Tag Archives: dogs

3 March: Going through the motions

open-hands-prayerSometimes people make an outward show of action without their heart being in it. They are ‘going through the motions’. But before we dismiss the ‘motions’ in favour of the purity of the inner spirit, it helps to remember that we are bodily people; physical actions can help make our spirit ready. This is certainly true when it come to prayer. Choosing a regular place, posture, and way of beginning and ending our prayer can provide a supportive framework for the building up of our openness to God.

Place: Making a particular room, or seat, or walking route a habitual place for prayer. Of course we can pray anywhere. But through repetition the mind and spirit begins to recognise that in entering this place I am setting myself to pray. Your ‘place’ might be your kitchen table at a quiet time of the day, a bench in a park where you walk your dog, your seat on the train on the way into work, or a corner of a room in your home that you set aside as a meeting point with God.

Greeting: To you O Lord I lift up my soul. [Psalm 25.1]

Words or gestures you use to acknowledge that you have entered God’s presence. This might be the lighting of a candle, the bowing before a cross, or the saying of a particular prayer or a verse from one of the psalms.

Regular usage helps us move more quickly into prayer. We understand we are here for this purpose and for no other.

Posture: A physical way we set our bodies: sitting with hands open and resting on our laps, or, if walking, a slower, measured pace that begins to settle us down.

As these physical settings become familiar, our spirit begins to work in unison, helping us be relaxed, open and attentive.

Ending and moving on: Just as we have greeted God at the beginning of prayer, so we choose a way of closing this time, whilst remaining open to God’s presence and leading as we go about our day. Again this might be a physical action, words of prayer or a combination: blowing out the candle, bowing to a cross, or words from a psalm.

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February 21: Inter-galactic Discoveries XXIV, It’s cold outside.

 

It was cold, too cold for pseudo-Chihuahuas to do more than put their noses outside the door but they were enjoying people watching from the bay window.

 

‘Look down there! It’s little Abel on the sands. What is he doing?’ Alfie was half wrapped in his blanket which had become a shared blanket, as so much was shared, freely, by the Ossyrians in dogs’ clothing, almost without their realising it was happening.

T got out his binoculars and soon focussed on the toddler, clad in blue wellington boots and a warm all-in-one suit. ‘Very interesting. We should go join them.’

‘But what is he doing?’ demanded Ajax, who could read the amusement shaking T’s shoulders, but not the reason for it.

‘Come and see,’ said T, shaking the dog leads, and off they went, past the Waste Land shelter and along the prom. Just by the Jubilee Clock, the dogs yanked their leads from T’s hand, turned tail with one accord and refused to go on to greet Will, Abel and his mother. T had to follow. When something made Will look up he just caught a glimpse of the dogs mounting the steps to their front door, with the Director some yards in the rear. He did not realise they were avoiding Abel, and T never told him.

Indoors, Alfie shivered: ‘Abel was wading about in that cold water at the edge of the sea and splashing rocks and laughing! I’ll never understand humans. He was enjoying it and his mother and Will were letting him do it, and they were laughing too.’

‘They can’t help sharing his fun, and they aren’t the sort to stop him doing it completely. Sun, Sand and Sea. That’s why we came to Margate.’

‘But not Sun, Sand, Sea and Splash!’ grumbled Alfie.

‘Lighten up boys,’ said T. ‘Laughter is part of being human. Why the wife of Abraham, mother of the great religions, even laughed at God and called her son ‘laughter’ or Isaac. But I don’t think the humans totally understand it themselves.’

margatesunset-21-1-17

Sunset over T and Alfie and Ajax’s house, Margate, January 2017.

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19 February: Intergalactic Discoveries XXII: Peeeeeeeeeeeep! Peeeeeeeeeeep!

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Peeeeeeeeeeeep! Peeeeeeeeeeep! Will Turnstone stopped walking across Margate sands and about turned. A policeman was gesturing from the promenade. ‘Are those your dogs, Sir?’ he shouted.
Will called Abel, who was leading the Chihuahuas, or were they leading him?  They all walked towards the Waste Land shelter, where the police sergeant had parked his Land Rover. ‘You should have them on the lead, you know. And surely these are not your dogs. I see them out with a tall guy with glasses. What are you doing with them?’
‘We’re walking them for Mr T while he gets some writing done, aren’t we Abel? Abel’s my grandson. And Abel had them on the lead; no case to answer, tear up your ticket.’
‘Someone said much the same to me once before, Mr Turnstone. You remember me, I’m Callum Waters from Saint Darren’s School; it’s your voice gives you away.’
‘Certainly not my grey hair,’ said Will, ‘but I could hardly forget you and Liam. I guess you’ve given up smoking now?’
‘I need to stay fit, driving round all day. But we didn’t turn out so bad; Liam was in the Marines, saw some terrible things before he left. He’s living in Donegal now.’
‘And you’ve seen your share of trouble, in your job, no doubt. I’m glad we caught up after thirty years. And one thing. Thank you for that day you told me to go home because I was still poorly. You were right. And Miss Everard was totally wrong when she told me you were a nasty piece of work. I wanted to prove her wrong, but it’s you that did that, even if she could not see it.
We’d best get these dogs home and this boy back to his parents. Put it there, Callum, you’ve made my day.’
 
 Will , Ajax and Alfie on another day. Chihuahuas hate rain or water in any form except in bowls for drinking.

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20 January: Inter-galactic Discoveries, XXI.

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10 January: Intergalactic Explorations XX: Land of Plenty.

fish-chips-margate1-360x640‘Do you ever’, asked Alfie, gulping another morsel of battered haddock from the fish and chip shop, ‘Do you ever miss the old menu popping through the hatch in the pod? Those six foods and the same old four drinks?’

‘Nothing as tasty as batter, fish and vinegar ever passed my lips in Ossyria’, replied Ajax.

‘Perhaps not’, beamed the Director, known to his human friends as ‘T’, ‘but there is no need to half-choke yourself eating so fast. There’s plenty here for the three of us, and no scientifically controlled portions either.’

‘There was always plenty back home, but scientific protein bangers and extruded bread sticks! If I may say so Boss, everything tasted grey.’

‘Of course it did, but creatures died to feed us here on earth, fish, wheat, potatoes. We cannot escape that, even if we go vegetarian.’

‘Never suggest that again! We have canine appetites along with our canine shapes,’ flashed Ajax.

‘Well I was thinking that come Lent in March next year, I might copy some of these humans and stop eating meat for a few weeks,’ said T, ‘And try to work out why they do it. If you care to join me …’

The chihuahuas made clear that T was on his own for this project. ‘It’s utterly uncanine, it’s unossyrian, it’s unnatural; dogs eat meat,’ asserted Ajax.

‘And sitting in a grey, submarine pod, watching arm-wrestling octopi on the screens, drinking a cocktail of two parts red juice and one of green with warm ice is natural? Come on boys, here in Margate we’re learning that we have appetites and appetites are natural, and all the better for being sharpened.’

‘And some appetites are sharper than others,’ growled Ajax.

Photo by NAIB3

MMB

The appetite for learning is sharpened when the appetite for food is satisfied. You can help Mary’s Meals feed schoolchildren in Africa if you follow this link here.

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5 January: On the way and already there.

 

Saint Francis is known for his Christmas Crib, among many other things. All sorts of additions have been made to the Nativity scene since then, often reflecting the way of life around where a crib is set.

Our family crib too has extras for our delight. The West Highland Terrier is a rescue dog; he has attached himself to the Magi on the way to the stable of Bethlehem in our living room, where he was found wedged under the skirting when the floor was sanded and polished.

As for the little black cat who has taken up residence in the stable already, making friends with the gentle cow: she is another foundling. When our daughters were little I would bring home these tiny toy animals, each in its own tiny bag from a tiny shop in Broadstairs; unwrapping them on Friday evening started the weekend. There was delight when this one was unearthed in the garden; she was gone but not forgotten. In gratitude for those happy days, she will sit in the stable for years to come.

We are on the way to meet the Lord, but we may be surprised to see who is ready to greet us when we get there!

MMB.

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26 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries: XIX In the Back of a Thanet Taxi

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The fact-finding agents of the Ossyrian Confederation would have loved to stay at the monastery in Minton much longer but ‘T’ had a dental appointment back at Margate to have a crown replaced the next day. Fond farewells were said by all and promises made for a speedy return. Immediately after vespers a taxi was called and what seemed to be a very contented man with two Chihuahuas rode the flat expanse of the Thanet landscape apparently in silence, but actually in intense telepathic conversation.

‘Have you ever seen a dik-dik, ‘T’?’ Ajax continued to be fascinated by the notion of a diminutive deer no larger than himself. ‘Can’t say that I have,’ The director yawned, ‘but, then again, I’ve never been to Africa and, by all accounts, that’s where they live.’ ‘T’s never seen a dik-dik because there is no such thing!’ Alfie snorted, at which point an over-sensitive (and most likely overtired) Ajax burst into forlorn (telepathic) tears. ‘Don’tflags-welsh be so certain, little guy,’ the Director’s tone was mild but the set of his jaw boded ill for quarrelsome Chihuahuas. ‘Who would have believed in a pint-sized dog your size before Columbus discovered America?’ ‘Right,’ Alfie still wasn’t convinced, ‘And I suppose that somewhere there are dragons and maybe a herd of unicorns? (he had found a book of terrestrial fairy tales in one of the monastery guest rooms). ‘Have you ever read the Book of Job, Alfie?’ ‘No,’ beamed in a stubborn whisper. ‘Then listen carefully,’ the Director said,

         ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

         Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand; things too wonderful for me which I did not know.

         Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask you and do you instruct me. I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees you.  

Job 42:3-5

The one truth, nevertheless, tells itself in many ways,’ the Director continued, ‘like colour or a sound; like a hot day or a cold night, like one bright star to rule the day and a hundred billion madly dancing to rule the night…and, make no mistake, my dear Chihuahuas; noble legends may contain truths inaccessible to newspaper reporters.’ ‘Well,’ Alfie beamed (but the fight had left him), ‘I still don’t understand.’ ‘But Alfie!!’ It was the Director’s turn to laugh, ‘recognizing that is the beginning of understanding!’

Postscript

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A week after the return of ‘T’ and the Chihuahuas from their visit to Minton, the city council of Margate- elected on promises to curb immigration (among other things)- advanced an ordinance aimed at detaining and deporting every parakeet in Thanet since, clearly, they were not native to the British Isles and, certainly, had not entered the country legally. Thankfully, the ordinance was quickly overturned due to popular outcry and it is possible to visit Hartsdown Park on All Saints Avenue for a parakeet safari (best done in the late Autumn and Winter) to this very day. dik-dik

Editor’s note: Hartsdown Park on All Saints’ Avenue: this sounds suspiciously like the territory  of a deer – perhaps the legendary and holy Boanerges?

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23 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries XVI, An Inland Foray.

 

dogs.shortPsalms

Near Margate there was a small picturesque village called Minton and at its heart was a very old monastery occupied by Benedictine nuns. ‘T’ thought it might be a good idea to pay a visit in order to both soak up some of the local history and also gain some perspective on what the residents of the place got up to all day long. Plans were made and early one blustery morning what appeared to be two Chihuahuas and a middle-aged man boarded the fast train for St. Pancras at Margate, changed at Ramsgate, and detrained near their destination just a little while later.

autumn-leaves-1

As the trio trekked through the quiet streets of the village, each was impressed by the autumnal beauty. ‘I just love the smell of falling leaves!’ Alfie, ever the romantic, exclaimed. ‘T’ gave the Chihuahua a strange look and cocked a half-smile. ‘You know, you’re right, Alfie, but in my human persona I would never have thought to put it that way. People might notice the sweetly musty smell…but it’s the colour, texture, and sight of exuberant movement as the bright leaves swirl in the wind that thrills the eye rather than the nose.’ Both Chihuahuas snorted good-natured derision, marvelling- not for the first (or last) time- at the amazing eccentricities of the human race.

The gate opening to the wonderland of garden that fronted the ancient monastery was invitingly unlocked and the visitors slowly made their way up a narrow tarmacked path heading for a stone chapel where, inside, they could hear faint strains of lyrical chanting. ‘Look!!!’ Alfie’s tone was filled with wonder, ‘a parakeet…and we’re not even on safari!’ It was true. Not one but a pair of iridescent green feathered missiles tipped with ruby red streaked across the wide space above the dewy landscape as the awe-struck travellers looked on until, with a chatter of dismissive squawks, they were gone; most likely to gorge on sunflower seeds in a nearby field.

‘Will they, you know…’ Ajax gulped, remembering the keen sense of rejection felt when the Chihuahuas were denied entrance to Westminster Abbey, ‘allow dogs inside?’ ‘Well, we can only try,’ the Director murmured; attempting to sound soothing, he also had some doubts. As the inter-planetary fact-finders, disguised as a tall man and two very diminutive dogs, tiptoed through the great oak door of the chapel there was no one present to hinder them and soon they were reverently seated and awash in the strange, achingly beautiful harmonies of voices, both plaintive and exultant, raised in chanted prayer. Among the dozen or so nuns situated in their stalls in the sanctuary of the small building one or two did notice the rapt canine presence and a few feminine eye-brows were raised…yet, when all was said and done, and since it was patently obvious that the Chihuahuas were well-behaved, their presence was permitted (if not acknowledged) and the makings of a great convocation of creatures, those with two feet and those with four, was discreetly accomplished without any fuss at all.

To be continued

 

 

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22 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries: XV The Sands of the Sea 3

 

Margate we live in hope

In the end, all teasing and parakeet safaris forgotten, the three Ossyrian agents did end up trooping down to the beach. It was late November and the water, reflecting the slate-grey of the overhead sky, was far too cold for a swim, yet, in the distance, a frisky pair of Labradors did frolic in the icy surf; oblivious to the numbing temperature, having a fine, wet, afternoon romp.

The two Chihuahuas, ever wary of dogs much larger than themselves, nevertheless watched the pair of Labs from a safe distance with unfeigned interest. The sight of the splashing dogs triggered an intense recollection for one of the Chihuahuas. Ajax vividly remembered the day in mid-September, less than a week after their reunion with the Director in Margate and the whole southeast in the grip of a great muggy heatwave, when ‘T’ had thoroughly amazed them all by shrugging his shoulders and muttering, almost with resignation, ‘This is ridiculous. I mean, here we are sweating away inside and outside, while just across the street lies a great, luscious, refreshing body of cool blue water. Guys…’ he paused, gulping, ‘I don’t care how cold the water is this far north (wistful memories of the languid Pacific still fresh); I’m going for a paddle…aw, what the heck? Make that a dip!!’
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The Chihuahuas were scandalised to the feathery tips of twitching tails as, ten minutes later, they crHarry_Dubai+Seaowded into the great bay window, damp noses pressed against the glass, and watched the Director cross the busy street outside dressed in flip flops, a garish blue and white ‘Tommy Bahama’ swimsuit, and grey tee. With a tattered beach towel tucked under one arm he headed down to the Margate sands, kicked off the flip flops, shed the tee…and resolutely waded into the surging tide; waist deep then up to his chest…shoulders, until he suddenly disappeared.

Mesmerised by the sight, both Chihuahuas, watching through the high bay window, were, at first, frozen in a static tableau by their stunned amazement. Seconds later, Alfie, thoroughly confused by ‘T’s eccentric behaviour and more than a little worried, began pawing and leaping at the unyielding glass, barking his frantic concern. Some relief was eventually had when the Director’s head of greying hair could be discerned above the water and, finally, the rest of him (clad in the vividly blue and white ‘Tommy Bahamas’) as he drifted, floating on his back; seemingly suspended at a mystical junction of blue on blue where the immensity of the Thanet sky met its match in the English Channel.

When the Director returned to the flat a half an hour later he walked with a jaunty step and there was a discernable sparkle in his deep brown eyes. The pair of Chihuahuas sulked in a corner, narrowed eyes appraising him with suspicion. ‘T’, for his part, nodded enigmatically before excusing himself in order to shed the soggy swim trunks and pat down his salt-spiked hair. He eventually returned to the front room dressed in normal fashion and looking distinctly refreshed. Plopping down in the old charity shop rattan chair tucked into the bay he beamed at the two Chihuahuas, ‘Guys, that was just great! I can hardly believe that we’ve been here all this time and right across the street, well…’ he trailed off with a blissful look on his homely face.

Daring to break his silence and fully aware of the gravity of the situation, which was about to border on insubordination, Alfie piped up, ‘But ‘T’, how could you??!’ He shot a worried look at Ajax in a silent plea for support, ‘We HATE getting wet!!’ ‘Yeah, I reckoned that was the case a long time ago.’ Far from sounding upset, the Director didn’t seem concerned at all. Cracking a yawn, he continued, ‘You didn’t think I noticed that when we go out for a walk that you two will even dance around a puddle – just so your paws won’t get wet?’ The canines were freshly scandalised when ‘T’ laughed out loud. ‘And remember the look on Ajax’s face when he jumped on the green scum covering Will Turnstone’s pond thinking it was grass…and disappeared under the water? Oh, just priceless!!’ There were tears of mirth in his eyes. ‘Why??!! How could you?? I just don’t understand, ‘T’,’ Alfie beamed; and was there just a hint of reproach in his tone? ‘T’ suddenly blinked. ‘Oh! I get it… You two think that if someone likes something that you don’t like it must be wrong. Yeah?’

Ajax would have blushed if Chihuahuas were capable of that sort of thing but Alfie refused to be cowed by the Director’s bantering tone. ‘Well,’ he growled, ‘isn’t it?’ The Director’s mirth gave way to familiar reflection as, reaching down, he lightly scratched behind the diminutive tricolour’s ears. ‘Sometimes it is,’ he agreed without reluctance, ‘but there are other times when one Chihuahua’s ceiling may be another Chihuahua’s floor.’

TJH

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20 November: Inter-galactic Discoveries XIII, The Sands of the Sea.

 

It was an odd interim, as the bright green of summer shifted to an autumn russet of dropping November leaves. ‘T’ could feel it; pushing the second half of his life (in human terms), the joints and ligaments of legs and back definitely had a preferential option for warmer seasons and balmier climes. Having only recently returned from the fruitless foray in sunny Southern California, he wryly thought, No wonder there’s so many people out there, with weather like that; nearly every day mild and blue with a fresh western breeze off the sea. And, oddly, because as an Ossyrian he had genetic inhibitions protecting him from thoughts of a critical nature; it doesn’t seem fair…followed by, I wonder if that’s why so many of them are good looking, and healthy…and complacent? He did a fast mental head scratch, wondering at his own lack of charity (or was it envy??) and reflected on the many times during his short stay in that enchanted land that he had met with the various types of human suffering and weakness – with attendant courageous or cowardly response – that characterised so much of life on the strange planet called Earth. People really do seem to be more or less the same the world over…yet, at the same time, no two are alike. ‘T’ laughed at the absurd paradox and went to fetch the Chihuahuas.

‘Hey guys, let’s go down to the beach!’ ‘T’ beamed. Ajax immediately barked an enthusiastic response, though (if the truth be told), he would have preferred the Margate pavement with its amazing cacophony of smells; rotting food rooted out of skips by gangster sea gulls, human detritus of innumerable kind, but, above all, the near-infinite trace of canine cousins messaging each other in an olfactory universe several times more complex than the paltry human internet. Still…the beach did have seaweed and the occasional dead dog fish to provide amusement. Alfie, as anxious as Ajax to escape the confines of the small flat, merely rolled his liquid black eyes, pretending insouciance. ‘T’, a recent convert to the love of salty seas (the home planet, of course, had no large bodies of water), had returned from California a positive fanatic, and Alfie loved to tease him. ‘I’d rather go on a parakeet safari,’ the tricolour Chihuahua beamed, and yawned at ‘T’s apparent frustration. ‘It’s too cold to go up to the park,’ was ‘T’s lame reply (the beach was every bit as cold), ‘and, besides, there’s still too many leaves on the trees to get a good spot on a parakeet.’ That was quite true and Alfie knew it; he had only been teasing. Why do I enjoy teasing the boss? Raisin-coloured eyes narrowed in thought; Are all of us slowly going native?

TJH

 

 

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