Geoffrey Mather

northtreknews(@ symbol)gmail(dot)com



Life at the bottom

This morning reminded me forcibly of a doctor I used to drink with. "You could go," he would say, "just like that." (snapping his fingers). He went just like that as it happens. But enough of history: let's get to the point:

After days of mournful constipation, small dog Barney, was refusing food of any sort and had taken to his bed. I tried putting slippery elm in what he and me call "meaties". And then he refused to eat. I gave him lots of water and included just a little Andrews Liver Salt and he sniffed and didn't drink it. In the end I accepted the inevitable.

No I didn't have him put down. He hadn't the strength to get up in the first place. I was alone in an otherwise empty chair.

We fought in the porch on several occasions - me trying to observe where his problem lay by lifting the tail at one end and clutching his collar at the other, him trying to kill me, but wagging and growling at the same time. I was attempting our mutual salvation with warm water and a soft cloth.

Eventually I located (this very morning) in matted fur a very hard something or other and with one snip of the scissors I removed it. I was fortunate and so was he. It was not a part of him but something extraneous.

Anyway, to the vet. Visit the First.

I described it in this message to family members who were rooting for the pair of us from the ringside:

"I went, alone, to the vet's this morning and saw a nurse and we had quite a long conversation. I ended up with two small tins of dog food for under five quid. She said Barney should really see a vet, and I thought I didn't feel too well either after the price of the dog food, so no thanks. The conversation got a bit hilarious.

"Nearby were a girl secretary, a big fellow with a tiny kitten in a box, and a woman opposite him with a tiny brown dog. They listened to it all. Nurse asked whether Barney was registered with them. I said, no, if Barney was registered it was not my doing. (I was a bit secretive there: I thought they might inject him with something). "My wife," I said, "really looked after his needs, not me."

"That of course led to - "well can you ask her ...?" -and so I had to explain that she died. "When?" "March."

"Well, she said, he should have got over the sadness of that and be more perky. I said no, he hasn't got over it at all. If I give him a dental stick, he takes up upstairs immediately and puts it under her pillow.

"The nurse was very human. I might go back. In the meantime, Barney stared at the contents of his tiny super-tin (which apart from being food, has other ingredients to aid his condition), tried a mouthful and walked away. If he comes to me with pleading eyes and an atrocious bum once more, he's had it."

End Visit the First; on to Visit the Second.

Desperation point. Barney and me had our usual fight in the porch, both of us growling, Then we were off to the vets. Barney liked the town centre: he had never been there before. Such remarkable snifties. Pigeons. Exotic varieties of piddle at each corner. You could see him warming to the place. Anyway, we got quite close to the vets and without any warning whatsoever he crouched down and did what he was supposed to be doing for days.

He pooped - his equivalent of climbing Everest in pumps. I was, in vulgar terms, gob-smacked.

Motion and emotion were indivisibly entwined at that point. I did what was necessary with a poop bag and we marched on and damn me if he didn't do another smaller one. All that waiting and worrying and he solves matters at the very point of going over the threshold. He must have been waiting for a sizeable audience.

I took him into the vets anyway and the nurse recognised us. Ah Barney. It was quite touching.

And there you are: she suggested a tinned dog food he might not sniff at and I left with two tins of that, one for me if necessary.

(Hang on; I've just been to the bathroom and he's done No. 3!)

The doctor? Why am I reminded of him?

Well, he said he never could remember when patients visited him whether they wanted to 'go' as he put it (progress in motion), or 'stop' as he put it (diarrhoea of course).

And he was on his way on foot to visit an old patient when he saw the patient's son on the opposite pavement.

So he shouted, "Has your father had a motion?"

And the lad replied, "Aye, he has, doctor. Once before he died and twice after."


Two tiny birds atwitter in the garden this morning. I think I understand the language a bit now:

What do fancy doing today? A flip over to the oak tree?
Nah. Been there. Done that.
Yea, ok. You take the cocoanut half and I'll have the berry tray and one or two Nigers for desert.
Damn. there's a robin at the Niger seeds now.
That's all right. Flutter it off. You swoop one side, I swoop the other.
Right. That worked nicely. These Nigers taste old and a bloody blackbird has been at the half cocoanut.
What next?
I dunno. Do I have to arrange everything?
Well there's a pigeon there on the grass and if we fly over it to the garage top we can dib on it before it notices.
There it goes!
Smack on target. Wo-ho! Watch him go! Never knew where it came from. The seagull's impressed.
What now?
I'll think of something.
Oh, oh. Cat coming.
Let's move to the reservoirs. Always nice in the lakes. See the fellows sitting there catching nothing but colds.
Been there. Done that.
OK. Oak tree again for a chirpalong. We can meditate.
ChirpyOMchirp . ChirpyOMchirp


Jack (Lord) Ashley

Sir John Barbirolli

Sir Osbert Sitwell

The Queen at 90

Bryson: the words that smile

The boy in Aleppo

The Queen's Speech that never was

Lord Bragg

Donald Campbell

Sir Neville Cardus and John Arlott

Ronald Carter, blacksmith

Violet Carson (Ena Sharples)

"The magic of Shakespeare swept me off my feet. Then I'm back to 'Ee, by gum' in the Street. It trapped me. It made me, if you like: it has gone all over the world. But it has destroyed me, because nobody sees me or anything about me."

Dame Catherine Cookson,

Earls, Dukes and Godly Men

Dame Gracie Fields & me

Ronald Fraser

Dame Thora Hird

Lionel Jeffries

(Railway Children)

Russell Harty

L S Lowry (above)




"You're not getting your ball back," she used to shout. "You'll kill somebody, you lot."

The crucible (climbing)




Grannie Morshead

Pubs and landlords

Wing and a prayer


Genius Family

Lancashire pride

Is democracy dead?

The best of whimsical fiction

North-South divide

The pleasures and agonies of Spring,

George Best at 20


Summer of 2006


Buddhism (Manjushri, Lake District) Life and Living 1 Life and Living 2 Life and Living 3

Rant: rumbles and grumbles. Lancashire affairs. Snippets: Bits and pieces.

copyright: Geoffrey Mather 2017

  • Retrospective

  • (collected in one spot)
  • On growing old
  • So there they were - Hollywood dominating the world with its Clark Gables, Jean Harlows, Spencer Tracys, Garbos and Bogarts, tears in its eyes, inventive, vulnerable, blessed by climate, limos and money but tormented, insecure and edgy as fledglings in nests.
  • Bennett's art is to take the apparently trivial - his mother's views of "her betters" and so on - and make them meaningful in much larger ways. Miss Shepherd tested all his beliefs and inhibitions one by one. The two of them existed together, but in worlds apart, like aliens. And yet, I suspect, it was the sameness that reached furthest into the writer's psyche. His long essay on Miss Shepherd is superb. Even on the second reading, I was laughing out loud, to the disgust of the dog,, and in the next sentence feeling for Bennett's own agony. So you have this magic formula, where the relationship between two people over 20 years can match the life experiences of us all. 

  • .

    "I am all for the unusual on Page One. I do not read stories of the type headed ' Bandits gag, tie up woman' very much nowadays because people are always gagging and tying up women. Such incidents are as common as gas-oven suicides." 

    Arthur Christiansen

    became editor of the Daily Express in October, 1933, a position he held for 24 years until 1957. During his editorship sales peaked at two million in 1935, over three million in 1944 and four million in 1949. Each day he wrote a bulletin. It was compulsory reading for members of editorial staff. Here are many of those bulletins.

    The Beaverbrook Saga

    The newspaper crisis


    + Molloy of the Mirror + Clive James + Churchill + Big-ego words + Vanishing language + Noam Chomsky's words + Great words of great events

  • In spite of his own eccentricities, he wanted the world to behave as he expected it to. Big companies, shops, waiters and hotel managers were his normal fodder. He terrorised them. When he snagged a coat on something protruding in Woolworth's, he said to the manager, "This is an expensive coat." "I can see it is," said the manager. "I noticed it when you came in." "Right," said Brian Duff, "I expect you to pay for it. And I don't want it invisibly mended because you can see it."
  • Ian Skidmore

    Sir James Scott Douglas (gossip columnist)

    When an editor complained of his booking into an expensive London hotel - the Dorchester as I recall - at the firm's expense, James merely said, "Where else can one entertain one's proprietor?" and the matter was hurriedly concluded, since no-one was prepared to phone (the late) Sir Max Aitken, who bossed the place at the time.

    I asked Jim (I always called him Jim, to be perverse, though it was obvious that he was entitled to James) to find out something one day - on the phone, I emphasised - and he said, "Oh yes, I shall ring" - go on, guess - "...Uncle Essex." It made me wish I had an Uncle Oswaldtwistle

    James had a habit of living extravagantly and encountering hard times, which is how he came to be a journalist. Both conditions were once almost fundamental to the job.

    Pub Talk with Peter Thomas

    Accrington Observer Observed

    Peter Stringfellow

    Edna the Traveller

    The pearl hunter

    Blaster Bates

    RSM Lord

    Concert Secretary

    Champion eater

    Witch woman

    Railway Children

    Mathers of Salem

    Crown and Kettled

    Railway Children

    Billiards halls


    Holy fizz


    TV to do



    St George's Day

    Selwyn Lloyd

    Lt Gen Sir Oliver Leese

    Theodore Major

    Sir John Moores

    Albert Modley

    Beatrix Potter

    Frank Randle

    Bill Shankly

    Les Dawson,

    Fred Dibnah,

    Dudley Doolittle (comic),

    Lady Anne Clifford

    Maureen Lipman

    The Immortal Griffin


    Soccer language