Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Chuckle

Every Fall I get a chuckle out of the Halloween decorations I observe while walking Indy. They remind me of a former coworker who was upset when fellow employees decorated their cubicles and the office with the typical witches, ghosts, and hobgoblins. She claimed to be a good Christian woman who was upset by the "devil worship" symbols that surrounded her.

Yet the pagan-based symbols associated with Christmas didn't bother her. Likely because she didn't know that the tree, holly, winter date, etc., were absorbed into the holiday along with the pagans that were converted to Christianity. :-/

Addressing my mother's recent health issues has drained me and I was tempted to leave the porch light dark and front door locked on Halloween. But we're both doing better now so I've got to prepare for the onslaught. Which means a trip to the dollar store for party favors and toys.

For the past few years I've filled a large stainless steel bowl with toys and let the children pick one. The reactions from the children and their parents provide my real Halloween chuckles. The trick-or-treaters are often surprised and stymied by making a decision instead of having candy dumped in their bag. The smallest ones often don't have the concept of taking only one toy. Many parents are grateful for something other than candy. The youngest children are delighted by the toys, while some of the older trick-or-treaters are disgusted (one even threw his bottle of bubbles at our front door - hard). However, last year even the older goblins seemed to enjoy something different.

So -- whether you celebrate Samhain or All Hallows Eve -- have a safe and enjoyable Halloween!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Club: "Corduroy Mansions"

We only had three members in attendance this time (one was on a trip to Paris!) but we managed to discuss a book that didn't lend itself to much analysis.

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the popular Ladies #1 Detective Agency series set in Botswana, plus several more series set in the UK. Corduroy Mansions is the first book in his latest series originally published in serial form for "The Telegraph." The author says he is more interested in the quirky characters than he is a plot-driven story. Anyone expecting a traditional story arc will be disappointed, but when read as a series of vignettes about the characters the book makes for a pleasant read.

Corduroy Mansions is the nickname for the boarding house where William French lives on the top floor above "the girls" (Dee, Jo, Caroline, Jenny) who share a flat on the first floor, and Mr. Wickramsinghe on the ground floor. William is a modestly successful wine dealer who is less than successful in persuading his deadbeat son Eddie to get a job and move out.

We agreed that Marcia the caterer instigated the "action" of the story by insinuating herself into William's life. She suggests William acquire a dog, since Eddie is afraid of dogs and they assume he will depart rather than share quarters with one. Thus, Freddie de la Hay, the Pimlico terrier, is introduced. (I googled the UKC and AKC and found no official listing for a Pimlico terrier, which I presume is a breed created by the author. The photos of Freddie greatly resemble a Jack Russell terrier, a lively breed deserving of first and last names.) When Eddie inexplicably accepts a canine in the flat, Marcia suggests that she move in with William by taking over Eddie's room.

William, being the kind but passive gentle man that he is, does not object. He rather feels that his life has been taken over, yet he allows Marcia to have her way. Eddie angrily picks up his belongings and moves in with his disreputable friends. Despite the shakeups to his settled life, William is pleasantly surprised that he is pleased with the changes.

As is often the case in our modern society, we recognize our neighbors as we go about our individual busy schedules, but never get to know them well. Freddie proves to be an icebreaker for William who becomes better acquainted with his housemates -- in particular the young working women who live downstairs.

Through Carolyn (the art student) and Jenny (the assistant to MP Oedipus Snark) the reader meets a wider circle of characters whose lives we observe. Snark is an egotistical, self-absorbed politician who neglects his editor girlfriend (Barbara Ragg) and takes for granted his assistant Jenny. Snark's mother, Berthea, is writing an expose biography of the son she dislikes. She takes a break from writing to visit her ethereal brother, Terence Moongrove. If you haven't already guessed, the author is having a little Dickensian fun with the names of his characters.

Because characterization takes precedence over plot, we discussed the loose ends left dangling at the end of the book, plus the unexpectedly neat wrap up of other story lines.
Marcia and William seemed to come to an amicable understanding that they would be no more than roommates, but will Carolyn win the heart of the confused James who magically acquired a girlfriend in the last chapter? Is Barbara Ragg's new lover, Hugh, too good to be true? What is Berthea's intention for the biography of her loathsome son? Why was Oedipus so interested in the new book Barbara had acquired for her publisher?

The second book in the series (The Dog Who Came In from the Cold) is available in the US and the third installment of serialized chapters (A Conspiracy of Friends) was recently concluded on "The Telegraph" web site. I have the impression that a more recognizable story arc occurs over the span of the other books in the series and the questions we were left with will be answered in them.

Throughout the book the characters express their views of our modern world and reveal the philosophies that help them contend with the complexities of life. I believe the theme of the book and series is expressed in William's poem that ends the book:  "Happiness flows most readily from friendship."

Although we had tentatively selected Rules of Civility by Amor Towles for our next read, the three of us discussed the advisability of choosing newly published books. Since bargain-priced paperback versions are not yet out, and the library often has long waiting lists for popular new reads, we browsed for books that would be easier for our members to acquire. I suggested Fannie Flagg and we came up with Can't Wait to Get to Heaven. We'll see what the rest of the group thinks about changing our selection.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Naughty runaway Phantom earlier this year.
Apparently the old adage is true. I guess that's why it's an old adage. Duh.

For the first time since I've belonged to Phantom he has, on more than one occasion this summer, run away from me when I walked out into the pasture to bring him in. A couple of times he was still amped up after the geldings had raced around like maniacs. The other times, I'm not exactly sure what set him off. Granted, at our former barn he didn't have as much room for evasive tactics. And last summer at our new barn there was never a problem. But this year he has suddenly taken full advantage of the six acre pasture to play keep-away. Obviously I can't let him get away with it. And so far, after 20-30 minutes of trudging back and forth and fussing with his pasture mates (giving treats to his pal Zorro seemed to trigger cooperation), Phantom would let me catch him as if nothing was wrong.

Regrettably, my time at the barn has been limited of late. My mother's health issues have drastically altered my barn schedule. It's been three weeks since I've been in the saddle and during that time I've only made a few quick trips for a zoom groom to give Phantom a brief check up.

Interestingly enough, Phantom has replaced keep-away with soft nickers and waiting politely for me or even walking toward me. Guess that's the secret to catching him. Once-a-week visits. He is pretty cute, though. Big brown eyes, windblown forelock, welcoming nicker. How sweet! I hope his agreeable attitude lasts.

Barefoot but Not Pregnant

While I was absent last week Phantom once again pulled off his left front shoe (his wonky white foot). This was the third or fourth time he's done this since arriving at CF. *sigh* I just can't deal with it in light of everything else that's going on. So I told the farrier to pull the remaining shoe. I'll leave Phantom barefoot for the winter and consider replacing the front shoes next spring/summer. Shoer Brian says Phantom's feet are in good shape, so my Goober Boy should do okay over our typically wet winters.

I'm hoping I can get out to the barn more often once my mother's post surgery at-home care visits wind down. It's a little hard to get to the barn when two therapists and a nurse keep stopping by between scheduled and unscheduled doctor visits.

Monday, October 10, 2011

So Simple

Confucius (551-479 BC)
"What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others."

"Men's natures are alike, it is their habits that carry them far apart."

"Study the past if you would define the future."

"Learning without thought is labor lost;
thought without learning is perilous."

    Monday, October 3, 2011

    You know you have a problem when... open your tack locker and it smells like hamburger that's waaay past its prime.

    Such was the case on Saturday when I stopped by the barn just long enough to unpack Phantom's old turnout sheet and leave some treats in his feed bucket. I definitely needed to conduct a search and destroy mission, but didn't have the time.

    Today I made another quick trip to the barn, this time to check on Phantom and give him a zoom groom. My tack locker still smelled like old hamburger so I started removing the neatly stacked plastic storage boxes and sure enough...

    ...dead mouse.


    It took some maneuvering with implements other than hands, but I removed the carcass and added it to the nearest muck bucket.

    Decades ago my father built the tack locker to my specifications with the intent of keeping out mice. Over the years it has done the job admirably. Apparently too well. This mouse must have entered while I was occupied with Phantom and was still perusing the contents when I finished for the day and locked up to return home.

    I certainly hope the "old hamburger" smell dissipates quickly now that the source has been eliminated. But we're entering the Mildew Months of the Willamette Valley, so I'm not too optimistic.

    Guess I need to install a mouse alert to let them know it's time to exit!

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    It's Officially Fall

    Not because the calendar says so.

    Not because the leaves are changing color.

    Not because the geese are flying south.

    It is officially Fall because I turned off the sprinkler system...

    ...and I hung Phantom's turnout sheet on his stall.