY

On June 3, 1980, at about two-thirty in the morning, computers at the National Military Command Center, beneath the Pentagon, at the headquarters of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), deep within Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, and at Site R, the Pentagon’s alternate command post center hidden inside Raven Rock Mountain, Pennsylvania, issued an urgent warning: the Soviet Union had just launched a nuclear attack on the United States. The Soviets had recently invaded Afghanistan, and the animosity between the two superpowers was greater than at any other time since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

U.S. Air Force ballistic-missile crews removed their launch keys from the safes, bomber crews ran to their planes, fighter planes took off to search the skies, and the Federal Aviation Administration prepared to order every airborne commercial airliner to land.

President Jimmy Carter’s national-security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was asleep in Washington, D.C., when the phone rang. His military aide, General William Odom, was calling to inform him that two hundred and twenty missiles launched from Soviet submarines were heading toward the United States. Brzezinski told Odom to get confirmation of the attack. A retaliatory strike would have to be ordered quickly; Washington might be destroyed within minutes. Odom called back and offered a correction: twenty-two hundred Soviet missiles had been launched.

Brzezinski decided not to wake up his wife, preferring that she die in her sleep. As he prepared to call Carter and recommend an American counterattack, the phone rang for a third time. Odom apologized—it was a false alarm. An investigation later found that a defective computer chip in a communications device at NORAD headquarters had generated the erroneous warning. The chip cost forty-six cents.

[Two paragraphs later]

My book “Command and Control” explores how the systems devised to govern the use of nuclear weapons, like all complex technological systems, are inherently flawed. They are designed, built, installed, maintained, and operated by human beings. But the failure of a nuclear command-and-control system can have consequences far more serious than the crash of an online dating site from too much traffic or flight delays caused by a software glitch. Millions of people, perhaps hundreds of millions, could be annihilated inadvertently. “Command and Control” focusses on near-catastrophic errors and accidents in the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union that ended in 1991. The danger never went away. Today, the odds of a nuclear war being started by mistake are low—and yet the risk is growing, as the United States and Russia drift toward a new cold war. The other day, Senator John McCain called Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation, “a thug, a bully, and a murderer,” adding that anyone who “describes him as anything else is lying.” Other members of Congress have attacked Putin for trying to influence the Presidential election.  On Thursday, Putin warned that Russia would “strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces,” and President-elect Donald Trump has responded with a vow to expand America’s nuclear arsenal.  “Let it be an arms race,” Trump told one of the co-hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

The harsh rhetoric on both sides increases the danger of miscalculations and mistakes, as do other factors. Close encounters between the military aircraft of the United States and Russia have become routine, creating the potential for an unintended conflict. Many of the nuclear-weapon systems on both sides are aging and obsolete. The personnel who operate those systems often suffer from poor morale and poor training. None of their senior officers has firsthand experience making decisions during an actual nuclear crisis. And today’s command-and-control systems must contend with threats that barely existed during the Cold War: malware, spyware, worms, bugs, viruses, corrupted firmware, logic bombs, Trojan horses, and all the other modern tools of cyber warfare. The greatest danger is posed not by any technological innovation but by a dilemma that has haunted nuclear strategy since the first detonation of an atomic bomb: How do you prevent a nuclear attack while preserving the ability to launch one?

[Going to the closing paragraph]

Every technology embodies the values of the age in which it was created. When the atomic bomb was being developed in the mid-nineteen-forties, the destruction of cities and the deliberate targeting of civilians was just another military tactic. It was championed as a means to victory. The Geneva Conventions later classified those practices as war crimes—and yet nuclear weapons have no other real use. They threaten and endanger noncombatants for the sake of deterrence. Conventional weapons can now be employed to destroy every kind of military target, and twenty-first-century warfare puts an emphasis on precision strikes, cyberweapons, and minimizing civilian casualties. As a technology, nuclear weapons have become obsolete. What worries me most isn’t the possibility of a cyberattack, a technical glitch, or a misunderstanding starting a nuclear war sometime next week. My greatest concern is the lack of public awareness about this existential threat, the absence of a vigorous public debate about the nuclear-war plans of Russia and the United States, the silent consent to the roughly fifteen thousand nuclear weapons in the world. These machines have been carefully and ingeniously designed to kill us. Complacency increases the odds that, some day, they will. The “Titanic Effect” is a term used by software designers to explain how things can quietly go wrong in a complex technological system: the safer you assume the system to be, the more dangerous it is becoming.


My greatest concern is the lack of public awareness about this existential threat, the absence of a vigorous public debate about the nuclear-war plans of Russia and the United States, the silent consent to the roughly fifteen thousand nuclear weapons in the world.

Is there a dog angle to all of this? You bet! For dogs as well as people are all innocents caught up in the madness of war.

nd sympathy to a now homeless man, who returned home from walking his dog to find his house destroyed and wife killed by a V1 flying bomb. London 1944
A policeman offering sympathy to a now homeless man, who returned home from walking his dog to find his house destroyed and wife killed by a V1 flying bomb. London 1944. (The dog is just below the Policeman’s left shin.)

Now do you see why I entitled today’s post If there’s any doubt. there’s no doubt.

For if we were the flightcrew of the good ship Earth we would be urgently looking for a diversion airfield upon which to land; and land now!

Wherever you are in the world, whatever you are doing, if you share the concern expressed so clearly by Patrice don’t do nothing. Even if all you do is to send a message on one of the social media apps that’s far better than doing nothing. All that evil requires to succeed is for good people to do nothing!

For I haven’t a clue as to when and how my life will come to an end but, as sure as hell, I would prefer that it isn’t six months to the day after the start of World War III.

Especially if that war came about as a mistake!

Celebrating Who I Am.

The journey towards knowing better who we are.

This may seem like a bit of an ‘odd-ball’ after Celebrating Ben and Ranger on Monday and Celebrating Pharaoh yesterday.  Indeed, when I had in mind those two posts, writing about self-awareness was nowhere on my mental horizon.  Then along came Shakti Ghosal after Monday’s post who left this comment:

Hi Paul,

Just came a visiting and was halted by these glorious photographs. Horses embody such great qualities of trust, grace and power don’t they? What is it that makes them such a great friend of Man, I wonder? Specially when the latter species, as we know it (and we should know!), can choose to behave quite contrary to those Equine qualities above….


As Shakti was a new visitor inevitably I went across to his blog site, ESGEE musings, and then to the About page. Where I read, in part,

About Shakti Ghosal


Born in New Delhi, India, Shakti Ghosal is an Engineer and Management Post Graduate from IIM, Bangalore. Apart from Management theory, Shakti remains fascinated with diverse areas ranging from World History, Global trends to Human Psychology & Development.

I was intrigued and starting reading some of Shakti’s posts.  That is how I came across The Audacity of Who I am and a day later had been offered permission to republish it.

However, before going on to Shakti’s post let me recap a little from yesterday’s post Celebrating Pharaoh.  This section:

The biggest, single reward of having Pharaoh as my friend goes back a few years.  Back to my Devon days and the time when Jon Lavin and I used to spend hours talking together.  Pharaoh always contentedly asleep in the same room as the two of us. It was Jon who introduced me to Dr. David Hawkins and his Map of Consciousness. It was Jon one day who looking down at the sleeping Pharaoh pointed out that Dr. Hawkins offered evidence that dogs are integrous creatures with a ‘score’ on that Map of between 205 and 210. (Background story is here.)

So this blog, Learning from Dogs, and my attempt to write a book of the same name flow from that awareness of what dogs mean to human consciousness and what Pharaoh means to me.  No, more than that!  From that mix of Jon, Dr. David Hawkins, and experiencing the power of unconditional love from an animal living with me day-in, day-out, came a journey into my self.  Came the self-awareness that allowed me to like who I was, be openly loved by this dog of mine, and be able to love in return.  As is said: “You cannot love another until you love yourself.

I will speak a little more about this but, first, to Shakti’s post.


The Audacity of Who I am

“High above the noise and fear mongering of critics and cynics softly speaks your true self.”

– Mollie Marti, Psychologist, Lawyer & Coach, USA

The other day, I watched the Bollywood movie Queen. In it Rani, a girl from Delhi, travels to Europe after being spurned by her fiancé. The movie then goes on to explore Rani’s ‘World view’ as dictated by her Indian middle class values and how that alters, as her biases and prejudices fall away, as she is confronted by radically different value systems and perspectives. A journey of self discovery in surroundings where she is no longer weighed down by others’ expectations and diktats. As she morphs, she confuses and pisses off many people including herself. Rani emerges from this crucible of experience as a more authentic human being. As she chooses to be ‘who she is for herself and for others’, she symbolises courage as well as resistance. Walking out of the theatre, I could not help but acknowledge how Rani’s awareness and acceptance of ‘who she is for herself and for others’ left her more empowered and in control of her destiny.

Kangana Ranaut in Queen
Kangana Ranaut in Queen

Who I am for myself and for others? How many of us are willing to make this query a daily practice as we loosen the constraints imposed by our world-view, let go of who we believe we should show up as and embrace who we really are?

What is it that makes me avoid being who I am for myself and for others? I can see this stemming from my desperation to be admired, liked and looking good. My life experiences have conditioned me to avoid being straightforward and veer towards being diplomatic if I perceive it is the latter which makes me look good. I have also been guilty of the corporate lie. On occasions I have stretched the truth about my company and its services, hidden what could have been embarrassing. On other occasions I have manipulated situations and people. All this to succeed, be admired, look good.

I muse. Have my efforts to gain admiration and look good empowered me to greater heights? Have I succeeded in engaging in my life from a place of worthiness? I remain increasingly unsure.

So if avoiding ‘who I am for myself and for others’ has not worked for me, how could I embrace it? As I think of this, I begin to see what being who I am for myself and for others could mean for me.

Shakti 2

It would mean the audacity to show up as the ‘imperfect me’ that I am and the willingness to be vulnerable.

It would mean the audacity to let my hair down and allow myself to truly belong with the folks I choose.

It would mean the audacity to be compassionate and loving even when I hold the fear of not being good enough.

It would mean the audacity to be authentic about my own inauthenticities.

Am I committed to being this audacious?


“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse.’ It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Excerpt from ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ by Margery Williams

In Learning….. Shakti Ghosal


Now Shatki’s post is spot on.  But it assumes one thing.  That is that each of us has sufficient self-awareness “to show up as the ‘imperfect me’”.  Sometimes, as in my case, that ‘imperfect me’ was well-hidden from the self.  Stay with me a little longer.

My father died of cancer in 1956.  Just 5 days before Christmas, 1956.  He was 55 and I had turned 12 just 6 weeks previously. I had completed my first term at the local (Preston Road, Wembley) grammar school.

For many reasons that do not need to be shared here, the effect of my father’s death and my subsequent decline in my school performance, left me with a long-term psychological ‘dysfunction’; namely a feeling that I had been emotionally rejected.  But that feeling was deeply hidden from me.  In fact, that hidden belief remained with me until 2007 when Jon Lavin brought it to the surface. (Jon is a UKCP accredited therapist and NLP Practitioner).

Reflect on that for just a moment.  For the thick end of fifty years, this psychological characteristic remained totally below my consciousness yet, nonetheless, influenced me in very real and tangible ways.

The negative influence was that I was drawn to any woman who offered me love and affection and, therefore, was emotionally unable to understand how good a partner she might or might not be for me. (Jean is my fourth wife!)

The positive influence was that I tried very hard to please others, to avoid their rejection, and had successful careers in selling for IBM UK, starting and building a successful business in the early days of personal computing and, later, when my company was sold in 1986 becoming a freelance journalist and business coach.

So back to Shakti’s essay.

I agree one-hundred-percent with what he says. With the proviso that in certain cases, spending time with a qualified counsellor could be your best investment ever.

How to round this off.

If you have been influenced by any of this then do give yourself time and space to counsel yourself.  Let your inner person reach out in peace to your outer person.

If that inner person suggests you could be a happier, more peaceful person then reach out to someone properly qualified to hold your hand as you open up to your inner feelings.

Which is why loving a dog and being loved in return by that beautiful creature means so much.  For in that private bond that animals offer us lays the truth.

I can do no better than offer this personal reason why being audacious about who you are is the supreme ‘investment’ of all in yourself.

A few months after Jon Lavin brought my fear of emotional rejection to my conscious surface, I met Jean in Mexico, Christmas 2007.  I have never loved a person as I love Jean.  I have never been loved by a person as Jean loves me.

Jean, Father Dan and yours truly. St Paul's Episcopal Church, Payson, AZ. November 20th, 2010.
Jean, Father Dan and yours truly. St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Payson, AZ. November 20th, 2010.

Being at peace with who you are is the most important celebration.

Say no more!

The book! Chapter Twenty-Two.

Learning from Dogs

Chapter Twenty-Two

Philip drove himself, as quietly as he could manage it, back up to Lisa and Don’s house. It was a little after 4am.  The night air was cold and as he slipped into his bed the inside of the bodega felt just as cold as outside. The hours of love-making with Molly had been a new experience for him. Of extraordinarily different dimensions from any previous experience. Like every other aspect of their relationship, because now it was most definitely a relationship, the ways that he and Molly were relating to each other, how each was getting to know the other, was a new journey for him.  As with all new journeys in life, both the real, external ones and the inner, subjective ones, new journeys came with new experiences, new vistas and new horizons every step of the way.

As he slept on that next morning, Lisa had telephoned Molly and had asked her what the hell was going on.  She seemed very upset in a way that Molly couldn’t fully understand.  After Lisa had calmed down a little, Molly told her that she and Philip were now lovers.

Five days later, 2007 bid farewell forever and in came the New Year of 2008. Philip and Molly endeavoured to be together as much as possible for his remaining ten days. He was now effectively living at her house.  In those ten days any lingering cautions in their minds about either of them being hurt just vaporised. For the very simple, yet gigantic, reason that he wanted to be with her and she with him.  There was no doubt whatsoever that he would leave Devon and come to San Carlos with Pharaoh just as soon as it could be arranged.  In the interim, Molly would come to Devon in the Spring to meet his family and friends.  Then the plan was that in the early Autumn, he and Pharaoh would make the one-way trip to Mexico, routing via California.

Thus it came to pass that early one morning in September, Philip arrived at London Airport with two suitcases and one beloved dog: Pharaoh. They were flying one-way with British Airways, London to Los Angeles.  He had been informed that Pharaoh would need to be checked-in at the World Cargo centre. Philip parked outside said cargo centre and walked Pharaoh on his leash to the animal check-in desk. Fifteen minutes later, with his face staring out at Philip through the grill of his travel cage, Pharaoh disappeared from sight without even a bark; without even a whimper.  It was as if he sensed the new life that was ahead of him. Philip had asked as to where in the aircraft’s hold Pharaoh’s cage would be situated and had reserved a cabin seat more or less above that spot.  He was of no doubt that Pharaoh would know that he was sitting as close to him as possible.

As is the way of long international, non-stop flights, it was over in some sort of time-warped way, before he could really grasp it.

Molly had driven up from San Carlos to meet him and Pharaoh when they flew in to Los Angeles.  First she welcomed Philip with the world’s sweetest and dearest hug then they repositioned to another part of the terminal building to await Pharaoh’s arrival. In what seemed like no time at all they were all heading out from the airport complex, Pharaoh sitting on his haunches on the rear seat of Molly’s car unable to take his eyes off the strange world outside yet at the same time eagerly eating a bowl of dog biscuits being held under his chin by Philip.

So, it’s time for this story to take a pause. Well, maybe not a pause, more a drawing back from the intricacy and detail of the previous pages. For in so many ways the story has now been told.

Philip and Molly’s lives together were all, and more, of what they could have ever imagined.

He had been living in Mexico with Molly for about eighteen months when they were clear that they wanted to marry and find a new home in America. Because Molly had US citizenship through her marriage to Ben, it seemed sensible for Philip to apply for a US Fiancée Visa.  So it was decided that they would find a home in Arizona and sell the beach-side house in San Carlos.  They quickly found a comfortable home in Payson, a city of fifteen-thousand persons located at five-thousand feet, eighty miles North-East of Phoenix, Arizona. The subsequent move from Mexico to Payson went off remarkably well. Especially if one reflects that the move included fourteen dogs, seven cats and all their belongings. Their latest dog being a beautiful, black, half-Rottweiler female dog that was dumped in the street just outside the house barely ten days before they departed Mexico.  She was still in milk, frantically tearing back and forth along the dusty street, presumably looking for her puppies, crying out the pain of her loss.  Molly enticed her into the house, gave her water, for she was very thirsty, and within minutes the dog was showing her love and gratitude to Molly. They named her Hazel.

Then it was time for Philip to apply for that fiancée visa. There was no delaying that because his entrance to the USA, when they moved up from San Carlos, was on the basis of a ninety-day tourist visa.

Applying for that fiancée visa could only be done at the US Embassy back in his home country; England.  In the end, it involved several trips back to the UK and strange, interminable processes convincing the US Embassy in London that he was a fit and proper person to be admitted as a resident to the United States of America.

Nevertheless, on November 4th, 2010, he boarded Virgin Atlantic’s flight VS007 from London Heathrow to Phoenix, the possessor of a United States visa permitting him to marry a US Citizen; in this case a very special one.  Sixteen days later, on Saturday, November 20th, he and Molly were married.

This is where the story should have ended.  Molly and Philip and their animals living very happily in a comfortable home in Payson, Arizona. But the story has a twist.

It had been a night in the middle of June in 2012; the night of the 20th June as he recalled.  There was nothing about the previous day that could have had any bearing on his mind, as in any trigger for the dream, not that, as dreams go, it was a dream of any meaning; well not outwardly. He dreamt he had gone to the bathroom in the middle of the night and turned on the cold-water tap and found no water flowing from it. That was the dream; no more or no less. Bizarre!

Yet when he awoke in the morning, the dream was vividly present in his mind.  He said to Molly that he had had the most strangest of dreams and recounted the experience. As it happened, they had a neighbour call by later that morning and the conversation lead Philip to mention his dream.  To which the neighbour had simply remarked that if he was worried about water then they should go to Oregon.

While their property was sufficiently far out from Payson to require their own well and, as wells go, it was a deep one of nearly three-hundred feet, the water level had stayed pretty constant around sixty-feet down.  On the other hand, this part of Arizona had been receiving below-average rains for the last twenty years.

Then, almost as though it had been pre-ordained, a short while thereafter Molly met a woman who said that she would be delighted to house sit and look after all the pets if Molly and Philip ever wanted to go on a vacation. Molly had mentioned that they were thinking of visiting Oregon.  All of which came together and saw Molly and Philip setting off on July 11th on the start of a three-day, twelve-hundred mile drive to Southern Oregon.

On their arrival in Grants Pass, Oregon, yet another set of coincidences found them being introduced to an independent real-estate agent, Donna. Donna said she was happy to show them some properties for sale in this part of Southern Oregon. The second property that Donna showed them was a few miles North of the small community of Merlin, itself some nine miles North-West of Grants Pass.

Donna stopped at the entrance to the driveway, turned round and looked back at them.

“I have to be honest and tell you that I know very little about this property. There are not even listing particulars. It was for sale a few years back, rumours had it at well over a million dollars; possibly even million and a third.  Then it was lost to the bank and, for whatever reason, nobody has gone for it.  It’s been empty for at least two years.”

Donna drove in.  The driveway was surrounded either side by tall forest trees; oaks, pines and firs. It initially sloped down from the roadway and then went across a bridge over a sparkling creek of crystal-clear water flowing from right-to-left.  Donna paused the car as Philip asked a question.

“Any details about the creek, Donna?”

“It’s called Bummer Creek and it flows all-year. Not sure, will need to check on it, but I thought I had heard there were formal water extraction rights for the owners of the property.”

The driveway then made a gently climb along the right-hand edge of a large, multi-acre, grass paddock.  In what must have been nearly a quarter-of-a-mile later, they drove up to a large, wooden-clad, single-story home surrounded by more wonderful tall pines and firs.  It was stupendous.  A four-bedroomed property in thirteen acres of fenced land with stables, a garage and other outbuildings, and what did turn out to be water extraction rights from Bummer Creek.

It took Molly and Philip less than an hour to make up their minds that at the right price this could be their home of a lifetime for them and all their animals.

Donna came up to them as they stood outside the front of the property.

“What do you think, guys?”

Philip answered, “It’s an incredible property and I don’t doubt that at some point it would have been an expensive property to purchase.  Do you know the asking price?’

Donna answered, “I’ve just been calling to find out more details.  The bank that originally foreclosed on the property then sold it a while back to a company called Gorilla Capital.  Gorilla are just trying to flip the place for cash but, as with the bank, have had trouble finding a buyer.  The company have told me they are looking for three-hundred-and-eighty-thousand dollars.  I have to say that’s quite a low price for all that’s here even in these depressed times.  My guess is that many people would find it a bit too much to take on in terms of the acres.   Otherwise, I can’t see why it hasn’t sold a long time ago. Especially for the money being asked.”

Philip and Molly took another walk around the house. They ended up standing together on the wooden deck overlooking some eight or nine acres of grassland, dense forest sweeping up the flanks of the slopes in the near distance, and the mighty Mount Sexton visible four or five miles off to the North-East.

“What do you think, Molly?” he asked, putting his arm around her waist.

“It’s gorgeous, I just can’t believe what an incredible home it is.  How about you? What do you think, sweetheart?”

His reply was unequivocal. “I think we should put in a silly offer.”

“Such as?” Molly wondered aloud.

“Come with me.”

He took her hand and lead her around to the front of the house, to where Donna was waiting.

“Donna, we want to make an offer.  Tell Gorilla that we can’t go anywhere near their asking price just now. But if they want a deal today, we will offer two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand dollars. Cash on the nail as we say in my old country.”

Donna walked away to be out of earshot and rang Gorilla.  She was back in a couple of minutes.

“They say that’s too low.  Say there really looking for something a bit higher.”

Fifteen minutes later, Gorilla and Philip and Molly had settled on the figure of two-hundred-and-seventy-one-thousand dollars.

As they walked towards Donna’s car she said to them, “You do know, don’t you, that even in today’s depressed housing market, that’s one hell of a deal.”

So it came to pass that on the following day, Sunday, 15th July, over at Donna’s office, Philip and Molly signed the purchase contract.

They left to return to Payson the following day.

Upon their return to Payson, without exception, all the people they shared their news with were astounded at what they had purchased for such a modest sum of money.  Now came the challenge of getting their Payson house ready for sale, packing up their things and transporting what was by now eleven dogs and five cats, the twelve-hundred miles to Oregon.

Nevertheless, as is the way of things, piece by piece, little by little, it all came together resulting in the day of the ‘big move’ arriving: Tuesday, October 23rd to be exact.  Philip’s Jeep was towing a large covered U-Haul trailer and Molly was driving a U-Haul rental van towing another trailer carrying her Dodge van packed to the roof. They were off to Oregon.

Within less than forty-eight hours of arriving at their new home in Merlin, as Molly and Philip saw how the dogs reacted to their acres of land, the trees, the hollows and the borders, they knew that all of them, in the fullest sense of the phrase, had come home.

2,387 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover

The book! Chapter Twenty-One.

Learning from Dogs

Chapter Twenty-One

He was settling very quickly into the local scene.  It was a strange mix of Americans and Mexicans.  Then within the Mexican population there appeared to be as least two groupings, or categories.  Those Mexicans that, in one form or another, had lives or businesses that revolved around the many Americans living there and then another group of Mexicans who were much less visible.  Undoubtedly, this latter group were poorer, many living in an area of San Carlos known as the Ranchitas. An area that he didn’t expect to be shown but had been mentioned by both Lisa and Molly.  It slightly reminded him of those early days in Spain when English tourists started travelling there, before the whole packaged holiday thing exploded.  He could remember his father and mother taking the family for a vacation in Spain. Pretty sure that was back in 1953 because he recalled the streets of London being prepared for the Queen’s Coronation as they drove through London early in the morning on their way to the Channel car ferry. Distant and faint memories of the place where they were staying in Spain being dusty, hot and very uncommercial yet gearing themselves up to sell as many services as they could to these new British tourists.  So, so long ago.  Philip didn’t have a clue as to where they had stayed in Spain, just that at some deep level in his memory that place in Spain seemed to resonate some fifty-three years later with this place in Mexico.

Lisa and Molly arranged that all of them would go on Friday to a local dinner and dance establishment in San Carlos called Banana’s. Apparently, every Friday there was a Mexican Mariachi band that played lively music plus the menu offered a number of good local Mexican dishes.

He didn’t have a clue as to what to wear but not having brought an enormous range of clothes he settled on a loose-fitting, short-sleeved cotton shirt over a pair of cream slacks.

It was a perfect end to his first full week, and he had no doubt whatsoever that Lisa’s invitation to come here for Christmas had been a godsend. No better underlined than by the fact that yesterday had been the 20th of December and it was only this morning, the 21st, as he was showering and wondering what the date was, that he realised that the anniversary of the bombshell in his life a year ago had remained out of his consciousness.  Maggie had been erased.

Rather than go directly to Banana’s, Don drove first over to Molly’s house and waited while she closed her front door and jumped into her own car.  He caught a glimpse of what she was wearing; noticing how her low-cut blouse, a silk scarf across her shoulders, a pair of skin-tight long, pale-blue trousers signalled that this was a lady who was going to enjoy her Friday evening out with them all.

The atmosphere at Banana’s was electric for reasons that he couldn’t put his finger on.  Not that it mattered what the reasons were, what did matter was that there was almost a festival mood all around them.

Molly was obviously a very competent Spanish speaker and ordered the meals and drinks for all in the Mexican waiter’s native tongue.  Philip had rapidly come to the view that Molly was well-known in the town. Hardly surprising when one reflected on how many years she had been living here, as well as being a fluent Spanish speaker.  They were chatting about the number of Americans living in San Carlos and Don explained how he and Lisa, as with so many of the other Americans, went North back up to the States during the Summer as it became so very hot here in San Carlos.  Molly said that for her this was her one and only home plus that she couldn’t, and wouldn’t want to, leave her dogs.

Their meal came to an end.  Molly was clearly itching to be dancing.  Philip, never a great dancer at the best of times, was fearful of even being able to put one foot in front of another, let alone offer an attractive woman a worthy experience on the dance-floor.

The Mariachi group started another tune.  Molly said, “It’s a tango, come on, let’s give it a try.”

He started to protest that he didn’t know how to dance the tango but, nonetheless, was rising from his seat.

She grabbed his hand and led him on to a smallish dance-floor saying just to follow her.  The wooden circular dance-floor, perhaps thirty-five feet in diameter, had a dozen or so other couples getting into the swing of the music.

He put his right arm around Molly’s slim waist, grasped her outstretched hand with his other hand, and gave in to the rhythm.  Molly danced in such a natural way that within a few bars of the music his feet had got the idea, and his head had embraced the beat of the music.  He very quickly got lost in the whole sensation, not even the smallest part of his mind puzzled on how it was that he could walk on to a Mexican dance-floor with a woman with whom he had never danced, a band playing a rhythm that he would have been certain he couldn’t dance to, and feel as though he and Molly had done this their entire lives.

It was not unnoticed by others. As the music came to a close, Philip and Molly were aware, and rather embarrassed, to observe that other couples on the dance-floor had stopped their dancing and moved to the edge of the floor to give them more space for their gyrations.  Molly put her arm through his as they made their way back to the table and said that was perfect; that she loved fun things and hadn’t had such fun for a long time.

Lisa looked up at them as they came to the table and remarked in Philip’s direction that for someone who claimed not to be able to dance the tango, he and Molly had put on quite a show.

Molly had her hand on Philip’s forearm as she declared to Lisa that this man was quite a dancer. Philip was at a complete loss to make sense of anything.  It was almost as though the Philip of a year ago had died and been reborn Philip Mk. II.

After a pause of ten minutes or so, Molly was up for another dance and grabbed his arm.  It was a slower dance and he had not one moment’s hesitation to be on the dance-floor with her.

Again, he became connected totally to her through the music, unaware of anything else going on in the room. All that he was experiencing in his heart was that being with Molly was unlike being with any other woman in his life. All he knew was that in a previous life having such close contact with a gorgeous, single woman would be triggering desires to have his wicked way with her.  No, forget triggering desires, he would be scheming how to get her knickers off before the night was out!

But with Molly it was different.  Yes, of course, she had a lovely figure and   as they danced close to each other he could feel her beautiful breasts pressing through her silk blouse against his chest.  No, the difference was that he had no ambitions, no sense of what was coming next; whether that next was in an hour’s time or in a life time.  He had heard frequently about living in the present; assumed what it was at an intellectual level. However, what he was experiencing now was nothing less than being fully alive in this present moment.  It felt like perfection of being.

They returned to the table to find that Don had left.  Lisa explained that he was tired, that he wasn’t much of a partying man and had gone on home, with the expectation that Molly would run Lisa and Philip back to the house at the end of the evening.  It didn’t seem to phase Lisa; quite the opposite.  Because she said, with an eager and excited tone to her voice, that they should spend the rest of Friday evening at Froggie’s Bar.  Apparently, Don had settled the bill here at Banana’s on the way out.

The evening continued at Froggie’s as it had started at Banana’s. Lots of silliness between the three of them to the extent that their peals of laughter, especially from Lisa and Molly, caused more than one head to turn in their direction.  He couldn’t believe, even as he was experiencing these days in San Carlos, just how wonderful it was making him feel.

Thus it was some twenty minutes later, with Lisa enjoying a dance with one of the many Americans having a Friday night out, when he glanced at Molly and spoke with a slightly raised voice to counter the sound of the music, “I just can’t tell you what a difference coming to San Carlos has made for me.”

Molly, sitting next to him at the table, gave him what he thought was a most puzzling look.  He was trying to read that look, a look that seemed part dreamy, part embarrassed, and part very private, when she lent her head close to his right ear, hand on top of his hand, and murmured to him, “Do you know I would love to be kissed by you.”

He swung his legs around to the right so that he was sitting opposite her, placed his right arm around her warm, slender waist and softly, so very softly, met her lips and kissed her.  The moist tip of her tongue explored his tongue in what was the most sensuous kiss he could remember in a lifetime.

It had him turned totally upside down.  As with their second dance at Banana’s he was feeling a wave of emotion unfamiliar with anything from his past life.

Lisa returned to the table and after another twenty minutes or so, it was agreed by all that it was time to call it a night.  Lisa, in particular, didn’t want her return to be too late knowing that Don would be asleep in bed.

Philip suggested that as Molly and Lisa had clearly had quite a lot to drink, certainly much more than he had, then why not let him drive Molly’s car, drop Molly off at home and bring her car back first thing in the morning.

It was a little before nine in the morning when Philip drew up outside Molly’s house, turned off the ignition and opened the door in the front wall that enclosed a small yard space in front of the house.  He was heard by the dogs well before he reached up for the iron door knocker on the main front door and shortly thereafter he heard Molly’s shout to come on in.

“How’s your head?” he asked her.

“Oh, fine.  Thank goodness I rarely suffer from hangovers.  Don’t know why because I’m happy to have a few drinks when the mood is right.  Can I get you a coffee?  Or would you like a tea? I managed to buy some tea-bags yesterday.  Lipton’s tea, can you believe that.”

He opted for the tea and stood looking out across the bay. He heard the sound of water heating up in a pot followed moments later by Molly calling out to him.

“Philip, I’m so sorry about last night for being a fool.  I got a little carried away in asking you for that kiss.  Please excuse me.”

He wasn’t sure how to reply and sat on his thoughts, so to speak, as the sound of boiling water being poured into two mugs heralded the arrival of the tea.

“Milk but no sugar,” she called out.

“Yes, that’s correct. Well done on remembering.”

They both sat down on the verandah.

“Did you hear me saying how sorry I was to be such a fool?”

“Yes, I heard you.”

There was a silence between them of a couple of minutes or so, before she spoke up.

“I don’t know what to make of your lack of any reaction to what I just said.”

“Molly, it’s like this.  Your kiss was beautiful for me and I thought you felt the same way.  So when you just said sorry for being a fool, it’s left me confused.  I don’t know how to match what I felt as we kissed with the idea that it may have just been a bit of a flirtation on your part coming out of a fun evening.”

Molly said nothing. She just put her mug down on the glass-topped table in front of her, stood up and came around to be behind Philip as he sat on his chair.

She wrapped both arms around his neck and shoulders and across his chest and lent her head down besides his, kissed his left cheek and breathed the words, “Thank you”.

As she stood upwards, he got out of his chair, turned and grasped his arms around her and kissed her full on her lips.  This time there was a hunger in him and he felt stirrings through his body that were both sexually exciting and emotionally confusing.  For he was starting to realise that Molly was something more to him, even if he was unable to define what that more was. Yet, at in the same thought, he knew that in just over two week’s time he would be leaving Mexico and travelling back to England.  That he knew that he was emotionally unprepared for the separation from this woman that was starting to be so attractive to him.

“Sorry, Molly, now my turn to apologise.  I was clearly getting a little carried away.”

Her face was written all over with the same emotional confusion as he had just felt within him.

“Molly, both you are and I mustn’t inadvertently hurt each other.  I sense we are both yearning for love and compassion but …”

He couldn’t find the words to finish his sentence.

“I understand, Philip, I really do.  You’re right,” Molly paused. “But I damn well wish you weren’t.” There was a twinkle in her eye.

“Come on, I’ll run you back to Lisa’s place.”

Philip was aware from previous times that Americans didn’t make as much of Christmas as Europeans do, and especially as the Brits do.  However, Molly, in true British style, decided to put on a Christmas dinner for all four of them.  He wondered what to give Molly for a Christmas gift. Luckily came up with the brain-wave of buying some blank recordable CDs and making up some music CDs.  He had brought his laptop with him from England and there were several hundred music tracks to choose from.  It was only after a long evening’s recording that he realised that the majority of the tracks he had selected had romantic music. Something was pulling his emotional strings!

Later, after his bed-side lamp had been turned off and he was settling down under his covers, he found himself thinking very deeply about Molly. If only she was living in Britain.  If only …. He pulled himself up sharply.  If only what Philip?  Was he thinking that Molly is someone that he would like to have a full relationship with? But only if it was convenient? The voice in his head was very good at asking the questions but not so good at delivering the answers.

Christmas Day was a good day and Molly adored the music CDs. She had worked so hard to decorate her house yet Philip dare not admit that the warmth and the sun and the scintillating views out across the waters of the bay didn’t make it really feel like an English version of Christmas Day. Even the huge Christmas lunch couldn’t offset his feeling of displacement.  It was small beer in the scheme of things.

The 26th, the day after Christmas, was a Wednesday. Two American friends of Molly, Don and Pam, invited Philip and Molly for dinner at Banana’s. They, too, had a second home in San Carlos. Molly came over to Lisa’s house to pick him up in her car

He immediately took to Don and Pam as they sat and enjoyed a pre-dinner drink.  Don was asking him a little about his background when he noticed Pam say something to Molly in private that made her blush and snigger a little.

He paused in his conversation with Don and caught Molly’s eyes.

“Philip, Pam was just saying that the general view around the place is that we are an item.”

Don laughed and said how it only confirmed all that he had heard about British single men and their carrying-ons when on holiday.

“Come on Don,” Philip teased him back. “That’s single British men in the twenties screwing around, literally, on the beaches of the Costa Brava in Spain; the result of bottom-dollar cheap packaged holidays. I’m an ancient fella in contrast, I mean the wrong side of sixty-three and all that.  Practically forgotten how to screw if you’ll forgive the expression. Last time I performed that way London was being lit by gas lamps.”

Pam threw back her head and roared with laughter.  Molly poked a finger in his upper arm and commented that she hadn’t realised that he was that old.

It was another lovely evening.  He couldn’t help noticing how he was being accepted by all those that clearly knew Molly well and it made him feel very good within.

After the meal, both Don and Pam and Philip and Molly enjoyed a number of dances.

He and Molly had returned to their table as Don and Pam remained for the next dance.

She took his hand and looked him in the eyes. “You know, I was thinking about what you said earlier.”

“What was that I was saying?”

“About how you have practically forgotten how to make love. Can’t use that other word.”

There was the briefest of pauses before she continued, the softest of loving tones in her voice, “Do you want to make love to me tonight?”

3,072 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover

The book! Chapter Twenty

Learning from Dogs

Chapter Twenty

Philip was about to pick up his case and return to the cool of the airport concourse when out of the corner of his eye, right at the last minute, he saw a tall, elegant, blond-haired woman heading for the airport doors in a manner that suggested she hadn’t seen him.  Before he even had time to draw breath and sing out a caution, she careened into his right shoulder almost knocking him into the pillar besides which he had been standing.

She stopped, turned towards him, and reached out to hold his right forearm in her right hand.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Mr. Bond.  It is Mr. Bond, isn’t it? Mr. James Bond?”

In Philip’s most wildest of dreams he would never have anticipated that his first new minutes on Mexican soil would turn out like this.

He guessed who this attractive woman was.  The smooth English accent was a bit of a give-away, the laughter in her voice confirming it was planned.

“Oh, you must be Molly? Lisa had mentioned a few times that she had an English friend here in Mexico.”

Then from out behind another tiled pillar popped Lisa.

“Hi Philip, welcome to Mexico.”

Lisa came over and gave him a long hug.

He picked up his case and followed the two of them the short distance to the car-park.  He noticed the gaiety between them. Within moments they were alongside Lisa’s car, a Ford Explorer according to the badge on the rear of the vehicle.  Of course, a make unfamiliar to him.  He would have described it as an American version of a compact Estate car; apparently known as an SUV in this part of the world.

However the make and type of the vehicle wasn’t so much the focus of his  attention.  It was rather how on earth he was going to get in.  Because, as Lisa opened the tailgate, there was revealed more large plastic sack-bags of dried dog food than he had ever seen in his life.

“Hopefully there’s just enough space at the top for you to slide your suitcase in.  Will it fit?”, Lisa enquired.

He pushed a couple of the topmost bags to either side and just managed to squeeze his case in over the top.

He backed out and straightened Up. Molly had now opened the right-hand door to the rear bench seat.

“Sorry if it’s a bit cramped.  We’ve had a bit of restocking of dog food.”

Molly wasn’t kidding, Philip thought, as he shuffled onto the nearest remaining piece of the bench seat that wasn’t covered from seat to roof-lining with clear-plastic wrapped cardboard trays of canned dog food.

Molly sat down on the front passenger seat, Lisa started the engine, doors were slammed close and they eased out of the designated parking area. Within moments they were clear of the airport zone and heading more-or-less South.  Well that was Philip’s estimate looking at the setting sun low down off to his right; its golden rays accentuating the dry, desert landscape that seemed to run all the way to the horizon.

His eyes were drawn back to all the dog food. “Gracious, someone’s got a few pet dogs at home.”

He noticed a look pass between Lisa and Molly.  It was Molly who replied.

“Lisa has five dogs and I have fourteen.”

“Did you say fourteen! My goodness, that sounds like a story.”

As they sped along what appeared to be signed as Highway 15, Lisa chatted away to Philip explaining the story about the dogs.  How for many years she and Molly had been working together in rescuing dozens of feral dogs, so many of whom roamed the streets of San Carlos.  Then them finding homes for the dogs most often with Americans coming down visiting San Carlos.

He looked across to Molly sitting in the front. “So how long have you been living in Mexico, Molly?”

“Oh, for almost twenty-five years.  I came down here with my husband when he and I wanted a change from the USA.

As he listened, he started to focus on her accent.  English it was, without any doubt.  But better than that, for if asked, he would have guessed a London accent, even perhaps an East London or Essex accent.

“Molly, hope you don’t mind me asking but I’m hearing a London accent. Is that correct?  Where were you born?”

“In Essex,” she replied.

“Ah, thought as much.  I know Essex pretty well from my years as a salesman in that part of the world. So in which part of Essex were you born?”

There was a pause before Molly answered, a lovely tease in her voice, “The worst part of Essex.”

He stopped and thought about his memories of Essex.  There were quite a few places in Essex that might qualify as the worst part.  But listening to Molly’s accent was giving him a clue. He took a stab at the place.

“I think you were born in Dagenham. You know, where the huge Ford factory is.”

Molly’s answered with a giggle, “Yes, that’s right.  How very clever. What made you guess Dagenham?”

“Well, when I was selling for IBM, I got to know that part of Essex especially well. Called on many of the Ford suppliers that had businesses in and around the Dagenham area. Places such as Romford, Rainham, Barking.  I heard something in your voice that suggested Dagenham or close by. Because, as you go further out, to places like Basildon, Brentford, even Chelmsford, the local Essex accent starts to take on more of an East Anglian twang.”

“You mean posher than Dagenham.” Molly put on a thick Cockney overlay that, nonetheless, only accentuated the underlying playfulness in her voice.

“So, your turn. Where were you born, Philip?  Have to say you sound too posh for East London or Essex.”

He was tempted to play games in return but didn’t have time to think of a cheeky retort. “I was born in North Acton in North London but almost from my first year lived and grew up in Preston Road, about a mile from Wembley Stadium.  In fact I could see the stadium buildings from my bedroom window.”

Molly’s gift for accents was obvious as she came back in a pseudo upper-class tone of voice, “Oh, Wembley.  Oh, I do say, how delightfully charming.”

They chit-chatted back and forth for some time as the miles sped by before Philip sensed, not quite sure how, that Lisa was feeling a little left out.

“Lisa, so back to the dogs.  Is it normal for you and Molly to have so many dogs at home?”

Lisa replied, “Not really. A short time ago the local animal shelter in San Carlos, where both Molly and I used to help out, closed down.  Many of the dogs were at risk of being put down.  So the ones that could be placed elsewhere we took them in ourselves.”

The conversation in the car fell silent for a while. The flight down from Los Angeles on top of some residual jet-lag from his flight across from London, the smooth motion of the car and the approaching dusk all conspired to make him just want to close his eyes for a few minutes.

He was suddenly awake with the turning off of the engine.

“Whoops, sorry about that. Obviously dozed off.”

Molly turned and looked at him. “Don’t worry, you were snoring so very prettily.”

Philip felt himself blush as he got out of the car with the two of them.

“Sorry, Philip,” Lisa said. “We’re not quite home.  This is Molly’s house and we are just going to put her bags of dog food in the back of her car for now.”

Philip went around to the back of the Ford and removed his suitcase.  Molly opened a large pair of brown-painted metal doors to reveal a rather grubby white van-type car parked in her driveway. She opened the tailgate and he watched as Molly and Lisa carried the bags and trays of cans from one  vehicle to the other.

He looked around him.  It was now early night. A warm, sub-tropical night that, quite suddenly, reminded him of nights in Darwin, Northern Australia.  There were a couple of street lamps shining their sodium light along an unsurfaced dirt street with properties to both sides.  He walked a few paces so he could look down the side of Molly’s house and saw the black surface of a sea possible only twenty yards beyond the far edge of the property.  The architecture of the house itself looked very non-European.  Philip reflected that in more ways than one this was a very long way from Devon.

He jumped into the front seat where Molly had been sitting as Lisa started up the car.

“Looks like quite a location where Molly and Ben have their house,” he mused aloud.

“Just Molly now, Philip.  Ben died back in 2005.  He was a great guy.  He and Molly had the house designed and built for them by local Mexicans when they first came down to San Carlo more than twenty-five years ago.”

He noticed just a hint of something slip across his mind, something not even as clear as a thought. Some tiny patter of emotional excitement that Molly was a single woman.

A few minutes later, as Lisa drove up the hill to her house, a combination of Philip’s exhaustion and the darkness of the night made it difficult for him to really get a clear idea of what the house looked like.  For sure, it gave the impression of being a grand place but, then again, the feeling of it still being very much a working construction project.

Half-an-hour later, that was confirmed by Don as all three of them sat around a table alongside a grand motorhome.

Lisa explained that they still hadn’t moved in to the house but that they had made him up a bedroom in the bodega.  Frankly, he hadn’t a clue as to what a bodega was but presumed that was the large awning with sides that he had been shown to when they arrived. So after a light snack, all that his stomach could take, he excused himself and promptly got settled into his nominated bed and barely before he could register the comfort of the bed and the wonderful night sounds around him, he was gone.

He slowly awoke, looked at his watch that was still on his left wrist and saw that it was coming up to 7 a.m. It had felt like a week’s deep, dreamless sleep; the sleep of all sleeps.

There was a hint of the coming dawn in the sky as he went outside and took in a few lungfuls of clean, fresh air.  This pre-dawn light to the sky was on the horizon to his left as he stared out over a bay with the calmest of sea surfaces one could imagine.  There wasn’t a breath of wind. Total calmness.  He pondered about the strange interface between a calm, benign sea that had not even a single fishing boat upon it, together with the steep, barren slopes of mountains pressing up almost to the edge of the town and then elsewhere the views housing lots, construction projects, more smart homes and a golf course.

The air was noticeably cool so he went inside the bodega to find a sweatshirt. He went back outside and quietly sat on a garden chair and just allowed the peace of the surroundings to wash over him.  It had all been quite a year.  Here he was sitting in the most different of settings he could imagine, a little over a week before Christmas Day but, much more significantly, only four days from it being exactly a year since Maggie dropped her bomb into his life.

Lisa’s ‘what are you doing for Christmas’ question some seven months ago had certainly set some wheels in motion.

“Hi Philip!” It was Don coming across from the motorhome to say good morning.  He stood next to Philip and said how he never got tired of the view across the bay.

Don turned to him, “Hey, Lisa says that we should take breakfast over at Rosa’s Cantina.  As you can see, we really are not yet set up for cooking arrangements.”

“That’s fine, Don. Very happy to let you run my life.”

Lisa stepped down from the motorhome, telephone in left hand, “I was going to give Molly a call to see if she wants to join us at Rosa’s.”

She pressed a button and raised the phone to her ear, exchanged a few words and called out, “All arranged, she will see us there at 8 a.m.”

Lisa then came across to Philip, asked him how he had slept and showed him the bathroom and showering facilities.

They had just seated themselves at a table at Rosa’s Cantina when Molly breezed in.  She was wearing a white cotton blouse over white jeans and a straw Stetson hat over her blond hair, the hat sitting a little way back on her head.  Despite Philip not being the best observer in the world of what a woman was wearing or her make-up, he couldn’t help noticing Molly’s rich red lipstick on her lips. There was something about Molly that signalled she was one-hundred-percent woman.

She parked her sunglasses across the front rim of her hat as she came into the shade of the Cantina.

“Hi everyone.  Did you sleep well, Philip?”

“Thanks Molly. Yes the sleep of a lifetime, I’m glad to say.  Heavens, what with your white jeans and your Stetson hat there’s a bit of an equine look about you today.”

Molly laughed, “Are you saying that I look like a horse! Not much of a greeting to a woman, if you don’t mind me saying.”

They caught each other’s eyes as Molly sat down at the table. The laughter in her eyes was unmissable.

Breakfast was ordered and an hour passed by in an easy and gentle manner.  At one point, Lisa asked Molly whether she had had a result from the auction. Molly replied that she hadn’t but that she expected to hear today and had her fingers crossed it would be a winning bid.

Molly turned to Philip who was looking quizzically at her .

“I’ve put in a bid at a silent auction for the most incredible carved dining table and chairs that you can imagine.  Genuine Mexican hand-carved and just stunning.  If I win it, I’ll invite you all round for dinner.”

After breakfast and back at the house, Philip was introduced to Lisa’s dogs.  They were all lovely animals that were both curious and affectionate towards him.  One of them, a creamy coloured, short-haired, bright-eyed dog, perhaps eighteen inches to her shoulders, looked as though she wanted to jump on his lap.  Lisa said that her name was Shilo and that she was a dear. He was sitting down and patted his lap; Shilo jumped up without hesitation.

As he cuddled Shilo, Lisa explained how she had been found on a local street one evening, going through a pile of rubbish.  She had been very thin and very wary of humans. However, Lisa put some food down for her and very slowly was able to coax her into her arms. As Philip stroked Shilo and felt her settle into his lap he suddenly felt very guilty that until this moment Pharaoh hadn’t even entered his mind.  He realised how much he was missing him.

Later, towards the middle of the afternoon, Lisa came across to where he was sunbathing, on the sixteenth day in December as he could hardly believe, and announced that Molly had, indeed, won the silent auction, that the huge table was being delivered tomorrow and on Tuesday evening they were all invited to dinner.

“Let me tell you, Philip, Molly can cook up a storm of a meal. It’s going to be quite an evening.”

“Can I go and buy some wine for the occasion?”

“No, but you can do me a favour.  That same day, the 18th, I need to take the Ford into the repair shop over at Guaymas; about fifteen minutes away.  There’s a potential issue with the steering.  The local Mexicans are brilliant with cars, all types, and most likely will fix the problem in half the time and half the cost of doing the same thing in the States.”

She paused. “But whereas Don can follow me in the morning in his Jeep and bring me back, later in the day that’s going to be a challenge. Because I will have dogs to feed and getting myself ready for Lisa’s dinner.  So wondered if you can you go into Guaymas with Don to pick up my Ford?”

“Sure, I can. No problem.”

“If you follow Don back into San Carlos and go straight to Lisa’s house, just a single turn off the main road, then Don can come and collect me and we both will then come over.”

So it came to pass. Philip drove Lisa’s Ford back from Guaymas and arrived at Molly’s house a little after 5 p.m., the setting sun still allowing him time to be shown around the house.  It was a magnificent property without being ostentatious, with glorious views out over the bay.  The main living room had a wonderful domed ceiling and the new carved table that Molly had acquired at the auction set the whole room off in the grandest of styles.  He could hear the dogs elsewhere chattering happily.  Molly said that the next time he came across during the daytime she would introduce them all to him.

She offered him a glass of wine and, together, they sat on the verandah and made small talk.  Philip was aware how easy it was to be with her.  Not only was she a good listener, she was, as he would say from his sales days, an active listener.  He found that very flattering.

As Lisa had accurately predicted, the meal was outstanding; beautifully cooked and beautifully presented.  Later they all sat outside on the verandah savouring their glasses of wine before Molly went and prepared fresh coffees for all.  Much to Philip’s surprise, a little before 8 p.m., Lisa turned to Don and apologised saying that she was feeling too tired to stay much longer and could Don take them home.

Lisa turned to Philip.

“Listen, there’s no need for you to come back now if you don’t want to.  You got my Ford and you know the way across to the house.”

Just to check, Philip talked the short route to the house over with Don, who nodded, and a few moments later, with Lisa and Don gone, Molly came back out to the verandah.

“Do you want to come into the living room?  Don’t know about you but it’s starting to feel a little too cool for me.”

He took the few steps into the living room and sat back in a comfortable wide easy chair.  Molly refreshed his glass. Two of her dogs came up to his legs and looked up at him with longing eyes.

“That’s Dhalia to your left, and the other is Ruby.  They are both Mexican street dogs that were rescued which I was unable to find homes for.”

He looked at Dhalia and Ruby.  They were both similar in height and fur colouring; shortish, light-brown, straight hair with bright-eyed attentive faces on bodies of about eighteen to twenty inches paw to shoulder.  Ruby, the slightly heavier of the two, jumped up on to the free part of the seat cushion next to where he was sitting. Dhalia stood up on her hind legs, tail wagging fit to burst, and placed both front paws on his knees.  He idly stroked each eager head with each hand.  Ruby, without meeting the slightest resistance from Philip, softly shuffled her body so that her front legs were across his thighs and laid her head down on her front legs.

“They’re beautiful animals, with such gentle natures,” he said to Molly. “I would have expected feral dogs to be, oh I don’t know, more wild, more feral.”

He went on to add, “And there’s something else I’ve noticed about your dogs, Molly, and that is how you have many more female dogs.”

He sensed he may have touched on a sensitive issue.

“Philip, some of the locals around here are very poor.  They will sort through bins looking for anything to sell, trade or eat; not even immune to stealing stuff to sell on, and so on. While in some ways I can understand what the poorer Mexicans have to do, there is one practice that still hurts me even to think about it. I’m referring to their habit of impregnating mother dogs so that when the mother has puppies, they may be sold for a few pesos. But because they can’t afford to keep that mother dog, frequently I find them thrown out on the street not long after she has had her puppies, often with milk still in her teats.”

She paused before saying, “That’s why the majority of the dogs I have taken in are females. That’s why they are such beautiful creatures.  Dogs understand.”

There was a long silence. He was surprised to find himself empathising so strongly with the pain of these mother dogs. As though his experiences of having Pharaoh in his life and the intimate ways that Dhalia and Ruby were connecting with him just now were opening something inside of him; something older than time itself.

Molly cleared her throat. “So, it sounds like it’s been a bit of a year for you.  Lisa filled me in on the details. Must have been a tough period for you.”

“Well, from what Lisa mentioned I’ve not been the only one hurting.  She told me that it wasn’t too long ago that your husband died.  Damn sight worse  losing a long-term loving and devoted husband than what I went through, me thinks.”

Molly replied in a quiet, reflective voice. She talked about her late husband who she had known and loved for years, how he had died of dementia brought on by burst blood vessels in his head, how she had looked after him, non-stop his last few weeks.“Ben and I were married for over twenty-five years and he was so good to me all that time.  But in the end, the dementia turned him into a man I didn’t know and, I hope you’ll forgive me saying this, I was grateful when he eventually died.” He heard the conflict in her voice.

“How old was Ben when he died, Molly?”

“He was much older than me, some thirty-two years my senior, so he was eighty-eight when he died.  I know what you are probably thinking, that I was some young, blond bimbo who grabbed hold of an older man for his money and all that.  But it wasn’t like that at all.  We were genuinely good to each other over all those years and he loved me and I truly loved him, right up to the last.”

“Molly, did you say Ben was thirty-two years older than you. Because,  Maggie was eighteen years younger than me. Interesting pair of age gaps.” He paused, “But I’m sure, indeed certain, that Maggie and I had nothing like the relationship that it sounds as though you and Ben had.”

There was something about this evening, something about Molly’s openness, her seemingly sincere interest in his past, that led Philip to open up his heart and his soul.  He talked, talked and talked, his flow of recollections of past times broken only by questions from Molly. Questions that always seemed the most exquisitely pertinent ones to ask of him.  Questions from this woman who two days previously had met him for the first time.

There were several moments in his recounting of his past years when the emotion caught in his throat; when the corners of his eyes became moist.  Unerringly, each time this happened, Ruby looked at him directly with her soft, brown eyes and licked the fingers of his nearest hand.  And each time that Ruby licked him Dhalia uncurled herself from the carpet just in front of his feet, stood up and put her paws on his knees.

Molly spoke of how all her rescue dogs offered her so much love and affection. How they seemed to know that this particular human had saved their lives.  At a deep, inner level he sensed a common thread. A thread of unconditional love from Molly to these dogs, Ruby to Dhalia, who, in turn, were offering him a feeling of being accepted as worthy of their unconditional love.  He started to understand the potential bliss of living with so many dogs in one’s life.

It was an unbelievable evening in which he lost complete track of time but not only that lost the need to even know the time.  Thus hours later, when he did look at his watch, he could not believe that it was fast approaching eleven-thirty at night.

“Oh, Molly, I’m so sorry.  Seems as though I have just dumped my life story and more on you. How embarrassing. Just look at the time; I’d best be going.” Ruby completely of her own accord slipped off Philip’s lap.

Moments later he stood up and was immediately struck by how far away from everything once familiar to him it all felt now.

They stood just inside the front door.

“Molly, thank you so much for this evening, for letting me practically talk non-stop like that.” There was a pause before he said, “May I ask a favour?”

“Of course, what is it?”

“I would love a hug.”

She silently opened her arms and he just melted into her body.  He knew that it had been a long time since he had needed such a hug and a lifetime since a woman had hugged him like this; being hugged by a woman who seemed to be accepting every part of this torn-up man.  There was a deep compassion and acceptance flowing from her. Ruby and Dhalia watched them; each vigourously wagging a tail.

4,434 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover

Musings on love.

Dedicated to MaryAnne G.

A week ago I started the first of what became four day’s writings about passing the 400ppm CO2 level in the planet’s atmosphere.  As I said in the penultimate post, “In nearly four years of writing for Learning from Dogs, I can’t recall devoting three days of posts to a single subject.

Later that week, I had a wonderful telephone conversation with MaryAnne back in Payson. MaryAnne and husband Ed were among a group of people who did so much to ease our transition into our new home in Arizona.  As part of the process of obtaining my fiancee visa, I was to and fro between Payson and London which meant having to leave Jeannie alone for a number of weeks at a time. So for Jean having to get used to a change of country as well as home and for me wondering if I would ever get the magic piece of paper allowing me and Jean to be married and settle down, having so many loving friends around us was invaluable.

In last week’s telephone conversation MaryAnne spoke so easily about love that I promised her that I would dedicate a post on Learning from Dogs to her.

In fact, rather than one post, I’m setting myself the challenge of writing about love for the entire week, i.e. Monday to Friday.  I will readily admit that over and beyond today’s post, I don’t have more than the vaguest inkling of how the week will pan out.  You have been warned!

But how much better that ‘devoting three days to a single subject‘ should be about love rather than climate change.


Love across the species.

A week ago, we had friend Richard and his partner Julie from England staying with us.  Richard and I go back 40 years and have been wonderful buddies all that time.  Last Monday, I took Richard and Julie across to Wildlife Images just a few miles from the house here in Merlin, Oregon.  As their website explains,

Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center was founded as a non-profit corporation in 1981 by renowned wildlife rehabilitator J. David Siddon. The facility was created in order to provide for the care and treatment of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.

and a little later,

The organization’s clinic, animal sanctuary, and education center are located on 24 acres of land adjacent to the wild and scenic section of Oregon’s famous Rogue River. Animals treated at Wildlife Images have included everything from baby squirrels and badgers to American bald eagles.

Wildlife Images release rate of intakes is near 50 percent each year – far above the national average of 33 percent. Animals with permanently disabling injuries that make them unable to live in the wild are integrated into one of Wildlife Images educational programs, either as educational ambassadors, or as permanent residents of the facility.

While we were looking at the animals, along the pathway came a couple of the volunteer staff walking a Grey Wolf (Canis Lupus).

An afternoon walk for Tundra.
An afternoon walk for Tundra.

I was utterly captivated by this beautiful animal.  Her story was that she was born in captivity and owned by an individual who soon decided he didn’t want her!  Not long thereafter Tundra, as she became named, was brought to the Sarvey Wildlife Center in Washington and thence to Wildlife Images when she was just 8 weeks old.

Tundra turned to look at me. I stood perfectly still and quiet.  Tundra seemed to want to come closer.  As one would with a strange dog, I got down on my knees and turned my eyes away from Tundra’s.  I sensed she was coming towards me so quickly held up my camera and took the picture below.

Wolf greets man.
Wolf greets man.

I kept my gaze averted as I felt the warm breath of this magnificent animal inches from my face.  Then the magic of love across the species!  Tundra licked my face!  The tears came to my eyes and were licked away.  I stroked her and became lost in thought.

Was this an echo of how thousands and thousands of years ago, a wolf and an early man came together out of trust and love and started the journey of the longest animal-human relationship, by far?

As I write elsewhere on this blog,

Dogs are part of the Canidae, a family including wolves, coyotes and foxes, thought to have evolved 60 million years ago.  There is no hard evidence about when dogs and man came together but dogs were certainly around when man developed speech and set out from Africa, about 50,000 years ago.

Let me close the first day of these musings by coming forward all those thousands of years to the year 2012.  To the 6th April, 2012.  To the day that we brought puppy Cleo back home.  That sweet little creature of less than ten weeks of age starting her own journey of love across the species.

10-week-old little Cleo experiencing Jeannie's love for her dogs.
Little Cleo being loved from the start.

The dog’s letter.

A delightful exploration of the letter ‘r’.

This was sent in by reader Colin Reynolds.  To be honest, I cannot do better than to reproduce the entire email.


I only just subscribed to the OED owotd’ yesterday.

Yesterday’s word was a great one for me: ‘quisquilian.

Today’s made me think of you 🙂

dog’s letter

“There is only the difference of the dog’s letter between friend and [fiend].” The Westminster Review (London, UK); 1830.

Colin Reynolds
Some days the best I can do is stick a pencil in each nostril and go ‘wibble‘.

Date: Sun, 5 May 2013 01:30:00 +0100
From: oedwotd@oup.com
Subject: “dog’s letter, n.” – Word of the Day from the OED

OED Online Word of the Day

The March 2013 quarterly update is now available. New words and meanings have been added across the dictionary, including braggadocious, podium, Vulcan, and whip-smart. Find out more…

Your word for today is: dog’s letter, n.

dog’s letter, n.

[‘ A name for the letter R (from its resemblance in sound to the snarl of a dog). Now rare.’]
Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈdɒɡz ˌlɛtə/,  U.S. /ˈdɔɡz ˌlɛdər/, /ˈdɑɡz ˌlɛdər/
Forms:  15 dogges letter,   16 dogs letter,   18– dog’s letter.
Etymology: < the genitive of dog n.1 + letter n.1, after classical Latin littera canīna (Persius).
  A name for the letter R (from its resemblance in sound to the snarl of a dog). Now rare.

a1552  A. Barclay tr. S. Brant Stultifera Nauis (1570) f. 69, This man malicious which troubled is with wrath, Nought els soundeth but the hoorse letter R Though all be well, yet he none aunswere hath, Sauve the dogges letter, glowming with nar nar.
1630  W. Vaughan Arraignment of Slander iii. i. 82 A blasphemous censure.which eyther may be termed a kinde of scurrility, or knauish carping,..or else a doubling of the Dogs letter R. out of their snarling nostrils.
a1637  B. Jonson Eng. Gram. i. iv, in Wks. (1640) III, R is the Dogs Letter, and hurreth in the sound; the tongue striking the inner palate, with a trembling about the teeth.
a1670  J. Hacket Scrinia Reserata (1693) i. 55 Whose pamphlet is perpetuus Rhotacismus, one snarling Dogs-letter all over.
1830 Westm. Rev. 12 356 There is only the difference of the dog’s letter between friend and [fiend].
1858  R. D. Bulwer-Lytton World & his Wife I. ii. ii. 9 In this short query the dog’s letter, the r, whirred through the air.
1943  E. Esar Comic Dict. at R, The dog’s letter-r-r.
So there you go.  Bet you didn’t know that anymore than I did!
Thanks Colin.


The Great Unmentionable by George Monbiot.

A real pleasure and privilege to republish this article from Mr. Monbiot.

For some time now I have subscribed to the articles published by The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia.  From time to time references have been made to PRI articles here on Learning from Dogs.

Recently, I read a PRI essay that had been penned by George Monbiot.  It was called The Great Unmentionable.  It blew me away.  So I took a deep breath and dropped George M. an email asking if I might republish it here.  George was very gracious in giving me such permission.

Mr. George Monbiot.
Mr. George Monbiot.

First some background to George Monbiot for those who are unfamiliar with his work and his writings.  As his website explains:

I had an unhappy time at university, and I now regret having gone to Oxford, even though the zoology course I took – taught, among others, by Richard Dawkins, Bill Hamilton and John Krebs – was excellent. The culture did not suit me, and when I tried to join in I fell flat on my face, sometimes in a drunken stupor. I enjoyed the holidays more: I worked on farms and as a waterkeeper on the River Kennet. I spent much of the last two years planning my escape. There was only one job I wanted, and it did not yet exist: to make investigative environmental programmes for the BBC.

After hammering on its doors for a year, I received a phone call from the head of the BBC’s natural history unit during my final exams. He told me: “you’re so fucking persistent you’ve got the job.” They took me on, in 1985, as a radio producer, to make wildlife programmes. Thanks to a supportive boss, I was soon able to make the programmes I had wanted to produce. We broke some major stories. Our documentary on the sinking of a bulk carrier off the coast of Cork, uncovering evidence that suggested it had been deliberately scuppered, won a Sony award.

Anyway, to the article in question that was published on the Guardian Newspaper’s website, 12th April 2013.


The Great Unmentionable

April 12, 2013

We have offshored both our consumption and our perceptions

By George Monbiot

Every society has topics it does not discuss. These are the issues which challenge its comfortable assumptions. They are the ones that remind us of mortality, which threaten the continuity we anticipate, which expose our various beliefs as irreconcilable.

Among them are the facts which sink the cosy assertion, that (in David Cameron’s words) “there need not be a tension between green and growth.”

At a reception in London recently I met an extremely rich woman, who lives, as most people with similar levels of wealth do, in an almost comically unsustainable fashion: jetting between various homes and resorts in one long turbo-charged holiday. When I told her what I did, she responded, “oh I agree, the environment is so important. I’m crazy about recycling.” But the real problem, she explained, was “people breeding too much”.

I agreed that population is an element of the problem, but argued that consumption is rising much faster and – unlike the growth in the number of people – is showing no signs of levelling off. She found this notion deeply offensive: I mean the notion that human population growth is slowing. When I told her that birth rates are dropping almost everywhere, and that the world is undergoing a slow demographic transition, she disagreed violently: she has seen, on her endless travels, how many children “all those people have”.

As so many in her position do, she was using population as a means of disavowing her own impacts. The issue allowed her to transfer responsibility to other people: people at the opposite end of the economic spectrum. It allowed her to pretend that her shopping and flying and endless refurbishments of multiple homes are not a problem. Recycling and population: these are the amulets people clasp in order not to see the clash between protecting the environment and rising consumption.

In a similar way, we have managed, with the help of a misleading global accounting system, to overlook one of the gravest impacts of our consumption. This too has allowed us to blame foreigners – particularly poorer foreigners – for the problem.

When nations negotiate global cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, they are held responsible only for the gases produced within their own borders. Partly as a result of this convention, these tend to be the only ones that countries count. When these “territorial emissions” fall, they congratulate themselves on reducing their carbon footprints. But as markets of all kinds have been globalised, and as manufacturing migrates from rich nations to poorer ones, territorial accounting bears ever less relationship to our real impacts.

While this is an issue which affects all post-industrial countries, it is especially pertinent in the United Kingdom, where the difference between our domestic and international impacts is greater than that of any other major emitter. The last government boasted that this country cut greenhouse gas emissions by 19% between 1990 and 2008. It positioned itself (as the current government does) as a global leader, on course to meet its own targets, and as an example for other nations to follow.

But the cut the UK has celebrated is an artefact of accountancy. When the impact of the goods we buy from other nations is counted, our total greenhouse gases did not fall by 19% between 1990 and 2008. They rose by 20%. This is despite the replacement during that period of many of our coal-fired power stations with natural gas, which produces roughly half as much carbon dioxide for every unit of electricity. When our “consumption emissions”, rather than territorial emissions, are taken into account, our proud record turns into a story of dismal failure.

There are two further impacts of this false accounting. The first is that because many of the goods whose manufacture we commission are now produced in other countries, those places take the blame for our rising consumption. We use China just as we use the population issue: as a means of deflecting responsibility. What’s the point of cutting our own consumption, a thousand voices ask, when China is building a new power station every 10 seconds (or whatever the current rate happens to be)?

But, just as our position is flattered by the way greenhouse gases are counted, China’s is unfairly maligned. A graph published by the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee shows that consumption accounting would reduce China’s emissions by roughly 45%. Many of those power stations and polluting factories have been built to supply our markets, feeding an apparently insatiable demand in the UK, the US and other rich nations for escalating quantities of stuff.


The second thing the accounting convention has hidden from us is consumerism’s contribution to global warming. Because we consider only our territorial emissions, we tend to emphasise the impact of services – heating, lighting and transport for example – while overlooking the impact of goods. Look at the whole picture, however, and you discover (using the Guardian’s carbon calculator) that manufacturing and consumption is responsible for a remarkable 57% of the greenhouse gas production caused by the UK.

Unsurprisingly, hardly anyone wants to talk about this, as the only meaningful response is a reduction in the volume of stuff we consume. And this is where even the most progressive governments’ climate policies collide with everything else they represent. As Mustapha Mond points out in Brave New World, “industrial civilization is only possible when there’s no self-denial. Self-indulgence up to the very limits imposed by hygiene and economics. Otherwise the wheels stop turning”.

The wheels of the current economic system – which depends on perpetual growth for its survival – certainly. The impossibility of sustaining this system of endless, pointless consumption without the continued erosion of the living planet and the future prospects of humankind, is the conversation we will not have.

By considering only our territorial emissions, we make the impacts of our escalating consumption disappear in a puff of black smoke: we have offshored the problem, and our perceptions of it.

But at least in a couple of places the conjuring trick is beginning to attract some attention.

On April 16th, the Carbon Omissions site will launch a brilliant animation by Leo Murray, neatly sketching out the problem*. The hope is that by explaining the issue simply and engagingly, his animation will reach a much bigger audience than articles like the one you are reading can achieve.

(*Declaration of interest (unpaid): I did the voiceover).

On April 24th, the Committee on Climate Change (a body that advises the UK government) will publish a report on how consumption emissions are likely to rise, and how government policy should respond to the issue.

I hope this is the beginning of a conversation we have been avoiding for much too long. How many of us are prepared fully to consider the implications?



So very difficult to pick out the sentence that carried the most power, for the essay is powerful from start to end.  But this one did hit me in the face, “The impossibility of sustaining this system of endless, pointless consumption without the continued erosion of the living planet and the future prospects of humankind, is the conversation we will not have.

Finally, I can’t resist reminding you, dear reader, of the point made by Prof. Guy McPherson in his book Walking Away from Empire, which I reviewed on March 6th.  particularly in the first paragraph of the first chapter; Reason:

At this late juncture in the era of industry, it seems safe to assume we face one of two futures. If we continue to burn fossil fuels, we face imminent environmental collapse. If we cease burning fossil fuels, the industrial economy will collapse. Industrial humans express these futures as a choice between your money or your life, and tell you that, without money, life isn’t worth living. As should be clear by now, industrial humans — or at least our “leaders” — have chosen not door number one (environmental collapse) and not door number two (economic collapse), but both of the above.

Maybe this is why we seem unable to have the conversation because to do so means we have to look at ourselves in the mirror.  Each one of us, you and me, has to address something so deeply personal.  Back to Prof. McPherson and page 177 of his book (my emphasis):

It’s no longer just the living planet we should be concerned about. It’s us. The moral question, then: What are you going to do about it?

For my money, Mr. Monbiot is yet another voice of reason in the wilderness; another voice that deserves to be followed.  I say this because by way of introduction to his philosophy, he opens thus:

My job is to tell people what they don’t want to hear. That is not what I set out to do. I wanted only to cover the subjects I thought were interesting and important. But wherever I turned, I met a brick wall of denial.

Denial is everywhere. I have come to believe that it’s an intrinsic component of our humanity, an essential survival strategy. Unlike other species, we know that we will die. This knowledge could destroy us, were we unable to blot it out. But, unlike other species, we also know how not to know. We employ this unique ability to suppress our knowledge not just of mortality, but of everything we find uncomfortable, until our survival strategy becomes a threat to our survival.

“… until our survival strategy becomes a threat to our survival.”

I sense the growing of this threat to the point where maybe within less than a year the vast majority of open-minded, thinking individuals know the truth of where we are all heading.

Nostalgic musings

Early days in London

In my recent post Electrosensitivity, I wrote about “spending a number of years studying for a Diploma in Electrical Engineering at Faraday House, Southampton Row, London and becoming a UK Radio Amateur at the age of 17 (G3PUK)“.

In reverse order, I shall start with becoming a UK Radio Amateur, now rather back in the mists of time!

After my father died in 1956 my mother subsequently remarried.  Her new husband was Richard Mills and he was very knowledgeable about radio matters; he was a technical author in the radio-communications industry.  It was Richard, my step-dad, who showed me how to make a crystal set and I started listening to the strange world of wireless radio.  It fascinated me and motivated me to save up my pennies and buy an ex-military radio receiver known as a R1155.


I had joined the Harrow Radio Society who, amazingly, are still active today, as their website demonstrates.

Under the fabulous tutelage of many of the older ‘hams’ I went on to sit my exams and on Valentine’s Day 1962 was awarded the Postmaster-General’s Amateur Radio Certificate.  I applied for a call-sign and was allocated G3PUK.  I was just 17 years old!



Now some memories of Faraday House.  I can do no better than refer you to an article that appeared on the Electrical Review website in the UK.  As the article was published over three years ago, I think republishing it on Learning from Dogs isn’t being too naughty.


Faraday House Association closes after 105 years


It is with sadness we report the Faraday House Old Students Association (FHOSA) is to close after operating continuously over the last 105 years. It had been host to thousands of chartered electrical engineers. The Association membership is derived from old students of Faraday House.

In 1888 the revised Electric Lighting Act encouraged many local authorities to apply for Parliamentary Powers to establish generating stations to transmit power. Faraday House was founded to train engineers in this new practice. The college started life as the Electrical Standardising, Testing and Training Institution at Charing Cross but in June 1890 used the name Faraday House. It was located in the Charing Cross area, and fees were 100 guineas per annum. The first Faraday House Dinner was held in 1895 – it was free and some 170 attended. In 1905 the FHOSA was formed and 100 old students joined. A move was then made to Southampton Row. By now the college had 110 students.

In 1909 Dr Russell was appointed principal, and pioneered the sandwich course. This meant students had a year or so of theory and then experienced work in industry, returning again to more theory. By 1914 many old students joined up and a crash course was started to aid the war effort. By 1919 some 350 had been in the services and 34 had died. In 1920 the fees had risen to 300 guineas.

By 1928 1000 students had joined the Old Students Association and in 1929 a 40th anniversary dinner was held. In 1939 a discussion with the governors resulted in a decision to evacuate the college to Thurlestone in Devon. A new principal, Dr WRC Coode-Adams, took over from Dr Russell. Faraday House took over the Links Hotel. Staff and students who were married lived in the hotel or in houses that had been taken over by the college.

In 1942 the college returned to Southampton Row. After the war Faraday House had difficulty in recruiting, students were lured to other colleges and universities by grants. In 1957 Mr GH Randolph Martin was appointed Principal. He had been a lecturer at the college since 1948. The college closed its doors in 1967 as losses were now running at £20,000 per year.

During its lifetime Faraday House produced a succession of engineers who attained the most senior positions in industry and electrical supply in many countries, and six old students have been president of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (now the IET).

The Old Students Association has a membership that is steadily growing older and shrinking as members die. The closure was inevitable without younger people coming forward to run it. The FHOSA will shut its doors finally after the Annual General Meeting in March 2010.

Here’s the front of the building.

Faraday House, London
Faraday House, London

How the years have flown by!