Thursday, 8 March 2012

The life and times of me!: For Graham

The life and times of me!: For Graham: It was 16 years ago when you came to live with me from Saudi Arabia . You were apparently bred for dog-fighting but had contracted distempe...

For Graham

It was 16 years ago when you came to live with me from Saudi Arabia. You were apparently bred for dog-fighting but had contracted distemper and were expected to die. You were just six weeks old and so weak that I left you in a box in the garden and vowed not to get too attached.

But you were obviously stronger than you looked and had a fierce determination that belied how weak and frail your little body was. So I allowed myself to get a little bit closer and moved you into the house.

I gave you a person’s name, not a dog’s: Graham.

You were so clever… and cheeky! You pretended to be ill, even when the vet gave you the all clear, just so I would carry you around.

We went everywhere together! The only dog allowed in restaurants in Bahrain because you gave the Manager those ‘feel sorry for me eyes’ as your chin rested on my shoulder with your paws holding around my neck.

You sure knew how to play to the crowd, Graham, and everyone that met you fell in love with you.

A year later, I threw a stick into the sea for you to fetch. You came out struggling to carry what looked like a sack of rubbish. I tried to pull you away but you refused to move.

Inside were nine little puppies. Six were dead but three were alive.

We took them home with us – they were so ill. One died that night, but I nursed the other two back to health as you kept a vigil next to them.

They became your sisters and the three of you became the best of friends. As the ‘big brother’ you always looked out for them – Jau and Asker – named after the beach where you found them. Asker still lives with me today, an old lady of 15.

I can’t believe that it is six and a half years since I came to meet you, and your sisters, at Heathrow Airport. You had travelled 4,000miles to be with me. That was the happiest day of my life.  I had received the call the night before to say that you had boarded the flight but I was too nervous to call the next morning to make sure that you had made it.

My mum and I waited anxiously at the Animal Reception Centre. A nurse came out and started speaking…

“The dobermann….” she began.

I held my breath…

You had been so nervous on the flight that you had had a really upset stomach and were being cleaned up.

The three of you came through a few minutes later. I will never forget those licks and cuddles as I fell to the floor – all four of us unable to contain our excitement and relief at seeing each other again.

My dream came true a few months later as I watched you running through the green fields of England – you loved those summer days!

But time can be cruel and, sadly, dogs don’t live as long as man and three years ago you suffered, not one, but two strokes. Once again you weren’t expected to live, and, once again, you defied all odds and, not only survived, but walked and even ran again!

Easter Sunday last year loomed warm and Sunday and my friend, Juliet, and I had chosen that day to plant some herbs in the garden and have a barbeque.

You were in the shade of the house but came outside to eat your dinner. You had that little smile on your face as you ran back towards me in the kitchen.

Then you sat down. I knew you so well. I knew that something was terribly wrong. Don’t ask me how I knew. I just did. You see I knew you so well.

I held your paw then, as you breathed your last breath and slipped away from me.

You were my best-friend and unofficial protector, we looked out for each other. We had a secret language between us that only dog-owners will understand.

 It’s almost a year now, Graham, since I last rubbed your ear between my fingers as your head rested on my knee but I think of you everyday.

Some days I smile at the fun times we had and other days I cry that I will never, in this life, see you again.

But one thing I feel every single day is grateful… Grateful to have had your unconditional love for 15 years… What a boy and what a life!

Thank you Graham…

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Trials and Tribulations of Repatriation.

As I was sat having my hair blow dried and my nails manicured in the salon at the weekend, my mind drifted back to days gone by and my ‘former life’ in Bahrain

To a time when someone else coiffured my hair 3 times a week, as a girl hung off every limb whilst my hands and feet were delicately massaged and my fingers and toes neatly manicured and pedicured.

Five years on and how things have changed…

First note to self (and others looking to repatriate): Hair straighteners in the UK are electronic ironing devices that are too hot to massage your scalp with - not those wonderful ladies from Thailand.

It was a cold and damp November morning in 2007 as I anxiously waited for the doorbell to ring with my ‘door to door’ shipment from the Middle East. A whole container and a half filled with my worldly possessions of the last 13 years - apart from my 3 darling dogs that were due to arrive the following week.

The doorbell never rang….

By early evening, I gave up and opened the front door to go out...

There, all neatly wrapped in (now sodden) cardboard were my treasured possessions piled up outside my house. Thousands of pounds worth of antiques and Persian rugs had been standing there since morning.

Second note to self (and others looking to repatriate): ‘Door to Door’ literally means to the door – not inside the door!! You need to recruit a local removal company to actually take your shipment inside the house.

Anyway, not used to walking anywhere, the next thing I needed was a car! I went out and bought myself a ‘practical' 4x4, seeing as my new home was in rural Shropshire.

Third note to self (and others looking to repatriate):  Being used to driving in a country where bottled water is more expensive than petrol, you may not find a ‘4x4’ quite so practical as you now have to budget (yes actually budget!) for petrol. (Having said that, this is a perfect excuse, like me, to ‘downsize’ to a Porsche)!!

I did, however, have lots of fun discovering my new neighbourhood back in those early days and managed to get lost on many occasions. Coming from an archipelago of islands to Shropshire made taking directions from the ‘locals’ somewhat confusing!

Fourth note to self (and others looking to repatriate):  People in the Midlands have a habit of calling roundabouts, ‘Islands’ do not spend your time looking for bridges!

One day in particular springs to mind, when my mum and I ended up driving in a muddy field so I decided to take my car to the local petrol station to get cleaned. I paid the £8 fee for the ‘gold package’ and drove into the jet wash.

My mum and I sat and waited for the ‘little man’ to arrive to clean the car.

We waited…

And waited….

I climbed out and went inside to enquire as to his whereabouts.

There was no ‘little man’… One had to clean it oneself!!!! 

Fifth note to self (and others looking to repatriate):  The ‘gold package’ at a jet wash does not include any men.

Sixth note to self (and others looking to repatriate):  Do not wear Jimmy Choo shoes to a jet wash.

On the subject of transportation, I move on to airports and air travel.

For me, I think perhaps the biggest personal loss post-repatriation were my gold and platinum airline cards and my first class travel around the globe.

Business travel these days means I have to seek approval for a train ticket over £50 and personal travel is normally on a ‘no frills’ budget airline commuting back and fourth to my place in Italy.

Seventh note to self (and others looking to repatriate):  To avoid Britain’s tattoo-clad great unwashed, purchase advance lounge access and priority boarding passes and refrain from asking for that second glass of champagne onboard – you now have to pay for it!!!

Without those long r and r days and additional Islamic holidays, personal travel is now, sadly, few and far between and much more time is spent at work for a salary that goes mainly to the tax man, the local council (for bin collection once every two weeks!) and National Insurance (as I have only been to the doctors once in 5 years do you think I could ask for a refund??), free time is obviously important, therefore:

Eighth note to self (and others looking to repatriate): Find yourself a ‘lady that does’ as soon as you possibly can so you don’t spend hours wondering what the exact purpose is of skirting boards as you spend your weekends cleaning them.

Ninth note to self (and others looking to repatriate): If single, marry a dentist prior to repatriation! National Insurance does not cover your dentistry bills and I have yet to meet a poor one!

Tenth note to self (and others looking to repatriate): Invest in ear plugs for supermarket shopping – it will drown out the tutting and jeering from the queue of people behind you at the checkout as you re-educate yourself on how to pack your shopping bags!

By the way…. What are skirting boards for anyway??????

Monday, 13 February 2012

Leg Wear!

Shoes.... A topic close to many a female's heart!

So, what defines shoes as 'sensible'?

Last week I was helping host a Press Launch and knew there would be a lot of standing required. I wanted a look that was still glamorous but that was also practical and so bought what I would term as 'sensible shoes'...

To make up for the fact that I deemed them a little 'frumpy' (ie. only 11cm as opposed to the 'normal' minimum 15cm I would usually wear), I popped out at lunchtime to John Lewis to purchase some elegant legwear:

That's tights to me but, depending where you are reading this, these could also be termed as stockings or pantyhose.

I chose a pair of high-gloss with a seam up the back.

Tone: Nude

Size: One-size fits all

Now the fun really starts! How does one define 'Nude' and 'one-size fits all'?

I am a tall, slim European brunette with a slightly-tanned English skin tone at present. (I say at present as my weight can fluctuate, my skin tone can range from slightly tanned to 'Mancunian orange' and when wearing not-so-sensible footwear I can be over 6 foot in height - thus, deemed rather tall!

So, given all of the above, at the end of the day, how had my last minute purchases fared?

Well, I had a band-aid on my little toe, legs 4 shades lighter than my hands and face and to cap it all, wished I had worn a longer skirt as the crutch of my tights was visible below my hemline!

The moral or this story: One size does clearly not fit all and whilst one woman nude may be white (verging on blue) not all of us are!!!!

As for 'sensible shoes'?? Pah! Since when was I ever practical anyway?????