About Maria Matthews

A published writer and avid reader, who likes to take a quirky look at the world about her. Bob is the steady anchor in a house governed by the mayhem of two parents and two grown children who have left home but frequently drop by to either check out the fridge or check in with Bob and Ellie. Maria's free time is divided between family, work, writing and volunteering.

Dodgy Weather

Dogs love being outdoors. So do I.

So despite the wind, rain and onslaught of stormy Irish weather, we love to trudge about.

Nuts aren’t we!

stormy clouds vanished as the sun watched Cooper make a find.

Dogs who love to work

Everyone who knew Sir Bob knew his idea of a workday was: breakfast followed by a nap, followed by a slow walk, lunch, nap while watching Ellie or Cooper work and then dinner. His border collie pal and the labradors were, are and always will live to work.

So when I attempt to slow one of these three down, it is unpredictable. On Wednesday after working Cooper, I took him for a cross country walk. He just doesn’t do walking, but eventually, he stopped to take a breath.IMG_20200122_111624_922

Naughty or Nice?

Constance Claus or Mrs C as some call her was pleased, everything was running smoothly in the run-up to Christmas Eve. She had a long list. It was so long it rolled behind her, around the workshop, out the door and into the main square where Summer, her perfectly white cat was using it as a bed.

The elves were working at a frenzied pace due to a bet that Noel would beat the record for putting wheels on bikes in a single day. He was on hour number 8 of 12 and it was showing. His beard was a damp sponge as sweat flowed from his forehead. Constance stopped to watch him and was pleased to notice that the kindly younger elves had equipped Noel with a cold drink which sat on his hat , the long straw flowed from the bottle straight to Noel’s mouth.

Happy they were looking out for each other Constance looked back at her list,

“Check the Reindeer have passed their fitness test.” She smiled at the line underneath – and your husband as well.” She frowned. It was a long time since she saw him, breakfast to be exact.

Standing on the nearest empty chair, Constance gave a piercing whistle. Everyone except Noel stopped working to look at her. “Has anyone seen Santa?” When she was met with silence, Constance felt a moment of worry then she brushed it to one side.

The elves shuffled in a group to stand before her. “He never leaves the workshops, he is bound to be here, somewhere, we will go find him for you.”

“And I will go and check on lunch for you,” she smiled as she left to check the kitchen hoping he was sitting having a giant slice of gingerbread and some milk.

However, the kitchen was empty, ten minutes later the elves began to report in:

he is not in the bedroom, he is not in the reindeer house, he is not in summers house, he is not in the workshop on any of the floors or in any of the cupboards.

They fell silent. “Oh no, we have lost Santa, ” the elves were rushing about in circles, panicking. “Broken Candy canes! We have lost Santa,”

One tiny elve piped up, “perhaps he has gone away for a holiday.”

“Don’t be stupid Dilly, he never goes on holiday. He is the holiday.” The others answered.

Dilly responded by crying loudly.

“How will we find a lost Santa, we can’t tell anyone.” Constance stared at the ceiling then lowered her eyes at the sound of someone munching on a cookie.  “Bob can find him!” She said then wondered aloud, “Where and how did you get those sugar-coated cookies?”

Santa’s four-legged friend looked around the room,then he tried to hide behind the tiniest elf in the room.  It didn’t work, neither did his reindeer costume. reindeer 6

I am not a sniffer dog – I am a reindeer.

There was a loud official knock on the kitchen door. Everyone including the cookie munching Bob turned to see who was doing this when no one ever knocked on doors in Santa’s home.

Taking a deep breath Constance stepped forward and slowly opened the door.  It was George, the giant elf who everyone almost, nearly but not quite forgot about each year as his job was to protect the boundaries of Santa’s home.

“We have a situation, Mrs Claus.” His voice was deep and officious. He appeared to look happy, something which never happened and was deeply troubling every other elf in the room.

“A..a.. situation. How what and where? We never have a situation beyond the threat of running out of time to get the job done.’

“Well, perhaps you should follow me.”

“Why?” Constance was puzzled. This was a first for her just like hearing George speak in such a serious tone.

“I need help as it is a little bit delicate and he is moving too fast.”

“Who?” Constance was getting tired of this. “Just tell me straight.” She and the elves walked outside after George.

His answer was to point upwards.   Everyone stared high into the sky.  There he was, but he was not sitting in his sleigh practising his driving skills nor taking care of the fluffy white clouds or the birds who were flapping and diving out of his way.

No, he was sitting on Rudolph and they were racing about the sky, doing loops and summersaults, diving towards the ground sending snow flying from treetops along with hundreds of birds who had been enjoying a mid-day nap until they were rudely awoken by the racing, giggling Santa. Then in a sizzling flash they sliced and diced the clouds up into tiny marshmallows, Santa grabbing chunks and throwing them to the elves below who were enjoying the show, clapping and laughing.

“This is not funny,” Constance told everyone. Hands-on her hips she wondered just how much sugar Santa had consumed to get him in this state then forgot it as the elves asked,

“We need to get him down but how will we do it?”

“I could write him a speeding ticket or careless driving ticket or an over the sugar limit ticket.” George was bouncing on his toes with excitement. He never got to arrest anyone, imagine being the one who arrested Santa!

Constance’s words knocked the smile off his face. “I know the one person he will listen to and he will be down in an instant.”

George looked depressed. His claim to fame was being squashed.

Pulling her phone from her pocket she dialled a number. The elves were laying bets on who it was Constance was ringing. “Some real police. – No the FBI – No. His dentist he is terrified of him.”

Someone even better Constance said, as she approached Dasher. Leaping nimbly on to his back she took to the sky. Constance and Dasher did not race about like Santa, they flew to a large cloud and waited for him to come to them. Words were exchanged, the elves saw Constance lean towards her husband with her phone in her hand and five seconds later he was on the ground. Constance and Dasher joined Rudolph and Santa then turned to the astonished elves.

Constance slid from Dasher and stood to smooth out her skirt fully aware that every elf was dying to ask her who she rang. She took her time and tried not to smile as Santa marched off muttering and grumbling about wives not allowing husbands to have any fun at all.

Finally, when she was ready she said, “His mum!”

 

 

Thinking outside of the box

Ellie has been working as a search and recovery dog for over 61/2 years and we have learnt a lot.  The top tip we can give anyone is: training is never simple or confined, in other words always be prepared to think outside of the box.

head in bucket

What Box? This is a bucket.

Does anyone know how to build an ark?

It is cold, it is very wet. So wet in fact I am contemplating building an ark. But Ellie, Judy and Cooper are not bothered all they want to do is run and play, or train.

As I pull another pair of leaking wellington boots off my soggy feet, I wonder how did I get into this? Then I look at her sparkling eyes and realise – it is all your fault. But, we do have fun even on the wettest coldest days.

An Extra Four Legs

It has been weeks since I have written anything. There are many reasons for this,  and the main one is that I lost my mojo as some would call it back when Dad and Bob passed away.

Time has stretched as days have been spent sorting through Dad’s many years of collecting books,  which he stored in a random fashion in his study or in an extra shed outside. The second reason is that we have, as you may know, given a lot of time to finding Ellie a companion.

Our visits to the pounds in the various counties resulted in nothing sparking an interest in her. We would gladly have taken quite a few of those dogs home but, she didn’t seem to show any sign of friendship to any of them.

Then one afternoon for some strange reason I called to our vets and spoke to them. This is where I learnt about Dugg /Doug (jury is out on how we spell it). He is three years old, a golden labrador who lived with a lot of other dogs but whose owner needed to find him a home. So we met him and Ellie didn’t shy from him or look annoyed when she met him.

We brought him home on trial. It was a trial. He appeared happy to be with us until each evening when the howling and barking began. It was like having a baby in the house. We were not sleeping and many a conversation ended with, “he is a sweet dog but his howling is driving me nuts.” In short, we gave him time, attention and he, in turn, tried our patience, but Ellie tolerated him and was no longer crying or looking sad. Sometimes she looked frustrated and tired, like us, but he didn’t have many issues beyond his night time love of howling.  He wasn’t overly fond of men but he is losing his distrust. Ellie and Doug are getting closer as you can see from the pictures. He is still a little too thin but as my kids say, “you will easily fix that mum!”

He loves babies, likes Brook and Belle two other four-legged occasional visitors and is a gentle sloppy idiot, who likes to eat fruit straight from the garden. It seems as though my pal Bob pushed me to the vets on that afternoon, so Doug is staying, what else could I do?

 

 

Rolling Days and the search has started

In some ways, it seems like Dad and Bob only left us yesterday, in spite of this when it returns the pain at their loss can be intense at odd moments. But I know, am aware this is part of the process we call living. The bit I find the most distressing in all of this is how Ellie has reacted. Around our house she sometimes seems lost, wandering to odd corners where Bob used to go to, the strawberry patch being one and then coming back to join me. Her sighs and sad looks have affected everyone. At dad’s house, she no longer races to his back door eager to be let in and given her welcoming pet from him.

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To offset her feeling of loss, I take her with me whenever I can or I invite other dogs to come and spend an hour or two in her company, but I cannot always be with her.

So, after almost 20 weeks with just Ellie, we cannot bear it any longer and have decided to find her a buddy. We can’t replace Bob but we can find an acceptable friend to fill some gaps.

We have discovered that adopting a dog is not easy. For one thing, our garden was inspected. We failed the first inspection. Though, we did explain to the gentleman that if Ellie chose a large dog the short section (4-foot long) of the wall which is only 5 foot six inches tall, (the rest being an impressive 6 foot high) would be raised to the 6-foot height needed. Our thinking on this is: the garden is secure, locked gates and if Ellie decides a Jack Russell is to be her new living companion then why raise the wall? But they were not happy with this answer.

Then you have The Form to fill in, some of the questions are so detailed and personal I expected to be asked how often I shower. However, we dutifully have filled in forms sent off photos of our garden.

In the past week, we have visited 3 rescue centres. They are all spotlessly clean. The dogs look well-fed but the problem is they are either not interested in us or they are female dogs and our main stipulation is that it is a male dog.

The question for you kind readers (all four or five of you) is, have you gone through a similar experience? Are we better off to merely concentrate on keeping Ellie healthy and happy or should we continue our quest?

I will keep everyone posted on Twitter and Instagram #FindEllieAFriend

Tips from our Grandmothers or Great-grandmothers

My kitchen is no different from most with its (sometimes) shining cooker, fridge, washing machine, kettle etc. But have you ever wondered about how life was for our grandmothers or great grandmothers who had only their hands, strength and patience to do everyday chores? Well, I often wonder about their strength and resilience particularly after reading a small Readers Digest book “What our Grandmothers knew.”

Here are a few of their beauty tips:

Treatment for dry skin: apply a face pack consisting of beaten egg yolk with a few drops of lemon juice added. If this doesn’t work they recommended, after washing the mask off your face to rub in a homemade skin cream made up of 1/3 oz of lard mixed with a pinch of zinc oxide.

This one is very seasonal – to get relief from sunburn. Grate a raw potato and spread between two layers of gauze. Apply this to the sunburnt skin.

Another which made me smile – relief for tired eyes: Boil some cornflowers in water, allow to cool. Then make compresses by layering the flowers between gauze. Lie flat for 15 mins with compresses over each eye.

Do you wonder that years ago many dogs lived outside? If they lived indoors they would have dined off the beauty treatments while the lady was wearing them!

 

Bob was always partial to fruit and veg and never considered picking his own to be work.