The Last Furlong

Comments on the race of life.


Taking down ivy

Mr Furlong and I cut down the old ivy covered wooden arch that must have been in the garden for, maybe twenty or thirty years. I’m going to ask the people who put it there when exactly they did.

The howling wind that frightened the dog the other night, almost blew it down. But it had been lurching sideways, not a thing of beauty, since we moved here.

Cutting down Ivy can make you very sick. We knew that our Ivy was that kind. Pretty deadly actually. The arch was covered on one side with variegated ivy which seems friendly and not sick making, and on the other side, dark green English Ivy. THAT’S the one to avoid.

We dressed carefully to do the job. Mr Furlong was covered from head to toe and wore a surgical mask. I wore purdah with a black voil scarf covering my head and face. Gloves. No skin exposed.

It took us an hour. It was HARD work.

Some of the stems were the thickness of Mr Furlongs wrist. He used a saw. Ivy “wood” is hugely tough, without rings it seems. No way of dating the age from the slices.

Last time we worked with the Ivy, we both were dreadfully ill for a week. We weren’t going to have that happen again.

Afterwards, we threw all our gear in the washing machine, every piece, and then showered ourselves, every piece.

We have survived.

The dog did nothing but sit on the garden table in the sunshine watching us.

Dogs are pretty useless sometimes, don’t you think?


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How it could have been, but wasn’t

Here is our Qui Gong routine from last night.

The Furlongs were in a school hall. There was no fantastic sea nor massive cliffs, nor boulders. Nor was there a tranquil blue sky. It was raining again. There was no gentle breeze, nor passing yachts.

We wore any old clothes. Our hair is not long enough for a bun. It’s hardly thick enough either. Our grace was not so graceful. Our hands not so elegant. One of us is disabled. Our skin is white and wrinkled; our feet were bare.

And they hardly left the ground!

Here is what it could have been…

But wasn’t.

The meditation for today…


Boots not made for walking

I bought dog boots.

I bought them thinking it would shield people from the jumping dog claws.

They stop the dog jumping anyway…..he just stays ROOTED to the floor

and whines.


Oh dog, what DO we do?

So yesterday was a FAIL as far as I’m concerned.

The Furlong Family had visitors to our home. Ok, they were family, but visitors nevertheless.

We’ve solved the dog barking problem by meeting visitors outside on our porch with the dog on the lead.

The pawing of visitors is slightly improved with the command “sit”, but in the heat of the moment, the dog is not hearing it.

After proceeding down the passage the visitors settle themselves on the couch exposing their laps.

Oh dear. The dog LOVES laps. So then, a lot of time is spent pulling on the lead and yelling “sit” and demonstrating that the floor is the place to sit. But yesterday, in an unguarded moment, the dog launched itself on top of a visitor in order to get on his lap.

The dog “launches”, “propels” itself like a rocket on take off, describing an agile and fluent arc of great elegance, and lands on terrified visitors with an unexpected thud.

Our visitor, understandably offended, leapt up, throwing the startled dog off backwards and yelled “SIT!”.

The dog sat.

For a moment.

One day these old Furlongs will be living lonely and isolated lives where no visitors ever call because the dog is a bloody idiot!

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Wild night, slow brain

The wind has howled down the chimney all night. The flap on the post box has flapped itself all night. The wind has slapped the windows and doors. The bird feeder (for the birds we do not have) that is stuck to my window clanked explosively at every strong gust.

This Furlong is severely deaf so I don’t hear the howling wind, but I feel the vibration, and the window clanking was so audible even without hearing aids it made me jump. It was that kind of clank, if you know what I mean.

At midnight the dog jumped on my bed. In my sleep fuddled brain, I thought he was cold, so I let him out, in case it was that and then took him back to his own bed and put a jersey on him that he has never worn because it hates it.

At two the dog jumped on my bed. I let him out in the jersey he hates, and he came back in sodden. I removed the jersey and put him back in his own bed.

At four the dog jumped on my bed. It dawned on me that jumping on my bed in the middle of the night was a strange new behaviour. What could be the trouble? Cold? No. Wanting a pee? No.

I put my hearing aids in.

My God, what a din!

The poor dog was terrified. That was the problem.

A frightened dog.

Looking for comfort.

Wanting me to protect him in the wild night.

We slept well, the two of us, till the morning.


Down! Dogs

“Down” in dog training is a specific command. It means the dog must lie down wherever it is. “Down” doesn’t mean “get down”, “Off” means “get down” (off the sofa/chair/wall, for instance).

Words are really important. Bass has cracked “down!”. It has taken four months. I’m wondering if he’s not the sharpest tool in the box. Or I’m a bad trainer.

He is a quick dog, physically. On the command “sit” he sits with great speed and neatness, tucking his bottom in and sitting like a dancer performing a step. “Down” he does in the same precise way. It is the cutest thing to see.

We train every day in some way. Dogs love it. The now dead Uncle Bobby dog used to perform all his “tricks” with great pride. Well that’s what it looked like. He loved dog training classes. Everyone used to laugh when on “down”, his tail would fill the hall with a knock knocking, as he waited for the release command. It was happiness he couldn’t hide.

Bass has a different personality. Not so easy to teach.

Why train a dog at all?

They love it.

That’s why.

And an educated dog, behaves well, is lovely to look at and nicer to know. We have a long way to go…….

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What we did on Tuesday

On Tuesday’s we attend Tai Chi. But for the first 45 minutes we do Chi Gong.

On Tuesday we did my favourite routine. The Bone Marrow Cleanse.

Tai Chi is not the same as Chi Gong. Chi Gong is about physical health and stamina, whist Tai Chi is a Marshal Art.

Here is the Bone Marrow Cleanse done by a woman or a man – take your pick. Done properly, in full time, it’s a killer! We did it full time. It was wonderful!

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Alien abduction

I recently wrote about the day the school I was teaching in evacuated all the children into a dense cloud of tear gas that had settled over our school. We ended up in the Civic Centre Hall next door with hundreds of coughing, sputtering, vomiting children and a great deal of frightening asthma attacks. Medics came to help and some kids got carted off by ambulance. I never found my class who had been on their way to me when the alarm sounded. Other teachers must have guided them in the stampede.

We should have stayed in our classrooms with windows and doors closed, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

In that year, I had, in my class, an exceptional child that I had been warned about. He was a poor soul with a huge IQ. His IQ was so high, us humble mortals were left far behind. He was a behaviour problem supreme. But he and I eventually came to an understanding that at least allowed some kind of order in the classroom. It was like a behaviour chess game. I admired and feared him. But we did become sort of friends.

On the day of the tear gas, my class was on its way to me. Mr Marvellous took some time off to sit on the loo in the ablution block playing Donkey Kong. He was so engrossed, he was unaware of the evacuation. So when he came out into the the building, there was no one there – not a soul to be seen anywhere, not even in my classroom that he was deigning to attend at last. Mr Marvellous’s magnificent brain went into overdrive.

He later shared with me when we eventually found each other,

“Hell. I was frightened. I thought everyone had been abducted by Aliens! I’m so glad to see you.”

Our relationship improved greatly after that.

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Five little tweetie birds

Once, only once, the bird sucking vortex in the sky that disappeared all our birds from our garden in May last year, redeposited a few for an hour or so.

Otherwise, since then, there have been none.

I’m beginning to believe the wonderful bird life that animated our lives and garden last spring was a freak episode, never to be repeated in our life time.

Our garden has NO birds. There aren’t many anywhere else either.

One of the Furlong daughters in a village nearby has starlings. A horde of them. But who wants a horde of starlings in their garden?

Well I would. Any bird is better than no bird!


this morning Mr Furlong spied five sparrows sitting in our tree.

I hope they are casing this joint out for the spring….did they notice there’s good food here……?

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Weather report

It’s raining. AGAIN.

It seems to rain here everyday.

Or be drearily dull.

In 1974 I was in England. The TV kept on talking about this new place called Cumbria. Cumbria this. Cumbria that. Cumbria had just been made and named. It was the combination of two ancient areas in Britain, to a new one – called “Cumbria”.

I asked someone “Where is this Cumbria?

He said “Well, you just travel around England until you find a huge bank of grey clouds. Drive under the clouds. You will have found Cumbria there.”

Never in my wildest dreams could I have known I’d end up living here.

But I have found Cumbria.