thanks Ralf for saving my Christmas

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Louis is not doing a yoga pose…NO, he’s not

Yesterday was Christmas Day, and all was going relatively well until my boy dog Louis decided to disappear. It was quite honestly the most terrifying half hour I could imagine, because he’s not one to wander off.

His sister Ella, on the other hand, regularly runs off when we’re hiking in the mountains, but she’s smart enough to come back. Eventually. As much as it scares me when she does it, she’s clever. She’s able to find her way back.

Her brother Louis? Is he clever like his female counterpart? Uh, well.

He’s got a great personality – he’s earnest and takes defending us quite seriously. I promise you he’s got his better qualities, but intelligence isn’t something he was blessed with. I’m not being cruel – he really is a bit dim.

So when I turned round and he’s gone, I wasn’t pleased. I was the opposite of pleased. Ella was concerned, but to be candid she takes everything a bit too seriously, so I assured her that her brother would be back soon enough. After a few minutes of whistling and hollering his name, I was no longer able to feign calmness.

She and I switched positions, and she began assuring me that he’d soon be found. Everything would be ok. Right?

I wasn’t quite sure.

Now, if I wanted to build suspense and make this a decent piece of writing, I might draw it out. I could go into excruciating detail and describe my emotional spiral in a blow by blow manner, but I simply can’t bring myself to do that. It’s not somewhere I’m prepared to go with this.

What I’d rather do is make yet another plea that you hold those you love closer to you during the holidays. If you come here regularly, you know it’s one of my regular themes. Savour what you’ve got while it’s there. Don’t wait till you lose someone or something to appreciate it. Really.

My family in America seems to be doing rather well. Every time I talk to my brother’s children, my heart hurts a little that I’m not there more often. They love their Uncle Ken, and I wish I could corrupt them in person and not just via Skype. At some point in the last month I realised that if I needed a character reference, my niece Amelia would be my best bet.

Go ahead, ask her. What does she think of her uncle? The one who lives in Germany and always brings her a Dirndl or a nice bit of Swiss chocolate? If only that reference could help me get a better job or help me find a flat…

But then I realise, when I have that kind of high quality character reference, what else do I need? If this particular eight-year-old is properly impressed, why am I worried about little things like a place to live or a more stable source of income? Her mom Sara told me while we were on the phone last night, ‘Well, you could always come live here.

With Ella and Louis and all the contents of my tea cupboard?

I don’t think Amelia would think I was so great if she had to live near me on a regular basis. All things in moderation – even moderation.

Hug your people. Tell them you love them.

Savour this life. It’s precious. It really is the only one you’ve got.

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Louis and his stare…where did you run off to sweet boy dog?

Did his sister and I eventually find the ridiculous boy dog? Yes, of course we did. He was being cared for by a very kind family that had dogs of their own. Ralf was the guy’s name, and he and his family had him in the boot of their car. They were patiently waiting for Louis‘ people to come wandering along, and eventually we did.

Wish I could say I didn’t get emotional and cry a little, but I’d be lying if I tried to appear more strong and/or silent. There were tears, and maybe a bit of hugging. I’m not sure if the family knew what they were getting into when they decided to take care of Louis, and after my blubbering display I’m not sure they’d do it again.

Wherever Ralf is, I hope he knows he saved our Christmas.

Ella and Louis are now sleeping peacefully and all is right with the world. It really is going to be ok.

A year? It’s been a whole year?

Blowing out them candles…

Has it been an entire year? Quite a lot has happened this year since I started this blog.

I’d taken a few stabs at blogging (unsuccessfully) and still have a teablog that gets a bit of attention. I should do more over there, but my friends who’re tea fanatics seem to be patiently awaiting my return to regularly updated teablog posts. We’ll see. I’ll get to that as soon as the world slows down.

To what do I attribute the (meagre) success of this here Dachshund Blog?

The tight-knit and hilarious small blogging community of which I’m a part. These folks are awesomesauce. Amy Durant, who’s really called lucysfootball over there on her site has probably been the biggest inspiration and the kindest support. She’s said so many nice things publicly and been a tremendous friend behind the scenes – I can’t begin to return the favour. If you’re lucky enough to be Amy’s friend, you know what I’m talking about. She’s tenacious about showing her people how much she cares.

Thanks Amy.

Oh, and if I thought it’d do any good to tell you to write shorter blogposts, I’d do so. Sometimes I’m halfway through one of your rambling soliloquies, and I have to go make a sandwich to make it to the end of your text. I shouldn’t be complaining. Think about it: at least I got a sandwich.

Probably my favourite blog of all time is The Best Self-Help T-Shirt Catalog Ever!, which is written by the sardonic Lisa Galaviz who’s a bit hepped up on Cheetos and Bathtub Gin. More power to her. She’s one of the best things on twitter if you’re attention span is too short to read an entire blogpost. Here – check out Lisa Galaviz over there.

Then there’s Andreas Heinakroon. He’s a proud dad and an above-average scientist and a swell guy. Over the last year, Andreas and I have communicated more on twitter than most people do who live near one another in the same neighbourhood. Recently, I had some unfortunate news, and his compassion and concern for my well-being were evident in his 140-character messages. Great guy.

His blog is inventively called http://heinakroon.com/, which is convenient, because that’s the guy who writes the thing. Go read it NOW. He’s a much better writer than he lets on.

I could go on and on, but I won’t.

That’s a list of three very funny writers, who just happen to be blogging for the ridiculous hell of it. You think I’m funny/informative/a bit mad, right?

I can’t hold a candle to these yahoos. They’ll be yahooing all the way to the funny farm.

At least the funny farm will be enjoyable and there’ll always be enough to read.

Happy Blogiversary to ME!!!

Here’s to another great year.

Elaine’s Cuppa Cake

Elaine’s already gotta place to land when she gets to Scotland!

Our favourite Tottenham Riviera blogger elaine4queen has been threatening to move to Scotland, so I happened upon the perfect place for her. Her own café. Where we can all go and be sweary and inappropriate. As we are wont to do.

This isn’t easy – all this blogging. To be honest, I’ve never been a daily blogger. Well, there was a time I wrote a post everyday on my teablog, and that was enjoyable. Was even travelling a lot at the time, and wrote about tea drinking in Vienna and Hamburg and whatnot. I’m not against daily blogging in theory, but it’s really difficult to be out there living and documenting it simultaneously.

Lately, when faced with the choice, I’ve gone with the ‘focus on the life swirling round you‘ approach, and have taken sporadic notes along the way. At some point, I’ll get round to actually making those into blogposts.

There’s a great place where we stayed right outside of Durham, and I’d like to finally write a bit about the Lambton Hounds Inn, which is in the curiously named neighbourhood of ‘Pity Me‘. I mentioned in my last blogpost, and I assure you I’ve not forgotten it.

And then Fafa, which is my mother’s childhood nickname, and I went on to Lindisfarne in Northumbria. That’s worthy of at least three blogposts right there. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. And if you know me even a little, you know I’ve been a lot of places.

Here’s a taste of what’s ahead:

Everybody goin’ to the castle on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne…

Then we went to another castle that someone told us was involved in the filming of all of that Harry Potter nonsense, but when we got there, they were having a wedding and the place was closed off to visitors.

Turns out Bamburgh Castle has no connection whatsoever to the filming of those books that I’ve not yet read, but I suppose I will at some point. *sigh*

Mother claiming Bamburgh Castle for her own!

So, that’s a taste of what’s to come…aren’t you excited? Here’s your not-quite-humble-enough blogger at the same castle:

One of the few times you’ll see ol’ Lahikmajoe in less than formal attire.

time to join the @elaine4queen Admiration Society

The Once and Future Queen

You all know @elaine4queen, right? If you don’t, you should. She’s like the very best thing bout the Tottenham Riviera. She and her dog Poppet are the best hosts in the entire history of hosting.

There was even a statue of a goat in our journey. And, as you well know, you can’t always expect goats.

Elaine and the statue of a goat

What’s so great about Elaine, you ask? Well, she can draw and she can take the train into the city and she can throw Poppet’s ball when we’re playing in the park. I’m making her sound like she’s an imbecile, but she’s not developmentally challenged, at all. In fact, she seems to be above-average in intelligence and she happens to know lots of things. Things that it seems you’d have to read books to learn. Books with really big words.

practising her communication skills

Here’s where Elaine asked a passerby for directions. We were clearly well informed, because the lovely young lady on the right got us safely to our destination. And somehow Elaine was able to refrain from making any offensive jokes of a racial nature. Not our Elaine.

Then we were in Elaine’s friend Lisel’s house, and I was playing the guitar…the photo’s crappe, but that’s just how it is. It’s the only photo we have that proves I was even here in town that day. Here I am playing the guitar in a swirl of coulours:

guitaring while surrounded by 60s design wallpaper in Lisel’s front room

And finally? Here’s documentation that Elaine, Poppet and I were at some point all in the same place.

At the bikeshop/café where Poppet and I played boisterously while Elaine had an appointment

So, there you have it. Out on the Tottenham Riviera and in Hackney we smell different. And differently, as well. More bon vivantery soon enough.

‘Make good choices’

travelling with Out of True as it was intended

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So, one day in the mail, this little green book arrived. Poetry?

Who reads poetry these days?

Oh, I know. Guy Clark does. He says this in one of my favourite of his songs:

Here’s a book of poems I got
From a girl I used to know
I guess I read it front to back
Fifty times or so
It’s all about the good life
And stayin’ at ease with the world
It’s funny how I love that book
And I never loved that girl

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Then I went to London, where I met @elaine4queen and this is a photo of her upon first seeing my copy of Out of True. As good as it is, it’s even better with a cuppa.

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Then there was sleeping and such…upon awakening, it turned out Poppet ‘ad been readin’ a bit of poetry on her own while I wasn’t looking. How twee is that, innit?

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Here’s where our Elaine finally takes a gander at the ol’ book itself. She’s awestruck. ‘That’s some top shelf poetry there, I tell you what!’ I hear her exclaim.

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Then later I was in another café in London and I met this lovely couple from Edinburgh. Although I had my copy of Out of True with me, we didn’t talk about it. There’s no real reason for me to include this photo…I just liked them.

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Here’s a photo of the book and my copy of Myrtle Takes Tea in the same café that I was with the Scottish couple.

And finally, a photo of the book on a pile of money with a baritone ukulele. Because it’s my damned blog and I can do whatever I want here.

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Before I forget: the poet is Amy Durant. She’s a friend. A good poet, but an exceptional friend. You can read her daily musings at Lucy’s Football (lucysfootball.com), and although her posts are long and rambling and often have only a very thin connection to reality, she’s that sort of writer you should keep an eye on.

She’s going somewhere – that Amy Durant. Those crazy eyes? ALL. THE. CAPS. She’s going somewhere, for reals. Luckily, she’s promised to take us with her.

going home (if there even is such a thing)

Ella and Louis somewhere in Austria

This might be a bit strange- this blogpost. Yes, I’m aware my writing can be odd on a semiregular basis, so this isn’t necessarily the most shocking opening gambit, but nevertheless…you’ve been warned.

See, I want to ask one of those big questions that blogging really isn’t capable of tackling. This is a novel-sized theme. Many blogging experts, if there is such a thing, insist on the need for concise, clear writing. Nothing wrong with having that as a goal, right?

Some of my favourite writers are anything but concise. Faulkner and Melville get a bad rap for it, but one they probably deserve. It was a different era, you know. Over-explaining was the done thing. In the modern era of literature you had writers, such as Hemingway, attempting to trim the fat and give the reader the most streamlined version of the story.

The conventional wisdom is that blogging should be more like A Farewell to Arms and less like Moby Dick. You probably know some bloviated blogs. Ones you know are good, but reading one of his blogposts is a time commitment.

Here’s a test. If you convince yourself you need a beverage in hand to read someone’s blog, it might be that the posts are too long. I can hear you saying, ‘But lahikmajoe, I always read with a coffee in my hand. That’s no indicator.’

That’s not quite it. Before you read this hypothethical writer’s blog, do you say to yourself, ‘Ok, I know I like this blog, but every single time I read it, I need a libation of a larger-sized than normal,‘ because that’s the sort who are conspiring with the likes of Captain Ahab. Who’re so focused on hunting the White Whale that they have no time for reflection on their method.

I’m going to try and take my own advice on staying brief. My question is simply this: What is home?

For me, it’s those beautiful red dogs pictured above. As long as they’re with me, I’m home. Full-stop. We could live most anywhere and Ella and Louis would be perfectly happy. Their needs are simple. As are mine, which I’m finally beginning to see.

What about you? What do you need for a place to be considered home? Is it a physical need? Do you need, for example, to be near a park or forest?

I know what I said about being long-winded, but blog comments are another story. You’re welcome to write a blog comment as long as you like. See? I’m magnanimous like that.

starting and ending in the front room on the Tottenham Riviera

sometimes you gotta pack up all your stuff

The trip to London is like a huge chunk of molten ore from which I’ll be mining blogposts for a long time to come. Were I to show you my itinerary, you’d be astounded at how much I packed into such a short trip. Big ups to @elaine4queen for meditation-related help and conversations of the highest order.

I got some business taken care of, and there’s big news on that front when it’s more concrete. Don’t count chickens before they’re scratched, or whatever. And I met Robert Godden, who’s also known as The Devotea in teablogging circles. That was an event. To say the least. Here’s a document of that auspicious occasion:

Whatchyou talkin’ ’bout Robert?

If you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Robert either online or in person, you know that he’s passionate and just the other side of sane. It’s one of the myriad of reasons we get along. I also met the infamous Lady Devotea, but was sworn to not publish the photos I took of her. Perhaps once she sees the way I respectfully portrayed her gent, she’ll relent. But until then, I must respect her wishes.

Then, I was introduced to Bloom Tea, which I’ve already mentioned over on the teablog, but bears repeating here. They have five different blends for different times of the day. It’s a clever way to sell tea, so I’m sure I’ll be talking more about this brand in the near future. Here’s a photo of the sample I was given:

the five phases of Bloom Tea

The mornings in London were exactly like they are back here in Germany for me. I get up relatively early, so I can plan my day properly. It means that when others get out of bed, I’ve already been at it for several hours. It’s all rather disconcerting if you think about it. Because I know my level of energy can be a bit off-putting, I attempt to tone it down as best I can – with varying results.

afternoon tea with some of my favourite people who I’d not previously met

Finally, I’d like to share one of the best photos of last weekend. It’s got some wonderful characters in it, innit? I’ll not bother listing them all, although I should at least make a passing reference to a certain Vic Darkwood, who you’ll see on the far right of the shot. Purportedly, he’s an artist of some renown.

I’m just glad to say we now know each other on twitter. I hope when he gains international fame and glory, that he remembers us little people.

Like I’ve said, I’m sure this isn’t my last London-themed blogpost. There’s tonnes more to tell.

 

Shadow of a Doubt

An offer on twitter of a free ticket to see a Hitchcock film that I was sure I’d already seen. Little did I know – it was one of the middle period Hitchcock movies, and I was in for a treat. I had not only not seen it, but it has one of my all-time favourite actors in it.

Cotten. This guy’s a dream.

Apparently, he was in three world class directors best-known masterpieces. This one was dear Alfred‘s, The Third Man was Carol Reed‘s, and Citizen Kane was Orson Welles’. Not too shabby, eh?

Actually, lemme let Wikipedia explain what this film is:

 is a 1943 American / directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten. Written by Thornton WilderSally Benson, and Alma Reville, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Story for Gordon McDonell. In 1991, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.’

What an evening.

The day had started with a visit to The Idler Academy of Philosophy, Husbandry and Merriment and then a trip with one of my closest friends and his 9 year-old to The British Museum, which we sailed through in record time. Not that I’m proud of that. The whole point was to spend time with them. What we did was irrelevant. The British Museum was as nice a place as any for us to go, and she’d never been.

To imagine seeing all of those things through her eyes, I walked through the exhibits covering the ancient world. Saw the Rosetta Stone and the dude from Easter Island. What must it be like to be nine and wander through those rooms.

My goal?

To try seeing all this – this life I’m knee-deep in – from a nine year-old’s perspective. Certainly can’t hurt.

Five things to harass the Dying

thoughts of mortality are understandable especially when one’s on a Greek island like Astypalea (photo from 2010)

Recently, I was handed a German article about five things one should or could say to the dying to help them in their journey to the afterlife.
Never to pass up an opportunity to take the piss, I’ve decided to write my own list. Here are Five things to harass the dying:
  • Remind them what they’ve done or what they did
  • Point out to them that this (their life, their family, everything good and bad that they’ve done) will eventually be forgotten
  • Whatever palliative medicine they’re receiving, take it away and no matter how they beg for it, don’t give it back
  • Invite each of their enemies over (unexpectedly) for one last little chat
  • Make as many references to your plans once the dying person is finally gone

Now, I realise this isn’t the nicest of lists, but I have one very pointed question for those of you who may or may not be offended.

Why are we trying so hard to make things easier for the dying?

Certainly, if they’ve had a good life and made some sort of peace with everyone in it, then the above list will be useless. It won’t touch them. They’re immune from my machinations.

Lucky them.

Please don’t think I’ve done any of these things on my list. I’m actually quite pleasant and caring to the people in my life who’re at death’s door. I learned quite a lot while watching my father slowly die of complications related to his diabetes.

He died six years ago last week, and lately my thoughts’ve been swirling around topics of mortality. It’s actually quite understandable.

So, what’d possess me to make such a heartless list of cruelty like the one above? What’s wrong with me?

Well, I’ve got a simple answer for you in the form of a few questions.

Why? Why should I forgive what’s been done to me? What benefit does it serve?

I know a bit about Buddhism, and I know the tenet that carrying around such bitterness is akin to taking poison. Not only am I aware of this, but I even try to practice forgiveness. And most of the time I’m pretty good at it. Most of the time.

But like an irregular French verb, there are always exceptions. And what to do with those? Aren’t there some things that’re unforgivable? I believe that the jury’s still out on that one.

What would you do if you had a million dollars?

look of excitement

Wanted to do something special here for my hundredth blogpost, and little did I know that the subject would be chosen so perfectly for me. If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know that one of my blogging compadres is the blog lady over at Lucy’s Football.  Well, her life in general and her job in particular has been getting to her lately. Just last week, she wrote If I had a training company, you know I’d call it “Pulling a Train”, right?

While I was reading that, part of me considered, ‘Hm…I hope Lucy’s Football‘s superiors at her J.O.B. don’t read this blog. Or if they do, that they have a sense of humour.‘ Well, the answer to the first one is that they did. And the second? Apparently they don’t.

Earlier in the day, this appeared out of the blue over on twitter:

And my response? I think it’s great. Truly one of the best pieces of news I’ve heard in a long time, and my life is full of good things happening right now.

So in honour of the unceremonious sacking of one of the good guys, I’m dedicating this hundredth blogpost to the people over at Lucy’s Football. By people, I mean that wild-eyed, unruly-haired wonder. The first thing that came to mind when I sat down to fashion her a response was the scene in Office Space where they talk about what you would do if you had a million dollars. For those of you who haven’t seen this Mike Judge movie from 1999, go fire up your Netflix account or however you access media and watch the damned thing. Really.

For the rest of you, here’s a little reminder:

Peter Gibbons: Our high school guidance counselor used to ask us what you’d do if you had a million dollars and you didn’t have to work. And invariably what you’d say was supposed to be your career. So, if you wanted to fix old cars then you’re supposed to be an auto mechanic. 
Samir: So what did you say? 
Peter Gibbons: I never had an answer. I guess that’s why I’m working at Initech. 
Michael Bolton: No, you’re working at Initech because that question is bullshit to begin with. If everyone listened to her, there’d be no janitors, because no one would clean shit up if they had a million dollars. 
Samir: You know what I would do if I had a million dollars? I would invest half of it in low risk mutual funds and then take the other half over to my friend Asadulah who works in securities… 
Michael Bolton: Samir, you’re missing the point. The point of the exercise is that you’re supposed to figure out what you would want to do if… 
[printer starts beeping] 
Michael Bolton: “PC Load Letter”? What the fuck does that mean? 

For the more sensitive among you, I should go ahead and apologise for that foul-mouthed language. Wait a minute: you’re accustomed to accounts of sneaky fuckery and you’ve got stool. No need for walking on egg shells with you lot.

Now that she’s going to have all of this free time, I’d like to give ol’ Lucy’s Football a task. There’s a story behind it, and I aim to tell it to you in all of its glory.

When I was a younger man, I went through a bit of a rough patch employment-wise. There came a point where I decided that working was for chumps, and I resolved to cease even searching for gainful employment. It was a courageous decision for which I was not fêted to the degree I was expecting.

The way my friends would rub it in that I was in such an unfortunate predicament was that they’d simply ask me questions about the daytime television schedule. They assumed, and were quite right, that my leisurely day allowed me to become rather well acquainted with what was on offer while they were slaving away at their 9-to-5 positions.

When do they replay the Daily Show on Comedy Central?‘ they’d query. And I knew. I knew all too well.

Now, let me be quite clear here. I’m sure Lucy’s Football will find something better rather quickly. According to her  telling, almost anything she finds will be more fulfilling than what she was doing. My hope is that she’ll hold out for something that really utilises her..ahem..unique charms.

But in the meantime, ‘Hey Lucy’s Football…what’s the best thing on television at 11 am on a weekday?