Nature is in dire straits, how do we communicate this to others? #21daysofWriting – Day 20

Today’s topic is from Jacqueline D’ath   from New Zealand – the only person who sent a topic via email & who I haven’t met yet, but hope we will Skype one day.

 

How do you communicate anything massive and nebulous to people in a way that they are likely to understand and respond to?  Lots of different ways, lots of times, with lots and lots of opportunities for people to talk together and take action together. Video, Audio, connection – tug heart strings, make minds whirr, get folk to connect to experience.

It’s a helluva title this one. One of those meta-narratives that makes me want to hide, trembling, under a duvet, hoping a wee scientist and a good-willed politician, along with a philanthropist and an activist will fix it. Because, y’know, what can I do? (This is my flight response – Run. Hide. Pretend it’s someone else’s )

There might have been a point in time that this strategy had potential – at the moment? I fear hoping for the above is… altruistic?

Alternatively, my response is something more disturbing: Hopelessness. We’re doomed. Pointlessness. Existential angst that weighs me down and depresses me.  I see the active briefing from those in power – doubting climate change, doubting that the plastic M&S milk carton found in Malaysia, or the carrier bag stuffed half way down an Barrier Reef Sea Turtle is really a problem – and my heart aches, my reasoning refuses to go anywhere other than: we’re screwed  (welcome to my freeze response. Approximate value to changing anything: zero)

I think facing into dire straits comes in the other responses: fight and flock.

When I feel I can take action – when I dig in to the outrage or the fear or overwhelm and connect into something more energetically useful than: I’m too small/ have no power/ someone else can work on this/ it hurts too much to think about – then I can take action. It might be in small ways – my buying power, my eating habits, driving habits, heating habits, clothing habits, voting habits. I can live like a person who is respectful of the house she occupies, rather than a spoiled brat on the brink of a tantrum because her fast-fashion choice is environmentally dodgy. (and my tech… I might well have to re-think my tech – how it’s produced and recycled, how long I keep it for. I’m already looking at it. It will hurt to ditch my Apple stuff – but not as much and as long as it hurts the environment or the folk who make the damn things.)

This is fight  – I’m not the most fighty person in the world, so some may see this small fight as being not-worthwhile, but I’ll argue that “look at the size of my contribution” might well be the thing that got us in this mess to begin with. If everyone figured out more simple, less consumable habits and committed daily to be less wasteful – we’d be on to something at least.

And if you don’t want to fight, maybe we can Flock – joining in and taking part with other, like minded people who are trying to deal with the dire straits –  I’m no scientist or politician, my Philanthropic abilities are laughable, but I can be an activist – I can encourage and join, fight and learn. There is power in movement – no power in apathy.

These conversations seem harder at the moment because of the noise and the brouhaha bubbling about politics, racism, sexism…everything really. We are so distracted with what divides us, we are forgetting that something much much bigger unites us – our home is in danger. Arguing over who’s in charge of the larder seems somewhat dopey… but here we are – bickering over occupation and rule of landmasses that, in the face of an ocean, a hurricane, a flood, a wildfire we demonstrably have no actual power over. Who are we kidding?

The topic asks: How do we communicate this to others? I’d ask: how do we communicate it to ourselves? David Attenborough is one secret weapon to wake folk up, clearly – but each of us has a role in figuring out how we will respond and live in the face of depleting resources.

Obviously, one of the things I would suggest is we pay attention to our natural world more. Put bird food out, grow wild flowers that help insects – even if you live in flat with a window box.  Take your headphones off and listen to the world – for birdsong, for the wind. Notice the smell of cut grass or flowers – seek things out that don’t smell like petrol or Hugo Boss. Connect in with this part of the world – we are not going to raise awareness, or live more consciously, we are not going to convince anyone of anything, unless we start from places like this.

I can’t answer such a question in a blog – but this is my best go.

 

 

Reflection

I think in “hot topics” like these, I feel out of my depth – I have no deep reading around this stuff – mostly it’s personal views and there are QUITE enough opinions raffling about the world at the moment. As I write I feel guilty – like I’m faking something – putting something out there that makes me sound much more Woke and Worthy than I probably am.

I couldn’t find a way to fit in the spiritual stuff – living in wonder, being genuinely awe-struck by how gorgeous out planet can be. Thinking of our smallness, not in a depressing “I’m worthless” way, but in a “I’m a tiny, important part of a great big thing” way…..

It was a tough one to write, in its own way – lots of editing and fiddling today.

Redundant Apostrophes & How They Changed The World – #21daysofWriting – Day 17

Today’s topic came from the deliciously gorgeous Liz Kentish who never every fails to bring joy.. this title has been hanging for 17 days… I love that she set it.

 

Where to begin with this bad boy?

I start here:

“Apostrophes. The difference between knowing your shit & knowing you’re shit”*

(anon)

My point being that a small piece of syntax can alter things dramatically. The devil’s in the detail, of course. Do Apostrophes change the world? Maybe not, but the use of language, how we write it and frame it is important. Words can wound or inspire. We are living in times where language can be altered, twisted….perhaps in a time where language may fail us; where it might be visual narratives, or kinetic actions that will speak louder. Where our shared language might have to be one of shown empathy, sympathy, care, kindness.. because words might just let us down.

I recognise I’m privileged enough to speak a language which has hundreds of thousands of words. Privileged further by a family who encouraged use-of-language, by access to teachers like the indomitable Nancy Patterson at Bell Baxter High School who stood her tiny, rotund frame on skinny high heels and banned us from using the word “got” (“You didn’t “got” to the station. There are a million other verbs out there. Use any other one of them”). But my strong English means I am lazy in other languages. The articulation I enjoy here, on the page, verbally, utterly fails me when I ask for a sandwich in France or when I try to read a menu in Hungary… I’m utterly dumb. Literally. Sod the redundant apostrophes…. In these situation I am massively disadvantaged… I disadvantaged myself by giggling during German lessons. Language matters. I wish I knew more of them.

And yet I like the notion of a redundant thing. Something that once mattered – that once had meaning. Childhood teddy bears or cuddle blankets, put aside as we grow. Old mugs bearing the race we ran, the school we went to, the holiday we had. Old books, read once, that we keep because they remind us of a time, a place or a thing. The old ashtray found by the person who hasn’t smoked in years. The poster of a concert once attended with a dismal ex.  These things are markers of moments. In their own way they hold resonance and comfort….when they become redundant (rarely overnight, they are not redeemable vouchers for a shop) it means we have moved, shifted – who we were isn’t how we now are. Sometimes we are strident about that – NO! I am no LONGER thatperson! Other times, we look more fondly at the memento, the thing-I-no-Longer-need.. and we might be glad that we have shifted, or quietly sad.

A redundant thing can still hold significance. If I were Maria Kondo, I’d be all “Get rid”. Yet on a day where I’ve just chucked a bunch of stuff in storage, I’m going to tell you: it ain’t that simple. Sometimes….things can be not-quite redundant… they can hold possibility “oooh… that’s going to look good in the new house – whenever the new house happens”. Call me indecisive. Call me weak…. Call me sentimental about my Granny’s table… just don’t call Maria Kondo.. She and I might clash.

These are times when we need to recycle, upcycle, make-do-and-mend. Times where waste should be valued, perhaps, and re-thought about. I’ve heard that Kondo’s call for us to declutter led to a rise in folk chucking stuff out – Where did it go? More to Charity shops? More to landfill? Did folk gift out their redundant stuff?  I hope we are wise where we can be.

And so as I mull on the redundancy of apostrophes and how they changed the world, and how this might just be my favourite title of the whole blog series, I’m thinking about language and things passing and about how redundant things might just show the world is changing. Yes, Liz.. maybe that’show redundant apostrophes change the world.

 

*I know.. technically it’s Grammar…

 

Reflection

Oh My God this one was late in the day…. busy Bank Holiday weekend meant writing was hard to fit in.. but a challenge is a challenge and I thought about the post as I went through my day. I’m delighted at the variety of stuff I have been offered.. genuinely had to roll up my verbal sleeves a few times and now I only have 4 more posts on this challenge, I can feel how Sad I’ll be when it closes… going to post now ( 9:30 pm) or I’ll mis today’s deadline….

The Power of Music – #21daysofWriting – Day 15

Today’s topic comes from top Twitter type Mark Catchlove 

The Power of Music.
Where to begin?
ABC?
Do-re-mi?
De La Soul?
La Boehme?
Bohemian Rhapsody?
Rhapsody in blue?
Blue Monday?
Manic Monday?
Do we begin with a beat?  Something that reflects a pulse?
Or with a melody?

When I read a dictionary definition of a melody – a sequence of single notes that is musically satisfying; a tune.” – it’s so far from melodic, it makes me smile at the daftness… Some Things? Some Things are beyond words or descriptors.

Music is a language all by itself.

It can seep into your body, through your ears or through the thump of it, the vibration of it through your skin and your bones.

It can be terrible and tinny and annoying – pop-py, repetitive, surface throw-away crap.
It can be so stupidly beautiful, that everything stops and you are entirely alone with it.
It can be something that bonds you with a thousand strangers, as you sing together – one tune, well known, uniting.
It can be lofty, intellectual, refined.
It can be basic, dirty, gritty, ubiquitous.

It can be painful – I once met someone who found music excruciating – all music. No-one understood how this could be (I didn’t either). It drove them from restaurants, it upset them in lifts, shopping was hideous for them….it seemed to literally hurt their body. I remember saying “you are allergic to music?” and they said, basically, yes.  My reaction of “shit that’s AWFUL” was one they got a LOT. But it wasn’t awful for them. That was their life. Worse was folk like me saying: “How Awful” ALL THE TIME.

There are those who can read music, write music – to me that’s wonderful.. The sheer privilege of being able to create music, not just consume it. Oh what a thing to have. If you are musical in any way shape or form, I hope you appreciate the landscape you can navigate….. I don’t mind if you think you are awful.. if you can play,  if you can read music – if those tiny strange notations on a bunch of straight lines makes sense to you, or more miraculously still, if you can look at that page of notes and “hear’ what it is there,  in your head, without a instrument interpreting it. Wow. That’s a thing.

Without thinking too hard, powerful musical moments can come to mind. As a child, scooped up on my Mum’s hip, as she swayed about the kitchen singing Abba’s “Thank You for The Music” to me. Feeling giddy with the movement and the joy.  Singing in the School Choir for some competition and literally feeling the resonance of voices around me – my arm hairs rising and being slightly freaked out by that. Dancing to “Fools Gold” in a village hall in Fife, copying dance moves off the cool kids, wearing a sun-hat indoor & dressed in jeans so baggy I needed two belts to ensure safe upkeep… having sense I wasn’t a little kid any more. Heading up the M6 with my best mate to her Hen Do in her new fancy “I’m a lawyer now” car, top down, singing Wham songs and Billy Joel (even though it was 2000-and-something) and feeling life gets no better than that. Standing in Albert Square in Manchester last year, 1 year on from the bomb, as the crowd sung Elbow’s “One Day Like This”  -crying with strangers at the awfulness, the sadness, the resolution of staying united.

Standing stunned at the purity of Suzanne Vega’s live voice, last summer, as she sang songs I had endlessly played on a crappy tape machine in my bedroom – emotion shifting through my body I didn’t fully understand – nostalgia, happiness, melancholy for simpler times….

Music evokes.

It is magical, powerful….how lucky we are.

Finding your voice – #21daysofWriting – Day 14

 

Today’s topic is brought to you by Gina Chapman, who is an all-round good egg & Twitter -type.

When I started all of this, I didn’t know what writing would fall on what date. That a post on “voice” would come on the day of a controversial European Election was definitely not part of the plan.. and yet here it is.

Over the past few weeks and particularly the past few days, the “voices” I can find and hear seem less-than-satisfied. I hear anger. Fury. Hatred. I hear people yelling at other people, sometimes on the same “side”. I hear voices of anguish – depression, loneliness, anxiety – our mental health under siege. I hear fear, loathing, despair. I hear brave voices, kind voices who are exhausted because they are shouted down by louder, less kind, more entitled ones.

I hear sensible, informed scientific voices given no credence or space. I hear the very things I thought I and everyone knew – the earth is indefatigably round – questioned and “disproved”. I hear the denial of rights, the dehumanising of each other to the point we are objects, rather than living, breathing, marvellous, daft, dumb, clumsy, striving beings.

It feels like a shit storm.

I want to switch off, curl up, knit for the winter, watch old movies with cups of tea, drink a LOT of gin, go walk in the hills… do anything to escape the madness. But it’s not going to be that way, for a while….buckle in, good people, we are in an epoch of change…Finding your own voice in all of this may require some care.

I can feel my natural hope and optimism being tested. The stoicism I try to find – the thing in me that says I can and will endure, and that to endure in a good state requires certain things of me – can be hard to locate at times.  I have to work at being kind when I can be, without being a pushover. To call out BS with what grace and humour I can muster – and stand within the reaction that comes back (no-one likes their BS being called. Including me.) without getting vengeful or hateful… it takes practice… sometimes I am vengeful and hateful – I tend not to spread that around, when it comes. There’s enough of it about. Keeping my own council is often better for everyone.

In times of such negative emotion it can feel like an act of rebellion or naivety to seek something more affirming to counter the crap. Words like cheerful or happy, joy or fulfilment, contentedness, love – these words are still seen as trite, unimportant and right now, they don’t get a lot of space. We need to find them space.

Reclaiming and living these words, actively, daily might just be the counter-cultural shower we need to wash away some of the current shit. So if I give myself permission for shameless joy and daft laughter, which starts someone else off. If I grin into the wind as I cycle & someone else grins back. If I take such pleasure in that first mouthful of raspberry brownie that I HAVE TO SHARE THE BROWNIE. If I take the bin out for my bonkers old neighbour because it’s a kind thing to do & no-one walks out of that deal worse off. If I send love to my friends who are feeling hopeless or chewed up, in a more useful, active way than “U Ok Hun?” and try to listen or nudge them to a thing that might help or away from the thing that doesn’t. If I vote in a way that represents the things I most closely believe will be better for me and the environment I occupy. If I politely push back at invitations come to Some Big Place to observe a “manel” bestowing mono-cultural wisdom on the less-well informed or say I don’t want to Chair one at some other Big Place and that statement gets traction. If I do these things and a hundred, thousand other things that make stuff better and less hateful and more harmonious…

If I actively participate in not participating in the brouhaha because I don’t do well in those spaces and my voice would weaken… if I write from my heart and put that into the world, with hope and belief that where we are at right now “this too will pass”. If I do these things…I’m not part of the problem, for now.

So maybe it’s not about finding voice, but finding when actions really do speak louder.

 

I am from – #21daysofwriting – Day 11

Today’s topic is from Lesley Moorhouse  who is a Shindig Alumni from Edinburgh… today we go a little Universal…

 

I am from stardust.

So are you, by the way, I’m not getting grandiose on you or anything. (see example here from the National Geographic ) The elements that make up our bodies – Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Calcium, Phosphorus – are shared with, and are likely to have originated from stars. I get strange comfort from this – the sense of being connected to something way way bigger than myself.. a wee spec in the Cosmos…. A kind of celestial puzzle piece.

If you ever want to feel small and humble or wonderfully huge and important – have a look at some of the research and writing that comes from astrophysics or molecular biology. I am in no-way well read on this stuff, but even beginning to look into it all, can start a sense of wonder in me (or terror, if you can’t quite cope with the existential nature of it all… have a go. See how you go). We are inner space, woven from outer space… I just love that.

So you/ we are truly remarkable – stellar, endless, vast, beautiful. You/we are also utterly unremarkable – part of an endless cycle of birth and death. The good news is (irrespective of what your religious beliefs are & I believe this part fits with whatever God you may or may not pursue) when you die your atoms reshuffle and get redistributed into other things – plants, animals, the Cosmos. (I’m not tackling the Soul question here or matters of Heaven etc.) The point being we truly are interconnected, intimately, with every living thing.  We are inseparable from nature around us and intertwined with the Universe, our bodies are created thus. We share elemental building blocks with everything. Whether you believe that, like that, or whether that gives you the heebie-jeebies is yours to work with…. But it’s worth thinking about as you move through your working week.

Everyone you meet is remarkable and unique. Everyone is unremarkable and the same. And you are connected to them. At an elemental level, you are no different. I think that’s so cool.

That thinking might be helpful in these fragmented times. Emphasis not on philosophical difference, but physical and cellular similarities, emphasis on connection and our place on the planet… these things might be worth re-thinking and learning about. I listen to The Life Scientific on Radio 4 in the UK, often, and I’m struck by how spiritual or religious those in the Scientific fields can be.. how seeking empirical truths can still leave space for spiritual pursuits. I like that paradox.

So. I might be “from” Fife and other places I have lived. I might be “from” my family. I might be “from” my gender, ethnicity, education and “from” my physical and emotional experiences which have forged me …I am all of these things, and others…and, on a cellular, elemental level, I am from stardust.

cool.

Reflection

So it’s fun to go a little stellar.. and it’s not an area I’m very knowledgeable about… and as I wrote it, I was thinking how I might be offending those with religion, or get caught up in arguments from science-deniers ( not that it’s written to shock or evoke anything other than thinking wider…).

I love these conversations and the thinking around all of it – It’s so much more satisfying ( and unsatisfying) than binary hate-filled guff that gets spouted. If you are going to think about the stardust in you, it pretty quickly moves to existence and God and nature and can we Believe Things We Can’t see…..can we hold some sense of ourselves in the face of things that are too big to make sense?

So on this one, I’m out of comfort zone and feeling like I need to do loads more research – but I’m thinking, at least.

The Ebb & Flow of Creativity – #21daysof Writing – day 8

This topic comes from Annette Hill, fellow @lndconnect aficionado & Director of Workforce Development at Hospice Care.

“Ebb and Flow are two phases of the tide or any similar movement of water. The Ebb is the outgoing phase, when the tide drains away from the shore; and the flow is the incoming phase when water rises again.” ( Wikipedia)

So.. that sounds about right when I think about my “creativity”

In the ebb –it’s not accessible, it’s fading, draining away. Generally that happens when I’ve not been in touch with it for a while – haven’t written or knitted or drawn out stupid doodly-map things that help me “see” a situation. In the ebb, I feel that loss – a disconnect with something, a bit of joie de vivre fading out. I sometimes try a thing – a blog, a scarf, a project – but I’m sort of unfit & can’t quite do the distance…. In ebb, I’m less free, relaxed, more intense about stupid things. I used to not really notice the ebb- state… basically because I hadn’t fully allowed or enabled the flow.

I would notice the flow of creativity when it arrived. I couldn’t not. It woke me up, some nights. Demanding to be exercised, like a excited puppy. I even blogged at the time about noticing the manic and the mellow.

In full flow it is not to be held in my brain or my body – it needs out. Typed out, written out, sketched out, talked out….whatever. It’s just not to be contained neatly. It wants to spill and boil, grow, spread…My creativity is messy and daft, when I try to be neat and serious. It’s risky and edge-walking, when I want to be safe and secure.

As a result it is a vital part of my wellbeing – my mental health, my emotional health… physically, it lifts me and challenges me, but writing means I have to get up and move too….I’m only just beginning to understand how vital creative outlets are… and how, if we don’t have any at all, things can get bad for us…. when I think about my 20’s and how anxious I was – my focus was on relationships and career and travelling and fighting my body & hair for more perfection ( I gave that battle up. To paraphrase Caitlin Moran, “the thing about fighting yourself is, even when you win, you lose”)  – what I wasn’t doing was writing. I’m very egalitarian in my definition of “creativity” – you can find it in cooking, gardening, dancing, coding, accounting – whatever it is that feeds your soul and gives you some semblance of deep satisfaction… the making of a thing, the creation of something.. we are wired to create… I”m not sure I knew that, when I was younger…

These days, my relationship with my creative muscles is somewhat more equal. Where once it would elbow its way in, demanding space, as some part of my brain worked away on whatever mad scheme or blog or facilitated day design or worry that requires attention… like a hostile takeover…. These days, I’m learning to invite it to arrive too – the deal is I  “show up” at my desk or laptop and it comes along too. That it and I both have work to do.  If I catch the flow, it is undeniable and can feel confounding, big. It’s demanding, and impatient – I am, at times, a secretary on dictation: “catch this, would you?”

See  Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED tallk where she articulates this much more thoroughly

So I’m playing with the notion of encouraging flow & reducing the ebb. I’m not Canute. I’m not going to try to reverse any tides… but as try to write every day for 21  days on whatever may come….I can see that the more I talk to it and access it,  the more it becomes a trusted friend, a confidant, a something beloved and precious.

It’s annoying and inconvenient at times… but beloved.

 

Reflection

I had a lot more to say on this one. I was going to get political – about the lack of resources for art and music – but I don’t know enough about all that and the politics might be a distraction. These 21 days, trying to flex my style – trying to be conscious of tone and topic… it has opened up a different part of my creative process ( if I can be so pompous). The want to show up and be disciplined, to practice and attend fully to the writing, as I said I would, not just dash something off means I have to make time and energy for the writing. And I’m happy to. And it’s been more challenging to do that, at times, than access the words… its an interesting challenge.

What Could We Learn from Our Pets?  #21daysofWriting – Day 7

This was a topic chosen by Kez Smith & I hope touches something close to most of our hearts.

If you are joining now.. this is a #21daysofWriting Challenge I’ve set myself – topics crowdsourced by good people in my network.

—-

Our pets.

They come in all shapes and sizes, Furry, Hairy, Fluffy, Shelled, Scaled, Finned, Combed….. Some say we look like our pets. When I look at my slightly overweight, middle-aged black Labrador, snoring peacefully beside me, covered in grey hair with really bad bad breath…I hope this isn’t so.

But what do we learn from our non-human buddies? What life lessons do they bestow upon us with their presence?  Based on previous pet-experience, here are two suggestions:

Point 1: Death is inevitable

Yes. I thought I’d start straight on a cheery note.

This lesson is brought to you, courtesy of 2 goldfish, won at the Aberystwyth Fair one night some time in the mid 1980’s.  The terrible truth of this story is I can’t remember the names of said fish (In my head it is Finbar & Fishbar, but I know these were the names of my brother’s goldfish, later in life).

I remember winning them at something akin to a coconut shy (again – details sketchy on this one) and bringing them home, carefully holding the clear plastic bag in the back of the car. Either my Dad or my big brother warned me the fish were unlikely to survive the night. I was determined. These fish would live until I was old – like, maybe even 17. These fish would be kept alive with love.

That first night, the fish swam in a Pyrex bowl usually saved for cooking stuff in the new microwave. I was concerned about this… that they might end up in the fridge or zapped accidentally, but they were still there the next day. Alive.

They were pretty and orange. “Why do they call them gold?” I asked – I still don’t think I know, now I think of it. No matter. To me my orange-goldfish were perfect.

After school that day, mum took me to a pet shop (I’d never been to a pet shop) where the fish were bought a proper bowl, gravel, food and the wee man gave me instructions for looking after fish. The need to clean the bowl and top-up the water carefully was verbally underlined. Don’t worry, Good Sir.  I am keeping these fish alive and happy.

On returning home, the fish were transported gently into their new aquatic surroundings – with Mum adding a special prize of two fairly large white coral chunks which had previously been ornamenting the bathroom. Happy fish. New landscape. All was well.

The fish survived for months. And months. And months. It became a talking point with visitors – the fairground fish faring well. Our fairground fish were not the dying kind. They kind of grew and we got a bigger bowl…My fish-for-life plan was working.

Until, that was, I returned home from school one day to feed the fish, as usual. There they were, floating on the surface, pale and un-orange. Surprisingly white in death. Both fish. Gone. Both. On one day. One must have died of heartbreak when the first one died. My plan for old-age fish died with them. I was devastated.

The fish were given a proper burial, in the back garden. I made a little cross out of lollipop sticks and the white coral was placed on top as a sort of marker. Sad times.

The end of that particular fish-tale you’d think…only….it turns out my fish did not collectively and naturally meet their maker, as I had assumed.

The fish had, indeed, been alive for months. And in that time the white coral chunks had grown slimy and greener and greener. My lovely mum decided this wasn’t a good look and reasoned it was probably not good for the fish, so she took the coral out and gave it a damn good bleaching…. Not fully realising that coral is porous. So when, even after rinsing it through a few times, she put it back in the water….

Two bleached fish.

Point 2: They don’t speak your language

Around the same time, my Dad decided we needed a working sheepdog. We were living on the Welsh Agricultural College’s sheep farm in mid-Wales. Dad lectured there & ran the working farm. A little dairy, a little arable, but mainly it was the flock of a few hundred ewes that occupied us. We had a full-time Shepherd, Bertie – who was wee, barrel chested and dark. A serious man of few words. He spoke Welsh as his first language, English as a halting second. Bert trialled sheepdogs Nationally. He was a man who knew his stuff. To my knowledge, Dad consulted Bert about the sheepdog purchase, then went off somewhere to Powys, bringing back a 9 month old, semi-trained, skinny black-white and tan Collie.

Choosing to acknowledge our Scottish roots, we named him Jock.

We had high hopes for Jock – he came from a proud lineage of working dogs. Dad commenced training with the dog with gusto… but after 10 days or so, he admitted the dog confounded him. One Saturday morning, as I pulled on my wellies, Dad said we were going to pick up Bertie in the Truck to “See what can be done with Jock.”

Jock was in the back of the pickup as we drove, face fully into the wind, trying to bite the air as it passed him. My father was unimpressed “look at that daft mutt.”

It seemed we had been sold a pup. Literally.

20 minutes later, I’m standing on the field gate, beside Bert the Shepherd, who was leaning on his crook, flat cap pulled firmly on, Pipe in mouth, watching Dad and the dog.

The dog split the flock. He ran left, enthusiastically, when right would have worked better. He lay down only after several screams. Jock-the-Dog was, indeed, hopeless.

I said so to Bert. Confidently repeating Dad’s assertion that  “This dog is no use”

Bert sighed. Shook his head. Took his pipe out of his mouth and said darkly: “It might not be the dog, Julie fach”.

I looked on at the scene anew.

My father, increasingly agitated. Shouting louder, gesticulating more.

The dog LOVING every moment of running about with sheep – the sheer joy on his face, utterly unconcerned by the yelling Scotsman.

Eventually, Bert could take no more. He shouted Dad back and went into the field.

He called Hopeless Jock over, knelt down beside the dog and seemed to talk to him.

After a minute or so, he stood, full-shepherd, crook slightly out and began running the dog.

Of course, it worked perfectly. The dog dropping, running, shifting direction as bid. Whistles and shouts, calm instructions man-to-dog…. One flock, neatly rounded.

Bert walked calmly back, broad chested and slightly bandy-legged, Dog at his side. As was his way, he stopped without saying anything & started stuffing his pipe.

After a moment or so, he lit the pipe, took a puff or two and looked at my Dad.

“I think I know the problem, Bill.”

My Dad looked up

“This dog. He came from Powys, right?”

Dad nods

Bert starts to Chuckle….

“He don’t speak English…. Mae’r ci yn siarad Cymraeg”

I didn’t understand.

He chuckled again

“The dog speaks Welsh.”

——-

Reflection

It took a while to find what I wanted to write. The title invited an element of “expert”

What Could We Learn From Our Petssounds like something requiring something Proper.

I spent a couple of hours trying to write properly… racking my brains for something intelligent and wise to say.. and in the end, it was stories from my childhood that really resonated… the Goldfish tale and the, frankly daft, notion that a dog might “speak” Welsh. Both are true stories –blurred by memory and my brothers will doubtless tell me I’ve made stuff up… creative license? But when I started writing these tales, it flowed more easily, it was fun – I remembered more deeply than I expected to….

I also felt dodgy putting Welsh words in the tale of Jock – the endearment fachinstead of the formal version of little, bach. Google Translated “The Dog Speaks Welsh” and for any Welsh speakers ( Mark Hendy & Kate Graham, I particularly have you in mind) I may have added something comedy or true or awful in trusting a search engine…

Both stories still make me giggle… so I guess that’s been part of the pleasure of sharing.