At long, long, last!


I suppose everyone does this, don’t they?

I look back at the very few photographs I have and think that, actually, I was quite good looking. By which, I mean that, at the time, I didn’t realise it or I thought that, whereas not downright ugly, I was not “all that”.

And, of course, at that moment, what I thought looked really cool, actually may not have looked that good. But looking back at these phtographs, I realise that, actually, I was quite good looking and I wish I had known that then, at that time and, better, had done something with it.

But, physically, my ideas of how I looked are NOT the same as the reality.

For example, for many, many years, in my head, I had a button nose. Even when I looked in the mirror, that’s what I saw. I hated this button nose. I wanted a long one, perhaps more of a Roman one. In fact, I would spend time pulling my nose down and out as I really hated this button nose.

It wasn’t until I mentioned it one time in company that I was put straight about this thing. I didn’t have, and never had had, such a thing as a button nose.

Now, although I realise this to be true, my mind plays tricks on me and, occasionally, I still think of it as a button nose. Which, even as I think about it, I know not to be true – like now, when I’m writing this. Still, in my head (at this moment), I think of it as short, stubby abd turned up.

The other thing that’s important to me, as far as physical looks go, is my hair. This has been so every since I can remember. At 12 I was telling my parents that “everyone has long hair at school, and I want long hair too”. Really! I only “saw” long hair on other kids but now, I realise, this cannot have been true.

My hair has always been ‘important’ to me. When I was about 17 or so was the ‘best time’ (apart from the other best times, of course). In reverse order, I’ve had very short and natural grey, very short and not-natural, almost-black, slightly longer and black, shortish and natural, longish and natural, spikey and long and blonde, normal and natural, long almost to my waist and natural, longish, just past shoulder-length and natural (the ‘best one’), spikey and sometimes blue and before that I don’t remember.

But, since F convinced me to stop dying my hair (and I ended up with the first one in the above list), I haven’t been entirely happy. So, since the summer before last, I grew it.

In my head, it reminds me of the ‘best’ one from when I was 17.

In the mirror, I see a head full of hair, longish flowing locks, nearly as it should be – but not quite.

And then I see photos of myself now. It looks quite dreadful. In the photo. In the mirror (and my head) it looks nothing like that. I picture myself as I was at 17, just back from holiday, brown, with these flowing locks and looking really good.

And, even if I know that the camera doesn’t lie, I still think that it does. Or, at least, it distorts. Maybe it wasn’t a good day? Maybe it was a little windy?

And my hair is thinner now. I know this for if I put a mirror to show me the back of my head, you can see I’m going a bit bald. Except I was thinking that about 20 years ago. It just never really quite happened! But I am certain it’s much thinner than it was and the almost-bald-patch is now almoster bald.

So, where were we?

Ah, yes. So, in my head and when I look at myself in a mirror, I am almost the same as when I was 17. Except I’m not, of course.

And I started growing it because I wanted a style. Some sort of style but I wasn’t sure what. I thought: if I grow it I can choose what to have. Except, after almost a couple of years I’m no closer to making a decision.

And, even if I’ve asked F for his advice, I get nothing from him. And I’ve been wanting him to suggest something or say something but I could solicit nothing.

Until last night.

For our anniversary, as normal, I came with a last-minute idea for a present. The present was one of those digital picture frames. I’ve always thought they were a bit of a waste of time but, you know, when you have little idea of what to buy, it came in a flash that this might be something he would like, being keen on photography and all.

And, it turns out, it was a great choice. He loves it. And so he spent a long time putting over 300 photos on it which he brought over last night to show me. Of course, they are 300+ photos of the dogs!

But in some of them, there is him or me (with the dogs).

One came up of me the summer before last, when we were on holiday in Umbria, just before I started growing my hair.

“You should cut your hair,” he says, when he sees it. “Short hair makes you look younger.” I tell him that I am very happy that he is making some comment. And I AM very happy. It’s just not quite the comment that I want.

Sure, I want to look younger.

I’m not that bothered about looking younger.

Maybe he WANTS me to look younger? Maybe he thinks that I look much older now? I want to do what he wants. I don’t care about being younger or older and, yet, …… I do care on some level.

Later I suggest that I need a style and should he see something, to tell me. His response was “It’s too thin.” He means, of course, go and get it cut, really short, all over – like it was.

In my head, of course, it’s not at all THAT thin. I reply that it’s been like this for years and years.

But he’s right, of course. He suggests that maybe I can keep it like this for the winter and get it cut in the spring. He doesn’t really think that, of course. He’s just saying that. Maybe my face said too much?

Of course, this isn’t really what I want to hear but, in his way, he’s being nice whilst being quite direct. This idea I had that I have hair like I was 17 or, even, that I had almost convinced myself that I look like some old, eccentric, English professor should be banished from my brain. Should be but it’s very difficult to do.

And, although I absolutely HATE the idea of not having a choice any more, he is, of course, quite right. And I am so glad that he’s finally said SOMETHING!

Now all I have to do is to summon up the courage to go and get it done! This is not easy for me and will take me some time and then I have to choose somewhere to have it done. This, too, is quite difficult. I have to pick the right place. I remember when I went from waist-length to quite short, when I first went to work. It was almost the most excruciatingly painful thing I had ever done (not physically but mentally). I can only imagine how Samson must have felt. This will be the same.

I am convinced that no one else has this problem (the pain of having one’s hair cut). For no one else does it seem such a big deal. I don’t even know why it is for me. It’s just weird! It’s the stuff in my head …. again!

Or, maybe I CAN find a style ………..?????

We go to the vet (and other things)

I weigh it up in my mind. Emergency or not?

Of course, in reality, one day or two probably won’t make any difference but I am worried.

Just because I’m worried doesn’t make it a real emergency, though, does it?

No but I would absolutely hate for it to be my fault if something bad happened.

So, although it may not be an emergency, they SHOULD have been here and, so, it is an emergency and won’t wait for another day or two.

But let’s step back a bit.

I didn’t leave work early yesterday. Probably because of my undoubtedly-misplaced loyalty. In any event, I left ‘on time’. I parked and went to see about the tyres. The old, miserable guy remembered me. Or remembered the car. I booked. They keep the tyres in their store since I have nowhere to put them – and the store is somewhere else in Milan, so no doing it straight away.

Anyway, I don’t really want it done before Easter. I want good tyres for going up to the lake (for that is where we are going). If it rains a lot, the winter tyres hold the road better.

Then I go to the supermarket. Not my normal supermarket since I need soap and, therefore, I have to go to the horrible supermarket, Unes. It used to be my favourite supermarket until I found the meat wasn’t so good and they kept overcharging me for plastic bags, etc. Now I hate it. But they do the soap that I like and so I have to go there. I try to get round it as fast as I can, not only because I don’t like it but also because I have to take Dino to the vet.

I get my stuff and pay and leave. Back at the car, I put the shopping in and drive the few streets home. Of course, I am later than normal and so there is no parking in my usual street :-(. I drive around a bit and, eventually, park in a dodgy place – on a corner. Ah well, other people do it. Mind you, my normal parking is half-on the pavement in a street where it has a sign showing that cars will be towed away.

But we are in Italy and everyone does the same and, so far, mine has not been towed away. And nor has anyone else’s. So I park in a place that in England would be absolutely illegal and for which you would certainly find you had a big fine – if not that your car had been towed away.

I rush to get cigarettes since I am nearly out.

I rush home and change my shoes and take my tie off and off we go. I notice that Dino now has a cough as well. This is not good :-(

I feel rushed. And hot, even if it isn’t quite so hot. Spring is back with a vengeance – meaning it is cool and overcast and not really that nice. Milan is grey when it’s cloudy. More like Aberdeen (in summer :-) ) than a city near the Mediterranean!

Dino is a bit confused because although we start as normal for our early evening walk, we deviate.

There are a lot of people about which is why, normally, I don’t come down this street. Too many shops and stuff and the pavement is not very wide. It means Dino cannot wee as often as he would like.

As we approach the vet, I see that the shutters seem to be down.

When we get there I see it is closed. I check the opening times on the notice. Yes, they are supposed to be open. There is a motorbike outside and it may be one of the two vets. I try to call the vet number – the phone inside. It rings but no one answers. I look at the notice. There are two mobile numbers to call ‘in an emergency’.

Then I spot another, temporary notice. It explains that they are sorry but the practice is closed this afternoon. In an emergency phone this mobile number – one of the ones on the main notice.

And now we have caught up. I phone the number. I get the not-so-nice-vet. I explain the problem. He is sorry that they are not open. I humpf in my head. I am not happy. It’s a good job I hadn’t come home early especially to take him there. But I don’t say this. I explain he has what seems like a very bad cold.

He asks if he is coughing – except he uses the Italian word for it. Cough is a difficult word for Italians – unsurprising when you consider its spelling to its pronunciation. I explain that he wasn’t until this evening.

He asks if he’s eating. I say that he is – which he is. He says its a virus and common at this time of year. I think it must be Kennel Cough.

Anyway, he asks what I have left over from the time when we had Rufus – as we kept on having lots of pills for him. I say I don’t know and he says I should telephone him and he will advise if anything I have is good for Dino.

I rush home. The chemist will close in just over half an hour and if I need to buy something, I need to do it soon. Of course, I moved a lot of the bandages and plasters and stuff that we used to use with Rufus, into storage above the wardrobes. At least, I hope I did else I don’t know where they all are. And, of course, there’s the bathroom cabinet stuff. Some dog’s stuff might be in there.

I get the stepladder and find the stuff I am looking for in the second box I open. I get the stuff from the bathroom too. It goes onto the kitchen table and I make the call. I don’t have so much, to be honest. I thought I had more. Ah well.

The vet tells me that none of the stuff I have is any good and I must get this other stuff. He should have one pill tonight and one in the morning. Then I should phone him tomorrow. The stuff I am getting is anti-inflammatory.

I rush to the chemist. I get the pills. Dino has one. Or, rather, I shove it to the back of his throat and clamp his jaws shut, massaging his neck so that he swallows.

Last night I was really quite angry with the vet; for being closed; for not being there in MY emergency.

This morning, Dino is much better. He still has the occasional problem but is definitely more lively than the last few days. He didn’t cough at all this morning. And I didn’t get woken up in the night. But I shall take him to the vets this evening, just in case. I am not so angry with the vet now and, anyway, any anger is negated by the fact that the pills seem to have worked.

All growed up?

Of course, it could just be me but he does seem different.

A bit quieter. I mean to say, he still has his mad moments, still plays with the toys (always picking out the newest toys – carefully selecting them from the huge basket that, since F has been with us, is almost overflowing – and by ‘selecting’, he really does choose which one, taking a few moments to pick out one of the latest even if they are not on the top), still getting overexcited when F walks through the door, etc., etc.

But definitely a bit quieter. We were at the cafe this morning for breakfast. F had taken him for his morning walk and we met up there. Sure, he was pleased to see me but sat once I had sat. Watched for F as he went in to get breakfast and then remained sitting whilst we ate and drank.

Other dogs now are not necessarily so interesting unless they are female in which case his nose is often pressed right on their behind so that they look like two dogs joined together. Not all females. Just some. A suggests that this is because he is an Italian dog. I think it’s because he is a dog. But I can’t argue with A because that would just annoy me since logic is not his forte, even if he is an engineer – at least when it comes to things Italian.

No, it’s as if he is all grown up.

For me it’s not only his age but also because, now that Rufus has gone, he is not the little puppy anymore.

Or maybe it’s both.

But he has turned out, as I predicted, to be the best dog I’ve ever had. Not quite perfectly behaved all the time but, dammit, near enough and the only things he does wrong now (like his tendency to jump up) are because F encourages him to do it.

Yep, he is all growed up now.

OK, so this is WEIRD!

It may be that, although I am writing this, it is too ‘disturbing’ to post. We shall see. If I post it, I shall leave this bit in and warn you that you may choose not to read it, which is fine by me. At least you will understand that I was, in some way, reluctant to post it but feel that it should be posted.

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The Jewelry Box

I didn’t really know what to expect.

In the end it’s like quite a pretty jewelry box. Blue, marble effect. With a gold coloured clasp on the front.

He tells me it’s sealed but we can break the seal if we want. It’s sealed because that is the law. On the back it has the name. And the name of the company. Inside, he tells me, is a plastic bag.

It’s not what I was expecting. It’s neither a ceramic urn nor some sort of plastic container – either of which would have made more sense to me.

We are, apparently, going to put a photo of him on the box. F will do that, being as he’s ‘visual’.

It sits, at the moment, on the coffee table in the lounge. For some strange reason, I felt it had to be in a ‘place’ not just shoved in a corner. So it sits, on it’s own, apart from the table lamp, on the table. I’m not really sure what to do with it, to be honest.

So, it sits there.

F will be back tomorrow. Maybe he will want to put it somewhere else?

Dust is dust and ashes are, well, just that.

I read that one British woman, who lives abroad, is suing the owners of Costa Concordia for the loss of her husband’s ashes.

I’ve always wondered what the fascination is about getting back the ashes. I’ve thought it strange. I mean, the person, as a living human being can make you laugh or cry can love you or hate you – but the ashes? What are they other than a pile of, well, burnt remains.

It’s a bit like ‘things’ really. I mean, I like to have nice things but, you know, they’re just ‘things’ – a piece of wood or metal or plastic or ash. I can’t get upset over a ‘thing’.

But tonight, as a first, I may be going to collect Rufus’ ashes.

Of course, this is for F really, as you might realise. For me, I shall remember the funny way he used to jump up, later to raise his front legs as in a rearing horse and latterly barely making it off the ground, before we went for a walk. Rather than Dino’s complete turn round.

I will remember his pretty face and the way his ‘trot’ was so ‘refined’ unlike Dino’s rather big-arse, swinging gait – Rufus walked like a model.

I shall remember his gentleness when taking food, much like Dino now, before he became blind and would snatch it out of your hand (almost, sometimes, taking your hand too!)

I shall remember the time he caught a live rabbit (although it wasn’t live for long) and then, on returning to the house how he wouldn’t come in until he had eaten every single bit of it. And my worry that it might have myxomatosis, even though, quite obviously, the rabbit didn’t have that.

I shall remember, when I was preparing to drive here with our belongings, how he got in the car about 8 in the morning and wouldn’t leave the car – not for any reason, as if he was frightened he would be left behind. And the drive down with him curled up in a tiny space and stopping often for him to have a stretch.

I shall remember getting Dino and Dino and him playing in the park with a huge tree branch that had come down in a storm, each trying to pull it off the other, lots of growling but no malice in that – it was part of the game – before Rufus became too weak to be able to match Dino.

I shall remember that he was a great dog.

But, of the ashes, I’m not really sure. I have mixed feelings about wanting them in my house. It seems kind of morbid. I must have become old. I think it will just be another thing that will want cleaning. And, anyway, I don’t believe it will be the ashes of Rufus. Just some ash. Not the same thing at all really. But I won’t tell F that. I’ll let him believe what he wants. I would even confirm that it was, if he should ever ask.

Will it be in some nice jar or something terribly gaudy and trashy? After all, in my head, keeping the ashes of something is trashy – or that’s how I thought. It wasn’t done in our family. And I’m a little nervous about how F will take this – whereas, for me, the essence of Rufus remains in my memories, just like the essence of my grandfather is not in some little plot in some churchyard in rural Herefordshire. I can’t get attached to some thing. It has to have a beating heart. Without that it doesn’t bring out the same feeling.

And yet …….

I feel some trepidation at going to the vet. As if there is some real finality about it all. As if, by not getting this, I can imagine him not dead but alive somewhere. As if he might come home. Or, perhaps this waiting for the urn and the ashes is, in some strange way, keeping him more ‘alive’ in my head. Stretching out the death process by over a week.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s not a sadness in these thoughts (although maybe a slightly damp eye). It’s an unknown and strange feeling I have.

But like all the other ‘firsts’ since I’ve come to Italy, I must steel myself and go do this thing, even if I would prefer not to.

Not the perfect morning but, at least, Dino knows what he’s doing!

I go right.

For Dino, this is wrong.

I wonder why he wants to go straight on.

Earlier, as I quietly called him from the bedroom and, at the moment he realised that we were, in fact, going out for a walk, I wondered how it is that dogs, no matter what time of the day or night, no matter if they are already awake or still asleep, think that any time is a great time to go for a walk?

It has been a while. Before Christmas, F didn’t need to get to work early and so, took the dogs out in the morning, meaning I could get up later.

Then we had all that time off work, meaning that I didn’t have to get up.

Then, until today, F was able to take Dino out.

Until this morning.

Of course, without Rufus, everything is much faster. So instead of 5.25 a.m., as it had been, I set the alarm for 5.45. It’s not much, but any extra is more than welcome.

But this is the first time for weeks and weeks that I have had to get up so early.

Have I mentioned before that I’m not really a morning person? For that matter, I’m not much of an evening person either. In fact, I’m probably what you would call a ‘middle of the day’ person and even that’s doubtful as I get older.

So, I get up, call Dino, close the door to the bedroom and get dressed, Dino becoming more excited as he gets to realise that we are, actually, going to go out. Doing his ‘talking’ thing, as I put my shoes on.

I wrap up well as I know it will be bloody cold out there, the weekend seeming to herald the real start of winter.

But, to be honest, my head is still sound asleep on the pillow and things I am doing are almost automatic rather than with any thought.

We cross the traffic lights and I start to go right. Dino has continued to walk straight on. After a second, I realise he is right. We only go right when it is later (so as to avoid most of the shops and people). At this time in the morning there is rarely anyone on the street and very few cars. The traffic lights are flashing amber, as they do until 6.

He has remembered. His head is NOT still on the floor asleep. I wonder how he can (really) tell the difference? I mean, sure it is early and there are no people around but, really, this is not very much different from, say, Sunday morning, when we go right and not straight on!

As we walk past the café, I also realise that there is a reason that I have my dog coat. It is cold, I have just woken up and, as usual at this time (and with the colder weather), my nose is starting to run. My dog coat includes some tissues. This coat does not.

On the bright side, we are so much faster without Rufus now.

We get to the actual dog area. We go inside. Of course, there are no other dogs. Dino decides he wants to play but here, unfortunately, there is little to play with. Little, except stones. But since I was told they can damage his teeth, I discourage it. But he is having none of the discouragement. He bends his front legs and puts his head to one side on the ground to pick up the stone. I tell him ‘no’ but to no avail. However, he drops it to allow me to pick it up and throw it. I tell him how sorry I am as I throw it outside the fence.

I decide that, as we have no toys to play with, no stick to throw, we should go home.

He finds another stone.

He waits for me to throw it. I kick it outside the fence. I will have to find a toy I can stash in my dog coat for just this very occasion. And I shan’t forget my dog coat tomorrow.

We go home and I get ready and have coffee. Once I have put on my jeans I realise that the zip has broken. I have to go into the bedroom and find another pair by the light of my phone.

As I leave the flat, I quietly open all the doors and quietly close and lock the front door.

It is only at work, about an hour later, that I remember the F wanted to be woken as he had to shave and be at work early. Damn! Luckily (I think), he woke early enough. I guess I will find out later if it was early enough to shave.

This morning was not the perfect morning. Tomorrow will be better.

Gotta look forward, right?

The trouble with Dino was that he was always ‘in your face'; never still; always wanting attention.

He would watch Rufus and, any time Rufus might be getting more affection or attention, he would be there, looking to get more attention, barging in front of Rufus, latterly, knocking him out of the way.

He was never just ‘still’.

Now he is. He lies there and you have to coax him over to you.

Of course, this makes him seem very sad. So we think he is sad. Or, maybe, he is?

So he is getting extra attention. He has treats more often. He gets more walks, more play, more ‘quality’ time. And he’s not asking for it so often.

But this feeling of him being sad won’t go away.

When he does go out for a walk, he strains at the lead, almost running. As if he has to get somewhere quickly. It seems like he needs to check to see where Rufus is. Again, this is our thought and not necessarily his. But he doesn’t pull on the way back home. Having not found Rufus, maybe he is resigned?

And, whereas I hate myself for assuming he has these human emotions (or, rather, human understanding), it made me email the kennels yesterday. I want him to have a playmate. I don’t like him being this quiet.

The new puppies will be born towards the end of February. That means (if I remember correctly) we could have one at the end of April/beginning of May. He won’t take the place of Rufus. Rufus didn’t take the place of Sam. Each has their own character and therefore bring a different set of dynamics to the household. I’m sure a new puppy would have an effect but what effect, exactly, I cannot say.

But you’ve gotta look forward, right? Right?

Would you like a great evening of entertainment and fun in Milan? Don’t miss this!

We had booked tickets before.

Obviously, had we known that we were going to lose Rufus, we would not have gone but, in a way, it was nice just to be able to laugh and enjoy something.

And, it was wonderful, spectacular and fun.

I’m talking of the musical Priscilla (pronounced prishilla here). F was a bit worried. He hates these things being translated into Italian (apparently Mamma Mia was in the original language (good) whereas Grease had everything translated – even the songs (very, very bad, according to F)).

However, he had a voucher from his last birthday (not the one a few days ago) and it needed to be used. So we had booked for last night.

It seems some time since I went to a musical and they are incredible fun. The music was superb and I particularly like the three women who spent most of their time hanging from wires above the stage, singing their hearts out.

The costumes were unbelievably good, especially for the version of MacArthur Park.

It was only a few times where I didn’t get the jokes during the dialogue (the dialogue being in Italian – the songs remained in original language).

If you live in or near Milan, you should go.

And here is a link to a blog (in English) by the creators/producers, who brought the show to Milan

Only one thing. The theatre was about a third full. I am certain it would have more fun with a fuller theatre. Of course, it was a Tuesday night, not long after New Year but after the holidays, so maybe that was the reason. However, just before the curtain went up, we (in the cheaper seats) were encouraged to move closer – to the most expensive seats. In theory, we could have paid about €39 and been sitting in €79 seats! We both agreed that it surely would have been better to sell tickets at a lower price (even if only for these mid-week shows) so that the theatre would have been fuller.

We felt sorry for the company who put their heart into the whole thing. I think everyone in the audience clapped extra hard to try to make up for the fact that we were so few.

But it was really fabulous. Please go. I can guarantee a truly enjoyable evening’s entertainment and you should know every song.

I would give it five stars.

And here, as it’s one of F’s favourite songs (and one of the highlights of the show), is MacArthur Park –

(p.s. the version in Milan, to me, was even better than this one even if the stage was smaller)

Some final thoughts

Thanks guys for the thoughts and comments about Rufus. I’m afraid I couldn’t really reply yesterday.

There are moments when, unexpectedly, I think of something and it brings a lump to my throat. It can be any time. Like when I was driving to work this morning.

It’s like the lack of sound. There isn’t any ‘click, click, click, click’ any more. The flat is more silent. His nails were long (they have been cut several times in the past) and so we culd even be woken up by the clickety click of him walking around.

F did a montage of pictures yesterday. And a short video I hadn’t seen. We had gone for a drink and taken Dino with us and, when we arrived home we viewed the pictures and the video. It made me cry. Great big tears. Which started F off too.

Everyone has been, of course, very kind.

F is going to do some sort of sign for the urn. Bless him.

For Christmas, F gave me a snow globe with pictures of the dogs inside. It was when they were playing out at the front of the flat we stayed in on holiday. Rufus enjoyed that holiday, for sure. And I am happy that he enjoyed that holiday. We all enjoyed that holiday.

But I think F has come round to the idea of a new puppy. “Can we get one that has the same colour eyes as Dino?”, he asked me. I explained it was unlikely since, for a grey Beardie, his eyes are a green/blue colour – most unusual. To be honest, I don’t think it would matter much.

He may have gone now but he remains with us.