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”.


Sincerely

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?

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

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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Heather Smith

I really am an old biddy. Forty years old with the aches and pains of an eighty year old, and, I tell ya, this damp spring weather is killing me.

My doctor understands. He's ancient. We're like that (my arthritic index finger is wrapped lovingly around my arthritic pointer finger, protecting it from the chill).

"Go on holiday," Doctor Oldie says. "Go to Mexico."

Mexico. Let's see. Aches and pains or Swine Flu? Swine Flu or aches and pains? Hmmmm. In Canada, with my best friend the heating pad, I shall remain.

Got me thinking though. Maybe I should consider a trip south. But where? The only place I've ever really fancied is the Yorkshire Dales ...THE YORKSHIRE DALES??? Holy Swine Poop! What was I thinking? Here was me with visions of sitting in my thatched cottage, drinking tea in front of the fire, listening happily to the sound of the wind and the rain hammer the windows ... I didn't consider how my poor old hips would feel about it ... I never gave a second thought to my wrists or to my knees! No, I was just going to drag them along with me on my adventure - unwilling participants as I frolicked through the dales and performed strenuous veterinary procedures as I joined the local vet on his rounds. How would my shoulders feel about pulling lambs from their mothers in drafty barns? How would my knees feel about standing in a field giving vaccinations to a herd of cattle in the driving rain?

I have been selfish. Perhaps I should reconsider this wild and crazy dream. Perhaps I should pick a new place to obsess about. Do they have thatched cottages in Morocco? Could I wear a Barbour jacket and khaki wellies in Egypt and go fly-fishing in the Nile? No, of course not. I need to face facts. My Yorkshire dream is all the more appealing because of the occasional rainy and damp day. My thatched cottage and open fire is all the more charming when the out of doors is soggy and drenched.

So screw the joints. Damp weather? I'll cope. And anyway, on days when my hips act up, old Mrs. Thompson from Happydale Farm will drop by with a hearty stew to warm my soul. And the local veterinary doctor won't mind if I'm not up to following him on his rounds, in fact, he might even be relieved.

There's only one place where I can frolic ... I know that now ... and that's the Yorkshire Dales.
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Heather Smith
Dear Billy Bob,

My last letter to you was one of anger and repulsion but today's letter is much, much different. Today's letter is one of heartfelt gratitude. Can you feel it, Billy Bob? Can you feel the love?

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "I don't know what you're talking about."

Well, let me explain. You see, had you not been a complete knob to Jian Ghomeshi I would never have had the inspiration to write a scathing song about the whole ordeal for the CBC Canada Writes online challenge and been subsequently crowned the Online Challenge Winner.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "I'm not sure what that means."

What it means, Billy Bob, is that I am thanking you for being a horse's ass.

What's that you say? Would I say that to Tom Petty? Um, no. 'Cause he isn't a horse's ass, but you, my dimwitted friend, are the epitome of the hindquarters of any member of the Equidae family.

Yeah, yeah - you don't know what I mean by that. I get it. Again, I'll explain. The Equidae family is the horse family - horses, zebras, asses. What that means is that you are not only a horse's ass but a zebra's ass and yes, you even qualify as an ass's ass.

Anyway, Billy Bob, good news ... your knobiness has won me an iPod touch. And I feel so indebted to you I might even consider putting a Boxmasters song on it, preferably a track on which you were to too sulky/lazy/childish to play the drums.

Sincerely,

Old Biddy
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Heather Smith
Following one's favourite celeb on Twitter can be quite exciting. When I first entered into the world of Twitter I was thrilled to know what Jamie Oliver was having for lunch and Stephen Fry's clever and witty posts always caught my attention.

Wow. Stalking from your easy chair - what could be better than that?

That's what I thought for the first week anyway. And then some of the celebs started to share too much ... and shattered the illusion of who I thought they were.

For example, one of my favourite singer-songwriters posted this: Would you rather eat your own poo or drink someone else's vomit?

Had this been a post from some random person on my list I would have rolled my eyes at the dumbness of it and immediately hit the Remove button. But I didn't. And why didn't I? Because of this person's celebrity status?? Boy am I sad.

Question is, do we really want to get to know our celebs? I am not sure that I do.

I even had a little scare with my man, Jian Ghomeshi, when I joined his Facebook fan page. There, "Jian" posted regularly and shared lots of pics. Sounds great, doesn't it? Well it wasn't. I didn't really want to see photo upon photo of Jian and his girlfriend! Another illusion shattered. And the photo album entitled "Beer, booze and babes" really turned me off - where had my charming, respectable radio host gone???

Turns out this fan page was run by an impostor! Phew, now I can go back to my fantasy world of thinking Jian is mine and only mine.

Following the stars on Twitter or Facebook is a gamble. The info they post can either be endearing or off-putting. Do I want to follow their posts and get closer to their real lives or do I want to live in my fantasy world and maintain the image of who I think they are? When the posts are of the poo/vomit variety I think I prefer the latter.
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Heather Smith

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I love to read books by James Herriot. I describe them to people as comfort books - feel good reading material sure to give you the warm and fuzzies. However, I have always added a disclaimer when recommending James Herriot saying that, while they are lovely books filled with lovely anecdotes, don't expect a great work of literature. But now, as I am re-reading James Herriot, I realize what a disservice I have done to him - what a bloody good writer he was!

Here is a passage from Vet in a Spin. In this scene he describes Roddy Travers, an interesting character who shows up in Darrowby to do odd jobs:

Roddy stayed around the Darrowby district throughout the summer and I grew used to the sight of him on the farms or pushing his pram along the roads. When it was raining he wore a tattered over-long gaberdine coat, but at other times it was always the golf jacket and cordouroys. I don't know how he accumulated his wardrobe. It was a safe bet he had never been on a golf course in his life and it was just another of the little mysteries about him. I saw him early one morning on a hill path in early October.

It had been a night of iron frost and the tussocky pastures beyond the walls were held in a pitiless white grip with every blade of grass stiffly ensheathed in rime.


I was muffled to the eyes and had been beating my gloved fingers against my knees to thaw them out, but when I pulled up and wound down the window the first thing I saw was the bare chest under the collarless unbuttoned shirt.

"Mornin' Mr. Herriot," he said. "Ah'm glad I've seen ye". He paused and gave me a tranquil smile. "There's a job along t'road for a couple of weeks , then I'm movin' on."


"I see." I knew enough about him not to ask where he was going. Instead I looked down at Jake who was sniffing the herbage. "I see he's walking this morning."


Roddy laughed. "Yes sometimes 'e likes to walk, sometimes 'e likes to ride. He pleases 'imself."


"Right, Roddy," I said. "No doubt we'll meet again. All the best to you."


He waved and set off jauntily over the icebound road and I felt that a little vein of richness had gone from my life.


Aaaah. I can't wait to wear my wax jacket as I walk the tussocky pastures of the Yorkshire Dales. Grass stiffly ensheathed in rime? No problem! I'll have my fetching khaki wellies to keep my feet warm and dry.

I will never again state that silly disclaimer when discussing James Herriot. He may not have been a Pulitzer Prize winner but his works are truly remarkable - not only because of the charming semi autobiographical stories but because of the way in which they were written.

If for some reason, my James Herriot books were taken from me, a little vein of richness would be gone from my life as well.

To find out more about James Herriot (Alf Wight) click here.
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Heather Smith
In my brother's latest blog post (Travelling With Gershom), he ponders our interactions with strangers - when people we don't know strike up a conversation with us how do we react? Do we engage them or do we nod and make a quick escape? Maybe the stranger shared way too much information - do we recoil?

My reaction is usually a negative one, especially if there was a bit TMI involved. In general, I tend to walk around thinking people are idiots. Maybe this is something I should work on ... I don't think it's conducive to my crunchy granola aspirations.

My brother's wife suggested that when strangers talk to us we have an opportunity to brighten their day. Hmmm, interesting. She's right. Why not spend an extra two minutes at the corner store and respond to the shopkeeper ... why not add something to the conversation instead of trying to think of a way to politely end it?

I think I'll try this. And maybe if I approach it genuinely, without the sense that I am humouring the stranger or sacrificing my time, I might just get something out of it ... the good feeling of making a connection with a fellow human being. Reaching out and engaging with a stranger could prove to be a very positive and uplifting experience ... as long as the stranger doesn't act like a bloody idiot.
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Heather Smith

I haven't blogged in two whole days now and it's Billy Bob Thornton's fault. Man, that whole Billy Bob/Jian Ghomeshi really got to me. But I'm over it now. Really I am. I've written a ranty song for CBC Canada Writes about it. I've posted disparaging remarks and bad publicity links for Billy Bob on Facebook. I've even twittered (tweeted? twitted?) about it. It's out of my system now. Completely. Billy Bob who?

Now that I've calmed down I've had a chance to reflect on why I got so angry. I mean, in an earlier blog post I wanted to throw a brick at BBT's head. That's not me. I'm not a violent person. I do yoga for God's sake. I meditate. I am the epitome of peace. I could replace the dove.

So here's the deal and I know I'm not alone on this ... but as someone who is at home all day with a young child, CBC keeps me company ... it provides me with some adult conversation. In years gone by, this wasn't so much of a problem for moms who stayed at home. Edna or Ruth or Marge some other old biddy from next door would pop over for a cup of tea and a bickie ... but it's not like that now ... not where I live anyway. All I have are my BFFs from CBC - Jian Ghomeshi in the morning, Rita Celli at lunch, and Aamer Haleem in the afternoon. I can't talk back to these people, granted, but I feel I know them quite well. It's like they are right there with me at my kitchen table - Jian and Aamer with their coffee (one sugar for Jian, black for Aamer) and Rita with her green tea (she's very health conscious). I sip my tea and listen to their titillating conversation, nodding in agreement as they discuss the serious issues and laughing loudly at the occasional hilarity. When Jian speaks I often look in his direction flirtatiously. "Oh, Jian" I say. "You are SO right about that. Good point."

So you see, when some bonehead with a hillbilly name (nothing like the sophisticated sounding Jian Ghomeshi) struts into my home, knocking over the good pottery mugs that I had laid out for my guests (the biggest one for Aamer, coffee is his fuel) and looks down his nose at my no-name digestive biscuits, I get riled. Even more so when he disrespects my guests and my country.

That's how it is with CBC and me. These hosts are my old biddy neighbours ... so if you're an egotistical celebrity with an holier than thou attitude you'd better think twice before messing with my Edna or Ruth or Marge - 'cuz this peace-lovin', yoga-crazy hippie will get a bad case of blog rage and through the power of the almighty rant will turn your name to mud.

See? Told ya. I'm over it. It's out of my system. Completely.
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Heather Smith

There's too much trash on TV these days and it's causing me to have unclean thoughts about All Creatures Great and Small.

Last night I was watching series five, episode six - A New Chapter. In it, James is gone to a lecture on metabolic diseases, leaving Helen home alone with a pot of liver and bacon. Soon, James' boss, Siegfried Farnon, arrives. Helen, who is packing boxes in preparation for a big move, complains to Siegfried that she fears James will be hitting the pub after the lecture and will drink too much. Then the following exchange:

Helen: I've got liver and bacon in the oven and now he says he's going to have a sandwich on the way.

Siegfried: Liver and bacon? Don't tempt me.


Helen: You hungry?


Siegfried: I'm always hungry ... but I mustn't trespass on your hospitality.


Helen: Oh please do (she passes him a drink and sits down next to him). It'll only be wasted and I can do with the company.


Siegfried: Could you? (he put his hand on her arm and leaves it there)


Helen: Well it is a bit depressing packing up ones home.


Siegfried: I expect it is.

Helen: Oh please stay and keep me company. (Then, coyly) Unless you hate liver and bacon.

Siegfried: (smiling like a fox in a hen house) Oh I like liver and bacon.


They smile at each other and chink glasses.

Had I been watching something other than All Creatures Great and Small I would have believed what was in the back of my mind ... that they weren't really talking about liver and bacon. But, let's be real here, there's no way Siegfried and Helen would go at it while James is away. It's unthinkable ... yet, for a moment, I thought it. I have been jaded by modern TV and it's racy story lines.

So how do I watch this delightfully pure show when impure thoughts keep worming their way into my head? All I can do is repeat the following mantra: There is no room for rumpy-pumpy on All Creatures Great and Small, there is no room for rumpy-pumpy on All Creatures Great and Small.
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Heather Smith

You crossed a line, my friend. Nobody and I mean NOBODY disrepects my Jian the way that you did today.

You made a big boo-boo, Thornton. Canada loves Ghomeshi. LOVES him. You lost some fans today, dumbass.

Canada too reserved for you, huh? Prefer playing in joints where people throw stuff, huh? Well, Billy Bonehead, I'm one Canadian who likes to chuck stuff around and I got a nice big brick here with your name on it.

You know what, Billy Bob? You can kiss my arse. And you know what else? Your band can kiss it too. At first I felt sorry for your crew, sitting awkwardly in the Q studio while you acted like a COMPLETE MORON. But their silence only made them look like weak, cowardly jerks. They should be ashamed.

FYI, just so you know, you're a dipshit.

Sincerely,

Old Biddy

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Heather Smith

I will never again try to have a deep and serious discussion with Edgerton while he is drinking an espresso. Last night, while we were standing in the kitchen having a serious chat, I was distracted by a peculiar head jerking motion Edgie insisted on performing every time he took a sip from his Illy cup.

"What the hell are you doing?" I finally asked.

"What?"

"That thing. With your head."

A blank stare.

I sighed. "The head jerk thing."

Nothing.

I demonstrated with my imaginary cup, almost giving myself whiplash.

"Oh that," said Edgie. "It's the proper way to taste an espresso." He then gave an explanation that described when to inhale, when to exhale, when to enjoy the coffee flowing over the tongue and when to swallow. Man, he's anal.

I think this Father's Day, just to be evil, I'll bring him breakfast in bed, a cup of instant Folgers placed lovingly next to his toast. Somehow I don't think it'll be the best part of waking up.

I'll post the pic.
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Heather Smith

The supermarket is not super. Far from it. It is a boring building in which one does a boring thing - food shopping. It is my dreaded Monday morning chore. Up and down the aisles I go with Goo, the littlest youngster, who rides happily on the front of the cart. Far too disorganized to bring a pen I try to mentally check off my list as I go knowing that I will return home without some vitally needed items - it's always the way.

Oh look. Roast beef is on sale. Pitter-patter goes my little heart. Not.

Time to pick out the best buy on toilet paper. Edgerton's voice fills my head. "Remember: look at the cents per sheet." Edgie thrives on this sort of thing. Not me. I couldn't wait to get to the end of my list.

Bu then something remarkable happened. The muffled monotony of the Muzak suddenly became clear ... is it? Could it be? Annie's Song? John Denver?

The supermarket was transformed!! No longer an uninspiring stink-pit of doom, it was now a place of wonderment.

You fill up my senses like a night in the forest
Like the mountains in springtime, like a walk in the rain

There was a bounce in my step as I headed off towards the dairy section. I gave a happy nod to the old lady who was blocking my access to the cheese. Did I wink? Yeah, I probably did.

Like a storm in the desert, like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses, come fill me again.


As I hummed along, I noticed for the first time the vibrant oranges of the cheese. I was like a newborn lamb taking in the beauty of the dales.

Oh, how the Pillsbury Dough Boy smiled at me as I read the ingredients of his Pop'N'Fresh dough. My heart brimmed with happiness at how he never lost that doughy grin, even when I gently laid him back down again due to an over abundance of artificial flavours.

Let me drown in your laughter, let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you, let me always be with you


Yes, John, if only you were still with us.

The song came to an end but not my new found optimism. No, that lingered for a long time afterwards ... because that's what John Denver does to me. I've said it before and I'll say it again. He fills up my senses.
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Heather Smith
I stumbled across a lovely website yesterday called MyFavouriteDales.com. Cees van der Veen has enjoyed his yearly vacations to the Yorkshire Dales so much he created this website as a tribute. The welcome page is something special with its video slide show of the Yorkshire Dales through the seasons. Cees van der Veen writes: Join me during my rambles over the hills, and down the vales. Share with me some special moments. And so I did.

One of my favourite videos is the montage of cottages in which he has stayed from 1990-2007. He seems to know the area quite well and he demonstrates great taste when it comes to picking cottages. I might start stalking him.

I was quite excited to see some webcam links. Lambwatch caught my attention. A click later and I was watching the Yorkshire Dales from my comfy chair. Not much happening - just a lamb-less piece of land and a bird feeder swinging in the wind. But it was peaceful. "I will keep watching until I see a little lamb walk past the camera," I thought. Doo-dee-doo. Where are they? Asleep, maybe. Getting shorn, perhaps. Dum-dee-dum.

Edgerton was sitting next to me. He had his laptop, I had mine. I was sure he didn't have Lambwatch on his screen - but thinking that perhaps he might think it neat that I was watching the Yorkshire Dales, I filled him in enthusiastically on my new obsession. He looked at me with what may have been pity, I'm not sure.

Wow, the wind was really picking on the dales. I'll definitely need a Barbour wax jacket when I go there for real some day.

"OH MY GOD!" I shrieked.

Edgie jumped.

"THERE'S A WOODPECKER ON THE BIRDFEEDER IN THE YORKSHIRE DALES."

Edgerton looked at me with pity, I was sure of it this time. He said something about getting a life but my attention had already turned back to my computer screen where I stared, fascinated, at the bird on the feeder, hoping to catch a glimpse of a little lamb walking by in the background.
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Heather Smith
Yesterday, The Big Youngster was on a riddle kick. It was one riddle after another for hours on end ... and he got me every single time. At the dinner table that evening, in an attempt to stump him, I smarmily challenged him with the following riddle:

A man and his son are in a car accident. The father dies on the scene, but the child is rushed to the hospital. When he arrives the surgeon says, "I can't operate on this boy, he is my son!" How can this be?

The Big Youngster looked at me like I was a complete idiot. Half-laughing and using the most condescending tone he answered, "The surgeon is the boy's mother." Then, to add insult to injury, he held his hands out and looked around the table as if to say "What the-?"

I was amazed. Not at how The Big Youngster had scoffed at my riddle, but how he had answered it without hesitation ... of course the surgeon was the boy's mother ... who else? You see, perhaps I am dating myself by saying this, but back in my day the thought that a woman would be the surgeon would not have entered the minds of most. I remember this riddle being quite a perplexing one.

Oh how times have changed! I was so happy that my son had shown no signs of male chauvinist piggyness, I overlooked how haughtily he had dismissed my riddle.
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Heather Smith
I was just listening to CBC radio's Spark, a fantastic programme about technology and culture.

I was struck by a piece entitled "Al Rae on Facebook Mea Culpas". Al Rae masterfully told his story of reaching AA's step nine, making amends with the people in your past, and doing so ... though Facebook.

It was a well written, touching, and funny piece, the best line being "to think you're the worst person in the world is another form of narcissism. It's like you can't just be a horse's ass, you have to be Seabiscuit's ass".

I googled Al Rae afterwards. Turns out he's the Artistic Director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival. No surprise there. His talent as a comedy writer came through loud and clear in this Spark piece.

Listen for yourself by clicking the link above.
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Heather Smith

Well I finally did it. I convinced Edgie to move to the Yorkshire Dales. In Spring 2010. For one year. I can’t wait!!

We’ll be living in a quaint hamlet called Foxup in the valley of Littondale.

It was an amazing turn of events. Edgerton's company is opening a branch office in nearby Harrogate. I almost pooped myself when I heard. I didn't need to say a word. Before I could open my mouth sweet dear Edgie said "I'll put in for a transfer." I jumped on him. I did a number on his back. I felt bad. But then I thought about springtime in the Dales and immediately felt better.

The picture above is an actual photo of Foxup. Click to enlarge. Our cottage is the one in the distance to the right. I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!

I will frolic with The Youngsters across the countryside. I will visit the local pub. I will stalk the local veterinarian and assist him in the birthing of the animals whether he likes it or not. I will be one with The Yorkshire Dales.

My wildest dreams will be realized.
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Heather Smith
Yesterday, I was listening to Richard Stursberg (CBC's executive vice-president of English Services) on Ontario Today. He was taking calls about the recent CBC cutbacks and did a great job explaining the reasoning behind some of the difficult cuts that had to be made.

One of the callers caught my attention. An older man who had been a CBC radio listener for forty years asked why the older generation are being left out of the target audience. An old biddy at heart, I had been thinking the exact same thing recently.

I am a devout Q listener and thoroughly enjoy The Point, but lets face it, the old folks sitting around the home won't be tuning in, will they? What are they supposed to do? Listen to Kixx? That'll surely result in a premature and painful death.

What we need is a new radio personality. A Bill Richardson/Jian Ghomeshi combination. Someone with their finger on the pulse of both popular culture and the good ol' days... 'cause let me tell you, the only fingers on pulses these days are the ones checking if the CBC-deprived oldies have died of boredom.

So CBC, as a defender of old biddies and crotchety geezers everywhere, please, when you are in a position to do so, give us a cross-generational radio show. Something fun. Something witty. Think BBC's Just A Minute. Come on, you're a talented bunch! I know you can do it!
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Heather Smith
I like words that dance off the ol' tongue, but often these words do not play a role in every day conversations and trying to fit them in can be challenging. You may have noticed the use of the word 'phantasmagorical' in a couple of my posts. Saying that word makes me feel the way Maria Von Trapp felt as she spun around on the mountaintop bursting with song. Why, I can barely utter it without spinning around my living room, dodging Edgerton's big screen TV. But trying to fit it into a conversation with the supermarket checkout lady can be tricky. And Edgerton just doesn't take me seriously when I use words like phantasmagorical.

Speaking of Edgerton, he sometimes demonstrates an interesting use of the English language. Just yesterday he said that he did something "just for poops and giggles". Okaaaaay, then.

Being a Scot, Edgie also has the habit of overusing the word 'bloody' and The Youngsters get called 'little buggers' quite regularly. Also, in the way of the Brits, he tends to modify words by shortening them and adding "ie" on the end, as in sarnie for sandwich, bickie for biscuit and brekkie for breakfast.

Edgerton has introduced me to a couple of my favourite dancing off the tongue words: lovely-jubbly and fandabidosie. Such joyful words. Fandabidosie has to be the happiest word in the English language. But not all of my favourite words represent happy things. In fact, sometimes I don't like what they represent at all. Take muttonchops, for example. Great word. Giant sideburns? Not so much. And how about gibberish? Another fun word, but who wants to listen to a load of nonsensical crap? Ooooh - nonsensical. That's a good one.

Now I must take my leave as the day is young and I must find an opportunity to use the word serendipitousness (which isn't a real word but should be).

If you have a moment, please comment below - what's your favourite word?
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Heather Smith

The road to Biddydom and all of the swell stuff that goes with it has led me down the path to guided meditation. I take a few moments each day to listen to a podcast, courtesy of the Meditation Society of Australia. I have been doing this for a couple for months now and, like a hippie version of one of Pavlov's dogs, I instantly "go deep within my soul" on hearing a male Australian accent. A trip to Australia would spell disaster for me as a surfing lesson with a young blond surf dude would surely end in my drowning.

Through these meditation sessions I have trained myself to focus ... no longer does my mind wander to the grocery list, or to my imaginary life on the Yorkshire Dales. Instead, I concentrate on my breath and "breathe in the infinite peace of the spiritual universe".

I was a quick study at this meditation stuff. I thought I had it in the bag. Until I came to class twenty-six, a lesson ironically titled: Listening.

The dulcet tones of my Australian guru floated out of my super-cool burnt orange iPod ... wait that was very un-hippie and superficial of me, let me rephrase that ... the dulcet tones of my Australian guru floated out of my nondescript portable media player and into my ears and I immediately felt a sense of calm. I hung on to his every word as I sunk deeper and deeper into the inner depths of my soul:

"Listening is the foundation of change. Listening keeps us young and flexible - not listening makes us stagnant and unyielding."

I hear ya, mate. Stagnant and unyielding. NO to stagnant and unyielding. Ohm.

"Listening to others is the first doorway to flow of love between you. Listening to oneself is the doorway of infinite flow of love within and between all things."

The love is flowing. Infinitely. I am deep within myself. Ohm.

"For us to truly listen the first thing we must do is make ourselves quiet. Noise is all around and inside us there is a cacophony of worry and doubts and fears ...."

Yes I must make myself quiet ... wait ... did he say cacophony? Wow. That's a word you don't hear everyday. Cacophony. I like it. CaCOPHony. CacophONY. I must look that up later, get the actual definition. I know it means a hubbub of sound but I really like reading dictionary definitions of words. Who writes dictionary definitions anyway? It must be the best job in the world if you are a lover of words. I have a great job too ... being home with the youngsters is very fulfilling. Oh, that reminds me. I better not forget to help the Big Youngster with that French homework tonight. I wonder what cacophony is in French. I'll look that up too. Do we even own a French-English dictionary? I'll just have to look it up on the net. Or I can go to Chapters to get one. Ooooh Starbucks! Skinny Vanilla Latte - Mmmmm.

"Thank you for giving us your time, we know it is precious and we're honoured you've spent it with us. Namaste."

Huh? It's over? Oh dear. I wasn't listening.

I turned off my super-cool burnt orange iPod and contemplated how I had failed at listening during a class called "listening". But was it really my fault? Casually throwing a word like cacophony into the middle of a meditation lesson? What was my Australian man thinking? Cacophony? What's next? Phantasmagorical? Serendipitously? There is no place for words like these in guided meditation - they are far too distracting. How am I supposed to find my pathway to enlightenment when words like that are not flowing out of my iPod but romping out of it, loudly and rudely into my doorway of infinite love???

I took a breath and scrolled up through the list of podcasts. Time to go back to class twenty-two: Anger.
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Heather Smith

It was only when I noticed that my Coronation Street backlog was up to 28 episodes that I realized just how needy The Youngsters have been these days ... what with the tween dramas of the Big Youngster, the strep throat affliction of the Middle Youngster, and the constant attention-getting antics of Goo, the Littlest Youngster.

Still, they're good for something. Goo told me the other day, in a very loud voice, while in a very quiet library, that I was chubby. That was fun.

But I do have a word of caution for all of you childless Coronation Street fans out there. If you're toying with the idea of having kids of your own, you may want to have a little rethink. Might I suggest you do the following:

1. Get yourself a can of beer, pour it in a glass and pretend it is a pint of Newton and Ridley.
2. Get yourself a copy of the very special Corrie episode when Mike Baldwin dies.
3. Send your significant other to another room.
4. Get comfortable and start watching.
5. Try not to cry when Mike is dying in rival Ken Barlow's arms.
6. Just as Mike is uttering his last words "You're finished Barlow, Deirdre loves me, she's mine" have your significant other call from the other room, in an eardrum piercing whine, "Mooooommmmy, I've pooped myself again!"

If you still decide to have youngsters after this, you have both my sincerest admiration and my heartfelt condolences ... but, most of all, because you have the gall to call yourself a Corrie fan, you have my utmost repugnance.
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Heather Smith

I can't get up in the morning because at that time of the day I am usually in bed asleep. It's hard to get up and move around when you're asleep unless, of course, you suffer from somnambulism.

So for those rise-and-shine-the-early-bird-catches-the-worm morons who love to be smugly superior about "making the most of your day while the rest of us waste ours in bed": PISS OFF. It's easy to get up in the morning if you're actually awake. What do you want, a medal? Some of us, on the other hand, are still sleeping at the crack of dawn. If we were awake, we'd get up. Do you think we're stupid? We're asleep! So get off your high horses and give us a break.

Here is a great quote:

I have a "carpe diem" mug and, truthfully, at six in the morning the words do not want to make me seize the day. They make me want to slap a dead poet. ~ Joanne Sherman

Here are some vomit inducing quotes from dead people that I'd like to slap:

Lose an hour in the morning, and you will be all day hunting for it. ~Richard Whately

(Not me, matey. I don't lose hours in the morning - I use them wisely by sleeping through them. And, anyway, I'm opposed to hunting so- na-na-na-na-na)

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don't go back to sleep. ~Rumi

(I am told secrets in my early morning dreams by John Denver as we frolic together on the Colorado plains and trust me, Rumi, his secrets are a lot more interesting than the breeze's.)

The stillness of the early morning scene enables me to take in and enjoy many things which pass me by during the bustle of the day. First, there are the scents, which seem even more generous with their offering than they are in the evening. ~Rosemary Verey

(What if the scent is cow manure or diesel fumes? Huh? Boo-ya!)

I leave you with one last quote:

Rooster today, feather duster tomorrow.
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Heather Smith
I cracked the ol' whip and got Edgerton moving on revamping the Old Biddy Rambling blog. It wasn't too difficult - I only had to make reference to Captain Jean-Luc Picard by saying "Make it so" and so it was. In warp time velocity speed the Old Biddy had a facelift! (Edgie loves it when I talk Trekkie to him.)

So what do you think of the new look? Is it as fetching as a freshly coiffed blue rinse hairdo or as disappointing as a run in your dark beige control top pantyhose? The Old Biddy wants to know.

(Although Edgerton didn't create the graphics he hooked me up using a funky blogger template - see link at bottom of page).
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Heather Smith
I think Shaun Majumder and I could be BFF's. And here's why:

He's from Newfoundland - I'm from Newfoundland

He's kinda ebony - I'm kinda ivory

He's funny - I try to be.

He has Mussels In The Corner listed on one of his playlists - I once killed Mussels In The Corner on the accordion.

See what I mean? If that isn't BFF material I don't know what is.

I'm tellin' ya - if I ever got hold of Shaun Majumder I'd grab him by the cheeks and shake his head back and forth saying, "Who's a funny boy then? Huh? Who is it? Is it my Shaunie? Yes it is! Oh yes it is!"

Is this blog post confusing you? It's not about my dream life on the Yorkshire Dales, it's not about my dear persnickety Edgerton, it's not even about my three children whose constant needs keep me months behind on Coronation Street. So where did the whole Shaun Majumder/BFF thing come from you ask? I'll tell you where. CBC's Canada Writes. Shaun is one of the judges. I listened last week and his talent is undeniable. He tickles me, I tell ya. Cracks me right up.

If you ask me, Shaun Majumder fits right in here at Old Biddy Rambling. He and Edgie would get along, I'm sure of it (I must find out if Shaun appreciates fine coffee made in the most anal of ways), and I am sure Edgerton wouldn't mind if Shaun appeared in one of my dreamy Yorkshire Dales posts (after all, there's room for three around the open fire inside my charming thatched cottage).

Yes, Shaun would be a perfect BFF. I can see us now, sitting atop a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It's beautiful. It's picturesque. The cold wind is eating the faces right off of us. The waves crash against the rocks, the noise preventing me from hearing anything Shaun says, but I watch his mouth moving and I laugh - oh how I laugh - because whatever he's saying is most certainly funny. It would have to be. It's coming from the sweet lips of Shaun Majumder. My BFF.
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Heather Smith
It's not what you think. I don't hate old people because they drive too slow or because I got swarmed by a pack of mall walkers as I tried to make my way to the Gap. It's worse than that.

Twice in one week, I witnessed something horrible. On two separate occasions I saw an elderly person struggle to do the zipper up on their coats.

Ugh. I hate that. As they fumbled again and again and again, I just wanted to run over and do it for them. But that would have just made things worse.

If I was a more clever person I would invent the "old fogey coat". It would look like a regular coat but would have a voice activated zipper. On command, the insertion pin of the zipper would automatically connect to the retainer box (technical terms - I wiki-ed it). The zipper would then magically zip itself up, the old geezer/biddy holding the pull tab confidently as if they were the ones in control. The voice command could be one that they program in themselves. For example, when they are about to zip up they could casually say (to a friend or to themselves) "I better pick up some Geritol today". Then Bam! On the word Geritol, the zipper's interlocking teeth would glide together effortlessly and easily.

Once, many years ago, I saw an old person running (well shuffling very quickly) to catch a bus. They just about made it to the stop when the bus pulled away. The driver, too concerned with schedules, didn't care. I was on that bus. It was a "kill me now" moment, one that has been etched in my memory ever since.

I find heartbreaking moments like these really, really hard to shake off. They stick to me like Poligrip to dentures.

Perhaps I should channel this angst and go volunteer in a nursing home or something. Maybe someday. But maybe it would be too much to handle.

My very first post ever was about embracing old age and becoming an umbrella wielding old biddy with a penchant for curse words. I still aspire to this. But I worry. What if I can't tie up my plastic rain bonnet?
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Heather Smith


I went to coffeegeek.com today. I actually went to a website with "geek" in the title. Will wonders never cease.

It's all dear Edgerton's fault. It all started when, on spying his brand new shiny French press on the counter, I suddenly had a craving for coffee. Many moons ago I would have just thrown a few spoonfuls of Nescafe in and sploshed in some hot water on top of it. A hasty plunge later and I'd be drinking what, at the time, I would have considered a decent coffee. But not now. Not since Edgerton.

As I typed coffeegeek.com into the browser I knew my anal retentive husband would be proud. As I preheated the carafe and carefully measured out the freshly ground Ethopia Yergacheffe Aricha Organic coffee beans from 49th Parallel Roaster I knew that, had Edgerton been watching, a tear would have come to his eye. As I stirred my coffee concoction precisely six times with the coffeegeek recommended chopstick, I realized that my husband had turned me into a coffee snob.

I have to admit - Edgie makes THE best coffee. But now I am spoiled. Tim Hortons, once acceptable, now makes me want to hurl. When Edgie's not around, I suffer greatly ... but I shall suffer no more ... not now that I have coffeegeek.com as backup.

Having Mr. Persnickety as a husband can be trying at times, but how can I complain when I am so often the recipient of lovingly made cappuccinos, often delivered with a latte art heart? I am proud of my coffee geek. In fact, on entering the coffeegeek's website I think that the front page image should be Edgerton himself , smugly sipping a fresh brew, the air of superiority wafting off the page. And that, would bring a tear to my eye.
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Heather Smith
There was an article at CBC.ca yesterday about an employer who received a text message from one of his employees saying that he, the employee, was stuck in a hole. The police were alerted and the search began. Turns out the employee was at home, drunk off his face, with trigger happy texting fingers.

CBC's headline?

WTF? False cry for help in text message triggers police search.

The WTF part of the headline generated many negatives comments on the CBC message board. Posters hurled words at the CBC such as classless, inappropriate, and unprofessional.

I, OTOH, LOL'ed and ROFLMAO'ed. Especially when the people commenting complained that they couldn't use WTF in their post because of the CBC language filter. OMG I almost PMPL.

The CBC have now removed WTF from the headline. :(

IMHO, it may have technically been inappropriate but, ATEOTD, it was a ray of sunshine on a website full of mostly dismal news ... and TBH, GMTA because I would have written the same headline.

Anyway, G2G. HAND, and remember, DFTT.

L8R
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Heather Smith

There are many words spouses fear hearing from their significant others:

We need to talk.
I don't love you anymore.
I've found somebody new.
It's not you, it's me.

Scary words indeed. But nothing frightens my husband more than:

Maybe we should consider....

Seems harmless enough. I suppose it would be if what followed was along the lines of:

... putting in another flower bed.

or

... having roast beef for dinner tonight.


But I have never followed "maybe we should consider" with the above phrases. Here is what I am more likely (and have) followed it with:

... moving to Germany for six months.
... getting a dog.
... having another baby. (to be clear, that one was AGES ago)
... doing a home exchange.


So, you see, "maybe we should consider" puts poor dear Edgerton on edge. His body stiffens, his eyes narrow, and the pens in his pocket protector shake from his rapidly beating heart. Ultimately, what happens is this - my smashing idea is rejected before it's even uttered. So I need a new opener. And it can't be "So I was thinking" ... that has already been exhausted and is now in retirement. Any ideas? Please post below.
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Heather Smith

I looked at my face the other day. Really looked at it. I have this big crease across my forehead. I showed my husband. "That's from years of wearing a grumpy frown," he said. I went back to the mirror. I frowned. No, that wasn't it. Frowning appeared to be the cause of the smaller wrinkles at the top of my nose, between my eyes.

So what was the cause of this ginormous gash in the middle of my forehead? I practiced some other faces in the hopes of finding out.

Feeling hopeful, I smiled. Nope, that wasn't it.

Wondering if perhaps I have spent most of my life surprised, I widened my eyes and channeled a sense of wonder. Nope, that wasn't it either.

Then I put on my incredulous look. Bingo! The crease deepened, the length and depth of it revealing just how often I have made that face over the years.

As I examined my incredulous face my head was instantly filled with echoes ... echoes of my own voice ...

Yeah, right.
Puh-lease.

What a bloody moron.
People are idiots.
What a jerk.

What was he/she thinking?

Are you outta your freakin' mind?

What the hell?

It may appear that I have spent most of my life thinking people are idiots and pshawing every five minutes, but on further reflection I realized that my incredulous face is also one I use quite often in an amused "you're such a jerk, that's why I love you" kind of way.

Am I bothered by the fact that my incredulity has left its mark on my once smooth forehead? Nah. Whatdaya gonna do? So I have a big wrinkle on my head ... so what? At least it wasn't caused by years of frowning. That, I'd regret.
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Heather Smith

I once toyed with the idea of a home exchange. Visit homeexchange.com to see what I mean. This is it how it works: you click on your dream holiday destination and then search through the listing of homeowners from that area who have your town/city/country in mind for their holiday destination. Then, after perusing each other's profiles (complete with house photos and touristy type info) you can swap homes! Saves a bundle on accommodation fees!

Enthralled with this idea, I decided to look into it further. The "pick a country" list was large and varied ... Australia, Peru, Japan, Norway, Egypt. But I had no need for exotic destinations. I went straight to the E's - England - click! Then, straight to the Y's - Yorkshire Dales - clickity click click click!

There were several listings. My favourite? The 150 year old converted farmhouse smack dab in the middle of the countryside. The exterior of the house was gorgeous - grand, yet rustic. The interior was fantastic - modern, yet cottage-like.

I read on.

The listing described the quaint country pub in the village, only two miles away. It described the river that ran just behind the house and the miles and miles of lush countryside, seen from their front room window. Feel the need for a trip to London? Only two hours away by train. (I say Pah! Who needs London?)

The owners of the house went on to explain that Fido, their sweet, beloved border collie, could be left behind if the holiday makers so desired. (Yes, please!)

They added that both the Range Rover and the VW Convertible would be available for use as well. (Um, well, okay, if you insist!)

Ah yes, this was the one. This home on the Yorkshire Dales would do just fine.

It would be marvelous. My children would be transformed. No longer would they need Wii's or Game Cubes or internet, for they would discover the simple beauty of a quiet game of Old Maid or, even better, Go Fish, in front of the fireplace. And besides, who needs Super Mario when you have Lord Fluffington? (The dog ... I renamed him).

The whole notion of a holiday home exchange with Peter and Petula McAllister (I named them too) seemed ideal.

Then I thought about the McAllisters coming, here, to my house. That's when my Yorkshire Dales dream crumbled. What could I offer these people? I'd get a magnificent view of the English countryside, while they'd get a view of ... other houses. I'd be bumping merrily down country roads in Chuck (the Range Rover), making my way to the village pub for a rustic lunch and a pint of lager, while the McAllisters would be rattling around in a crappy Dodge Caravan with a broken passenger side window and the slight aroma of cheesy feet, making their way to the neighbourhood Macs for a bag of chips and a Kit-Kat.

I faced reality. It was never gonna happen.

Turns out it wouldn't have happened anyway. My husband shuddered at the very idea. While he did not object to a trip to the dales, he strongly objected to the idea of strangers in our house. With a turned up nose and a just-about-to-vomit grimace he said:

"Ew! Strange people using our mugs and glasses and touching our remotes and computer keyboards and sweating in our bed? Ew. No. No. Blech. Yuck. No. Oh my God. No."

(My husband is a germophobe but that's another blog entry.)

So that was it. The end of the fantasy. But mark my words - some day I will be frolicking in the Yorkshire Dales donning a Barbour wax jacket and a fetching pair of khaki Wellingtons, a loyal hound with a grand name at my side.

In the meantime, homeexchange.com is a fun place to surf. Go ahead, try it. Even if you never plan on a home exchange, it's fun to see where/how people in other parts of the world live.

And sometimes, toying with an idea is as much fun as following through with it.
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Heather Smith

This week I have been taking care of two sick kids, all the while being sick myself. After the first five days of misery I decided that a trip to the doctor was in order. The verdict: step throat. Once I got over the guilt of not getting my children checked sooner, I went home and continued my Florence Nightingale role.

Needless to say, my house has been neglected this week. I haven't even bothered to "fake it" (see previous post). So as I sit, up to my ears in clutter listening to the Smith family hack-sniffle-cough-cough chorus, I feel the need to escape. So I allow my mind to wander back to the Yorkshire Dales (as it did in my post dated January 9):

It's wet and rainy outside, but the wood fire burns brightly inside my thatched cottage. My husband, Edgerton Smythe, sits next to me, his spectacles resting comfortably halfway down the bridge of his nose. He is engrossed in a novel devoid of elves, trolls, hobbits or anything otherworldly (this is my imagination after all). In fact it's a mystery book. The plot revolves around the murder of one Lord Kendrick Kenneth Kensington, who disappears during a fox hunt only to be found later, dead as a doornail, in a hastily vacated hippy caravan. "Release the hounds!" my husbands yells, in his excitement. I pat his hand gently, "Maybe it's time for some chamomile tea." "Capitol idea!" Edgerton exclaims. I put on my wax jacket and wellies and go pluck some from the garden.

We sip our tea, listening to the pitter patter of the rain and the crackling of the fire. Just as we get into a discussion about the controversial fox hunt, we hear a scratching at the door. It's Frank, one of our beloved pigs. I scoop him up in my arms. "He has the sniffles!" I declare. My husband jumps to his feet. "I'll ring the veterinary doctor at once."


The rain, now hammering the cottage, comes down in sheets and floods the windows. We wait. Then ... a knock at the door. I open it. A figure stands in the rain. The sky, once a mixture of greys and blacks, suddenly turns to crimsons and purples. It is a phantasmagorical sight. As the identity of the figure becomes clearer, I realize my wildest dream has come true. No it's not the Queen Mother, resurrected. It's James Herriot himself. My fourteen miniature schnauzers greet him happily.

"Hello there good chap," says my husband. "Very good of you to come."


"Where's Jack? Our usual vet?" I ask, my voice trembling with excitement.


"Why, my good lady," says James. "When I heard the call was for Heatherington Cottage, I knew I must come. Why, you are my biggest fan. I couldn't let you down."


He sticks a thermometer up Frank the Pig's bum.


"Let me take that for you," I say, as he gently pulls it out. I wrap it, unwashed, in a Victorian lace handkerchief, and put it in a keepsake box.


James Herriot turns to me, his brow furrowed, his face one of seriousness and concern. "I'm afraid Frank is a very sick pig."


I open my eyes as wide as I can. "Sick?"


"He won't make it through the night."


"Noooooooo!" I screech, collapsing into Mr. Herriot's arms. I can sense that he and my husband are exchanging surprised glances so I take this moment to burrow my nose into his tweed blazer and caress the suede elbow patches lovingly.

After a while, Edgerton pulls me off of James.

"Mr. Herriot is a busy man," he says tersely.


"Yes, yes, of course," I say, my index finger lingering on James' pinkie finger as I slowly separate from him.


"Say hello to Tristan for me," I say as we bid each other farewell. "And of course, Helen, your lovely wife."

And he was gone.

"What the hell was that?" asks Edgerton.


"I'm a big fan."


"Obviously."

My husband throws a pitcher of water on the fire. "Why is it always bloody sweltering in here?"

"I like wood fires."

"Obviously."

I stare out the window and watch James Herriot turn out of our lane and onto the country road.

"Now what shall we have for tea tonight?" my husband asks.

I shrug, not really caring. "Frank?"

Okay, now I feel much better.

I hope my husband understands that the use of his middle name, Edgerton, was essential to this story. "Rob" just doesn't lend itself to a character that says "Capitol idea."

And I realize,too, that Edgerton's snobby accent doesn't suit that of someone who lives in a thatched cottage on the Dales but this is a fantasy after all.

Anyway, this post would have been a lot shorter had I just said what prompted me to write in the first place - that when I am sick I reach for a "comfort book". A comfort book is like comfort food, but, um, not edible. It has the same effect as a bowl of chicken noodle soup. It makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. As you can tell, my comfort book is anything by James Herriot.

So please, feel free to share with me your comfort book(s) by posting them here, at Old Biddy Rambling.
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Heather Smith

The following list of helpful hints will help you keep up appearances in the housekeeping department with little or no effort. Enjoy.
  1. Have you just received a telephone call from a friend saying they're popping over in 15 minutes? Two words: Lysol wipes. Not very 'green' I know, but in about 30 seconds you can give your bathroom a once over and your friends will never suspect the slovenly conditions in which you normally live.
  2. Employ the "interrupted vacuuming" ruse. To do this, simply plug in the vacuum cleaner and place it in the middle of the living room. Then go about your usual daily business - watching television, eating bonbons, writing the next best thing in young adult literature, etc. If someone drops by, or if a family member returns home, greet them slightly out of breath and declare, "Oh, you just caught me in the middle of my housecleaning." This works a treat. Trust me.
  3. Never, ever, have glass kitchen cupboards. Not only is it just another thing to Windex but no longer will you be able to stock your cupboards in a quick and easy nilly-willy fashion.
  4. Ya know how some people have a junk drawer? Get yourself a junk closet, or even better, a junk room. This is the spot where you throw all miscellaneous items. Why spend time sorting things when you could be writing the next Giller Prize winner or watching Coronation Street? It's all about prioritizing.
  5. Hand your significant other a pair of rubber gloves and declare a sensitivity to chemical cleaners. Tell him/her that you've tried your best but the Windex spray is deep in your lungs and you feel breathless and lightheaded. While lamenting your environmental allergies, squint, cough, sniff, gag and, most of all, look disappointed in yourself, as if there was nothing you wanted more than to be able to provide a squeaky clean environment for your family. Then, while your partner is scrubbing away, you can go lie down to recover from the so-called Mr. Clean induced dizziness.
  6. To give the illusion of being a good housekeeper, frequently update your Facebook status with the following: (your name) is cleaning, (your name) is scrubbing, (your name) has a lemony fresh house, (your name) loves the new Lysol outdoor fresh scent, (your name) broke the vacuum again from overuse. (You name) has dishpan hands. You get the idea. Something to note: It is very satisfying to write these status updates on days when your house is particularly untidy.
  7. Have a child in your house under the age of five? Hand them a duster. Looking industrious, they'll wave it over the surfaces and then, at the end of the day, you can update your Facebook status to say: (your name) is happy to say that the duster was in full use today.
  8. Speaking of children, get yourself some. A messy house is always easily blamed on them. If you can't get your hands on any little runts at the very least befriend someone who has a few. Then, when visitors come, you can say "Oh, Mary, was here earlier with her six children, and let me tell you those children are busy. Just look what they've done to the house!"
When all else fails, say screw it. Post these quotes around your house and be done with it:

"A clean house is the sign of a boring person." ~author unknown.

"At worst, a house unkept cannot be so distressing as a life unlived." ~Rose Macaulay

"Housework, if it's done right, can kill you." ~John Skow

and my personal favourite:

"Our house is clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy." ~author unknown

This last quote sums up my house. I refuse to spend my time ragging on my kids to keep things "just so". They should be free to be comfortable in their own house.

So while my house is kept sanitary, it is not perfectly in order ... and that's fitting, 'cause neither am I.
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Heather Smith
My very best friend in the whole wide world, Lisa, gave me a spa day gift certificate for my fortieth birthday. The plan is for us to go together. But I, um, lost the certificate.

In my hunt for it, however, I came across something else 'Lisa' related. A handwritten note from Douglas Coupland. Here's the story:

It started way back in 2002 during a visit with Lisa. The following letter, written to Douglas Coupland that very evening, explains it all:

Dear Mr. Coupland,

I wanted to tell you how I ruined my friend’s autographed copy of Life After God, a book that she has kept in pristine condition for 8 years, and a book that, after only 1 hour in my possession, is now not as it was. I went to Lisa's house and we had a great visit sitting around drinking coffee and talking about books as our children played together. She recommended that I read Life After God. She said it was a good read that both my husband and I would enjoy. She showed me the inside cover which you had signed. The inscription, (which you had written within the outline of your hand) said:


To Lisa, Thanks for helping me hold up that 7-Eleven. Doug. 3-18-94”.

We had a good laugh over the inscription. I then placed the book inside my canvas bag along with all of the other things I have to tote around in a day: diapers, toys and, regretfully, my kids ”supposedly” spill proof cups. You know where I am going with this, don’t you? Yes, little did I know, that on my drive from London to Waterloo, one of these cups was leaking onto the book, smearing the inscription.


Shortly after I got home I decided to take the book out and have a look. When I opened it and saw the damage my heart sank. I called my friend to tell her what had happened and apologized profusely. “It’s ok. Don’t worry about it,” she said. To which I replied, ”Don’t ever lend me anything else again. I can’t be trusted.” Lisa laughed. “Really. Don’t worry.”

Still, I worry. I want to right this wrong. I know it is a long shot but I would love to have that inscription re-written on a piece of paper so that I can place it inside the book, next to the smeared one. I wonder if it is possible for you to do this. It would be a great help. I would again be able to live guilt-free!!
Thank you.

Sincerely,
Heather Smith


PS I am sincerely hoping that you do not receive another letter that starts: “Dear Mr. Coupland, I wanted to tell you how I loaned my copy of Life After God to an irresponsible friend….”

I didn’t tell Lisa that I wrote this letter, as I wanted to surprise her with a new inscription when returning the book. I wasn’t sure if I would receive a letter in response from Douglas Coupland but I was hopeful. And then one day a letter appeared in the mail. When I saw “Coupland” on the return address I was ecstatic! Inside was one of the nicest, most touching, handwritten note cards I have ever received. The top half of the card, for me, said:

To Heather, you are a kind and thoughtful friend and the world needs more of you. Best wishes, Doug. ”

The second half of the card, for me to place in Lisa’s book upon return, said:

“To Lisa, who has a good friend in both Heather Smith and Douglas Coupland.”

I was glad to came across Dougie's personal note to me. It was nice reminder that people with a certain amount of celebrity are not always as untouchable as one might think, that they are real people, and that some of them do, indeed, care about the people who feed their success.

Douglas Coupland said I was kind. And thoughtful. I think I love him.

It took me a couple of more days to find the spa certificate but, eventually, I did. On Saturday I will be pampered like a queen, another experience shared with Lisa, another memory in the makings. I just hope I don't spill a bottle of nail polish over her or something while we're there.
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Heather Smith
Way back in the year 2008, I posted a blog entry called "A Face Only A Mother Could Love". It was an homage, of sorts, to ugly actors on TV. And that got me thinking about singers ... because, just as it is refreshing to see an actor in a leading role with a face like a blind carpenter's thumb (see British telly, any programme), it's a welcome break from the Britneys and the Christinas to hear a singer with a 'six pack a day' voice (think Leonard Cohen).

The likes of Neil Young and Shane McGowan seem to be a thing of the past. Turn on the radio these days and you'll hear range, resonance, and runs. Quite the contrast to the monotonous crooning of the above mentioned Cohen.

A voice like a bucket of rusty nails may be grating at times but it's never boring. If anything, it adds character.

So I wonder ... is there a current popular singer on the airwaves today with a voice only a mother can love? I can't think of one.

And I wonder still ... what does Willie Nelson keep up his nasal passages?
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Heather Smith

What's great about pajamas is how different they are from anything else in your wardrobe. Think about it. What else comes close? You might say 'well, they're pretty similar to my velour track suit'. That may be true, but is your velour track suit printed with Hello Kitty?

The thing about PJs, besides their undeniable comfort factor, is their ability to allow a grown woman (or man) to wear childish prints - when else is it acceptable for someone over the age of six to wear Elmo?

I would never wear a shirt adorned with a Muppet but I'd kill for an Animal nightshirt. And if footed pajamas came in adult size, I'd buy a pair in bubblegum pink ... printed with bunnies ... with a flap on the bum.

I know what you're thinking. Where the hell did the velour track suit reference come from? I dunno. I think they were popular, like, ten years ago. You could get them with things written across the bum, like Juicy and Luscious. I'd never wear anything written across my bum in public, but I'd consider Snoozapalooza across the arse of my jammies ... I'm sure it would fit.

These are my random thoughts on my favourite article of clothing, scribed at 7:30 pm, as I sit in my easy chair, already wearing my 'slices of cake' pajamas.

I know what you're thinking. Who the hell says 'easy chair'? Apparently I just turned into a seventy-five year old man, in which case I need to get myself off to Sears for a pair of button down pajamas, tartan, flannel, and with a matching robe.

I might even get myself a night cap.
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Heather Smith
My friend, Nan, will appreciate this post because what I'm about to rant about happens to her all the time.

Whenever I tell people that I write for children and young adults, quite often the response is "Oh, I'd like to do that, if only I had the time."

I think the next time I meet a surgeon I'll say "Wow, what a great job. I'd like to give that a bash, if only I wasn't so darn busy."

Okay, perhaps I'm stretching the argument. But for someone to flippantly suggest that "time" is the only thing keeping them from being the next JK Rowling is, frankly, bloody annoying. And not only is it bloody annoying, it's insulting. If it's all as easy as they suggest, what does that say about my writing and the fact that it's yet to be published?

So, for all those people out there who have yet to put pen to paper, but have written their Giller Award acceptance speech, realize this: writing for children and young adults ain't easy. Believe it or not, it actually requires talent beyond Dick and Jane.

Becoming a successful writer means more than sitting at Starbucks scribing a masterpiece over a Skinny Vanilla Latte. There are cover letters to be written ... plot synopses to devise ... author's bios to embellish! Becoming a successful writer is hard work - and if the rapidly depleting printer toner doesn't kill you, the rapidly growing stack of rejection letters will.

As a mother of three children, aged 11, 9, and 3, the whole "if only I had time" thing doesn't fly. If you really want to do something, you find the time.

And now I must leave you. There are only so many hours in a day, and that Master of Surgery thesis isn't going to write itself.
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Heather Smith

I like my life. I like what I do and I like where I live. But isn't it fun, every now and then, to imagine yourself somewhere else, doing something different? For some people it may be a tropical paradise they dream of .... for me it's the Yorkshire Dales.

Yes, I can see me now, drinking tea by the open fire inside my thatched cottage, while my three children, with their windswept hair and ruddy cheeks, chase the chickens around our extensive acreage. "A lovely day for a jaunt," I think. So I hop on my bicycle, say Cheerio to the children (it's the Yorkshire Dales, they'll be fine) and ride toward the village shops. Being neighbourly, I stop by Fred and Flossie Thompson's farm. You see, their only son, Frederick Jr, tired of the farming life, went to the big city to work as a barista in one of those new fangled coffee shops so I thought I'd see if Fred and Flossie (an elderly couple) would be needing anything while I was out. They did ... but first, we had tea. (I drink lots of tea while living on the Yorkshire Dales.) We chat for hours. (The kids are fine). Then Fred and Flossie give me their list:

tea, English Breakfast
tea, Orange Pekoe
tea, Earl Grey
sugar, 2lbs
milk, lots
white bread, one loaf
butter (creamery whipped), 4lbs

Apparently that's all they need to survive. I hop back on my bicycle and head to the village, hoping my quaint wicker basket on the front is big enough to hold the load. I wind down country roads breathing in cow manure. Ahhh, this is the life. I come across a pub. Three pints of ale and a Ploughman's lunch later I'm back on the road, but I don't know where I'm going or why. I find my way back to the cottage. My husband greets me at the end of the lane and asks me where the hell I've been - the kids have been stuck in the henhouse for hours and the thatched roof almost went up in smoke due to the unattended wood fire that had been raging out of control.

Hmmm. Perhaps such dreams are best left to a less overactive imagination.
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