Category Archives: People

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Our dog does not subscribe to the English opinion that a person’s home is his castle, preferring instead to assume that absolutely everything belongs to her and the rest of us are merely borrowing it. This applies to our bed, the sofa and any and all chairs, blankets and throws, despite Hubby having lavished a very comfortable dog bed upon her (which nobody but the dog is permitted to approach).

After our recent apartment renovation, we lacked a surface by a window for the cat’s sleeping quarters. Following various experiments with potential perches, she decided she liked it best when her bed was by the patio doors, where she could observe happenings on the exterior of her queendom. It shocked nobody when the dog was found, that very same day, exercising squatters’ rights while the poor cat huddled in a corner under the coat rack.

Dog steals cat's bed

It didn’t even appear to perturb her if the cat was already in the bed, fast asleep. A few nudges and pokes and she was able to make just about enough room for two, with or without the cat’s permission. Usually the latter, but a nip to the hindquarters from an irritated feline seemed only to deter her temporarily.

Cat and dog share bed

A second defining feature of our dog is her desperate desire to always be in the middle. When Hubby and I are both at home, she can only be happy when curled up precisely halfway between the two of us. It was in sympathy with this need that we’d placed her dog bed on the other side of the room, between Hubby’s computer desk and the sofa, where she could rest easy of an evening knowing she was keeping an eye on the both of us.

Despairing of ever convincing her that the cat bed doesn’t belong to her, we tried placing their beds side by side, hoping the cat could finally get some kip. It didn’t go well.

Cat and dog swap beds

At this point, I ran out of ideas and decided that documenting the cuteness of a dog and a cat snuggling up together was vastly more rewarding. I snapped several pictures of their butts bulging out of the cat bed, such as this one:

Bed too small for cat and dog

Unfortunately, this image of domestic bliss was interrupted by the click from my camera phone. Happy they may be to spoon all day long, but they are not keen on the existence of photographic evidence.

Cat and dog spotted sharing bed

The scene descended immediately into panic, a wild look in both animals’ eyes as they fled to separate corners of the house and pretended that nothing at all had happened.

Cat and dog flee from bed

After the exodus, neither pet would approach the bed for the rest of the afternoon and both kept a suspicious eye on my iTelephone. It turned out that the best way to convince them the cat bed is not big enough for the both of them was not to coax the dog back to her own cushion, but to threaten to tell the world that a cat and a dog can get along just fine after all.


The Day I Was Nearly Murdered (and then definitely wasn’t)

I’m not generally prone to panic. On the other hand, I am English and should not be placed in the vicinity of firearms without a very good reason. Because, this:

Englishwoman with a gun

In case it isn’t immediately obvious from the ineptitude of every Englishman ever depicted on film with his pistol pointed in the wrong direction (which is all of them), we’re not very good with guns. We haven’t got any, you see. To the English, a gun is a mythological weapon used in times of national emergency, such as when faced with terrorism or aliens. These are the only conceivable situations in which you should place a working firearm in the hands of a Brit, unless you want someone’s foot to be shot off.

Nope, the state of being best described as “Being Near Me With A Gun” is not one to be undertaken lightly. As far as I’m concerned, an unknown man prowling through the trees in one’s back yard while carrying a rifle does not count as a good reason to Be Near Me With A Gun and will do nothing but provoke anguish, distress and overreaction.

One cannot simply wander outside and demand an explanation under these circumstances, because the answer to, “What are you hunting?” will almost certainly be, “You”. Hopping from foot to foot while staring through each window in turn proved equally unhelpful, so I decided to gather photographic evidence of my murderer to help out the police in the wake of my inevitable demise (because our Police Chief is lovely and I wouldn’t want to cause him too much extra work).

Unknown man's truck

I immediately hit an unforeseen problem: no zoom on my camera phone and absolutely no possibility of being stupid enough to go outside. I think you’ll agree it’s a pretty ominous partly-hidden truck, though.

Next idea: call the husband. Scuppered by recorded message with no interest in predicament. Stage three panic imminent, I sent Mom-in-Law a nonchalant text, casually enquiring as to whether she knew of a reasonable explanation for there being a prowly man with a rifle outside the window. “Nope,” came the reply. “I’m on my way.”

There is one thing in this world more terrifying than a gun: a mother defending her own. I continued to hide bravely until her car appeared on the horizon, an angry dust cloud in its wake, ready and prepared to cut off the murderer’s path of escape. My heart swelled with relief to see the ominous green truck chased away, its proverbial tail between its legs. The day was saved, the damsel rescued, the murderer full of regret.

Anti-climactic addendum: it wasn’t a murderer, just a game warden. He was apparently searching for an injured deer by utilising his years of training in being unnecessarily frightening. And so, the moral to today’s tale of Almost Murder is as follows: when dealing with your easily spooked English guests, please be sure to leave your shotgun in the car. You really don’t want the rescue team alerted.

Wyoming Via The Outback

It has been a source of constant consternation for me, since moving to the States, that every third person I meet assumes I’m an Australian. I’m fairly sure that my Dorset twang sounds nothing at all like the laid back drawl of your average Outback dweller and, ironically, I can’t imitate an Oz accent to save my life.

This is as close to Australia as I have ever been.

It really does happen all the time. A lovely tourist couple from Texas visited our art gallery not long ago and excitedly demanded to know which Australian city I hailed from. They were interested mostly because they spent 12 years living over there – even to people well used to the accent, mine apparently cannot be differentiated.

It’s not that I have anything against Australia – I would, in fact, dearly love to explore its oversized wonders, were I not petrified of giant spiders. It’s just that I spent 30 years cultivating this particular way of speaking, only for people to repeatedly question how successful I’ve been.

I’ve never even been here, in case of insects.

Unfortunately, I recently lost the right to complain about it. I met a lovely lady by the name of Elizabeth at a meeting of the local school board, which I was covering for the newspaper. She was helpful, courteous and friendly and I enjoyed talking to her very much, all the while marvelling that there was an Australian residing in the next town, adding to my observations of small-town Wyoming as so much more culturally diverse than I thought.

You can guess where this is going, can’t you? Yep, she was from Sevenoaks. Which is nowhere near Brisbane at all, but surprisingly close to London, England. It would seem that we British ex-pats slowly lose our accents, apparently by way of Sydney Harbour.

I’ll just go fetch my cork hat and a tinny, shall I?

All Together Now: Poh-tay-toh

For the third time since we reappeared from the other side of the pond, Hubby was last night accused of having developed “a bit of an accent”. Not just any old accent, either: he’s rolling his vowels and curling his r’s like a proper southern yokel.

A yokel, yesterday

I know why it’s happened: he spent (another) fortnight immersed in the joyous surrounds of Southern England, where the accent is more pervasive than I ever thought possible. I didn’t realise I had a Dorset twang, rather than the posh totty BBC English voice with which I always imagined myself to be speaking, until I heard a recent recording of myself. It was a distressing moment, during which I was forced to come to terms with the fact that I do not have the dulcet tones required of a Radio 4 presenter, and that my yokel-ness has, if anything, strengthened since I left the country.

Furthermore, we’ve developed an addiction to Doc Martin since we returned home. If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s about an incredibly grumpy London surgeon who develops a fear of blood and is forced to demote himself to GP for a West Country village. It’s full of delightful accents and adorable old people.

Near some yokels, yesterday

We’ve also been avidly watching Downton Abbey, now available (thank the heavens) on Netflix, which explains why he’s dropping such phrases as “ship-shape in Bristol fashion” into everyday conversation. This is not a saying that ever made it over the oceans and is only going to confuse his fellow countrymen.

Interesting fact for the day (courtesy of my informational powerhouse of a father): the phrase refers to Bristol harbour, which has been one of England’s most important ports for a thousand years. The port is up the River Avon and has one of the most variable tides in the world, changing daily by up to 30m, and, when the tide is low, ships tend to get a bit beached. Consequently, until the Floating Harbour was invented, ships using the port needed to be well-made and sturdy and their cargo had to be securely stowed.

Hubby’s opinion of the matter is that he’s leeching my accent from me, to be helpful. A couple more trips back to England and he’ll be wearing a flatcap and wittering about poh-tay-tohs, and I’ll be calling everyone sons of bitches and forgetting how to make a cup of tea.

So is it mainly fairies and princesses?

Yesterday we celebrated our fourth Christmas of the year. An excessive number by any cultural standard, but in our case they were a necessary evil: we spent the actual day in England, with my familial bits and pieces, which meant that we were legally required to repeat the process with Hubby’s matching set upon our return.

We had no choice but to also schedule in our own, private Christmas morning, because otherwise we couldn’t have dedicated a morning to the celebration of toys and candy, and, yesterday, we started all over again with my sister-in-law and her family.

This particular branch of my new hoarde of family members includes my 7-year-old niece, of whom I am uncompromisingly fond. We found some excellent gifts for her while we were in England, but nothing to compare to the goodie bag my mother put together. One suspects she is yearning for grandchildren.

A vial of fairy dust, Disney princess eau de toilette, a tiara emblazoned with the word “Princess”, a crown pendant on a golden necklace, bubbles with fairy artwork on the bottle… these, and many more, were stuffed lovingly into her gift bag. It was awesome, and I was inappropriately jealous.

Several hours after opening her presents, my niece wandered over to me, tiara a bit cock-eyed and eye-wateringly overscented with child-friendly perfume. “So, in England,” she enquired, matter-of-factly, “Is it mainly fairies and princesses?”

“Kate Middleton and Graham Norton,” whispered my husband, without missing a beat, and, for a moment there, my pride in his cultural immersion almost overwhelmed his point.

“Yes,” I replied, upon consideration. “In England, that’s almost all we have.”

The Mad Dog

I think this particular contender has earned her place as the eponymous Mad Dog of this blog. Whatsay?

Anniversary Learnings

As of today, we have been married for six months – how quickly time has flown. So what have I learned in this time?


1) It is not as much fun shouting “HATCH” when you see an upward-opening car door as it is shouting “THATCH” when driving through the English countryside. It is, however, easier to drive through smaller settlements without going hoarse.

2) Not having to take buses, trains and the Underground everywhere is its own form of bliss.

3) Certain members of local society are unable to resist staring at me, presumably in case I grow an alien head and eat them when they turn their backs.

4) You can get extra scoops of ice cream if you have an English accent. You cannot, however, get anyone in Walmart to understand what it is you need. Swings and roundabouts.

5) It helps to have a translator available when talking to those unused to one’s accent. I have the good fortune to possess a husband who immediately jumps in with, “She means two weeks,” when I accidentally use the word ‘fortnight’. This has the added benefit of making me seem important and exotic.

6) Winter is not nearly so unpleasant when the sun shines onto the snow. Conversely, my umbrella now cries itself to sleep in the drawer, assuming I no longer love it.

7) My editorial training is deeply ingrained, making a mountain out of every US English-based writing molehill. All documents must be triple checked for the purpose of adding commas where I do not think there should be any.

8 ) Cereal aisles are still terrifyingly incomprehensible. Doughnut aisles are not.

9) I have work to do on my telephone etiquette. Thanks to my terribly English phone voice, my sister-in-law has literally no idea what I am saying to her. She is mortified by this, I am amused by my own ineptitude. Not only that, I don’t seem to be able to grasp the correct greeting/goodbye process and am often left wondering why I have not been allowed to go away yet.

10) PED XING means ‘Pedestrian Crossing’. Obviously.

11) It is not possible to get away with a fake fur coat from New Look and a thicker pair of socks during blizzards. It is, however, inadvisable to request help from one’s father-in-law, who will punish your lack of foresight by making you wear a giant babygrow.

12) For all that I miss my family and my friends (and Bisto gravy), it’s an honour to be able to call this place home.