Thursday, 27 November 2008

In which the Phantom Pooper attempts suttee (or The Self-Immolating Collie)

Heck it’s cold here. I’ve been trying to work but every five minutes I have to get up and launch into a series of star jumps to get the circulation going again. Those of you with still-functioning memories might be suspicious at this point, muttering that ‘surely she has heating now?’ and indeed we do. Lovely, brand-new through-the-house heating and dead impressive radiators. However Adrian is being stern and unrelenting on the question of oil and, having seen the way the stuff is racing down the tank like juice being sucked out of a glass by a greedy child (or gin and tonic by its mother), I take his point.
My office has a hole where the wood burner will go. There is even a slab of slate waiting to be laid. Only problem, no money for said wood burner. So it’s back to the star jumps.

Now I know I have moaned a lot about The Phantom Pooper (17-year old collie, not ours, generally loathed but what can you do?) in the past but, bless her aged (and still revoltingly sound) heart, she is trying to help us stave off the chill. The other night I was lolling on the sofa (with a thick blanket wrapped, burka-like around me), watching back to back DVDs of Boston Legal. Adrian was sitting next to me engrossed in some arcane classical rendition on his iPod. The fire was burning pretty well (thanks to libations of candlewax) and the PP staggered over towards it. I assumed she was simply trying (like the rest of us) to keep warm so didn’t pay much attention. She then wobbled over the brick threshold into the inglenook itself. Weird dog, I thought, then simply figured she must be really cold. Attention strayed back to the television. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something large and black waving around – with a glowing tip. The stupid dog had obviously wafted her tail over the fire and it had caught light.
‘Oh puck!’ I said.
Adrian carried on blithely conducting. The PP carried on blithely waving her tail and the glow deepened.
‘OH PUCK!’ I yelled.
‘The dog’s on fire!’
‘What did you say?’
If you’re wondering why I didn’t jump up and attend it’s because, in the Bonkers House, certain duties are clearly delineated and the task of Stamping Out Sparks is one of Adrian’s. He does that man thing of spitting on his fingers and then picking up the smut or spark with his bare hands. Let’s be clear here it is the only macho thing he does and so he is inordinately proud of it – it would be emasculating and cruel to take it away from him.
Anyhow, the PP was waving her tail like an Olympic torch, seemingly totally unperturbed by the fact that she was, quite literally fanning the flames and possibly (hopefully?) facing self-immolation. Finally I managed to mime conflagration to Adrian (yes, I’m good at charades, if I say so myself) and he slowly swung his gaze to the fire.
Taking off his headphones he said, calmly:
‘What’s up? What’s that dog doing?’
‘Committing suttee,’ I said. ‘Or trying to.’
‘She’s on fire, for puck’s sake. DO something!’

I could see it in his eye – how tempting just to leave her to go up in a self-appointed pyre. No more endless poop scooping, no more being woken several times a night, no more sick to shovel off the kitchen floor. She would even keep the fire going a bit longer.
Then his basic animal-loving nature got the better of him (plus he probably figured out that burnt collie is probably a very unpleasant room fragrancer) and so he calmly got up and dowsed her tail in the ash bucket.
The smell of singed dog is, indeed, not to be recommended.

When I told Milla the story she laughed (as you might have guessed) and then pointed out that, had the PP really been committing suttee that would imply that Asbo Jack would have pushed off this mortal coil beforehand. I sighed and indulged in a blissful moment’s reverie about a life sans dogs. Then the barking started again.

Changing the subject abruptly (sorry, have to spit this out quickly before my fingers freeze into one solid chunk) I don’t attract a lot of blog bling (another Milla phrase gleefully stolen). So I was rather childishly chuffed when Hadriana bestowed the Superior Scribbler award on this unworthy blog (oh go on, boost my ego by taking exception to the unworthy bit). I now have to do my own bit of bestowing and so, in no particular order, these are a few blogs whose writers have a certain way with words….(there was a prescribed number but I can't remember and my fingers won't last long enough to go back and find out)....

Little Brown Dog – someone give this poor woman a break. Life’s grim but the writing is juicy.
Ladybirdworld – a superior wordsmith – a new find and already a favourite.
Milla – the inimitable - when the puck will someone give this woman a newspaper column?
ElizabethM – lyrical and just luscious prose and pictures.
Ernest de Cugnac (oh, I mean God of course) for the God Diaries. Sure God doesn’t need an award but this is just one of the cleverest, funniest things I’ve read so I’ll bestow it anyhow (he can always pass it onto Lucy).
Edward for Rotwatch – don’t think he’s a blog bling man either but you never know. I don’t really watch TV but this makes me laugh even when I haven’t a clue what he’s talking about.
Cowgirl – fabulous marriage of words and images…
KittyB – a neat turn of phrase, a way with words….and the damn woman is slim, gorgeous and can cook too (how I hate her!).

Oh, there are loads more but sorry, sorry, fingers about to drop off – time for another set of star jumps – or maybe I’ll get a fire going and get as close as I can to it (without setting my hair alight).

PS – apologies for all the brackets – they are becoming the new exclamation marks.


Esther Montgomery said...

Very familiar with wearing coat, hat, scarf and fingerless gloves indoors.

(Woolly hat in bed has, at times, been essential.)

Completely in harmony with the daft (but inevitable) who-does-what-is-cast-in-iron rule.

Also think brackets are under-valued and under-used.

Capital letters too.

Esther Montgomery

Ladybird World Mother said...

Oh my word alive, thank you!
Having laughed my way through your post... (am freezing here too, husband also stern with the oil, as it were, and where would we be without brackets) then see lovely award at the end... even nicer because got it off Hadriana too! Unlike you, though, I have absolutely no idea how I get that award thingy onto my page.
Thank you again. Am tickled pink.

Maggie Christie said...

Ouch! So funny - I'm absolutely howling here. Utterly, utterly brilliant.

You're supposed to chuck another dog on the BED when it's cold, not the fire!

I'm with you on the cold thing too. We have war here. He turns on the oil-fired heating/electric fire/lights the wood-burner. I turn off the heating/electric fire/let the wood burner go out. We're generally cold. WE haven't resorted to burning the dog.


Norma Murray said...

We spent a week trying to have no heating on during the day, that was way back at the start of November, since then I've given up and I'm back to my cosy spendthrift ways. Couldn't you use that dog as a footwarmer?

walter and me said...

Helpless with laughter here! Hope you've warmed up a bit by now. Or are more star jumps needed? I hear boiler juice is the cheapest place to go for an oil delivery.
Stay toasty!
D xx


Oh, Jane - I'm so touched (and not a little inebriated after another loooooong day, so this comment may possibly turn into an Oscar acceptance speech of Gwyneth Paltrow proportions...) Yes, yes, life has been slightly grim I suppose, but it's looking gradually better with every sip I take.

First up, I do so sympathise with the cold (not to mention the oil-monitoring husband. I have one who has been known to draw magic marker lines on the oil tank before, so believe you me, I do know, my dear). Second up (is that a phrase? well it is now) Is PP REALLY 17 years old? Berlimey! I know crossbreeds are hardy, but that is darned old for a dog. Even one with a burning tail). Did laugh at your iPod wearing husband (yup - have one of those, too) and miming of the firedog charade. Go on, treat yourself to a woodburner. You know it makes sense...

Love you.


Ska, not a good mother but working on it said...

was howling quietly to myself (if you see what I mean) - poor dog! Your charades sound so much better than mine..
i don't allow myself any heating in the day until the kids come home up to then i shuffle around with an ikea blanket wrapped round me, sometimes a hot water bottle tucked in there too.

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

Oh Jane! where to start? the cold, yes, walking socks and double fleece and cold nose. He has given in now: central heating on two hours in the morning and the same at night and woodburner on all day if I am here but my study is where the woodburner is not. Hardly my fault I can't work then is it?
And yes to the jobs written in stone. Clearly I can change a lightbulb but it is not a good thing to undermine a chap's manhood.
Thank you so much for award, and in such fabulous illustrious company too. I feel quite overcome but, like LBD, am on the second glass.

Pondside said...

Thank you for the laugh, Jane!! The thought of you wrapped up on the couch, miming imminent imolation - more laughing at the laptop.
I really do agree with you as regards clearly delineated tasks - I do not remove dead mice from fact don't touch traps at all. Nor do I change lightbulbs, haul feed or chop firewood

Anonymous said...

Yes, chuck a LOG on the fire and a DOG on the bed. But who's paying any attention to those little details?

Laughter must help keep you warm - and be good news for the stomach muscles as well!

Frances said...

Jane, I just keep laughing. Never a quiet night at your house!

How is our pal Asbo reacting to sharing the spotlight (or firelight) with another? Is he retaining any alpha dog status?

Surely do hope that a woodburner gets to you by Christmas. Perhaps you need to write one of those Santa Baby letters a la Eartha Kitt.


Tessa said...

I suppose one of the more positive aspects of preventing hypothermic death by performing frequent and vigorous star jumps is that it's a good aerobic workout?

Anyway, I'm too embarrassed to make any more comments because it has just occurred to me - in a very dazzling and dizzy-making flash - who Jane Alexander is. Shriek....bye...sorry...

Lindsay said...

Your blog made me laugh and I need it right now. Had squitters for a couple of days and my brother is flying back to Australia today.

Fennie said...

Ah, I have caught your blog still almost (at two days) at least a degree or two warm off the press.
Very funny. But I am amazed the dog didn't apparently notice. If it had done would it have chased its tail, I wonder? Or flown from it, though I am not sure how on flies from a tail, in a circle anyway. Not sure I have had a similar experience, though I did once have a dog fall into a pot of paint and proceed to decorate the house. Still I suppose now we know what fireguards are for, to keep dogs out of inglenooks.

Helen said...

came to your blog from "Gods" and love your writing too :D
cheers... it's good to have a well written wit to dorp in on (oops I mean drop)

Unknown said...

Oh poor PP! Funny how elderly dogs manage to get this right though, I remember my old Goldie doing something very similar - and singed dog is not a good room fragrance at all!
Sending you sunshine, loads of it and hot days!

Erm, word veri for the day is "mednes". Well, yes, indeed.

mountainear said...

What a great post - I needed a laugh at a dog's expense. Many thanks.

Gill - That British Woman said...

I am sorry but I did find the doggy story funny!!!!

I remember when we first got our doggy (now deceased) she was fascinated with the gas fire and insisted on sniffing it and burnt her nose!!! She only did it the once.

Great post.

Gill in Canada, via from Lindsay

Sally Townsend said...

You mean you planned radiators AND a wood burner, oh for the old days eh ? The cat performed like that a while ago, hell of a fright.

abcd said...

Hilarious as ever Jane, have you ever thought of doing a reality TV programme from your house? It would be much more entertaining than the Osbournes or the Fulfords!:-)

Edward said...

Very funny - I couldn't imagine how anyone could get a blog out of a self-immolating collie, but that was comedy gold. We too are in possession of a functioning heating system and Comptroller of the Household Finances who won't allow it to operate. And I'm insanely unworthy of your blog bling, but I will display it with pride.

John said...

now, what can I say, but you are a total sweetypie. Thank you for those very kind comments!

Cait O'Connor said...

Brilliant as ever Jane and so funny. I could almost smell burnt dog.
You are not the only woman who sits wrapped in a blanket by the way. I have even being going to bed in my clothes some nights lately, it has been seriously cold here.

Tattieweasle said...

I've nearly done myself some serious harm here and disturbed Dear Charlie with my squeaks while he was rapt in Spooks - oh but BOY have I laughed at PP and her attempted Suttee! Poor wee thing! Thank you SO much!

Sorrow said...

oh good lord...
dogs with burning tales?
is that something like a tail of an two idiots? the one on fire and the one wagging it?
sorry i don't have the time to read through all your comments..
and lord for a jumping jack woman you do get a lot of them!
Congrates o n the awards..
Or is it singular?
been full up with company
so the brains not a bit tidy..
I am off to check out your recommendations!
( and by the way, it's bloody cold here too!)

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Liked that post Jane! Some other blog names which I hope to check out if I get the chance. Well earned and well deserved...not unworthy in the slightest!

Milla said...

ta, love. and the nippers will approve of the drawing. Brilliant blog as per. Jokes at dog's expense are all we have in the canine balance - on their side is slobber, swaggering tails, lusty chops, annoying shaking, dead badger smell, pooping, peeing, snoring, squeaking, stretching, yawning, importunate yaps. All we have is to squeeze a laugh from the grimness of our situation. Have I said I loathe dogs?

Ivy said...

Just to let you know I follow your blog like an addict :-)) Sati Dog eh? glad she did not flatulate....

Milla said...

(thanks Janey)
love the gender split, what a marriage to have it defined down to alignment of dog-fire putting out duties!
that dog will see you out, and has plans to paint the oak room bright green. Lolly likes bright green. Just a thought.

Milla said...

oh God! Can't believe, I've already been and commented. Brain empty. durrr

blogthatmama said...

Lurch watches the oil line like a hawk but I strong-armed him with the recent blizzards and yesterday I even got down to one fleece. He's been in shirtsleeves, fanning himself and muttering about furnaces.

60GoingOn16 said...

Ah yes, singed dog ... my ancient lab/collie cross is obsessed with fires of all kinds (woodburner, Calor gas heaters, bonfires etc). He has singed patches from head to toe, including eyebrows and tail. So, is it a collie thing?

Kitty said...

Aw, shucks, I'm blushing, gee thanks EJ, I'd like to thank my parents, my dog-psychiatrist and my manicurist...

We've no money for a wood burner either and with the thermostats set to a measly 16 degrees (Sam and Adrian would get on like a house - or indeed dog - on fire on this subject) it's stiff fingers and drippy noses all round here too.

Brackets rule - but hyphens and dotdotdots rock.

Chris Stovell said...

Sorry, also laughed at poor dog on fire. Turn the heating up, Adrian, and stop throwing dogs on the fire!

Calico Kate said...

Have you tried using PP as a foot stool or toe warmer? I use my collie when she is under the computer table (situated in a cupboard that isn't draught proofed in the hall.) I thoroughly recommend it.
Or a cat on the lap helps too. Failing that a hot water bottle can stop the fingers from freezing up. Take it in turns to type with one hand at a time.

When we lived in a caravan for a year one of our cats used to sleep across the top of my pillow - kept my head warm so I didn't complain!

Exmoorjane said...

Thanks guys. Your comments are way better than the original post!
As a rather sad footnote, the Phantom Pooper is no more. The vet decided she had had enough - clearly she was trying to tell us something with her suttee attempt...and she was put to sleep today. So she will have her final wish - and be cremated.

Esther Montgomery said...

So sorry to read your footnote.

She had a wonderful pre-obituary in this post.


wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

You don't really nearly often enough, and I don't read your blog nearly often enough. Having said that, the burning collie story is truly priceless. I can see Jake doing that in the distant future.

CAMILLA said...

So sorry to hear about Collie Jane, she sounds though as she did have a very good life from what I have read on your previous posts to us, you were so kind to take her in.

My Daisy has a habit of sitting right in front of the hearth and too close for comfort on it, I am sure she will come a cropper one of these days, she just loves the warmth of the fire.


A Modern Mother said...

Also, included you in the best of the British Mummy bloggers list ... you may want to put your two pence into the debate...

Bluestocking Mum said...

Just laughed out loud! I am sitting here writing with tammy hat, fingerless gloves and a blanket over my knees!

Excellent, as always.


Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hi Jane, sorry to hear PP is no more. Our dog has had 8 teeth out and is feeling a bit down in the mouth (sorry...couldn't resist :)) Happy Christmas and wishing you and yours a fabulous 2009! Hx

John said...

where are you??

Anyway, happy Christmas and a v good 2009.

Mopsa said...

Never mind singed dog. I was in a church not a million miles away with a bunch of friends, listening to the most awful Christmas concert imaginable. Truly awful - I should have backed out when I heard the electric organ twang like lift musak as I entered. There were candle everywhere, on all the pews and tucked into every Churchy crevice. I have long hair. I smelled burning. The man in the pew behind grinned at me in unchristian fashion as my locks crinkled and singed on his little pew candle. I wanted to throttle the smug bastard. Instead, I filled the church with singeing pong and left in the interval to stick pins in a wax effigy.

Ladybird World Mother said...

Now listen up. I need to give you an award because you make me laugh. And think. And cry. So just come and get it. I wont give it to anyone else as I Want To Give It To You. (Ph, havent done the post yet, but need you to know that you have award. So just wait a tiny moment while I get it up and ready. It may Be Some Time.

Hadriana's Treasures said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jen said...

I was at the in-laws this weekend and read the Mail on Sunday - are you janeealex from the Nov98 ivillage group? If so, I'm Jen, the only other Brit from back then, and it would be cool if you could comment back on my blog so I know it's you. Jen

claire p said...

I'm hoping you're the same exmoorjane that was in the mail on sunday today? If you are then thank you for a great article. I blog for much the same reason. I loved this post!! I shall be back.

Cecil Cedric III said...

Three days before you posted my Mother died (24,11,08 22:05) Today I read your article in the Mail magazine Sunday supplement 'You'.
I too suffer, and have for many years, with crippling depression and have decided to start a blog.
Any hints would be welcome and, if I may, you're an inspiration. I haven't written a word in months and I'm not sure if this will be the road to good health but it's worth a go.

Cc, x

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Hello, you erstwhile blogger. I read your article in yesterday's You magazine. Now that you've outed yourself to the world you need to write more.

Athena said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Athena said...

You Rock !!! and don't you dare let anyone else tell you anything different!

Lots of love,


margot said...

Hi Jane,
your old email address doesn't work anymore.
It's margot here, you wrote about seiki soho over 9 years ago & i gave you a treatment when you were pregnant. I am coming to London for 3 months as of Jan 18th & would love to see you.
you cn write to me at seikisoho@
much love
love your blog....what a story since I last saw you. wish we could have continued culture...remember!

kerry jean lister said...

Love your blog!

And I can't help but think Milla protests too much and that she actually loves Lolly more than life itself ;-)

I'm doing some work with parent bloggers at the moment and would love to have a chat. Do drop me an email if you get chance =)

Kerry @MLBB

Carrie said...

I have just been introduced to your blog by a friend today. I have chronic depression and acute anxiety and feel my life is over before it's begun most of the time. I write a wee blog about how Ecotherapy sometimes helps me fight through, though I couldn't write today, too sick. Thank you for making me giggle and take the blanket off my head, turn the light on and try to get on with the day. Carrie

DJ Kirkby said...

A 17ear old Collie? Isn't that like 20,000 years old by human years? I expect I'd be pooping everywhere too at that age. Congrats on your award. You are indeed a superior scribbler. xo

Alexandra Nelke said...

Hi Exmoor Jane,

Sorry for posting this as a comment but can’t find your email address contacts on your blog. I’m getting in touch to see if you would be interested in becoming a Beta tester for a new website,, which is due to launch on Mother’s Day this year. Of course we don’t expect you to give your time for nothing, so there is an incentive.

Please contact me off-blog if you are interested and I can tell you more about the new site and what sort of feedback we’d be looking for from you.


Sending Pages Out to Dry said...

I keep myself warm reading blogs from Britain. Here in Atlanta, Georgia it's winter and we're cold but only enroute from house/condo to car and whereever next. Yet we complain as if we're in Siberia. I am suitably chastened. But enjoying your blog.

Anonymous said...

Very fun, enjoyed reading your most recent posts.

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Unknown said...

gin and tonic by its mother), I take his point.
My office has a hole where the wood burner will go. There is even a slab of slate waiting to be laid. Only problem, no money for said wood burner. So it’s back to the star jumps.

Now I know I have moaned a lot about The Phantom Pooper (17-year old collie, not ours, generally loathed but what can you do?) in the past but, bless her aged (and still revoltingly sound) heart, she is trying to help us stave off the chill. Thiwc replica watches|