Monday, 19 January 2009

Ghost Dog

Just under a year ago, Jessie started shaking and then she collapsed. When she got up again her poor old head hung sideways and she walked diagonally or in circles. I thought she'd had a stroke but the Vet said it was vestibular syndrome, common in older dogs. He gave her a shot of steroid and she has been OK since, and although frail and increasingly deaf and blind, she seems happy enough.

Then, last night, there was a very upsetting episode, where she suddenly started growling and yelping (I thought it was you, said Kyle, which has led to a cooling in my attitude towards him) and running up and down the kitchen and then up the two steps to the hallway, and along the hallway and then back to the kitchen, trying to outrun whatever was afflicting her, as if there was a ghost dog on her trail, biting at her and frightening her.

I tried to catch hold of her and soothe her as you would with a child but she wouldn't have it and so I ran with her while the kids looked up her symptoms on the internet.

It could be bloat, reported the sites they consulted, in which case death is imminent. Is your dog a deep chested breed?
Big chested?
Deep chested. Is your dog one of the following breeds?
A long list, Golden Retriever not included. Mind you, although we have a certificate saying she is one, she doesn't look much like a Golden Retriever. In fact, when we were in Somserset the other day a man came up to us and said...
Remember, death is imminent.
Kyle found a site dedicated to the treatment of Great Danes suffering with the condition which explained how First Aid could be improvised with a tube and some KY Jelly.
After insertion, the owner puts their mouth to one end of the tube and...
It brings to mind a scene in Far From the Madding Crowd, after Bathsheba had allowed her sheep to stray onto rich pasture and they all bloated and Gabriel Oak - who was in love with her and was a steady man who knew about farming - pierced the sheep in exactly the right place to stop them exploding. Would the cardboard tube inside a roll of tinfoil do? I'm not sure about KY Jelly but we have some lard in the fridge.
This procedure should only be attempted by professionals.
All this running up and down is exhausting. Jessie is panting but no longer yelping. We have checked her paws, head and limbs for injury. Her gums are not blue, black or dark red, and nor is she trying to vomit, so she probably doesn't have bloat. It seems to be something inside her that hurts. She's slowing down but if she doesn't stop soon, I'm worried she'll kill herself with all the exercise, although it's probably doing me some good. It reminds me of a conversation I had recently with Rachel, whose best friend Lena is Sarah Connor in the Sarah Connor Chronicles, and I said all that running around must keep her very fit, all that kicking, and Rachel said...
You can check your pet's heart rate by putting your finger...
Rachel said well, not really, she seems to spend most of the time saying Run, John, run.
Run, Jessie, run.
Eventually she calms down. We stroke her tummy. (Jessie, not Rachel or Lena. Don't be silly.)
Death is not imminent.
She's fine. She outran the ghost dog.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Hopes and Dreams for 2009

Hopes and dreams for 2009 - haven't I done that yet? They're very simple, really. Apart from the obvious ones, like world peace and the continuing good health of my dog, Jessie, I'd like to write another book and another play.

I know what the next book is going to be about, who'll be in it and what happens at the end. Still, I've got quite a bit of thinking to do before I can start writing - and the thinking is the part I hate. I like the writing, and particularly the editing - you know, the lovely self-indulgent period that follows all the hard work, when you read it through and laugh at your jokes and then think hmmm that comma's in the wrong place, and change it. And later, change it back again. Tsk. I've got a long way to go before I get there.

Other than that, I'd like to go away on holiday but I'm not sure if I'll have the chance this year. I practically ruined my health over this last book, sitting hunched over the keyboard all day every day until my bones fused together. I look like a troll but I feel awfully smug about it. It means I won't mind too much about not going on holiday; I'd hate to come back lithe and bronzed and with my bones unknitted - and no evidence of the suffering I have undergone in the name of creativity.

And I'd also like to make a film. Jessie does this sweet little lip-smacking noise sometimes and I'd like to capture that and put it on a loop to create a feature-length film without a narrative. I'll play it to selected audiences after her inevitable demise, perhaps with the animal herself on display, stuffed and coiffed for posterity.

Anyway, I must get on with this book. Taxidermists don't come cheap, you know, and I have to earn a living somehow. Blogging is no help - it's done for love. Yes, yes, I said love. I'm sorry about my previous post, which was rather sour in tone. I was feeling grumpy because of all the thinking I was having to do, and because I wasn't making much headway with the writing. I don't blame you at all. I love you. Why else would I keep going with this?

Thursday, 8 January 2009

I blame you

There's a writing meme going around which asks (in essence) - what are you good at, what are you not so good at? I've been tagged twice with it. Once by Lucy, once by Piers.

I don't know. When I finish writing something, I think it's a work of genius. Just before starting, I think that my new idea is brilliant and I look forward to turning it into a work of genius. But then at various points during the process, I think that what I have written is awful and I worry that I don't know what I'm doing and that I will never be able to finish it.

When I have had a good day's writing, I go to bed happy and when I get up the next morning and read what I have written, I'm disappointed in it and that makes me feel cross.

When I can't spend the day writing for whatever reason - unexpected visitors, phone calls, errands, admin - I feel thwarted and very, very cross. When I haven't written much and there's no obvious reason, I look around for someone to blame. Beware. Don't cross my path when I'm supposed to be writing - if I haven't got enough done that day, I'll blame you.

As for what I'm good at and what I'm not, it's all a question of perception. Ask me at 11 o'clock at night or when I have just finished a book or a play or some other piece of writing, and I think I'm pretty good at everything, thanks.

Ask me in the morning or when I'm just starting a piece of writing or when - as now - I'm just starting a new book and it's three o'clock in the afternoon and I have hardly got any writing done today (or for the last three days), well, I'll be in such a furiously bad mood that I'm hardly going to waste my time on here listing all my faults as a writer.

As for my lack of progress today and for the last three days, you know what I'm going to say: I blame you.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Christmas, cartridge stall, manuscripts, humps

My Christmas was lovely, thanks. How was yours?

I learned a valuable lesson about film-making, which is that even if you consider yourself to be something of an auteur, with a remarkable facility to cobble together a story out of next to nothing in the edit, it is unhelpful to leave all your camera equipment packed up in your office when you go to shoot 'on location' (i.e. at Lauren's Dad's house).

Never mind. The year has started well in other ways: I thought I was going to have to replace my printer because it kept stopping every 4 pages to report a 'cartridge stall' (rather frustrating when you're printing a 254 page manuscript of your great work).

When this happened last year, I followed a suggestion in an online printer-fixing forum and turned the thing upside down and shook it, and sure enough, a pen fell out. But I couldn't get anything out of it this time and went so far as to order a replacement printer but then, with nothing left to lose, I knelt on the floor and rubbed a grubby pop sock along the runners where the cartridges sit, and what do you know? It's working fine. It turned out, funnily enough, that the cartridges had, in fact, stalled - and that the printer was trying to convey this information to me in simple terms and wasn't 'being difficult'.

My only regret is that I hadn't ordered a more expensive printer, because then I could have celebrated saving more money than I have saved.

What else? Oh, yes, I re-joined the gym. I need to shift the book weight - this is like baby weight in the way it is acquired, although it can be difficult to convey to acquaintances that getting fat is a normal part of the creative process for some of us. And anyway, how do you even get on to the subject, short of carting the manuscript around in a pram so people can look at it and coo:
Ooh, when did you..?

November, but I polished it up a bit over Christmas, so I've only just-
And how big is it?

245 pages, not huge. But quite respectable for a literary novel.
Oh yes, I can see it's a literary one. They're the worst, though, aren't they? My friend did one last year and she got very fat.
Well, I've just joined the gym.
Have you got a hump as well? My friend got a hump.
No. That's just... I bought this in Primark. It's very ill-fitting. You think I'm getting a hump?
Etc.