Reflections on being a Dog-owning Writer: The first Term Break

Easter has come and so has Spring. British weather never exactly ‘blooms’ into sunshine as such – the rain is an ever-persistent hindrance – but at least the sun is coming out and when it does, everything is beautiful.

Things I & II have had their Easter break from school and, while it is lovely to really, properly be able to enjoy their company again, it has somewhat cocked up the routine Asha and I had begun to develop. We’ve not been getting up as a family to have breakfast with just me and Asha left in the house by 8 o’clock and no one to disturb until either Wifey or the Things return somewhere around 5 in the afternoon. Instead, I’ve been allowing the kids to sleep in until 9 but then monitored their routine (Thing II, you may recall, has ADHD and he – like myself – doesn’t do well ‘left to his own devices’). That sounds all well and good but my writing routine has already been well-reduced with looking after a puppy and now it has suffered more with trying to organise three of us and not just one.

On top of that, we’ve had lots of visits from friends all over the country (and one from Germany we’ve not seen for 20 years!). It has been really, really lovely to see them but the flip side is deadlines for editors being pushed more and more to the edge. I’ve just about kept on track but it has been hard.

Easter is, for Christians, a time to celebrate death – that of the Son of God – and I’ve been hit by many deaths of recent. Not physical ones, thought they feel like it, but metaphorical. A death of trust; a death of confidence in myself and others; a death of friendship; a death of belief in humanity; a death in belief that friends won’t try to hurt one another. It sounds quite gloomy all that doesn’t it? And it is, if I’m honest; I won’t lie. In some ways I feel more like a ghost than a living person.

But Easter is also a celebration of life and resurrection for Christians – both of the believer and the Son of God – and there is new life in me too. Some friendships have perhaps died off but others have been renewed. Several come to mind but there’s one friend in particular from my teenage years who recently I’ve been back in touch with and chat to every day on Facebook who has been a real blessing. I can’t believe we lost touch for more than 20 years (we briefly re-connected just before I moved to Bangladesh but then lost it again) but it feels very much like we’re as good friends now as we were back when we were kids. I treasure such people.

There’s no doubt that Asha was a timely gift to us, to me; a gift from above if you’re that way inclined. While our routine has been disrupted we have added new, beneficial aspects. As I write this, Asha is now sleeping on the rug in my study rather than in the kitchen. We have reached a point where I can begin working again at my table with my books and music around me rather than imprisoned in the kitchen, crammed on to the edge of an already full-to-overflowing table.

Asha’s walks have also extended and regular trips down to the beach first thing in the morning are a part of our routine we both love. She loves to run and bounce and play with total freedom; I love to listen to the waves and contemplate what I will write today with the knowledge that she will flake out, back at home, for a couple of hours completely exhausted allowing me to then actually do the writing previously contemplated.

Sleep is important with Asha because it’s the only time her toileting is consistent. She never soils her cage at night and she can sleep during the day for several hours without a worry. But once she’s awake, you have to watch her like a hawk because she pees everywhere all the time. She’ll be 16 weeks this coming Saturday and all the training manuals and websites seem to indicate that a bitch can’t hold her bladder reliably until this time. I hope that works like clockwork for Asha because it is driving us mad right now. The books have been wrong that she will gradually ‘get it’ as time goes on. She’s no better now than when we first had her. The wees can be further apart but they’re much bigger, that’s all.

That’s partly been the issue with having the Things here. When it is just me and the dog I take her out to our courtyard to ‘do wee wee’ every 30 minutes she’s awake (and straight after she wakes up from a nap). When the kids have her (so I can get some urgent work done) they tend to forget about her and we find wees and poos all over the place. At least now she is going properly on her walks. For a long while she would hold on until we got back home and then go inside.

It is really very irritating that she hasn’t got the toilet training. We even have a bell on the door which she can ring to say she wants to go outside but she started using it to get to play outside which wasn’t the idea at all. We have to get that sorted soon. It’s odd because otherwise she’s brilliant at learning commands.

She ‘sits’ and ‘goes down’ on command very well now though she sometimes circumvents the former and heads straight to the latter so I’m now training her to ‘sit’, ‘go down’, ‘sit’, ‘go down’ etc., a few times before getting her treat. We’re also going to train her to ‘roll over’ soon too. It has no practical value but it will be as cute as anything!

Today, on the beach, I taught her to ‘stop’ whatever she’s doing however far away and then ‘sit’ exactly where she is. She got that idea almost instantly which shows how clever a pup she can be. The next step is to call her to come from afar (which she does for most of the time) and then ‘stop’ halfway through coming back. Basically, I want to know that wherever she is, whatever she was doing at the time, she will instantly stop and sit when commanded. I think she will get there – if I don’t kill her first.

And if she doesn’t kill herself first too. Yesterday I took her for a walk and she did a poo on what has to be the narrowest path in the area. As I bent down to clear up her ablutions she leapt out partly on to the road, held back only by the lead in my hand but out far enough that both times passing cars had to brake for fear a puppy was about to run under their wheels. She wouldn’t have done – the lead is too short to allow that – but it was too alarming for drivers to allow that to happen again. I can’t say I was very happy with her, to say the least.

The kids go back to school on Monday and I will miss them despite the disruptions. Human company, even if doing its own thing in another room, is still company and I treasure my family. They really are the only people left in the world who I trust and believe in still. It is ironic that they are also the ones who bear the brunt of my stresses and my depression and so must feel the most unloved of all the people who are dear to me. It’s funny how we hurt those we love. That’s something I’m having to relearn: how to show people I love them. My fear though, is that this dog is simply far too old for that trick.


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An Appeal for Justice

This post will be a most unusual one. Although I often champion the worthy causes of people I meet, I normally keep out of specific political situations. However, on behalf of my friend and fellow blogger, Raad Rahman, I am breaking this rule today.

Raad is a well-respected author, blogger and champion of many causes, fighting injustice wherever she sees it by, among other things, publicising the wrongs and reporting on the crimes on her blog Wonder Sonder.

Today it is Raad’s turn – more accurately her family – to feel injustice as corrupt officials in Chittagong, Bangladesh attempt to take land from her father while the media seem to have no interest at all. Below are Raad’s own words about what has happened taken from her Facebook page. Please read, like the page, offer support and – particularly if you are Bangladeshi – make a noise about this.



Save My Family’s Chittagong Property from Illegal Takeover

On the 3rd of April, 2015, in complete disregard to court orders, the Chittagong Development Authority’s Shahenur Islam held my father at gunpoint as some of the city’s most disgusting thugs attempted to bulldoze part of my family’s property in Chittagong.

If you’ve been to the southern city of Chittagong in Bangladesh, there is almost a hundred percent chance that you’ve seen my house, even if you were simply passing through on your way to the more popular location of Cox’s Bazaar…

Being able to view the house hasn’t always been the case- back in the day, the house was part of a larger complex of hills that surrounded the Mehdibag and Dampara area, but I still remember when the house became prominent in the city’s landscape.

It was around the time that every single bus service between Dhaka and Chittagong decided to base themselves across the street from my parents’ property. It was around 1994. And by 2005, when the Peninsula Hotel took over the city’s landscape, my family’s house received the status of that lush strip of green that you can see from the Peninsula’s rooftop. It was also the beginning of the accelerated harassment my parents and family have been facing as per the property.

That’s right, that same green hill that many of you have spent hours gazing at while eating your phuchkha and crabs or enjoying a cultural concert at Shilpokola Academy, the city’s premier artsl institution, belongs to my parents… but now the Peninsula has some grand plans to get rid of ONE OF THE LAST REMAINING HILLS IN CHITTAGONG.

What most of you don’t know is that a man who claims to be the Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s brother, has been illegally trying to take over our property for years. His name is Kazi Ekram, and he is the head of the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industries. Somewhere along the way, the then mayor of the city, Mr. Moinuddin, attempted to take over the property too, and turn it into his mayoral office. When Moinuddin fell out of favor with other party members and none of them backed him up, Engineer Musharraf Hossain, the owner of the prominent Peninsula Hotel, who also happens to be the Minister for Works in Bangladesh, also began to chime in. Now, between Hossain and Ekram, they somehow eventually managed to even get the Chittagong Development Authority to attempt to bulldoze our property.

EVEN THOUGH these folks have no legal grounds to it.

What most of you don’t know, what the media isn’t telling you, is that my parents and family have a permanent stay order and what the government cronies are trying to do is ILLEGAL, even though most people refuse to touch the issue… What the media is not reporting, is that my parents have paid millions in land taxes on a property that corrupt members of the government are now simply trying to grab from them.

If you know me, or know my family, chances are you love that house. Chances are that you’re as blown away by the British architecture as I am. Chances are, you have shopped at one of the 18 shops that line the property. Whatever it may be, I need your help like I’ve never needed your help before.

Please spread the word, and get this message out to everyone you know. They can try to bully us, bulldoze us, and even threaten my father with a gun to his chest, but the time for silence is over.

Thank you in advance!

Raad Rahman, April 2015

Raad’s Facebook page can be found here.

Photos taken from Raad’s Facebook page.

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How I survived Your Childhood

After sharing a post from my good friend and former student, Nicky, she enjoyed the reaction so much that she has taken up blogging for herself!

Choosing an inspired title for her blog – How I Survived Your ChildhoodNicky aims to write down her thoughts about being a parent of a baby. She’s already written a second post about night time hassles so go check it out!

I’ve known Nicky a long time and know her thoughts will be honest, thought-provoking and funny. I will certainly look forward to more from her and I’d love it if you’d go visit and fellow bloggers sign up for her posts. If you’re a parent or closely connected to parents then I’m sure you’ll love Nicky’s thoughts.

Nicky and baby

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Thoughts from a new mother

Nicky is an old, old friend and, before that, was a student of mine. Even back then I was in awe of her and felt rather inadequate as the supposed ‘learned adult’. She taught me more and introduced me to more than I ever gave her. Thanks to the power of Facebook we have kept in touch over the years when I was in Bangladesh and just recently she visited our house with her baby son. I’m still in awe of her.

My youngest is twelve now so we’ve truly left behind those baby years. But I do remember that though our babies were always our joy and our everything, they were – at times – the spawn of hell too. Yesterday, Nicky shared her thoughts on Facebook and I empathized with them so much I asked her permission to share her words here on my blog.  So here, in her own words, are Nicky’s honest thoughts about the ‘not-so-great’ aspects of having a baby. I suspect this will resonate with many of you – including the very final sentence –  much better than if I had written it!


Thoughts from a new mother

Nicky's BabyFor all you mums and dads out there, and the ones that are going to become mums and dads, and especially for the ones that have older children and have forgotten the delights of having a child whose age is counted in months.

I’ve noticed that we seem to only share the nice things that happen.. and I must admit that sometimes when I read them when my boy is having a ‘moment’ it makes me feel like the only mother in the world that can’t make my child happy… so here goes.

For anyone feeling like they aren’t supermum this is what happens when my boy isn’t happy, giggling, smiling, burbling, playing and sleeping.

Before I start… I will point out that I love my son with all my heart. However…

He gets HANGRY, and I mean death metal scream when he has the slightest bit of hunger pain, from giggling to screaming in less than 2 seconds. It makes me want to put my head through a wall.

Sometimes he will look tired, act tired, have droopy eyes etc, but the second I suggest perhaps going to sleep (maybe gentle rocking, singing, cot time..) he acts like sleep is the one thing in the world that he never ever needs, and it may well actually kill him if he tries to let it happen. it makes me want to put my head through a wall.

He will cry. For NO REASON. Change him, burp him, feed him, play with him, talk to him etc etc etc etc etc. Nothing will console him, then suddenly it stops and he acts as if he doesn’t know what crying is. It makes me want to put my head through a wall.

His poo…. STINKS! We have a few descriptions for the nappys we get… Poonami – when the poo almost escapes the nappy.
Poosplosion – when there is more poo in the nappy than baby outside it.
Wet fart – the tiny streak of poo that seems to upset him more than the poonamisplosions!

Just when we think we have a routine sorted, or we can predict how much he would eat and when, it changes. Leaving us with an 8oz bottle with 6oz left in it. It makes me want to put my head through a wall.

Tummy time is apparently the work of the devil. Yet the effort it would take for him to be arsed to roll onto his back again is just too much. He would rather faceplant the floor and cry than bother trying. He cries into the floor. It makes me want to put my head through a wall.

We have 1 baby class a week. 1. He chooses that day to refuse to nap before it, and wants to nap during it. Completely out of sync from the rest of the week. He then inevitably has a poosplotion the second we walk in the door. It makes me want to put my head through the children’s centre wall.

He is a grumpy bugger during the day but the second we get a visitor or his dad gets home he acts like butter wouldn’t melt. The image of the angelic infant. It makes me want to put my head through a wall.

Getting him to nap in his cot instead of on me. It makes me want to put my head through a wall.

My husband and I take turns at the night shift. For me he wakes every hour because he found his dummy in his mouth and spat it out, then remembered he wanted it in, he fills his nappy at 3am, he decides 4am is morning, he practises his velociraptor impression at 5 am and refuses to go back to sleep. For my husband he wakes at 11pm for a feed then sleeps through to 4am, has another feed and sleeps till 8am. It makes me want to put my head through a wall.

When refusing to sleep in his cot he will sometimes sleep in my arms. But I MUST be standing up. He knows when I sit down and that is an act of war in his book. Mum can never be comfortable while he sleeps or the world may end. It makes me want to put my head through a wall…. Quietly… Because I don’t want him to wake up while is so peaceful.

So yes, there are lovely, beautiful, magical times. But they are interspersed with the reality of parenthood. It’s not all sunshine and flowers and some days are better than others.

But we’re winning. We are parents and we are winning!

Nicky and baby

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Scottish Power – the most inept service provider in the UK? I think so!

Originally posted on my Facebook wall, I thought I would share my words for the benefit of the many, many hundreds of you who live in the UK. If you could afford a £900 bill all in one go then this won’t affect you but I’d love to hear from you so I can borrow some money!

ScottishPower you are absolutely useless. I have written you a long email today after speaking to the Ombudsman and choose to give some details here where hundreds of my friends can read just how hopeless you really are as a service provider.

Last year you failed to take three months payments when I moved home. I thought you’d got ‘monthly’ and ‘quarterly’ mixed up and foolishly waited for you to get your act sorted out. In February you realised you were charging me way too much when I told you British Gas was ready to slash my bill in half. I found out then that YOU had put my account in arrears.

You put me on a new tariff which equalled British Gas plus a little extra each month to repay what I owed (thanks to you remember) over the next 12 months. Foolishly, I agreed. We all make mistakes, I thought, I should give you a chance.

This month you called me, told me how it was all your fault about not taking the payments last year and offered to credit my account one month’s payment to say sorry. I accepted! Fool that I am. You also told me there was an even better tariff now available and put me on that. Great, I thought! Silly me.

Last weekend I looked at my account and discovered – wait for it – you had taken nearly £900 from my account! You can imagine how overjoyed I was by this.

Today I find out that it was your error – again (you don’t say) – but…again, wait for it…you couldn’t return more than about £300 because that’s all I have in credit. So thank you for putting me more than £500 in debt. £500 which I don’t have. Thank you for telling me today that,effectively, it was my fault. Of course it was. I should never have believed you were capable of looking after your customers.

I can’t wait for the Ombudsman to be involved. Until then, I hope you lose lots of business as my friends swap over their business before this happens to them or throw away that quote you sent tempting them away from their current utility provider. You don’t deserve the customers you have.

Posted in British, Corruption, Life | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments