07 Aug Invalid Name

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 8.8.22

 

Every time we go to the vet, I think about that time my daughter decided to change her name. (Weird start for a story, but you know what I’m like.) We were there again this morning with our cat, Satchmo, named for jazz legend Louis Armstrong and while he was weighed (not as heavy as I’d feared) and vaccinated (Satchmo’s a big believer in science) I was thinking back 20-odd years to a visit at the same clinic with a different cat.

Jimmy was our big fluffy ginger boy who enjoyed a remarkable 21 years, living with me well before my daughter was born and still here with us after she’d left home. Terrific cat, used to sleep on my head at night as though I was a pillow or he was a hat. I still miss him.

When Jimmy was eight and Holly was six, we arrived at the vet and were greeted with, “Jimmy A’Court? Come through.”

“Is he an A’Court, too?” Holly asked me, clearly struck by this information. Back then, Holly still had her father’s name but, she pointed out that day, everyone else living in our house – her mother, her grandparents and the cat – was an A’Court so she wanted to be one, too.

I said I wasn’t sure how to go about changing it and she did one of those six-year-old eye rolls and explained, “Oh, mummy! You write a letter to the government and tell them that’s what you want to do and they fix it.”

So we did, and they did, and all these years later her children carry our name along with others, which is very cool. For a while, because of the patriarchal tradition of only sons keeping their names, it looked like A’Courts were an endangered species, but we are flourishing now.

Though it is something of a hospital pass – it is rare that anyone knows how to spell it, even less likely they know how to say it. (For reference, it’s A like the letter A, emphasis on the first syllable – think “Acorn” but with a “t” right there at the last minute.)

I still find it hard to correct people, particularly in those settings where someone says, “Please welcome Michele a-COURT” so the first words out of my mouth would need to be, ‘Hello, you’ve done it wrong, lovely to be here”.

In more recent years we’ve discovered that, in a digital context, having two capitals and an apostrophe renders a name “invalid”. Various ancestors would be spinning to see “Acourt” typed into in online forms.

I am also blessed with a tricky first name – Michele spelt the traditional French way with one “l” and (my mother’s idea) a grave accent which I’ve been told is pretentious, to which I say, “Moi?” I’m not fussed if anyone else uses it, but once you get used to a macron showing you the length of a syllable in te reo, you can handle a grave.

There is a gift passed among all of us with less usual names. I swear every Siobhan and Aiofe is inclined to take extra care to get things right when they meet a Cholmondeley Majoribanks. A name is a taonga, and getting it right feels like a blessing.

They got the hang of A’Court at the vet clinic ages ago. Though I do remember on an early visit with our new boy, the vet nurse asked, “Satchmo… Now how do you spell that?”

 

 

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01 Aug Nostalgia for a Bit of Low Tech

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 1.8.22

 

Bad manners, and a bit lazy. Not you, obviously, I’m talking about the others. These are the two human behaviours at the root of our most annoying technological advances.

Exhibit A: the toilet that flushes automatically. At some point, so many people failed to flush the toilet in public restrooms that someone was driven to think, “Ok, sigh, we’ll do it for them.” The unintended consequence being the toilet can think you are done while you’re still sitting there (possibly contemplating a modern lack of manners) interrupting your reverie with a splash of cold toilet water up your back. Thanks everyone who couldn’t be bothered pressing the flush button themselves, I am having a great day.

Outside the cubicle, because some monster (many monsters) left the hot tap running over the hand basin, we are now limited to ice cold water delivered in automatically measured inadequate bursts. Don’t start me on automated hand dryers designed solely on the theory that water can be scared off your skin by a lot of noise.

We now live in world where we can’t trust each other to turn off taps. Or lights, or heating. I’m not sure what started this – are we too busy? Forgetful? Entitled and wasteful? Wherever it began, it leads us down a road, possibly in a self-driving car, where we will unlearn the habits of doing these things for ourselves.

Either that, or we’ll go all retro and embrace low tech again. I am already fantasising about a return to old-school hotels with a bilious old grump on reception – possibly with a yappy small dog in tow – half-heartedly handing over an actual key on a keyring for your door which you access via a lift that does not talk to you.

Don’t get me wrong – I like a “smart hotel”. You can download an app to your phone and turn your heating on before you head back to your room, and lie in bed to fiddle with the lighting without searching the walls for switches.

I mention this because I once stayed in a West Coast motel where I spent two days trying to work out how to turn off the hall light. Tracked the switch down eventually – it was tucked behind the fridge in the kitchen. Got to love a DIY sparky.

Step out of bed in the wee small hours in a “smart hotel” and a floor light is activated. Slightly freaky if you’ve just woken from a dream about monsters under the bed with torches, but terrific if you’re the kind of person who aims for the bathroom in the dark but inevitably finds themselves naked in the hotel corridor as your door locks behind you.

“Smart” features are sold not only on convenience but on doing the right thing by the planet since we obviously can’t be trusted to do this ourselves. On the upside, if you forget to turn the lights off when you leave, the room will do it for it.

On the downside, this feature is motion-activated and I’ve discovered I am a fairly still person. I’ll be reading in bed and suddenly all the lights go out. To counteract this, I have now developed a habit of regularly waving my arms about to keep the lights on, even now I’m at home. This is an improvement on the behaviour initially adopted when I’d assumed it was sound that activated the lights, which had encouraged me to regularly give myself a round of applause.

 

 

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18 Jul On Never Saving Anything for Best

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 25.7.22

 

Today’s visit to the petrol station was something of an emotional rollercoaster. On the downside, I was buying gas. Wow. It’s been a while and at first I thought the pump was broken – the number of litres was rising at the usual rate but those dollar figures were spinning at quite a different speed. My next car is definitely going to be one of those ones you plug in.

Clearly, I wasn’t the only one reeling – on my way out of the shop a young man got himself quite tangled up in me, apologising with, “Sorry, miss!” several times. “Miss”. What a delight. I mean, he totally meant it in a school ma’am way, and to be fair he barely saw my face because his elbow was mostly in it, and it is easy to assume based on my height that I might be twelve.

Still. “Miss”. There’s a lightness about it, a hint of respect, of being looked up to, of being someone you need to please. I like this better than the man last week who kept calling me “dear” throughout our interaction. In my mind, “dear” automatically brings with it a prefix of “old”. Which I am – older, anyway – but I’d prefer my chats with strangers to not contain traces of, “I’ve made an assessment of your years spent on the planet and years remaining, and it looks like the scales are very much tilted in the wrong direction, dear”.

It happens throughout your life, this thing of being placed in a category that might jar, of being seen from the outside in a way that’s out of step with how you feel.

There will be loads of these tiny shocks – many of them good, like someone noting you have grown taller, or blossomed, or are smart and adept at a thing you do. Lots of times in your life you will internally reconstruct the picture you have of yourself based on new information. But the little jolts that suggest you are on any kind of downward slope take a bit of processing.

Rejecting outside views is always an option. I refuse to be told age precludes me from doing anything I want to do if it’s on the basis I might look silly. Riding rollercoasters, telling jokes in pubs, crawling through the meerkat tunnels at Auckland Zoo are still very much on the list of things I do.

A friend who I think of as 22 but who is probably 35 went to the barber recently and was offered an eyebrow trim, and Richard says he knew this meant he was getting old. Another friend who is a couple of years ahead of me and therefore quite aged told me about visiting a fancy department store once and asking the young assistant about anti-aging face cream, only to be told sincerely, “Oh, no, it’s much too late for that!”

What I’m learning to do is to celebrate that there are fewer years ahead than behind by never saving anything for “later” or “for best”. Not shoes, not china, not linen, not coats. In fact, the more expensive – or more precious – it is, the more we should give it daily use. My cupboards contain beautiful things that the women in my family saved for Sundays, and I am bringing them out any day of the week – a dish, some spoons, a gold locket – and I can feel in my lovely old bones how very much this pleases them.

 

 

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14 Jul Reflecting on Matariki

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 18.7.22

 

According to family legend, my Dad’s mother would put the vegetables on to boil before the family left for church at nine on Sunday morning and consider them just about ready by the time they got home at midday. Learning that cooked cabbage could be green rather than bleached white was a discovery Dad made after he married my mother.

For some people back then, the shocking part of this story was not the over-cooking of the veg – this thing of bringing our water to the boil before dropping greens in and serving them with crunch and colour was unheard of in many kitchens. “These beans could have done with another hour, Shirley,” said many a mother-in-law as the 1970s gave way to nouvelle cuisine.

The shock for traditionalists was that cooking was being done on a Sunday at all. In many households, a casserole or roasting dish was prepared on the Saturday, leaving the Sabbath as a strictly observed Day of Rest. No cooking, no cleaning, no handyman jobs around the house or garden. A whole day devoted to devotion – church, bible reading, prayer, sometimes observed in silence without so much as music on in the background.

This was not how we did Sundays at our place, and descriptions of it sounded to me not like a day of “rest” but of enforced nothingness, a kind of rigid emptiness. We did church or Sunday School, sure, but then the day was ours to do pretty much as we liked – ride bikes, visit friends, read – followed by a family evening in front of the telly with a Disney movie while mum did the ironing.

Later, when I moved to the city and went flatting, I found Sundays a bit shapeless and sad. No family activities to bookend a day that already lacked Friday’s anticipation and Saturday’s thrill. Sunday was the day you spent very much aware that Monday was coming. You were on a downward slope to the valley of work.

Bit dramatic, given I’ve pretty much always had jobs I liked, but you’ll know what I mean – even great jobs can feel like a grind. But my point is, I forgot what you could do with Sundays, and the purpose of a Day of Rest – to recharge, refuel, reset and a lot of other things that begin with “re” including my new favourite one, reflection.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, maybe it’s because I finally have time, but crikey, I really like being alone somewhere quiet and having a think these days. I sat somewhere quiet and thought about this during our new holiday to honour Matariki.

Like many people I talked to, I consciously spent those three days reflecting on the people and things I have lost, appreciating the people in my life and the things I have now, and envisioning the life I look forward to in the next year.

And what a perfect time to do this, in the middle of winter – when life feels slower, food tastes better and hugs are so warm. Bed, book, beach walk, talking with the people I love, roast lamb at the end of it.

I am thrilled we have been invited to embrace something as old as Matariki. It already feels like something we have always done – and was for many – and like something we will always do. I liked it so much, I’m going to practice a little of it every Sunday.

 

 

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04 Jul Travelling To A Better Version of You

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 11.7.22

 

This time three years ago, I had a very clear plan. With no child or parents to care for any longer, life was going to be all about the travel.

But shortly before take-off in 2020 – honestly, I’d bought new walking shoes and a Wonder Woman daypack – the gods laughed and the borders closed. My only international travel since has been to our Cook Island neighbours, squeaking in before the August lockdown last year. A photo I took from my room out to the ocean is the screensaver on my computer, and I sigh and smile at it each morning as I flick on my office heater.

There are people who say none of us should travel anymore – that given the state of a planet damaged by climate change, we can’t justify getting on a plane and visiting the other side of the world. That we should conduct our business by Zoom, and satisfy our curiosity about other countries and cultures the same way.

I am not one of these people. I feel like I should be, but I realise after staying put that I cannot stay put forever. I am going to have to plant a lot of trees to offset my carbon emissions, and hope that never owning an SUV counts for something.

Heaven knows I have done a lot of things to try to satisfy my wanderlust virtually, but now conclude these are wildly ineffective – like trying not to eat by distracting yourself with pictures of food.

It’s not just the image of Rarotonga. All day I listen to the local radio in New Orleans (my favourite city) and the gig guide of bars and artists I remember from previous visits makes me do the aural version of drool.

Also as I write this I have one eye and both ears on “Mattercam”, the live feed from a camera on the roof of Howard Johnson’s Hotel in Anaheim which sends me views of Disneyland. It’s been windy lately but today is calm so I’m watching Disney’s fireworks, simultaneously reminiscing and wishing myself back.

Travel can be about making us better versions of ourselves. Religions would send people off on pilgrimages for physical healing and spiritual enlightenment, believing there were things you would travel to that you couldn’t find at home.

There is huge value in seeing that people live differently, and experiencing it first-hand, realising that your way is not the only way. Whole countries take afternoon naps and go out for family dinner at 10pm and this is neither lazy nor irresponsible, just Italian.

Perhaps we can be more conscious about our travel choices – think not just about what we want to do when we get there, but what kind of person we want to be when we come home. Do you want to be calmer, or braver, or to regain your sense of wonder and awe?

I love a place like New Orleans where I get to be entertained, not do the entertaining. Where music and food is everything, and no one asks what you do, they ask, “What would you like to do right now?” And Disneyland, where I don’t have to be a grown up, and Rarotonga where I can live without a clock or deadlines and feel the power of the ocean and delight in feeling small.

Hurry up with the electric planes, please. Meanwhile, I’ll plant more trees.

 

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04 Jul On Planners, Dawdlers, Postponers & Improvisers

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 4.7.22

 

It is useful to know, I think, what kind of attitude each person in your circle has to plans and appointments. Because there are different ways of looking at a schedule – anything on a scale from “this is a vague suggestion” to “this will happen come hell or high water”.

I come from a family of hell-or-high-water people. Itineraries were drawn up and meticulously stuck to, to the extent that heading off on the annual summer holiday was a tense exercise, usually ending in tears.

Not only would there be a set time of departure, our father would also have drawn up a diagram of how luggage would be placed in the car boot. Heaven help anyone who brought something not previously notified (no, Teddy, you were not booked on this trip) or who messed things up by, for example, popping the picnic hamper in without consultation and before the suitcases, rendering it inaccessible en route.

There were designated toilet stops which had little if anything to do with how urgently you needed to go. Prone to car sickness, I once tried to hold on so long to the contents of my stomach – we weren’t due to stop till Waipawa – that I did something unspeakable in the back seat around Waipukurau. My apologies once again to my brother.

Our Dad was someone who hated chaos, loved a plan. Very much a believer in “you cannot manage what you do not measure”, he measured everything. He would keep a notebook in the car’s glovebox recording miles driven, time taken and petrol consumed. This would become information shared with the hosts at our destination, a brilliant conversation opener for someone not skilled at the usual small talk – this summer’s route compared with the one taken last summer, this car’s fuel efficiency as opposed to the one before.

It drove him a little crazy later that I would arrive to visit and not be able to say how long the trip had taken because I hadn’t looked at my watch before I’d left. Sometimes I just lied, because my preferred style of travel involves frequent stops – for snacks and shops rather than carsickness now – and the resulting data would never please my father because, for him, a journey was always a race.

Now my circle includes different kinds of people. My husband will always say on the day of an event, “Do you still want to leave at five?” and it used to throw me, this idea that a plan once decided could be revisited. I’d think, Wait, what? Does he no longer want to go at five? Does he not want to go at all? Why are we discussing this again?

I had to learn that, while my family would be leaving at five even if someone broke a leg, he comes from a family who take a more flexible approach, checking in to see if anyone has changed their mind, cheerfully postponing if something comes up. It has taken me a long time to learn this doesn’t mean no one wanted to do it in the first place.

And my daughter’s approach is different again – wholly organic, based on how things are going and when it feels right. This is unsurprising, I always feel, for someone born six weeks early – she was ready, we weren’t.

We try to make space for each other – the planners, dawdlers, postponers and improvisers. Of course, if my dad was still around, he’d organise us all into a pie chart.

 

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20 Jun Covid – The Sequel

Written on 7 June and first published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly… 

This morning I bounced out of bed which is pretty terrific – there hasn’t been a lot of bouncing since Covid came to call.

This is Day 10. I have pants on and I’ve brushed my hair and teeth. I am upright and suspect what is going on in my head right now is “a thought process”. Haven’t had one of those for a while.

It’s an improvement on Day 8, officially the last day of my isolation. There was a cautious trip to the supermarket, worrying about breathing on people in case a week hadn’t been long enough, then dinner and straight to bed.

Covid is different for everyone – a friend hasn’t been able to shake her cough for weeks, yet I haven’t coughed once. Instead, I wake each morning with a headache which eases off during the day. This “headache” it is different from the one that feels like it’s in your brain – this feels like the bones in my skull are sore.

But let me tell you about Day 3 because, according to my doctor, that’s universally the worst day. I phone her because I am very full of Covid and there is a drug called Paxlovid I’d like to take but, she says, even with my risk factors I am not eligible and this makes me cry. Day 3 blues, apparently, like when you have a baby.  It also makes me so cross I almost explode the pulse oximeter on my finger.

I am dizzy and fuzzy of head, and decide these are two of the Covid Dwarves and ponder the rest. Dizzy and Fuzzy, also Thirsty and Sleepy and I can’t think of the others and I don’t know what seven is.

My eyeballs are hot and moving them hurts so reading feels hard. I watch bits of movies – not on the TV in the living room because the couch is so far away – but on my iPad in bed. At one point in the afternoon I close my eyes just for a minute and wake up when it is dark.

Day 4 and my iPad and I binge-watch and nap, though I have to turn off notifications and silence my phone because I cannot tune out noise or bear distractions and I am so grateful I do not have children right now. After a day of napping, I sleep for 12 hours.

There are times when I think I am cured and make plans to do things like change the sheets or do some work or go for a walk and THAT’S HOW IT GETS YOU and I am dizzy when I stand up so I don’t.

It takes me three hours to send two invoices and reply to urgent emails. The reason it takes so long is probably to do with the extraordinary number of typos I insert into each line.

Day 7 I manage a walk, masked up, staying as far away from other humans as I can while holding my plague-ridden breath. I am grateful I stocked up in preparation for this (not like a prepper, I don’t have guns) but I am even more grateful for friends who do a supermarket drop off, plus another friend who sends fruit and honey from her garden (not a grammatical error – she keeps a hive) along with a fist of ginger and some cake. And while I do not wish this virus on anyone, I promise I will return the favour.

 

 

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14 Jun A Couple of Weeks Ago When I Was Full of Covid

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 20.6.22 

 

On a recent Sunday, I got a kind text from a friend I’d seen at a big event three days earlier saying she’d tested positive for Covid. Her text went nicely with my sore throat but that morning’s test came back negative.

I managed, however, to collect more symptoms during the day including a very upset tummy. Monday’s test was positive.

It was weird to finally see the extra line I’d prayed not to see so many times. I test regularly – it’s required by many of the people I work for, plus I like to check that my hay fever symptoms really are hay fever before I stand up in front of hundreds of people and talk. But it was almost a relief to see those two lines this time, confirming what I’d been sure of anyway while spending the night in an achy sweat.

I messaged the people I’d had contact with, initially feeling guilty I might have passed it on, but then recalled I felt zero animosity to the person who thought she might have given it to me. We’re all doing our best – most of us, anyway. Wear a mask, wash your hands.

I spent the rest of the morning filling out my Covid record and the forms for bluetooth tracing, and cancelling the week’s work – two shows, several meetings, and a visit from my daughter and grandkids. I notice we’ve created a Covid Positive etiquette, a bit like saying “Bless you!” when you sneeze: “I hope it’s mild!” I’ve been wishing people this for months, and it sounds sweet when you hear it from the other side.

Then I got out the fancy soap I’d been saving – Florentine Rose & Peony – had a shower, washed my hair and opened the rose scented body oil I’d been given as a gift. I didn’t know what seven days isolation would be like but I’d start it smelling good.

This is Day 2 and I cannot do Wordle. Not only can I not think of the word, I can’t find the joy in thinking of words. I put it away unfinished and get it out much later, and even with A_O__ and a T floating around, it takes a long time to find ATOLL.

All I can do is sleep and eat ice blocks. Not simultaneously. That would make a mess of the sheets. I’m pleased I haven’t lost my sense of smell or taste yet. Or appetite. If there is an illness that would make me waste away like a romantic heroine, this isn’t it.

Sometimes it feels like my head is trapped in a vice. Always it is an overwhelming malaise that stops me functioning – reading, thinking clearly, standing upright… I mean, if you didn’t usually do very much or think a great deal, I can see you could find this mild.

What comforts is the certainty of the mandated isolation period. Knowing I mustn’t leave the house till Sunday means I don’t have to guess if I will be well enough to work this Thursday night, or worry that I am unnecessarily letting someone down by being insufficiently robust. There is no pressure to harden up, push through, or soldier on. My phone notifies me of the number of deaths from this virus each day. No one can say, “Covid? Don’t you reckon you could pull yourself together and come in for that meeting?” I have permission to take gentle care of myself. We should always do this.

 

 

 

 

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06 Jun Cheers, Ears!

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 13.6.22

 

There was a time when I might have been embarrassed about the size of my ears, but those days are over. Two years into this pandemic and it’s my ears doing much of the heavy lifting in keeping me safe.

“Might have been embarrassed” is a low-key way of saying I kept my ears hidden with hair and hats for decades after one too many childhood comparisons to Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Terrific book, but the titular character is not exactly aspirational when you’re a 6-year-old girl.

Now, however, I am grateful that the shell-likes each side of my head (giant clams, really) provide sufficient acreage and anchorage for current requirements.

Not just glasses and earrings as per previous eras (anagram, geddit?) but now also a hearing aid and mask. Plus on some work days, we’ll throw in a microphone headset and an earpiece on the spare side. On these days, my head can feel like an orange stuck with cheese-and-pineapple loaded toothpicks at a party in the 1970s.

I’ve mostly mastered wearing glasses and mask without fogging – pinch that mask nose clip nice and tight. In the kitchen, I still find it entertaining when I open the oven door and my specs steam up like I’m a mad scientist in a lab.

I’ve barely contemplated contact lenses or lasers – the truth is, I like wearing glasses. With them on, I can see stuff; take them off and the world is a delightfully soft focus place where objects blend gently into each other and people appear kinder and less judgemental.

Those of us who are bespectacled like to think they make us look clever. We also like to think that, when we take them off, we look younger and sexier, and we might toss our hair in an ironic yet hopeful way. Obviously we don’t know if we really do look sexy because at this point we can’t see.

I have trouble seeing things far away (street signs, movie screens) and also close up (books, thread going into the eye of a needle) but there’s an area in the middle that is pretty much 20/20. If I don’t have my glasses on and you walk towards me, I’ll be guessing, “Is it Dave? It’s Melanie! Or Brian?” until I hear your voice.

Sometimes to live dangerously I leave my glasses off. I have several lipsticks in the same brand and can’t read the labels glassless, so it’s a lucky-dip whether I’ll be wearing fuchsia or blood-red. Small things entertain me. When I can see them.

I have, however, learnt not to play lucky-dip with price tags – $180 looks exactly like $30 to my naked eye and that’s not a discovery you want to make at the counter. I’m already playing Russian-roulette with the eftpos machine at the best of times. My relief when it comes up “Accepted” is less to do with having enough money in my account and more to do with having stabbed the right keys using little more than muscle memory.

So mostly I wear the glasses. Different ones for different moods. Heavy black frames for what I like to think of as “science laboratory chic”; rose gold rims which I intend as “ironic hippy” though I see now they mostly make me look like my mother.

My ears, however, make me look like my father. Industrial size, super strong, doing more than their fair share to help me see, breathe, hear and be heard. My 6-year-old-self apologises. Three cheers for ears.

 

 

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06 Jun In the Dog Bed

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 6.6.22

 

You know what would go really well with this magazine you’re reading? A super comfy place to curl up, like maybe your very own dog bed. Hear me out.

I’ve been reading about a couple of Canadian university students who have designed what might be the world’s first dog bed for humans. The “Plufl”, for that is what it’s called, is engineered to “maximise comfort and foster a sense of security, delivering relief for those who have ADHD, stress, and anxiety-related issues.”

Think the full bed equivalent of a weighted blanket, with a lot of memory foam and an oval shape designed for sleeping in a foetal position – “the optimal napping experience”.

It sounds dreamy, but let’s stay awake long enough to ponder the evolution of this concept. At some point in recent history, we looked at our dogs and thought, We love you so much we’ve decided you deserve what humans have – your own special comfy bed for napping in as though you were a person.

Next minute, we’re looking at our dogs and thinking, By golly, I could do with what dogs have, my own special comfy bed for napping in – as though I was a dog who had a bed just like a person.

So to recap: the Human Bed was redesigned for dogs, and then that Dog Bed was redesigned for humans. Are we all seeing what is going on here? It turns round in a circle a bit like a dog getting ready for a nap.

Makes you wonder what else our pets have that we might want. I could fancy one of those little tartan coats we put on terriers in winter. And there are days I wouldn’t mind a rich lady carrying me around in her handbag.

But – here’s the thing – it is not actually our pets’ accoutrements that we covet – it’s their lifestyle. We want the nap, not the bed.

All this has got me thinking about our devotion to (obsession with?) our fur babies. Though let me say I don’t like that phrase – “fur baby” immediately makes me picture a human child with excessive body hair, and it takes a moment to replace that mental image with a kitten in a bonnet. But I digress.

Some would have it we devote ourselves to fur babies instead of having children, or after our children leave, or as a preferred alternative to the kids we ended up with.

We dote on our cats and dogs, let them get away with stuff no one else could (chewing shoes, pooing in a box in the laundry), give them the best spot closest to the fire and pat them for no special reason. I look at my cat and think, That’s a nice life. I would like that life. I wish I was a cat.

See what I’m getting at? They are not our children, they are us. We are giving them the life we would like to have. Sure, we’d draw the line at having to lick ourselves clean, and I’m less keen on rat, but we are treating them the way we would love to be treated. Kept warm and safe, well-fed, pat-patted, much loved.

Our “fur baby” is really our “fur me” – we just find it easier to lavish that kind of care on someone outside of ourselves. But we all deserve our own version of a Plufl.

Though when you’re in it, you’d hope no-one comes and rubs your tummy. That would be weird.

 

 

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