Heather Smith
Before I begin this story I'd like you to get to know my dear husband, Edgerton. Here are some words that describe him (oddly enough, all beginning with the letter P): Particular, Persnickety, Punctilious and Precise. So when he told me he was going to build a fence for our backyard I knew that a Painstaking Process was about to begin.


After snorting and pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose, Edgie began by working on his spreadsheet. Yes, a spreadsheet. You see, earlier that week, he had recoiled in horror at seeing our neighbour's newly built fence with its vertical boards of UNEVEN SPACING. He had pulled me to the window to show me.

"Just look at that."


"The neighbour's new fence."

"What about it?"

"Can't you see it?"

"See what?"

I think poor Edgerton thought I was toying with him here. But I wasn't. Really. All I saw was a perfectly respectable fence.

"The bloody fence. Just look at it. The bloody boards are not evenly spaced. Are you bloody blind? Do you need your bloody eyes checked?"

So I started to laugh, as I always do when Edgerton is Permeating with Puzzlement and Perplexity.

"It's not funny, you know. It's a bloody atrocity. And they've bloody well nailed their boards in. Not screwed, NAILED!"

Uneven spacing. An atrocity, indeed. So to avoid a similar abomination, Edgie went to his trusty computer and entered a bunch of old gobbledygook. Then, after Pressing 'Print', he Pretentiously Produced a Print-out of a Perfectly Precise Prospectus. Looked like Poppycock to me.


Edgie is a geek, this is true, but I must admit he is quite a manly geek. When it came time to actually build the fence he took off his plaid shirt and Pocket Protector and put on his testosterone laced coveralls and went to work. As handy as he is, however, the fence was not built in a day. The reason: Plumb. Yes, every single board had to be Perfectly Plumbed.

I was given a level and asked to help. Edgie would hold the board and my job was to level it so that he could screw it in.

I looked at the bobbing bubble. That'll do. "Okay," I said, "go ahead and screw it in. It's level."

But Edgerton would never be able to press the button on his electric screw gun thingy until he checked the level for himself. His eyes widened.

"Level? What do you mean level? That's not level. Can't you bloody see that? Look at the bloody bubble."

I shrugged. "Looks like it's centered to me."

Edgie became Peremptory and Pompous. "Look at that fence over there," he huffed. "I do not want ours to look anything like that. I do not want our fence to be banged up in a couple of hours in a willy-nilly fashion resulting in wonky and skewiff boards."

(Did I mention that Edgie is a Brit, hence the use of words like "skewiff"?)


So after two weekends of meticulous calculations and a lot of elbow grease, Edgerton has built us a lovely fence. Each board is lovingly screwed in perfectly straight and the spacing is exact - no skewiffiness in sight.

I enjoy my backyard now and sit out on every fine day. With my neighbours now blocked from my view, I pretend I am in a meadow on the Yorkshire Dales. The yapping of the neighbour's dog has been transformed into the pleasant baaing of a sheep. The birds seem to sing louder now that we have a fence. I lie in the grass thinking about going to the Delightful Dales pub for a Ploughman's Lunch, a beer, and a chat with the locals but change my mind when the baaing of the sheep suddenly turns intense, frantic. Oh my good God! Could I be faced with a veterinary emergency? What would James Herriot do? Think, woman, think. Then it comes to me. I'd read about it a million times in All Creatures Great and Small. That sheep was birthing a lamb!!! I leap over the seven foot fence (in a single bound, of course) and assist in the birthing process.

"Get your hands off my dog's ass!"

I am brought back to reality by my shouting neighbour and skulk back to my backyard. But, miraculously, once back within the confines of my new fence the nasty episode with the dog/sheep instantly dissolves and I am in the Yorkshire Dales again. James Herriot appears and tells me I made a bloody good effort with that pregnant sheep and that my neighbour could have been a bit more grateful. He says that us veterinary surgeons are unappreciated and why doesn't he take me to the Delightful Dales for a pint. Ahhhh. My newly fenced-in backyard is wonderful!!!!

So now I have a new P word to describe dear Edgerton - Prestidigitator - because that fence is magic! My Perfectly Plumbed Palisade is Pure Paradise!!!
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Heather Smith

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been nine months since my last blog entry. I have been busy. Very busy. But something has pulled me back into the blogosphere. Or should I say, someone. And that someone is Justin Bieber.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I'm about to start a rant. A rant about the crap music of today. About the hollowness and shallowness of today's youth and their choice of music. You're thinking the Old Biddy is back to compare today's music with that of yesteryear's more legitimate, deeper offerings. You're thinking the Old Biddy has had enough of the likes of Justin Bieber and decided it was time to join the masses and trash the kid, take him down a peg or two.

Au contraire, mon frere. The Old Biddy has resurfaced to unleash a fury, that's for sure, but a fury with the purpose of defending, not defaming.

I'm back to say: Lay off The Biebs!

No, I do not have Bieber fever. But I'm a Bieber believer. I believe that he has the right to be the latest teen idol without relentless scorn from the forty-something year old peeps who seem to have an obsession with knocking the J-Bieb. Oh, I've seen your Tweets and your Facebook posts and your blog entries. And now it's my turn.

Dear Bieber Bashers:

Guess what? You are not Justin Bieber's target audience. You're not supposed to like him. If you are not a twelve year old girl, move along. There's nothing to see here.
And for all of you middle-age, balding males who make up the majority of Justin haters, get over it and accept that your hatred comes solely from hair envy. Buy yourselves some Rogaine and move on.
Please stop harping on about the music industry today being all disposable pop and manufactured teen idols. You might as well sit on your front porch with a cane and scream "Turn the volume down, you little whippersnappers! You call that music?" Sheesh. You sound like a bunch of grumpy old farts.
Dudes, he's sixteen. SIXTEEN! Some slack, maybe? If you were walking down the street and saw a sixteen year old boy looking like a poncy git would you punch him in the face? Of course not. But give that boy celebrity status and a head of perfectly coiffed hair and suddenly it's acceptable to punch him in the face, figuratively speaking, with constant name calling and unnecessary put-downs.
Finally, lose your air of superiority. Yup, you're cool. The music you used to listen to back in the day was way cooler. Now stop tweeting about how talentless Justin Bieber is and get back to your Loverboy CD.

I'll leave you now with something to chew on - some recent tweets from J-Bieb himself:

To all the haters out there i wish u the best. U cant bring me down. I wake up everyday grateful 4 the opportunity and grateful to the fans

It’s funny when i read things about myself that r just not true. Why would certain people take time out of their day to hate on a 16 yr old?

Why indeed.

Until next time,

Old Biddy (former Shaun Cassidy fanatic)
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Heather Smith
Dear Wii Fit,

Please stop telling me I am overweight. I’m getting a complex and am starting to hate you. No matter how many minutes of yoga I do with my virtual trainer, Bjorn Blickensderfer (I named him) I can’t helped but get filled with violent feelings upon receiving my Body Test results. The Wii Fit exercises and games I have no problem with … I think we can all agree that there’s nothing more invigorating than a spot of virtual hula hooping. My issue is with the damn Body Test … well the Body Test results to be precise. You see, when I begin a Wii fit session my confidence is at an all time high. I puff my chest out, tighten my butt muscles and stand on the Wii Fit balance board in my Lululemon look-a-likes thinking I’m all that and a bag of Baked Lays. Bring it on, Wii Fit. I think. Bring. It. On. I channel Jane Fonda and put in a valiant effort in the aerobics category. Then, with a wave of my magic wii-mote, I get all Zen and stuff with a pretty decent yoga session. After smacking some soccer balls around with my head and doing some slalom skiing , I decide it's time for the Body Test. I stand on the balance board (shoulders relaxed as instructed) and listen to a singy-songy voice: "measuring... measuring... measuring". I feel optimistic as the results are calculated. This’ll be good, I think. I’ve worked hard this week. I bend over and put my hands on my knees and wait for the results to appear on the screen. I wipe my brow and, although exhausted, I maintain a confident, almost cocky, look on my face (think professional athlete at a televised event). Then, the horror. The results are in. The little black line appears. Up, up, up it goes… I am sure I hear a snarky “as if” guffaw as it slides past the Underweight Range ... then it passes by the Normal Weight Range so quickly, so unhesitatingly that I want to puke ... and finally it glides, as smooth as silk, into the Overweight Range where it nestles smugly into a comfortable spot. Oh how I’d like to snap that little black line in half and stick one half up Shigeru Miyamoto’s arse and the other down his throat. (But kudos, Shigero, you know, for the whole Mario thing)

As you well know, Nintendo, it is quite normal for one’s body weight to fluctuate daily. So if I happen to go up one pound since my last session please don’t barrage me with questions like “Why do you think you are gaining weight?” and then present me with a list from which I must choose one answer like - too many snacks or not enough exercise – and then when I pick "I don’t know" please don’t act as if I am lying by saying “Are you sure you don’t know?” Haven’t I been humiliated enough?????? Okay, so maybe the giant Toblerone in the cupboard called my name a few times that week. Must I have to explain everything to you? You are not my keeper.

Ring ring. Hello? Nintendo? It's Guantanamo Bay. Can you send us a couple of Wii Fit video games? To hell with water board torture. Wii balance board torture would be a way more effective way of humiliating and degrading our remaining detainees.

Oh, and one more thing. Every time I stand on that dumb balance board and hear the little automated voice say “oh!” as if it is surprised at the amount of weight that just stood upon it, I die a little inside. Couldn’t you have just programmed it to groan or let out a pained scream ‘cause that condescending little “oh!” is killing me with its oozing of fake innocence. It’s like “Oh! Goodness gracious me, did someone have a little bit too much Haagen Dazs this week?” Well let me tell you something Wii Fit people, I’ll be emitting my own “oh!” soon enough when I smash the balance board with a hammer. “Oh! Goodness gracious me. Someone’s got an itty bitty boo-boo”.


Heather Smith

PS I have attached some photos to illustrate my plight.

Starting out positive with some hula hooping.

The Jane Fonda within - getting hot and sweaty with aerobics.

OHM! Attempting Tree Pose while the automated Wii Fit voice keeps saying "Your legs are a little shaky."

What a workout!

Hopeful for great results!

And the results are in... will my weight be "Normal" today?


Damn you, Wii Fit.
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Heather Smith
I recently decided to step away from my young adult novel, Ballycatters and Bugs, and write a fictional piece about life in the Yorkshire Dales. Here is an excerpt:

She told me this place would be good. She had escaped to this place once before and had told me that the air was fresh, that it smelled healthy... and I believed her ... she was known for her incredible olfactory system. Even now, as she stands at the top of the hill, it's her nose that takes in the beauty of what surrounds her and when I see that familiar wrinkle form on the bridge of her nose my heart skips a beat.

She catches me looking at her. My instinct is to look away in embarrassment but I can't - she is so beautiful. She looks at me cheekily. I am momentarily confused as to why but when she smirks and runs away I get it - a race! As we run through the grass I feel so much happiness that I can't help but give little jumps of joy no matter how dumb it looks.

We reach our destination. It's perfect. A rustic, cosy cottage. It's been a long journey. We curl up together in a quilt close to the fire. I try to rest but in these new surroundings I find myself alert, edgy almost. A knock on the door and I almost hit the ceiling. We look at each other and freeze. Only when the footsteps fade do we exhale.

She tells me she is hungry. No fancy dinner will be served to us here. How will we cope on our own? Perhaps we should have stayed where we were ... perhaps we shouldn't have bit the hand that fed us.

She becomes increasingly more vocal about her hunger. I must go find food. But the footsteps are back followed by a high-pitched voice at the door ...

"Chet? Is that you? Nutmeg? Are you there?"

It's the mad woman.

"Mama misses you, my itty-bitty babies. Come back to Mama. C'mon my iddle-widdle piggie-wiggies."

I look into Nutmeg's eyes. I'll let her decide. I'd follow her anywhere. The eyes say nothing but the nose goes into overdrive. The mad woman has stuck a piece of curly parsley through a crack in the door. Nutmeg's favourite.

I guess this is it. Bye bye Yorkshire Dales, hello life behind bars. And I didn't even get a chance to look dapper in my miniature Barbour Wax Jacket. Pish.
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Heather Smith
So I had a long conversation with the new guinea pigs, Chet and Nutmeg, last night. It went like this:

Here's the skinny, guineas, I'm gonna tell ya three things - listen carefully, learn well, and we'll get along just fine:

1. The Youngsters aren't going to wait forever for you to come out of your hiding spots and become the cuddly creatures that we promised them you would be. So get over yourselves. The coy thing is getting a bit old.

2. I promise to feed, clean, and cuddle you critters but in return I expect happy noises and "
popcorning". I want entertainment, damn it!

3. I hope you are adventurous little piggies for in your future is a trip is to the Yorkshire Dales. Sitting in the pockets of my Barbour Wax Jacket you can enjoy the countryside, protected from the birds of prey that circle above. Perhaps you can even wear mini Barbour Wax Jackets of you own - how cute - rugged, yet dapper.

Basically, piggies, your cute faces and adorable furry bodies will only get you so far. It's time to start acting like you like us.

Chet and Nutmeg listened quietly during my entire speech, nodding with interest at the first two points, and tilting their heads quizzically at the third. When I was done I stuck a finger through the cage bars and said "Deal?". There was a slight lifting of each of their paws. I took that as "shaking on it".

Not yet used to guinea pig noises and their meanings I heard what sounded like a chuckle as I walked away. Perhaps it was the happy noise I had asked for in point two. Yes, that's it. They really listened to what I had to say. What obedient little furballs!

But as I walked up the stairs I heard it again and couldn't help but shake the feeling that perhaps I was being mocked...
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