Fact or fiction?

A few years ago I made a habit of noting the random things I overheard (purely by chance, this was not intentional eavesdropping) and chronicling them on this blog in a cunningly named ‘overheard’ series. One of my favourites (aside from a locker room marriage chat) was one about a dead dog in a suitcase that got stolen

[You’ll have to follow that link, I’m not re-telling it here!]

I remember it vividly. I’d been having coffee with my friend Katie outside Cafe Nero by London Bridge’s pirate ship. It was a sunny day and while Katie went inside to use the facilities, I soaked up some rays. As I did so, I couldn’t help but overhear what the two ladies at the table next to us were talking about. It was utterly bizarre and enthralling, so I sat there with my eyes closed, trying to remember the details so I could write about it later.

It’s the kind of story that sticks in one’s head, so it’s not surprising that when I spotted the following exchange on Facebook last week, my attention was well and truly caught:

Spot that last comment? Dead dog in stolen suitcase reference. I couldn’t believe my eyes and spent some time wondering if I’d ever told Sophie the story (she was in my small group last year, so it was more than possible). At the same time as I was writing a comment to that effect, someone else joined in and things got even more curious: 

Have you heard the story? (Other than by reading this blog – and if you’ve been reading since May 2009 you deserve some kind of long-service award!) Is it a sophisticated urban myth? Was the old lady I heard telling the tale simply repeating something she’d heard elsewhere for comic effect? Or, was someone with a much, much more popular blog than mine in Cafe Nero that day and caused the story to go viral?

Who knows. Still, it makes for an excellent dinner party conversation.

Friday Fun on Friday 13th

I honestly love Blogger – it’s a free platform that’s brought me joy for many years – but how I do not love it when it goes wrong. Thanks to some maintenance issues that brought the entire Blogger world crashing down for two days I couldn’t post Friday Fun as usual, so this is retrospectively posted while I kill several hours in my office on a Saturday afternoon. [Don’t ask.] 

A crucial member of my family is our rather gorgeous black Labrador Megan. While her arrival caused a certain amount of upheaval in my life, she has brought with her a high level of amusement – not just her reaction to the EastEnders theme tune, or her young-dog habit of eating socks and bras, but the fun you can have when a mute, yet communicative creature joins your household. Animals can be exceptionally expressive – we always know when Megan’s depressed (she hides when suitcases appear in the hall) and she does a brilliant line in “you know you love me and want to give me that apple core” facial expressions. I’ve often wondered what she’d say, if only she could talk – while my sister would take this a step further and speak for Megan, using the voice of Cartman from South Park. Honestly, utterly hilarious.

Anyway, this came to mind when Becki shared her discovery of Talking Animals on YouTube – beautiful:

As well as loving (certain) animals, I also obviously love all Christians (hmmmm), especially those with musical talents and especially those that are young. However, I may draw the line at this young man:

Libby, knowing my love of Christian parodies, sent me this last week and I truly appreciated it, until I made a disturbing discovery… Looking over to the right-hand side of YouTube, where it suggests related videos, was a song with the same name – ‘Nu Thang’ [oh help!] – but by one of my favourite and well-respected Christian bands. I own at least two, if not three, DC Talk albums and had found them to be significantly less cringeworthily cheesy than other bands of the genre – but this?? Oh dear. My only solace was found in the fact that that the album on which it featured came out in 1990, and to be honest we should all be forgiven the poor life choices we made in the late 80s, early 90s.

Unfortunately, fun has otherwise been thin on the ground – I blame a week of working too hard. However, I do have a funny story to share from last night, sorry, from tonight – I just know in advance that tonight’s going to be a good night… [Curse retro-blogging!]

Snow Fun Friday

Those of us who have not managed to have any snow days this week and instead have battled blizzards, ice and temperamental transport systems, could do with some fun this morning. (To be honest, I’d have settled for staying under my duvet, but sadly work had other ideas.) Ever the predictable, I thought it would be good to keep to a snowy theme for this week’s entertainment.

First up is an oldy, but a goody. In fact I think this may have started off the whole idea of Friday fun. Many, many years ago when I worked in a draughty office building in Waterloo (its imminent closure meant that during my last winter there, when boilers began to fail, they weren’t repaired) Friday entertainment was often circulated between colleagues. A particular favourite were pointless games, which would then result in highly competitive contests as to who could achieve the highest score, the most memorable of which was the Penguin Tossing game. There’s snow, a penguin, a yeti and a club – I think you can figure out the aim of the game… It’s not sophisticated, but it is diverting for a good few minutes. (There’s also a whole list of other yeti related games, should you be really, really bored.)

One of my favourite occupations during Snow Chaos is reading the Guardian’s live blog of the deteriorating situation across the country. On the one hand, it’s great to keep appraised of what the trains in Scotland are doing when you’re sat at your desk in London; it’s also slightly sickening reading of the thousands of school children enjoying a day of sledging – but this time round, I actually had a practical concern.

On Tuesday night my Dad got stranded at Gatwick after his flight to Belfast was cancelled – so I was keen to keep track of his potential options. [He arrived home late on Wednesday after managing to get to Stanstead for an unaffected flight.] Yesterday morning the blog provided details of a hideous train journey experienced by people attempting to travel from London to Brighton the previous night. This rang a bell with me as my fellow researcher had dashed off to Brighton Wednesday night and yes, she was on the affected train. She’s still not made it back to London.

But none of that’s fun – what is fun is the random videos, pictures and quotes that the Guardian provides as light entertainment. Take this update from 9.46am:
BBC News has just tweeted this: “Woman in Kent criticised by police for calling 999 to report theft of snowman for which she’d used ‘two pound coins’ for its eyes”. I’ll investigate. We need to get to the bottom of this.

As for videos, well I’m a sucker for snow and cute animals, so the combination of the two is rather fabulous. I also have a soft spot for comedy dogs, so this short clip of a small dog in deep snow had me grinning.

Of course, snow also has a bizarre affect upon the population – making them do strange things. In London this manifests itself in people talking on the tube, in Brighton, it apparently results in naked tea-tray sledging. (Possibly not one to watch in the office.) Knowing how painful my fingers were after less than an hour in the snow yesterday, I can’t even begin to imagine the pain this crazy man endured. Ouch.

Just in case you felt that was rather gratuitous, my final suggestion for today is a beautiful video showing just what you can get up to with a couple of chainsaws, a snow mobile and a lot of ice – no blood or gore included. 

Irrationality proved wrong

Ten years ago today, a small black creature came into the world. Unbeknownst to this fur ball, her birth and subsequent adoption would send shockwaves through my little world…

I was 19 and on a weekend home from uni when my mother let me in on a secret. After decades of resistance, she had finally given in to my father’s desire for a dog – not just any dog, a classic Labrador. It just so happened that someone in his office was expecting a litter of Labrador puppies, so she’d put our name down for one and would be surprising Dad with the news at Christmas (the puppy wouldn’t arrive till new year).

Thing was, what my mother had conveniently forgotten – or ignored – was my phobia of dogs. Ever since I’d been pinned up against the wall by a giant retriever when I was about 4 I’d had something of a loathing of them. I didn’t like seeing them on the street; was paranoid about them running loose in the park; and generally convinced that every canine in the world was out to get me. Aged 9, I even managed to run through a plate glass door in an effort to escape a terrier that had nibbled my ankles (yes, through the door – I shattered the glass with my super-human strength…).

You might think that as a newly independent grown-up I would have got over this phobia, or at least have the piece of mind to respond to the news with some sort of rationality. You’d be wrong. I believe my exact response was:
“If you get a dog I am never coming home ever again!” 
[Exit. Stomp upstairs. Slam bedroom door. Fling oneself onto bed. Sulk.]

Fast forward two months and you would have found me spending new year’s day sat on the sofa cuddling a tiny furry ball with big mournful brown eyes while watching Mary Poppins. The cute little animal won me over and I was hooked. Even her puppy/junior dog exploits of eating socks; chewing books [including the cover of a priceless Chalet School book]; destroying favourite shoes; eating cakes; and barking far too early in the morning didn’t change things – I had become a dog lover.

So now Megan is 10. She’s older, a little less mental and not quite so energetic, but fortunately still gets excited by the duff, duff, duffs at the start of the EastEnders theme tune (it coincides with dinner time) – a fact that still deeply disappoints my intellectual, soap hating father.

Happy birthday crazy dog. I’ll see you at Christmas when you’ll be super-happy because every single member of your family will be together and life – as far as you know it – will be perfect.

Man’s best friend

The question of whether animals have souls (and thus, whether any of our furry friends will be joining us in heaven) is one that has perplexed Christians across the years. A quick google of ‘do animals go to heaven’ will take you to a whole host of sites exploring Biblical texts and theological arguments, so I won’t bother to do that here.

What is clear in the nation of animal lovers that Britain is, animals are no strangers to the church. Church cats are fairly common (as are the rodents they’re supposed to remove); pet blessing services are not uncommon – particularly in rural areas; a central London church conducts an annual ‘blessing of the horses’ service; and livestock can (and often is) used augment the liturgical seasons.

There are horror stories, of course. Like the tale of the donkey employed by a parish to bring a touch of reality to Palm Sunday. Unfortunately, it gave up the ghost in the church’s vestibule – before it had completed its starring role in the re-telling of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem. Apparently, it’s quite difficult to move a dead donkey, and even harder when small children are crying and demanding to know why they can’t have a ride on it.

Then there are the animals that turn up simply because their owners have chosen to bring them. Yesterday, on my second Sunday of church visiting, I spotted two canine members of the congregation…

Both were of the ‘very small and slightly pointless’ genre. One was a rather attractive tiny Daschund (in my opinion not quite so pointless, as it’s not the kind of dog you’d carry around in a handbag, plus, it literally resembles a mini ‘proper’ dog). The other was an utter fur-ball (one could even say overgrown squirrel), (probably a Pomeranian) that wouldn’t look out of place in a designer handbag belonging to Paris Hilton.

Fur-ball was across the aisle and a couple of rows up from me, so I had an excellent view of him all through the service. [I know it was a he because I overheard the owner talking about him after the service.] The owner’s child took him outside at frequent intervals and most of the rest of the time it sat in the aisle, adjacent to the pew. There, it spent a great deal of time staring at me, which was just slightly disconcerting.

It was also on a retractable lead – meaning that (in theory) it could easily be retrieved if it wandered off. At one point it did just that, sauntering across the aisle to the pew opposite, trailing its lead across the width of the aisle, creating a near-invisible trip hazard just before the collection was taken up. Sadly, for lovers of comedy falls, a steward swiftly asked the owner to retract the lead, but it didn’t stop me imagining potential calamities throughout the prayers.

Fur-ball also went up for communion. I’m not sure if he received a blessing or any of the elements, doctrinally I believe either would be controversial. Truly, this is inclusivity at its most extreme.

The service wasn’t a long one, dogs are usually quite happy with a bit of peace and quiet, so why the need to bring them to church? I believe ours quite happily settles down in a patch of sun, listening to the Archers omnibus on Radio 4 while my parents head off to church. Each to their own, I suppose.