Posted on December 23, 2012 in Conversations, The Home Front by Jay8 Comments »

OK, yeah, I’ve lost track of the numbers on this one! Perhaps I’ll start again at ‘one’ in the new year.

Anyway. Today we were looking over the Christmas gifts we’d bought for everyone and trying to work out if there was anything missing, or if anyone needed an extra stocking filler or anything.

We had all our purchases laid out on the dining table, and OH had a piece of paper and a pen – that being his forte. He feels he knows where he is when things are written down, as if he’s pinned them to the page. It’s an illusion, but he’s happy.

We got to … well, let’s call this person ‘X’, on account of it’s not yet Christmas and nobody’s seen what they’re getting, so we don’t want to give anything away, yet. We do that on Christmas morning. Tee hee.

Me: ‘OK, this one’s for X’.

OH: ‘What is it?’

Me: ‘It’s beauty stuff’.

OH: ‘Yes, but what is it – I need to know what to write’.

Me: (reading from the box) ‘It’s ‘Armande, lait pour le corps‘.

OH: ‘Huh?’

Me: ‘It’s body lotion’.

OH: ‘What?’

Me: ‘It’s a type of cream for your skin’.

OH: ‘… uh, what?’

He was having a ‘slightly deaf’ moment, bless him.

Me (Louder): ‘It’s cream. For the body. That’s C.R.E.A …’

OH: ‘OK, OK, I know how to spell it!’

I looked over at his list where he’d written ..


Me: ‘No, you don’t!’

OH: ‘Yes, I do … oh.’

He hastily made the first part of the ‘m’ into an ‘a’ and added a squiggle.

OH (Triumphantly) ‘Yes, I do!!’

Me: ‘Ah yes. So you do’.

Just in case you think I’m being unnecessarily cruel, I must tell you that much giggling accompanied this exchange, and I’m just as likely to be the one guilty of mis-spelling or mis-pronouncing something.

It’s just so much more fun when he does it!

A few weeks ago, OH confessed to me that he’d had one or two odd moments.

Snigger ye not! He meant odd in terms of health, not eccentricity. I mean, we both know we’re eccentric, but that’s because we’re pure mongrel English* through and through, and the English are nothing if not eccentric, especially when measured against the rest of the world.

Anyway. He hadn’t been doing anything particularly demanding, and yet had come over all short of breath and slightly dizzy. I told him to go and talk to a doctor. He procrastinated, but eventually did, and the result was an appointment for an ECG at the surgery.

They told him he had an arrythmia. He wasn’t too concerned, and neither was I, because when I had one, they told me I had ‘an electrical problem’ which scared the pants off me, and caused visions of pacemakers to poison my dreams, and I was referred to a cardiologist who said she had no idea what they were talking about. She said my heart showed no signs of any problems and that the machinery at the doctor’s was probably ‘off’.

So OH was, in due course, referred to a cardiologist and he had that appointment yesterday.

I asked him if he wanted me to go with him, and he said no. He said it would only be a lot of waiting around and he was all grown up now and didn’t need me holding his hand, or words to that effect. So off he trotted and I told him that if he wasn’t going to be back within two hours to ring and let me know.

Two hours later he rang and said he was on his way home.

‘How did it go?’ I asked, slightly anxiously.

‘Fine!’ he replied cheerfully.

‘Oh, good!’ I said. ‘No problems, then?’

‘They’re referring me to Papworth**’ he said.

Me, stunned: ‘So that’s what you call ‘fine’??’

And he – typically – said ‘Yes! I’m only going to be a few minutes, I’ll tell you about it when I get home

Huh. Men.

Actually, they did tell him not to worry, that they didn’t think it was anything too serious. They just want him to have a scan, because they don’t like to do unnecessary angiograms, and Papworth is the only place that has one of these special scanning machine thingies.

I’ll keep you posted on that one. Yes, honestly I will. I’m going to be making a New Year Resolution to blog at least twice a week. Even if I have to go back to doing a meme!

Now, isn’t that something to look forward to?

*Yes, yes. I know that’s an oxymoron. And we take a humble pride in being a nation of walking oxymorons.

** A hospital famed for its heart specialists.

Posted on December 12, 2012 in Hounds, The Home Front by Jay12 Comments »

Well, that’s been me this week – fascinating!

No, I’m not boasting again.  I’ve actually been fascinating.  Making them, that is.  But not for people.  Don’t be silly.  I make them for dogs!

It started out as a way to make people smile on visits to a Sense educational centre with my first therapy dog, Renie.  I saw a ribbon collar while in America, and bought it thinking that it might be fun to have her wear it.  But she hated it.   For one thing, despite being made for a greyhound, it was too tight around her neck, and for another, being quite tight and high up, it tickled her and intruded on the edge of her vision (you know greyhounds can see in a 270 degree arc, don’t you?) so all she would do while wearing this thing was stand licking her nose in anxiety and unhappiness with her head down low and her tail tucked between her legs.

She didn’t wear it for long.  I took a photo or two, then took it off and never bothered her with it again.

That was years ago, and when I began doing Meet & Greets for Brambleberry Greyhounds, I remembered it.  And I thought, what a pity that such a good idea was so poorly executed.

And then I thought .. hang on.  I bet I could design a better one, one that my dogs wouldn’t mind wearing!  And the result is up at the top there.

I gave one to a friend and volunteer for her beautiful black greyhound girl to wear at Meet & Greets and she said it was just like a doggy ‘fascinator’ and the name stuck, and of course people began to say that I could probably sell those in my Etsy shop, and here we are.

I make them to sit low so that the dog doesn’t constantly see them or feel them on his or her face when the slightest breeze springs up.  I also make them breakaway, unlike the original, which was made on a thick elastic hairband and might not have broken, or even pulled off over the head, until the poor animal was well and truly terrified. And then it’d probably have taken an eye out with the snap-back.

I’ve discovered that people prefer to buy custom collars so they can pick their own colours and choice of ‘bling’ – gems on the ends or no gems, charm in the centre, or not, mix of ribbon widths or single width, frayed ends or sealed, etc. 

I have these custom collars in my ‘HoundMade Designs’ store on Etsy for a base price of £12.00 sterling.

Now.  People often ask why they’re so expensive, but I actually make very little profit on these.

If you look carefully at the pictures scattered throughout this post, you should be able to understand why they cost so much.  Firstly, each collar (average diameter 14-18 inches) takes between 20 and 30 metres of ribbon. Look up the price of organza ribbon and then do the maths.  I also need extra thick round elastic – not so easy to come by and also quite expensive – silver plated crimp ends, jump rings, split rings, gems and glue, and assorted components for charm making.  But the biggest factor is the time they take to put together, and they simply can’t be rushed.

There are two ways to seal the ends of organza ribbon, and both are very time consuming: I can seal them in a candle flame, or I can use Fray-Stop, a liquid fabric sealer.  Fray-Stop used to be my first choice, but it can leave an ugly line on some ribbons, and has to be done extremely carefully, so now I mostly singe them.  Of course, if Fray-Stop has to be done extremely carefully, you can imagine how much more careful I need to be with the flame.  At the least, I can end up with a blackened or uneven edge.  At the worst the whole thing can catch fire.

The gems have to be glued on by hand, one at a time.  With four gems to each piece of ribbon, and six or seven pieces of ribbon to the inch, this is a long job, and they must be left to dry before assembling.

The ribbon is then knotted onto the elastic, and lastly, I make sure the measurement is correct, cut the elastic and add the hardware.  I can make and add a charm at this point if one is required.

Lastly, the collar must be ‘groomed’ so that all the ribbons sit in their proper place facing the right way, and the knots must be checked. With particularly slippery ribbon, I will sometimes go round and double knot, or add a dab of glue to each one.  And these days I also carefully round off the points from each ribbon end so that they have no chance to poke a dog in the eye when they shake themselves.

Do the collars come off when the dog shakes himself? Jeffie says ‘no’!

Add up the time these take to put together, and I’m paying myself considerably less than sweatshop wages.  Still think they’re too expensive?  Realistically, they’re too cheap, but very few people would be willing to pay what they’re actually worth – and as the old saw says, things are only worth what people are willing to pay for them.

But there you go … I do enjoy making them, and it gives me pleasure to hear how happy my customers are with them.  It also gives me pleasure to provide a means to make random strangers in nursing homes and hospital wards happy (through other people’s therapy dogs) and maybe even help to get more people interested in adopting greyhounds by providing something to bring them over to the Meet & Greet table.

I know one thing though.  This is not going to be a way to become rich and famous!

Unless, of course, they become so sought-after that I can put up my prices.  But even then, nah … not likely.

Not likely at all.


Posted on December 10, 2012 in Life, the Universe and Everything, The Home Front by Jay5 Comments »

Today was a frabjous day!  Callooh, callay, and all that.

And it perhaps shows just how sad I’ve become, because the reason it was frabjous* is that I got my laptop back after being separated from it for .. well, Far Too Long.

You see, my poor little metal and silicone friend became rather unwell and I had to make an appointment at the Apple store in Cambridge for treatment repair.

I didn’t want to do it. I hung on as long as I could hoping (as many of us tend to do in the face of unwell-ness) that the problem would just Go Away.

But it did not.

And what was the problem? Well, there I was, typing away one day, when I noticed that I appeared to have suddenly become rather careless, uncoordinated and forgetful. Naturally I assumed it was some kind of neurological problem I’d developed (and would probably die from) because it seemed that I was clicking on things without meaning to, and then I’d click and nothing would happen, clearly indicating that I was losing strength in my fingers – perhaps following a stroke or something.

Happily, this was not the case. It was merely that the trackpad of the computer was developing a fault.

Sometimes it would click randomly, all by itself. Other times it would ‘stick’, making my computer close windows I didn’t want closed, or follow links I didn’t want to follow. Increasingly, it would flatly refuse to scroll, preferring to open dialogue boxes all over the place. I was terrified it would begin to delete my stuff, but in fact it simply got harder and harder to actually use the thing, and frankly impossible to use Photoshop, so I gave in and let one of the 14 year olds** at Apple have the truculent piece of junk it for a while.

The reason that I haven’t written anything despite having the loan of a working computer*** is that stupidly, I forgot to print off an up-to-date list of my password hints to use before handing my laptop over, which meant that there were some sites I couldn’t access, and The Depp Effect was one of them.

Today my pride and joy was returned to me by OH, who had selflessly offered to go and fetch it for me. Well. Perhaps not totally selflessly, given that he will now have peace from the complaints about 1) being parted from my beloved laptop, and 2) the fact that his old one scrolls upside down, and also 3) he did a deal with me involving dog walking and picking up their odiferous deposits from the garden, but I do now have my laptop back, fitted with a new trackpad and working perfectly again.

I have to say, I am really, really glad about that, because the Macbook Air is much lighter and easier to use than the one I borrowed, as you will know if you bother to read my footnotes. That one used to belong to OH before he invested in an iPad, and I was grateful for the loan, but many more days of using it, and I’d have been in danger of tearing another rotator cuff picking it up from the side table, and developing extra varicose veins thanks to interrupted blood supply below the knees.

Oh yeah, and I have my hints list back!

The hints list is an idea borrowed from Son No. 1. You know how we are advised to make our passwords super-complicated, change them frequently, not to use the same one for everything, and never, ever to write them down? Well, if you’re like me, that means you have thirty or forty different, completely unmemorisable and frequently changing passwords to hold in your head, and my memory is crap. So, what I do now is keep a text file with a list of my passwords in a form which nobody will ever understand.  Not in a Million Years.

How do I do that? Well, everyone’s list of hints will be different, but for me it’s numbers and words and phrases that are stuck in my memory for some reason (sometimes from childhood) which nobody would ever know or guess. For instance, one that I use is the number plate of the car belonging to the father of my best friend in London when I was seven years old. Heaven knows why I remember that, but I do! Another includes a phrase from a Roxy Music song. One refers to the name of the cottage my Mum’s Aunt Jessie used to live in, donkey’s years ago.

Point is, if you choose to record the fact that your Uncle Bob only had only four toes on his right foot, along with the name of your very first pet ever, plus the age of your maternal great-grandmother when she died, you can write that down in the form of a question, secure in the knowledge that no bugger will ever guess it, and is very unlikely to be able to look it all up, either.  Let’s face it, it would be easier to make an honest living than to steal your bank details!  Just don’t go using anything obvious, like birthdays, or mother’s maiden name, because those are fairly easy to look up – especially with the current popular interest in genealogy and the proliferation of data online.

OK, well I’m going to go now and re-acquaint myself with my little silver companion. But, never let it be said that I never tell you anything useful!

The Depp Effect aims to entertain AND educamalate educationalise educalate inform!

* Lewis Carroll; ‘Jabberwocky’.   Do try to keep up!

** All the staff in all the Apple stores across the entire globe look about fourteen.

*** An elderly Macbook which was the largest available at the time, and weighs a ton.