Monday, April 18, 2022


I haven't written anything on this blog for more than two years. I suppose I just became rather lazy. Also I did have less time because I was participating in writing courses. There was a course on diary writing and then a memoir course. Because of Covid these were Zoom courses so I was glued to the computer for several hours each day. Then as Covid restrictions were partially lifted I was hospitalised with a severe lung condition. At first nobody thought I would recover. My daughter, Shirley came down form East London and other two daughters, both based in New Zealand, managed to get permission to leave the country and came to bid me goodbye. I was in hospital for a month but miraculously made a good recovery and came back  home, better and fitter than  before. The two New Zealand daughters stayed on to help me settle back after I was discharged from hospital.. Then when they tried to go back to New Zealand they couldn't. First it was quarantine regulations and then, just as they were about to leave, the third wave struck and flights were cancelled. Altogether they were here for nearly three months. This was lovely for me, but didn't suit their families all that well. 

There have been  a few changes in my life since my illness. My daughter have put in lino-type floors instead of carpets to reduce dust and I am living more quietly, not driving much or very far and having help with walking the dogs. I am more aware of my mortality, I suppose, and more grateful for what I have. I thank God every day for my continuing health, for my pleasant life in this nice and friendly old age complex and above all for my dear and loving family.


Monday, September 21, 2020

Some More About Dogs

I haven't written in this blog for more than a month, but was reminded today when a friend sent me a video  of  the winning round of an Agility Competition. It wasn't Crufts. I think it took place somewhere in America. The Border Collie who was featured, was amazingly fast. I don't think I have ever seen such a fast round. The course was a fairly easy one, no tricks that I could see, but the speed was impressive and so was the handling, but with more dependence on spoken commands than we usually see nowadays.

My comment was that my Jack Russell would have done the course with ease, but unfortunately at a much slower pace. Beemer is 12 years old now and has slowed down considerably. On the plus side, now that I can't run with him any more, he has bonded very well with Yolande, his handler. His attention is totally her when on the course. 


Sunday, August 2, 2020

The great Poodle war

Every morning I walk my two dogs Beemer, the feisty Jack Russell terrier and Lassie, my pretty little rescue dog, We go all round the grounds of the Old Age Complex where I live. At almost the furthest point from the gate is a cottage with  very well-kept garden. Here behind a high wooden fence , live two poodles, a big black Standard Poodle and his companion, a little miniature poodle. A cacophony of  barks always greets us as we pass their gate,  I am sure they are flinging  insults in dog language at us and my two give back as good as they get. I usually hurry past as quickly as I can.

Last week as we came to the Poodles' house there was, for the first time, no sound of barking. and the gate was open. The rules regarding dogs in our complex are clear, Dogs must be behind a fence or on a lead at all times. I thought the owners had taken the dogs out, but just after I passed the gate, the big Poodle came rushing out, snarling and with teeth bared, closely followed by the smaller one. My dogs responded with snarls and yelps. Neither of them are aggressive, but I wasn't taking chances and tried to hurry them away. The noise was terrific, not only were all four dogs being  most vociferous, but I was also shouting at the poodles to "Go home" at the top of my voice.

All this commotion brought the owner out. She joined in the chorus, yelling at her dogs and trying to grab them. The whole Poodle War didn't last more than a few minutes and it was much more like a shouting match than an actual dog fight. I don't think any of the protagonists got bitten. On examination afterwards there was some wet fur but no blood. The Poodles' owner was very apologetic. She told me she had just left the gate open for a few minutes while she helped her disabled husband into the car. We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The "War" ended with no harm done,However, this incident illustrates the importance of  socialising  your dog, At our dog club we have special socialising sessions where members and dogs stand in a circle and then each person, one by one  takes his or her dog around and weaves between the others.
This works very well.. My dogs are not perfect by any means, but after taking part in these sessions from an early age they are used to meeting other dogs on or off lead and can almost always be trusted not to cause trouble.

Not everybody has the opportunity of joining this kind of  socialising session, but you can help your dog to learn how to behave around other dogs, by allowing him to meet them. Make it a one on one meeting at first and  allow just a few seconds of sniffing the first time, before leading him away. The next time let them greet one another for a little longer. Most dogs like to make new friends.

Saturday, July 25, 2020


It is such a long time since I wrote in this blog, but now I Have a reason for doing it again.
Lately I have been doing a Zoom writing course. Each week we have been given an assignment. This week's one was to set up a make-believe blog, give it a name and a first post.
Here it is
This blog will be called Margie Clough's Dog Blog


Let me introduce myself. My name is Margie Clough and I am the owner (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I am owned by) two dogs, Beemer, a Jack Russell Terrier and Lassie, a cross-breed who looks a bit like like a little collie or a miniature Golden Retriever. In later posts I am going to tell you all about them
and the adventures I have with them, but in this first post I just have to tell you some great news that I have just heard. So The first item on my blog will be this:
A new book on The relationship between people and their animals has just been published . It is Survival of the Friendliest by Brian Hare of Duke University.
Anyone who has done the online course Dog Emotion and Cognition will be excited to hear that not only is there a new book which builds on the work done at Duke on dog cognition but that a brand new course is envisaged based on this book. For all you dog-lovers who have never thought of tackling an online course-- Give it a go. You will learn so much about dogs and how they think and how they behave and it will immensely enrich your relationship with your pet. It has has certainly helped me to understand my two fur children much better. Start with the first course: Dog Emotion and Cognition. This can be found by Googling Coursera, a provider of online courses.
In this course, Brian Hare not only tells us how dogs have become adapted to living with humans, but also gives you fun games which you can play with your dogs that will measure their different types of cognition, e.g. their Empathy or ability to communicate.

I would also encourage anyone who owns a dog to join a dog club. All charge an annual fee, but dog clubs are not expensive. Both you and your dog will enjoy the club activities where you will make new friends and learn new skills. Different clubs cater to different interests. Some are meant for specific breeds, others concentrate on training in different disciplines, such as Obedience, Carting or Agility. Most of them have a web page which will feature different activities, competitions and shows. During Lock Down I have not been able to take Beemer and Lassie to their weekly training session and they have missed it badly. I try to keep up their training at home, but it isn't the same. They do try to keep fit by rolling Coco Cola bottles and chasing birds out of the garden. Digging is another activity they enjoy, but I am afraid they don't understand why I don't appreciate their attempts at helping with my gardening.

So Farewell until next week when you will be able to read about the Great Poodle Battle and the War with the Vacuum Cleaner.

I might post something about the dogs again.  Watch this space

Sunday, January 12, 2020


I haven't visited this page for a very long time. I have been busy with other kinds of writing. I was doing an online course which took up a lot of time. I also went back to a novel I started a few years ago when I belonged to Paul Mason's writing group. This novel was to be a response to  a prompt Paul had given us. He read us a piece in three parts each in first person but each in a different voice. While part of the group, I wrote the first part of my story, which was set in the seventies, in the time of the first wave of student protests. The second part was to be set in the eighties and the third in the nineties. Coming back to it, I am struggling with the second part and actually considering making it the third and final part. It is taking shape,but very slowly.

Working on a story set in the last century  has made me revisit my own past, the kind of life we lived then, the conditions in which we lived and the emotions and attitudes belonging to that time which can now be considered historical.  Now in my eighties, and turning a critical eye on my younger self, I am surprised to find that I have to revise my opinions on a number of matters.

Firstly, my self-image. Already in the previous piece I about living with mental illness, I am in the process of changing my opinion of how I coped with that particular problem. I have always been filled with regret that I had not been able to help my daughter more. I felt guilty too. I accused myself of being impatient, of often losing my temper of not making more of an effort to understand her, Looking back, I am actually surprised at how well I coped. Instead of seeing my inadequacy, I am appalled at the inadequacy of the Health Services.  All a patient gets is a monthly injection and a packet of pills and the rest is up to the long-suffering family. So, now I no longer  think of myself as weak but as actually rather strong, battling bravely on my own with almost no help in an almost impossible situation.

Another idea about myself that I have had to revise is my estimate of my mental capacity, I have always taken for granted that I was born with a high IQ. I had such a highly intellectual family so  I thought I should be as gifted as the rest of them. Lately IQ tests appear regularly on Facebook. I have taken one or two and found them rather challenging. This makes me wonder if my brainfar from being  exceptionally bright, is actually very average after all.  Not that I take Facebook  tests like this seriously,( I find them so boring that I seldom finish the) but I have felt in the past that I was inclined to under-perform and have sometimes been disappointed in myself. Perhaps there was no need for disappointment. Perhaps I am just not able to do any better. One might think that this would be a blow to my self-esteem, but in fact it is quite a relief. I can lower my expectations. I don't have to go on trying so hard any more.

A third consideration is my poor memory. Living in an old age complex, forgetfulness is something of  general concern. We are all afraid of the bogie Dementia and are constantly aware of lapses in our ability to recall names and faces. Now I make allowance for such lapses. Knowing that I may forget to go to them, I now write the dates of every appointment in my diary. I am amazed to discover that in old age I am more reliable at turning up to events than I have ever been. This makes me wonder if I always had a memory problem. None of my  school-mates used to get into trouble for bringing the wrong books or doing the wrong homework the way I constantly did. I was always writing out lines or staying in after school because of something I had forgotten to do. My memory for book-learning was normal, even above average. I can still recite most of the poems in my school poetry books and even today, I can tell you the capital cities and chief exports of dozens of countries, but it was the things I was supposed to do that I forgot. A poor memory for faces is a recognised disabling condition known as prosopagnosia,.Could I suffer from something similar. No doubt this condition has a  genetic cause. My father was famously absent-minded too.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Mental Illness in the family

I have just been reading Enumerations by Maire Fisher,  an excellent  book about a boy with OCD. It gives a clear and informative insight into how it must feel to be a sufferer of this condition. It also gives a graphic account of the devastating effect on the boy's family. 'Yes," I thought, "It must be so hard for parents to come to terms with a mental illness like that." Then I thought again. "But I  had to live for years with mental illness in my family. Not only Alcoholism, which was bad enough, but Schizophrenia as well. Those parents I was feeling so sorry for had it easy in comparison. They felt lonely in their affliction. The school wasn't much help to them and their friends were inclined to be judgmental and blame them for their son's condition.  I had experienced the same reactions, but the mother and father in the book had sympathetic psychiatrists and health-care workers to assist and encourage them. It was only after several years of coping on our own that we were able to get treatment for the mentally ill family member. Looking back and comparing myself to the mother in the book, who seemed to be falling apart under the strain, I am filled with admiration for the woman I was then. There I was, holding down a full- time job, running a household which included a preschooler grandson and three girls going though the  problems and traumas typical of teenage girls,  and at the same time coping with an alcoholic and a schizophrenic and getting no professional help from anyone  I was a bloody marvel! How on earth did I manage? 

My present GP asked me when I  first consulted him for my shortness of breath, whether I was not very sorry that I had smoked cigarettes. He was surprised when I said," No." 'I explained that  I am sure that at many occasions in my life I would have had a complete break-down of some kind or another if I hadn't had the calming effect of nicotine to help me. And then of course, there was my faith. It was the Lord's love and guidance  more than anything else that got me through the hard times.

[In later years, my daughter was correctly diagnosed and put on medication, the other girls became  more understanding and became a great support to me. Then my husband stopped drinking and life took a turn for the better.]

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


My friend June wanted me to go with her to go to an editing course. I thought my short story collection could do with editing and just might, if improved, become fit for publication, so I went along. Dawn Garish, who is a dear friend, is running the course.  Now, she is very much into using writing, especially, memoir writing, as therapy. This is not really what June and I are after. So far we have attended two sessions and I  think we both found them disappointing. However, I did take note of some comments made about my pieces and changed them, very possibly for the better. So it hasn't been a fruitless exercise by any means. At the second session, one of the participants read us the piece of writing that she had  revised as had been suggested and it was very much improved. So she certainly benefited. But I can't help contrasting this course with other courses I have attended. I think particularly of Sindiwe's writing courses and also of Finuala's workshops. I did find one of her comments on my poem about ICU useful, but really when it comes to poetry, Dawn just doesn't have it.

I was in two minds about continuing with the course. Thinking it over and  analysing my feelings, I have come to the conclusion that I am out of place in the group. My work may be light, even frivolous, but I am serious about writing. I love what I consider "good writing" and am very critical of anything else. In other words I am a literary snob. If I were to give my honest opinion of  most of what has been read at this group, it would would just be hurtful and offensive and not help at all. The style of writing most of the participants admire and probably aspire to is popular and may well turn out to be publishable. This goes for the subject matter too. A lot of it is about unhappy childhood, which so many writers seem to have experienced. I do not easily relate to this.(I also think it has been rather done to death, but maybe that is just me.)

After careful consideration, I realise that the main problem is that I am too old for this group. Two of the members are approaching my age and they write  stories that I can enjoy. I can't say the same for the other three. One piece, involving child abuse, that was read at the last session, I thought was quite revolting.  I found bile rising in my throat. It actually turned my stomach.The other members of the group obviously did not feel the same way. Dawn did say that there was perhaps too much graphic detail, but in general the writer was told she was honest and wrote well. I did not agree! If it had been a description of her own experience of abuse, it would have been bad enough but would have aroused sympathy. It wasn't! She admitted that it was entirely fictitious and in fact, listening to it, one of the things that struck me was that it did not ring true. The voice, supposedly that of a nine or ten year old, sounded much too adult. I am probably too squeamish, but the writer seemed to enjoy  wallowing in  disgusting detail. I could not keep quiet. I had to say that I found the piece too disturbing and did not want to listen to it.

I understand now that for this group I am on the wrong side of a generation gap. Perhaps, growing up in the puritanical fifties I am  too prudish. I do not share what seems to me to be an a strange fascination with guts, genitals and bodily fluids. I admire the clear, spare writing of the authors I grew up with and don't like the fluffy pretentious style of much of what is published today. I think I shall go to only one more session and before it, or after it, explain my problem to Dawn.