Dog parenting downsides

by Mhairi Simpson on December 20, 2014

All my life I’ve wanted a long-haired German Shepherd. I was supremely pissed off, back in 2003, when my mother and stepdad bought a long-haired German Shepherd puppy. It seemed like they were rubbing my nose in it. I was at university in London, living in one room. They were in Cambridgeshire, in a house with a garden and umpty billion square miles of fen to walk their huge dog on.

Jealousy, thy name was Mhairi.

I was only slightly mollified by the fact that the dog bonded far more closely with me than with either of its owners. To the point that when the time came to find Dog #1’s replacement, my stepdad suggested to my mother that they not take me along to pick up Dog #2, so as to try and avoid some of this ‘bonding with Mhairi’ nonsense.

(For the record, this endeavour failed. Dog #2 thinks I walk on water.)

I’ve never been able to spend more than a few days with either pup. Having not lived at home since 1996, my visits were limited to weekends, dictated by classes and then gainful employment.

All of which has now changed.

Now, I’m not glad that I ended up so broke and broken down I had to default on a bunch of debts and put my home on the market and move back in with my mother. Nor am I glad she has gone through such difficulties in her marriage that the relationship recently ended in a flurry of police involvement. But I am glad we’re friends again. Apart from anything else, this new living arrangement would be nothing short of brutal if we weren’t, but it also gives me someone to talk to, to confide in, to be around. I’ve been kind of lonely on my own.

And I do now have a long-haired German Shepherd. His name is Rufus, aka Dog #2. My mother is definitely his alpha. I’m the one who takes him out at 3am and then gets nagged again to take him out at 8.30am after he’s had his breakfast, even though my mother is up and doing by then, which he knows damn well as she’s the one who gives him his breakfast. And frequently he makes me take him out again at night after my mother has just done so. And then just wanders around before heading back indoors. This I wouldn’t appreciate much anyway, but he has a double fur coat. Jammy sod.

I’m not entirely sure what kind of relationship it is. He sleeps in my room or hers, frequently starting off next to my bed and then sloping through to her. The panting wakes me up in the night (which isn’t nearly as creepy as it sounds) – when I hear that I know he’s coming to inform me he needs doors opening. Bearing in mind it’s December and there’s only so much pyjamas and a dressing gown can do to keep the cold out, I don’t actually mind the door opening. I don’t even mind the standing around waiting for him to select an appropriate spot for his business. It is a little galling, though, when we come back upstairs, frequently wet and (in my case) shivering, and he heads straight back into my mother’s bedroom. Evidently my bedside rug isn’t good enough. I feel rejected.

So yes, I now have a long-haired German Shepherd, albeit by proxy. And he punishes me for it every night.

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Bye bye, boxes

by Mhairi Simpson on December 2, 2014

Fifteen minutes ago I opened up a blank Word document and started typing. Two hundred and fifty-six words later, I know I’ve made yet another huge change in my life. These are the first words I’ve written since the beginning of October.

There’s something to be said for picking up a character who isn’t yet part of anything you’re actively working on. This girl, this superhero, is a first for me. Haven’t done any superheroes before. There are a few waiting in the wings but this one is the latest addition to the tribe of projects-in-waiting. There’s probably some jealousy back there that she’s getting a story before the others. Sorry, guys. That’s just the way it is. Had to work on someone I hadn’t already started writing about and she was it.

That said, as I sit here and think about what the point of this post is, I realise that I’ve always been writing about the same thing and this one page of words has reinforced that. It’s about being trapped. And by extension, about my own life. Society expects certain things of its members and it seems that artists of any stripe are generally least able to fit into the required boxes. I’ve struggled against those boxes for a long time, or rather I struggled to fit myself into them. Tried a few different ones but nothing worked. Money boxes, job boxes, property boxes, relationship boxes.

Maybe all stories are, on some level, about being trapped. Trapped by what you should do and what you need to do, what you’re expected to do and required to do. What people around you need and what you need. Hollywood endings are all about ignoring the boxes, but how many of us choose to step out of them and/or ignore them entirely on a daily basis?

Considering my network, most of the people reading this probably ignore the boxes anyway. Which is good. They enable me to do the same. I can be a little slow on the uptake sometimes. But hey, I’m here now! Ignoring the boxes. Or rather, walking past them on the other side of the street, carefully not making eye contact…

Bye bye, boxes. I have writing to do.

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That hand is real

December 1, 2014

I’m not sure I have the right words to put down here. This could be a very short post or a very long one and right now I don’t know how it will go. I haven’t blogged in a while, I know. It’s been hard lately. Hard to muster my thoughts. Hard to get out […]

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The most important tool

November 4, 2014

Sometimes it seems the hardest thing to talk about is the thing your heart is most full of. I’ve recently met up with a number of very tolerant people at FantasyCon and Bristolcon respectively who were apparently happy to listen to me expound on my philosophy of the imagination (FantasyCon) and who were happy to […]

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Hookers & Blowe available for pre-order!!

October 12, 2014

Author disclaimer: There are no sex workers or drugs in this story. I’ve been promising it for quite a while but kept wussing out of sorting the cover art. You see, Colin Barnes at Anachron was kind enough to send me over the original cover art but it needed some adjusting  so that the text […]

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“Fear is the mind-killer”

October 9, 2014

It’s a familiar quote to those of us in the world of sci-fi and fantasy but I’ve inserted it below as a reminder or as a full taste to anyone who isn’t familiar with it (I took this from Goodreads): “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. […]

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I am good enough – the thought police

October 8, 2014

After some consideration I have decided that policing my thoughts isn’t actually a bad thing – as long as I’m the one doing the policing, of course. To that end, I have decided on a new experiment, which will be conducted as follows: I am not allowed to think that I’m not good enough. Every time […]

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Some mullings: Beauty

October 7, 2014

Writing about beauty is not identifying that which makes something beautiful. It is in recognising that everything is at once beautiful and ugly. Light and dark. Free and imprisoned, while those who are truly free do not exist at all, for shape, form, requires limits, demarcation lines and those who are free have none. They […]

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Day 27: the devil’s in the details…

September 27, 2014

Today I am trimming the cards where I marked them up yesterday. Turns out my paper cutter is brilliant on brute force stuff and not so good on finicky, trimming-type stuff. So I’m sat here with ninety cards and a pair of embroidery scissors. No idea where my paper scissors are but these are more […]

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28 days to go…

September 26, 2014

I’m on a twenty-eight day countdown to Bristolcon. This is where I will be playtesting Be A Bard again (I’ve actually got a table in the Games Room, if you’re coming track me down!) and I want it to be a vast improvement on the deck people saw at FantasyCon. That ended up a bit […]

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