It is December 10th, 2019, a few days after my mum’s 90th birthday, and I am limping towards my 64th Christmas, my enthusiasm as yet unroused. Mavis is excited though, and this is something to be grateful for in light of the saddest of things that happened on her third Christmas. It probably doesn’t seem that sad to you but I hate to remember it.
Her third Christmas. She was two years and two months old. The first year when excitement might well in her breast at the thought of Santa bringing a cornucopia of gifts and delivering them into a stocking, carefully hung outside the bedroom to avoid the terror of his looming into view in the middle of the night.
On Christmas Eve, Mavis was dispatched to bed with dire warnings that Santa wouldn’t come if she didn’t go to sleep, then Whizz and I clinked together our glasses of mulled wine and waited for the chance to fill up her stocking. I’m not sure who was more excited, us or Mavis. We couldn’t wait to watch her little face light up when she saw that magically lumpy sack.
The only thing that Mavis had asked Father Christmas for was a blue teddy, and this, with some effort, I had managed to find. Although rather small, he had a cute face, and after stuffing the stocking with the usual yoyos, dollies, silly games and such, I perched him on the top, peeping out over the edge so he would be the first thing she saw when she opened her door.
Whizz and I went to bed in the expectation of an early awakening, but strangely, we woke up before Mavis. Not wishing to disturb her sleep, we settled back in bed and began to read. After some time, the handle of the door went down and a solemn little face peeped in.
‘Hello,’ I said. ‘Has he been.’
Mavis shook her head. ‘No,’ she said. ‘I been too naughty.’
What? I launched myself out of bed saying, ‘I’m sure you haven’t. Let me see.’
It was quite a large stocking, made by me as a more attractive alternative to a pillow case. Overnight, its contents had settled to such a degree that teddy had dropped a few inches, and Mavis, being small, was unable to see inside.
Of course I soon showed her that the presents were there, but her earlier sadness took the edge off my joy, and I think, hers. Aww. I still feel a hollow in my stomach when I think of it.
In my last post I mentioned Aldi. I don’t go there very often, especially of late since learning of the destruction of the Brazillian rainforest, caused by our avid consumption of meat, but when I do, I love mooching for bargains on the non-food counters.
On the day in question, I spotted matching bottles of pet friendly weed killer. One was for weeds in paths and the other for lawns. I would like to state here that I no longer use chemicals in the garden but I did then, so there it is. I can’t change what is already done, I can only move on, trying to improve.
Our lawn, where the dog hadn’t rendered it to a crisp patch of coir, had more weeds than grass so at the first opportunity, I grabbed the bottle of stuff from the garage and gaily squirted the dandelions and daisies to within minus an inch of their lives. It was only when I put the empty bottle in the recycling that I noticed my error. Not only was it the wrong bottle, the one for paths, but the pet-friendly implication on the label was in fact the name of the manufacturer.
Within a week, the lawn resembled a bristly door mat with the odd patch of green. The weed killer had been amazingly effective. Where once grew deep rooted dandelions, now there were deep rooted cavities. I am not sure what happened to the residents of these holes because they had completely vanished.
This story describes one day in my life I would not care to repeat.
At the time, Mavis worked in Duckchester and was dependent upon our deplorable bus service to get her from Pebbleditch to the centre of town. This usually involved a lift from one of her parents to another village about 3 miles away, where buses were more frequent, although not necessarily more reliable. For this latter reason, if I had a need to go into Duckchester, I would offer Mavis a lift, which meant setting out earlier than was ideal, to get her to work by 9am.
On this occasion, I had an appointment at Duckchester hospital to check my blood clotting levels (Thanks to advances in medicine, I no longer need to do this). My due time was 10am so after delivering Mavis to M&S, I decided to drop in at Aldi and pick up a few groceries at a bargain price.
When I came out, the traffic pointing left – the direction of the hospital – was at a standstill, so I decided to turn right. I would find an alternative route.
I will pause here to explain that as well as being careless and forgetful, I have a woefully inadequate sense of direction. My plan was doomed from the outset.
I turned right, then left, then left again. Then… where could I be? To cut a long story to sensible proportions, I made it to my appointment with seconds to spare, managing to feel fortunate that they weren’t going to check my blood pressure.
After my thumb had been jabbed and my INR pronounced acceptable, I set off towards home still feeling discombobulated. I was almost at the front door when a reminder popped up on my phone telling me that I was now supposed to be at a friend’s house, 20 minutes away in the opposite direction. Needless to say, I was late. Her amusement at my excuse and subsequent suggestion, prompted my writing this series of self-depricating posts.
When I returned home, I was greeted by the expectant wag and pleading eyes of Milo (he’s my dog!) His walk was due and how could he be refused?
I stuffed my phone into a breast pocket – my new hand-me-down phone with a nice big screen. My new phone that I actually use because I can read what is on the screen. My new phone onto which I had not fixed a screen protector. Can you tell which way this is heading?
As Mavis was due to be collected from her return bus in about an hour, I took Milo to the park near her bus stop, and sent a text telling her where to find me. After pulling up in the car park, I released the dog from the back of the car, threw the ball towards the middle of the grass to get him away from any moving cars, and locked the doors.
By the time I reached the concrete path that led into the park, Milo was trotting towards me with the ball in his mouth. He dropped it expectantly at my feet and I bent over to pick it up. You guessed it. The phone slipped from my pocket and the screen smashed on the hard pathway. This was not turning into the best day of my life.
We circumnavigated the park, me throwing the ball and Milo hurtling after it. I lapsed into daydreams, throwing, ambling throwing ambling then… where was the dog?
There he was, in the distance, sniffing, cocking his leg, sniffing, cocking his leg.
Where was the ball? No idea!
‘Milo!’ He looked up but didn’t move. ‘Where’s the ball?’ I yelled. He looked about hopelessly. ‘Bring the ball,’ I insisted.
He put his nose to the ground and retraced his route. This of course involved more sniffing and cocking and then, yes, his nose darted to the ground and he lifted his head with a ball in his mouth. ‘Good boy.’ I put my hand in my pocket for a treat and he trotted towards me with his ears pricked, dropped the ball at my feet, did his beast sit and gulped down his gravy bone. I looked at the ball. It was a sad looking thing with a hole in it. ‘Milo, this isn’t your ball. Go and find your ball!’ He cocked his head to one side, trying to understand then wandered back to the middle of the park to search. He is actually quite an intelligent dog as you can tell.
By now, given the stressful nature of my day thus far, I was feeling a little grumpy. I went to help, but we failed to find his ball. A cheerful lady appeared, rather too cheerful in my opinion, and shared her joy at the beautiful day. I didn’t exactly snap at her but pointed out that mine was possibly not as enjoyable as hers – not sure where my Buddhahood was at this point. When she heard about the missing ball, she insisted on helping me search. Such a lovely lady. I wish I could meet her again and thank her properly.
Despite her help the ball didn’t turn up, so I put the dog on his lead and headed back to the car, where I expected that by now, Mavis would be waiting.
My phone buzzed and I squinted at the message on my damaged screen: ‘The bus hasn’t turned up yet,’ advised Mavis. I sighed walked on and there, right in front of me by the entrance to the park, was Milo’s ball.
Mavis arrived about an hour later.
Dinner was a hurried affair, giving me time to get the house ready for a meeting. I scooted round putting things away, putting out glasses of water for the guests, calming my breathing.
Another buzz on my star spangled phone: ‘Buddhist meeting… at Mary’s.’
As an SGI Buddhist leader, one of my responsibilities is to complete a monthly schedule. This details various meetings for discussion, planning and education and I am willing, but somehow unable to carry out this simple task accurately.
Having been a computer programmer, you would think that an eye for detail would be second nature, after all, a computer program contains syntax that, if not correct, sends a process into overdrive, or stops it from running at all.
What is different about a computer program, is the testing of it. There are as many opportunities as you might wish, to test it out before going public with it. Unfortunately, the schedule is somewhet different. When you ‘run’ it, the first chance you have to know if it is faulty, is when people turn up on the wrong day, or at the wrong venue.
In recent times, I have spotted errors after sending, and texted an incorrect correction!
We call these things, the ones that get in the way of our success, ‘obstacles’. The obstacle in this case was in me! It was part of my karma. I am perfectly able to be careful and thoughtful, but my default setting is Gung Ho (or however you spell it – see what I mean?)
The answer to my karmic issues, is to chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo in order to change that bit of me that causes the mistakes. I can tell you now that, in the case of the schedule, I have more or less succeeded in this determination, not entirely alone as I now have the help of a very natty spreadsheet created by my darling Whizz, who always tries to help when he can, and never aludes to my stupidity.
Recently Horace called me out of the blue, in tears because she had had a medical shock – I won’t go into details because she wouldn’t want me to. What I wanted to relate was the speed of the NHS response. It was outstanding and I can only think she has received great protection from the universe.
As a result of her surgery and an ensuing infection she needed antibiotics, so she hobbled into her local pharmacy and passed over her prescription at a busy time.
When the prescription had been made up, the assistant, a lady whose first language was not English, almost threw the packet at Horace saying, ‘Read the leaflet and don’t go out in daylight.’
‘Not go out in daylight?’ queried Horace.
‘You mean I can’t go out during the day?’
Horrace was turning to leave thinking that she would read the drug leaflet very carefully, when the Pharmacist leaned out from where she was working, with one finger raised to get Horace’s attention.
I think what my colleague means,’ she said, ‘Is that if you are in the sun, put on a bit of extra sunscreen.’