Posted on January 20, 2011 in Hounds, Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay17 Comments »


Our trip to the retirement home didn’t go quite as planned today. Oh, the residents loved him, as usual, and greeted him with joy, as usual – at least, those who were capable and wanted to see him, anyway.

These days as we go in, we’re likely to be met with ‘Oh, there he is’ (some of them can’t always remember his name, bless them) or ‘Oh, who’s this?’ (… or that we’ve been before, come to that), and hands reaching out to him offering illicit custard creams and wanting to stroke his silky ears and all. And today was no exception.

We visited the people sitting in the main common room, and then the secondary common room, where the residents were having tea. Some had family visiting them, who were just as delighted to see Sid. Actually, the first thing that happened today was that a visiting doctor and her nurse wanted to fuss him, so everyone was happy – especially Sid.

Have I told you how excited he is, on visiting days, to recognise his fancy visiting collar with its extra heavy ‘Pets As Therapy’ identity tag, and see the yellow PAT dog vest going into the green bag I always take? His treats and water bottle and wet wipes and all go into that bag, but it’s not the treat smell that excites him. It’s because he knows he’s going out and he lays down in the hall by the front door, ready to trip me up if I forget to take him with me.

Anyway. Today there was a new Activities Coordinator on duty, and after we’d done the common rooms and the bedrooms on our usual round, she said ‘there’s just one more person I’d like you to see – she’s upstairs’. And off she trotted along a corridor and called the lift.

Well, Sid, poor lad, had never been in a lift in his life before, but he was a trooper. The doors opened, and in he walked, slightly surprised to find himself in a cupboard with the door shut behind him, but I told him it was just like being in a car, only different. I turned him around to face the door and J-The-Coordinator pushed the button and up we went.

Sid didn’t turn a hair. He stood as good as gold while the lift wheezed upwards, but when the doors were opened he kind of catapaulted out onto the corridor with a very surprised look on his face.

We visited the elderly lady (who was delighted to see him) and Sid was his usual gentle, patient self, and then J-The-Coordinator led us back to the lift and opened the door. Sid walked in beautifully, and turned himself around without waiting for me to prompt him, but then stood with his nose pressed against the inner door for the ride down. He was so close that when the lift stopped and the door was opened, it bumped his snoot. Not that he cared. He was waiting patiently for the moment when … he catapaulted out even faster! And still he wore the bemused expression that said:

‘What just happened, anyone know?’

Still, he looked happy enough when we left, didn’t he? It’s not a great picture up there, because he moved his head just as I pressed the shutter button, but that’s him having done his duty for today, ready to get back into the car for a drink of water and a biscuit or two before the ride home.

Tomorrow evening we’re going to visit a local Scout troop, where I’m going to give the very first talk of my life. They want me to talk about Sid and his work as a Pets As Therapy dog, so wish me luck!

Possibly, Sid will be just as surprised going into the Scout hut as he was in the lift today – but their leader tells me she has arranged for someone to ‘wear them out a bit’ before we arrive.

Oh … but it’s not just the Scouts I’m worried about. You see, the Scout leader is taking her own dog along as well. A young and bouncy Jack Russell terrier. And Sid really doesn’t like JRTs. He was attacked by one (on his own property) once …

I’ll let you know how we get on, shall I?

Posted on January 15, 2011 in Food and Drink, Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay8 Comments »


Yes, I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right! This is a post about the mega huge McDonald’s corporation. To be precise, McDonald’s against a young Italian entrepreneur who owns a small town Italian snack bar/deli called ‘McPuddu’s’.

You should only click that link if you can read Italian, by the way, although I’m sure the story is out there somewhere in English. It just so happens that I found it on an Italian language blog. Now, since I am merely an intermediate student of that language, it’s quite possible that I have the story slightly wrong on some of the minor points, but this is – in essence – how it goes.

Signor Puddu opened a fast food place in the small Sardinian town of Santa Maria Navarrese. His aim, to improve the world of fast food in Sardinia, using fresh, local produce. He called it ‘McPuddu’s’. A month and a half later, the McDonald’s corporation (seemingly with little better to do than scour the world’s towns and villages for anything with ‘Mc’ in the title and eradicate it) had their lawyers send S. Puddu a letter requiring him to cease and desist the use of this name.

“Il prefisso Mc non va bene”, said a spokesperson. “Rischia di creare confusione tra i clienti” – which loosely translated* means “The prefix ‘Mc’ is not acceptable. It’s likely to create confusion among the customers”.

Personally, I fail to see how anyone could get confused between a small Italian food shop and the Golden Arches outlets, but there you go. Honour (as McD’s interpret it) has to be satisfied. It doesn’t matter to them one little bit that there is not a cheeseburger or a bun in sight, or that S. Puddu’s speciality is little pasta parcels of goat cheese, potato and mint .. or, indeed, that this form of ravioli, called ‘culurgiones’, is a Sardinian speciality which is far older than the cheeseburger, by the way.

So. S. Puddu – not being a man who wanted to bankrupt himself by taking on a multi-national corporation of the size and reputation of McDonald’s, tacked a sheet of wood on the sign over the door covering the ‘Mc’ part and changing it to ‘censored’, and added a sticker which turned ‘McPuddu’ into ‘DePuddu’ – the Italian equivalent.

And you know what? The publicity has none him no harm whatsover. At one point, a journalist rang for a quote and was sent away with a flea in his ear because the shop was full to bursting with customers and the tills were ringing non-stop, as S. Puddu’s profits rose in direct proportion to the fall of McDonald’s reputation with the local population.

So who wins? Well, McD’s managed to intimidate this businessman into changing the name of his shop, that’s for sure. On the other hand, this story has been around the globe and joined a ton of other stories exposing the bullying tactics of large corporations protecting their interests at the expense of the little guys, and the owner of the Sardinian eateries in question is raking in the profits hand over fist.

The icing on the cake comes when you read that Andrea Prato, Sardinia’s Regional Agricultural Assessor was quoted as saying that he guaranteed S. Puddu the regional government’s financial support against “one of the greatest corruptors of the palate in the world”**

So on the whole, I’d say it probably wasn’t McDonalds.

Well, let’s face it. If you find yourself in Santa Maria Navarrese, are you going to choose a local ‘negozio gastronomiche’ or … the other one?


* ‘Loose’ is about my level of translation at the moment, and probably will be for some time!
** A quote from

Well, here we are again at the last letter of the alphabet for this round of ABC Wednesday – the letter ‘Z‘.  And this will be my last posting for ABC Wednesday for a while, because I think three rounds is enough for now. It’s become a little bit of a chore, and we can’t have that, can we?  Also, I was finding that posting two or three memes each week was making me stale, because most weeks that’s all I did post.

So what do I have for you. Hmm.  Let’s see. Shops and shopping, wasn’t it?  Well, there’s this …


But yes.  It’s a bit boring, isn’t it?  Zzzzzzzz-inducing, I’d say.  I mean, ‘Shoe Zone‘.  It’s all very well, but these aren’t even shoes with piZaZZ. This is a functional (not to say ‘cheap’) shoe shop.  No Manolo Blahniks or Jimmy Choos in here!  What?  At £9.99?  Or even £19.99. Dream on!

So how about this?


This is a fascinating shop.  It’s Harrison & Dunn in Bourne, Lincolnshire and it’s an old-fashioned hardware shop. Always helpful, they can source things that nobody else sells and well, it’s just one of those wonderful, old-fashioned shops that are so hard to find these days.

But I can hear a buzz at the back.  You’re asking ‘where’s the ‘Z‘?’, aren’t you?  Well, if you take a look at the bottom left hand corner, you’ll see a packet of Zip firelighters.  In case you still find it hard to spot them, enlarge the pic by clicking on it, then click on it again on the next screen.  Or go here.


Next I’m taking you to a slightly more exotic location – Los Angeles.  Last time I was there one of my lovely Depp friends had brought along a packet of these:


And – oh, my goodness they were nice! And then she told me that she had bought the last two packs in the shop and they were no longer being made.  How could they DO this to me?  I’d just discovered them and they were gone, just like that!  They were soooo good – and look!  They even had zinc in them to help prevent you catching colds!

Now we’ll just hop over to Italy, shall we?


No, it’s not a ‘Zzicheria‘, it’s a PiZZicheria!  A piZZicheria, according to my sources, is basically an Italian grocer’s shop, so it’s reasonable to assume they sell things like zucchini, ziti and zucchero*!

And since we’re in Italy, let me show you this zany little guy.


He was hopping about among the shoppers and sightseers in San Gimignano, for all the world as if he was about to break into a zoppetto*!  He’s basically a one-man band – and yes, that is a kaZoo in his mouth!  He picked up quite a following for  a while there, with his strange but cheerful buzzy little song!

To finish?  Well, how about this?


Oh, don’t worry. You can look all you like, but as far as I know, there is no ‘Z‘ in that picture!  I just couldn’t resist posting it, because … well, how could I leave you all without at least a tenuous Johnny Depp connection?

But by all means, if you find a ‘Z‘, do please let me know!


* Zucchini most of you will know (courgettes to the non-Italian, non-US people).  Ziti is a large tube-shaped pasta, and zucchero is, of course, sugar!

* A zoppetto is an Italian hopping dance of mediaeval origin.


Poor Sid.

I was browsing Greytalk, the big American forum for ex-racing greyhound owners, and I came across a fun little video in the Off Topic section.  It’s actually taken from British TV, and I vaguely remember seeing it before, some time ago, but it was some time ago so I was listening to it with a big smile on my face and enjoying the show.

Here – before I go any further, take a look for yourselves.  It’s called ‘Animal Voice-overs’, or at least, it was on Greytalk.

Did you enjoy that?

Remember the part where the little White Handed Gibbon is troubled by his conscience?  Or the voice he thinks is his conscience?

Halfway through that part I heard a pathetic whine from down by my feet.

Poor Mr Sid couldn’t work out why a strange voice was calling his name!  Either that or he had cause to feel guilty about something.

Perhaps I should check my slippers …