Going it alone

I wrote this on 23rd June 2016 – the day of the Brexit referendum, before the results were announced and whilst there was a sense of foreboding amongst remain voters. Whether Brexit will be judged as the right thing or the wrong thing will only be determined by historians, many generations from now.

In the tent with one foot out
Or out with one foot in?
Debate engulfs the air waves
Where does it end or begin?

In with one foot on the mainland
Or out with a toe in the sea?
No reversing the choice we make
And it comes with no guarantee

In with the Union Jack hung high
Or out with a freedom to move?
Attached to the Tower of London
As much as I am to the Louvre

In for a penny, in for a pound
Or out, and go it alone?
Whatever we do we’ll probably find
We’ll be doing it on our own

Sometimes

Sometimes. It only takes a sarcastic comment or a disdainful look.
To take you down. To take them down. To take anyone down.

Sometimes. It only takes a rude email. Needlessly copied to other people.
To knock your confidence.

Sometimes. Knowingly ignoring someone. In a corridor. In a meeting.
Can make that person feel inadequate, unequal, inferior.

Sometimes. Highlighting the limitations of others. Only to mask your own flaws.
Can make a person feel worthless, vulnerable, bullied.

Bullying doesn’t need to take place all the time to do untold harm to the victim.

Sometimes. Is far too many times.

#antibullyingweek

Memories of Sheena

In the summer of 2005, my grandparents informed us that they had bought a new puppy, a Cairn Terrier, and her name was Sheena. Only a few months previously my parents had bought a new Border Terrier puppy called Daisy who was beginning to enjoy life as the sole canine occupier and senior gardening assistant of the large plot that accompanied their new house. My grandparents had had dogs all their lives, and despite my grandfather’s reservations, they decided that a new puppy was for them. Sadly, it didn’t take long for them to realise that perhaps this was one puppy too far, and they couldn’t really match the curiosity and energy bound up in this little wriggly and excitable ball of hair. So a few months later, they asked my parents if they would like to adopt Sheena, which they duly did.

I was living at my parents’ house when she arrived, and, at first, I didn’t really take to her if I’m honest. She had no interest in getting to know me or communicating with humans in general. Her focus was Daisy. She was determined to become friends with Daisy and followed everything she did. Over time, she gradually learnt how to communicate with humans, to show interest and affection, and began to grow into the dog she would become – very friendly, good with adults, children and other dogs.

I have several specific memories of Sheena. In no particular order, here are the most prominent ones:

  • From an early age Sheena developed a penchant for picking up, and swallowing, stones. A favourite past-time of hers on a sunny day, would be pick up a stone, play with it in her mouth, roll on to her back, and swallow it. If she thought you were trying to get it out of her mouth she would simply swallow it more quickly. There followed a few techniques to try to distract her with other food when we spotted that she had a stone in her mouth, but these generally failed. Usually the stones would work their way through the digestive tracts and appear relocated in the garden first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Occasionally, though, they got stuck. The first signs of trouble were the lack of interest in food, followed by that haunted look of a scared animal, shaking, ears back. Occasionally we would find her cowering somewhere in the garden presumably looking for a safe place to shelter while she was feeling pained and vulnerable. Off to the vet she would go, anaesthetic in, tummy shaved, tummy opened, stone removed, tummy sewn back up, and returned back to the house for a period of convalescence. This happened four times in about as many years until Sheena must have sensed that her number would be up if it happened again, and mercifully, and quite unexpectedly, from the age of seven, she finally grew out of swallowing stones (or at least the very big ones).
  • Whenever I visited my parents, both dogs, but particularly Sheena would be so excited to see me. I loved it when they went all unnecessarily wiggly and tried to clamber over me for a fuss. At all times when I was at my parents’ house, even for long periods, I always got a wiggle, a greeting, and a request to sit on my lap in the lounge every time I was with them.
  • Little idiosyncrasies. She would nose-butt your leg if she wanted some attention. The way she would sprint across the hall and into the lounge. When the lounge door as ajar, she never quite had the nerve to push it open with her nose, and Daisy would take her time in wandering across the hallway to keep her waiting before then nudging the door open through which Sheena would then dash triumphantly. The way she would roll over on her back, legs akimbo, at the slightest hint of a tummy tickle. Cute!
  • Observing Sheena watching Daisy play with her ball. Daisy was obsessed with her ball and would happily play throw and fetch all day until she dropped. Sheena never quite understood the game, but she recognised the importance of the ball to Daisy. Occasionally Sheena would run after the ball if it landed close by, and pick it up. She didn’t really know what to do with it when she had it, and Daisy’s look of disapproval was almost palpable. Typically though Sheena soon lost interest and normal ball-throwing with Daisy resumed. Whilst not a fan of the ball, Sheena did have a piece of rope with which she would engage in a game of tug o’ war. However, she didn’t quite get the rules and used to aim to grab the end that I was holding as opposed to the other end!
  • Looking out the window and watching Sheena and Daisy play together. This was lovely to watch and demonstrated that despite the sisterly rivalry, they did enjoy each other’s company. They would engage in rough and tumble inside and outside, in a really affectionate way, which usually started with one of them lifting their paw and gently tapping the other.
  • 23rd December 2016 – I had just arrived at my parents’ house and was all ready for an evening out with some of my old school friends. I sat in the lounge with a drink and Daisy wandered over and sat on my foot. Sheena merely wandered casually past, but this was enough to provoke a reaction which then descended into world-war three in the middle of the lounge. This wasn’t the first scrap they had had. The first one was definitely my fault a few years earlier, when I invited Sheena to jump on to my knee when Daisy was already there. On this occasion though, I do feel that I was blameless. Various dog-separation techniques had been tried by me, and my parents over the years. A bucket of cold water had been used before, as had the good old grab their collars and wrench them apart technique. My usual tactic was to pick up Daisy, and thus disengage the fight, Daisy being the far less wriggly one. On this particular occasion as I pulled Daisy from the melee Sheena grabbed what I think she would have thought was Daisy’s leg, and instead bit into my middle finger. The searing pain made me drop Daisy back into the boxing ring (my dad soon then ended the fight). I ran my finger under cold water and saw that it was a fairly deep cut. So off to A&E I went. Happily, the hospital was very quiet and I was able to meet up with my friends in town later on, with a heavily bandaged middle finger. The next morning, I showed Sheena the patched-up wound and smelling the clinical material, her ears went back in sympathy with an expression that suggested “what on earth happened to you?!”. I forgave her instantly!
  • Sheena and Daisy spent many a week staying with us over the years. In later years after little Daisy had passed away, Sheena came on her own. I always enjoyed looking after her and particularly so over the past eighteen months when I was working from home and was on my own in the house most of the time. Sheena kept me company and provided more structure to my day. The two most memorable moments over the past year were when she unexpectedly and with very ageing legs, somehow managed to climb the stairs and wandered into my upstairs office to say hello. Getting her back down the stairs wasn’t easy, but we shuffled down together. The other moment was when I was in an online meeting which spanned her dinner time of 3:30pm. By 3:45pm she was providing me with increasingly frequent and loud reminders that I had to mute myself for the rest of the meeting and not make any further contributions.

There are so many more memories of Sheena though my over-riding memory of her will be as a curious, perky, optimistic, persistent and affectionate dog. She retained puppyish tendencies well into her old age and only really lost the bounce and excitement from the age of 14 onwards, from which point she began to show her age and lose some of her faculties, though never the friendliness and affection which remained until the end.

She lived a good life, and was always optimistic about the day ahead.

RIP Sheenie Beanie, you were a good dog x

Memories of Daisy

I wrote this little piece about my parents’ dog, Daisy, just under three years ago. Sadly, their other dog, Sheena, passed away this week and I have written up my memories of her as well. I didn’t have a blog at the time that Daisy died, but it only feels right to publish them both now, as a record of my fond memories of two lovely dogs who had a positive effect on my life.

On New Year’s Day 2019, my parents lovely little Border Terrier, Daisy, died.

Daisy was born in July 2005 and came to her new home not long after that. I was 25 at the time and was living with my parents, having not long returned from living in Japan for two years. In fact, it was a new home for us all as we had moved there in the March 2005 (if memory serves me), around the same time that my dad retired. It felt in every sense, the beginning of a new chapter for my parents. They had moved into a big new house, with a huge garden, that would become their big project for the next 14 years (and counting).

Daisy arrived, tentatively exploring the outer edges of the garden on day one. On her first night, she cried, scared and alone in the kitchen in the puppy cage we had erected for her. Of course she received a lot of love and affection that night, and always.

She grew up to be a very hardy little dog. As a young dog, I would spend ages kicking a football which she had to nudge with her nose, before I would then throw a tennis ball for her to catch and return. She had passion for tennis balls and run up and down the garden until she literally dropped. She soon got tired of the football and developed a passion in chasing and destroying tennis balls so we had to move on to more durable play balls.

She would also partake in a game called ‘heads’. This is where I would run into the lounge, lie down on my front and cover my head. She would then sniffle, and barge and nuzzle her nose in between my arms and my head to try to lick my face. It became quite a (always friendly) tussle. Of course I eventually let her win, and she triumphantly jumped on top of me wiggling and ‘biggling’ (good Roberts word) in joy.

Not long after Daisy arrived, we inherited a young Cairn Terrier, Sheena, from my elderly grandparents who realised they had taken on one puppy too many. It took a while for Daisy to warm to Sheena, and perhaps she never really did, but they would play-fight very nicely (especially if they knew they were being watched), and would also snuggle in the same basket if it was chilly.

There was the odd scrap between them, generally over food. They sounded worse than they were, but still it was usually pretty unsightly and one felt they didn’t quite know how to end it themselves. One of the more memorable fights was on 23rd December 2016 when my wife and I were stopping in before I was to go out drinking with my old Bridgnorth friends. We were sat in the lounge, Daisy sat on my foot (a regular occurrence), Sheena wandered past, and then all hell broke loose. My usual method separating was to pick up the, less wriggly, Daisy to disengage them. This time, my fingers right in the middle of the gnashing and gnarling, I got bitten by Sheena, dropped Daisy and dashed to the kitchen to attend to my wound. I ended up in casualty and still have scar to this day. Typically, the next day I was dotty about them both and they hadn’t a clue what they’d done wrong.

There are many more memories. We looked after them countless times and I loved it each time we did. Their real heroes, and the people they adored and couldn’t do without, are my parents. Daisy spent her entire life watching their garden develop, outside as much as she possibly was able to be. She would try to slow things down by dropping her ball in to a specifically dug for a tree or a plant, but also amuse herself by picking up plant pots and running around with one on the end of her nose.

Both dogs loved going to the Gower for holidays, walking up and down beaches and coastal paths before collapsing in front of the fire back at the caravan. At home, the log fire would something they worshipped, all the more rewarding after a long walk or day of chilly gardening. Daisy would sit as close to it as possible until she physically couldn’t stand the heat and had to retreat.

Everyone has a vice. For me, Daisy’s was her reaction to other dogs (except Sheena), when she was on the lead. She seemed to attract unwanted attention and when it came, I think probably because she knew the lead prevented her from avoiding / averting any unwanted attention, she would sometimes snap, which led to tricky confrontations and getting tangled up in leads and other dogs, generally while Sheena looked on, perplexed. We avoided putting her on the lead as much as possible, only when in the vicinity of vehicles, and when we did, Daisy would take alternative routes to avoid unwanted contact with dogs she didn’t care for!

Towards the end of her life she slowed down considerably, and gracefully, gradually going quite deaf and with a touch of arthritis which stopped her from running and jumping as she had used to. Loyal to the end though, great with all adults and children, and much loved member of the Roberts family. She will be terribly missed, but when I look back, for a little dog I don’t think many will have had as happy, healthy, fun, interesting, safe and loving a life as her. So you can’t ask for much more than that.

RIP Daisy Doodle xx

It’s a caterpillar’s life

Suspended in mid-air
Then shimmies to the ground
Limbo time is over
He wants to look around

Something odd beyond the bushes
Making him suspicious
But the angel on his shoulder
Says it looks delicious

“Go on, Tom, be strong, be bold
Winners never linger”
Cautiously approaches
A discarded fishfinger

Crispy on the outside
Smudgy on the inner
No caterpillar has ever had
A more fulfilling dinner

You bring out the best in me

You bring out the best in me
The best in all I do
When my standards don’t get reached
The face I see is you
When I feel trapped inside
And struggle to break free
You energise, drive, support
And find the best in me

You bring out the best in me
When all I see is grey
You provide the colour vision
To brighten up my day
When I’m lying in my bed
And just can’t face reality
You provide my impetus
And find the best in me

You bring out the best in me
When I desire the worst
You provide my sustenance
When I am parched with thirst
If it seems the good times
Are just a memory
You tell me to look ahead
And find the best in me

Misc. 1

History – a cacophony
Of triumphs and mistakes
Academic comment doesn’t
Change the course it takes


It introspects, influences
Comments and reflects
But rarely has it ever
Changed what inexorably comes next


Some songs I just can’t listen to
They bring back too much pain
From the day that I first heard them
Life was never quite the same


Keep one foot with the people
And one with the elite
Scratchings with my Banks’s
But I’ll take my vodka neat

Killing Time

The paper stares right back at me
Taunting with its whiteness
Shadows once evaded now are
Hiding from the brightness

Memory is dull right now and
Dampened with emotion
Desperate to cling on to
The illusion of devotion

Telling tales inside my mind of
Self-deceit; chicanery 
Akin to the deluded minds
That oversaw our slavery

Subterfuge abounds around the
Politicians and lawyers
Their clumsiness itself reveals
Incompetence destroys us

Hey You

This is a song I wrote whilst at university in Exeter. I recorded it several years later in a recording studio in Manchester.

It’s called “Hey You”.

Hey you, don’t know what I’d do
If it weren’t for you
You’re the one of whom I think
See you as the missing link
In the chain
Girl you’re in my brain
And when I see you are upset it drives me insane
And you
I wish you only felt the same.

Hey you don’t know I’d do
If it weren’t for you
All this time I’ve been your friend
Hoping that in the end
You’ll see
It is me
Is the man with whom you’ve been wanting so to be
And you
I wish you only felt this way

(chorus)

If it weren’t for you
If it weren’t for you
Hey you don’t know what I’d do
If it weren’t for you
Many years I’ve thought it’s me
And that I ought to be
The one
Oh, there is none,
Of the tears I cry when I know that you’re not gone
And you
I wish you only knew this girl

(chorus)

Hey you, don’t know what I’ll do
Without you
No point in sitting feeling blue
My head is screwed but my heart’s so true
I can lose
To another man
But if you need me you know I’ll help you if I can
And you
I hope there’s always time for me.

Zooming back to reality

When we get back to the office
And when I’m in a meeting room
I wonder if I will remember
It’s different to when you’re on Zoom

Will I turn up in the nick of time
Whilst making a cup of tea?
Will I clap out loud, 👏 or raise my hand 🤚
For all of my colleagues to see?

When I want to agree with someone
Shall I just nod and smile?
Will I turn up with my slippers on
And hide my face for a while?

And when I have left the meeting
And before the next one has begun
Will I gently sigh, and say out-loud,
“Thank fuck that that one’s all done”?