Crowded places, kids, and fear

I'm off up to London with DD at the weekend. I'm meeting up with my brother and his family at Comic Con and I am really looking forward to an excuse to wear my Morphsuit and dress as Deadpool again, I even bought some plastic ninja swords to add to the look.

But after the Manchester attack and the tragic loss of life at the Ariana Grande concert on Monday I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous, maybe even scared. Obviously I'm going anyway. As daily news stories point out, I could just as easily die on the drive in to work as in a terror attack, and terror is of course what these evil people hope to cause.

The whole thing has upset me, as I'm sure it's upset everyone. I sway between tears as I read about the beautiful people who died, on a night where they were with friends and family having fun, and then laughter as social media does it's best to snark at terrorists and fight light in the darkness. (see more on the hashtag #BritishThreatLevel on twitter)

I take great solace in reading of the things people did, and continue to do to help others, from kind words, free taxi rides, helping the injured, donating to help with hotel bills and funeral costs.

It is in the aftermath we see the truth of people, many will say we see the best of people, sadly we also see the worst of people, the vile and the racist and the spiteful, this sort of event displays the best and worst of humanity, so I hang on to the images of love and kindness, I look for the helpers.

Talking to DD about London, among my quips about dying wearing a Deadpool costume (oh the irony if that happens, but at least the blood won't show) I talked to DD about plans for us if there was a terror incident, I said that she should use me as a shield, that if we couldn't get out she should lay under me to stay safe, she looked into my eyes, her own eyes wide in surprise, saw my sudden seriousness and nodded, "yes, OK" she said, "but if we are OK, if other people are hurt, we are going to help, I'm going to wear an extra T shirt in case we need bandages..." and there it is, the best of people. I'm proud and heartbroken in equal measure. Not all super heroes wear capes, not even at Comic Con, some wear an extra T shirt.

So I fully expect a fun day out, and I'm trying to keep fear to the back of my mind and keep love and kindness to the fore.

I'll be sharing Comic Con photos after the weekend. Stay tuned.


Wordy Wednesday with author Michelle Birkby

This week on Wordy Wednesday an interview with Michelle Birkby, who writes historical crime fiction, focusing on women.

So of course I asked her why and she said:
I love history, and crime, and think there aren't enough female detectives - or villains for that matter - out there, so I wrote some. I'm currently writing the Mrs Hudson and Mary Watson Investigations, which starts in The House At Baker Street and continues in The Women of Baker Street.

Mrs Hudson is, of course, Sherlock Holmes' housekeeper and Mary Watson is Dr Watson's wife. In The House at the Baker Street they take on a case Sherlock Holmes rejects, dealing with a blackmailer and it becomes far more dark and dangerous then they could imagine. In The Women of Baker Street, Mrs Hudson finds herself in hospital, and sets about investigating mysterious deaths there, as Mary investigates the disappearance of street boys. They soon find the two cases are linked.

Intriguing indeed! and now, knowing more about Michelle's books, we must move on to the probing questions you all know and love, don't worry, she is asked the biscuit question...but first

Do you have another job or are you a full time author? If you do something else (international spy?) what is it and do you like it?
I was surprised as anyone when I woke up the day after my first book was published and found I wasn't immediately as rich as J.K. Rowling! So, until that happens, I do agency admin work. It means I get to work in lots of different places, doing lots of different things, meeting lots of different people. It can be fun, and it can also be awful. I would prefer to write full time.

Why did you start writing?
I've always written, ever since I was a child. My head is just full of stories that I had to get out. It wasn't enough just to tell the stories to myself, I wanted everyone to read them.

3 things that are guaranteed to make you smile.
Victoria Wood
A new book to read

Michelle Birkby author

Do you have any pets? 
No pets now.I did have a Russian Dwarf hamster called Boris once. He kept biting people and was very bad-tempered, so suppose pets do become like their owners. (I don't actually bite...)

Who is your favourite author? Do they influence your writing or are they a total break from the sort of thing you write?
Just one favourite author? No, I need two. I love Charlotte Bronte - all that dark passion and angry, independent heroines. And I love Agatha Christie. She writes perfect crime stories. They totally influence my writing. Would Jane Eyre stand for this? Could Miss Marple solve this?

Which book(s) are you reading at the moment?
The Crusades by Thomas Asbridge. I've read about this era in historical fiction so many times, I wanted to read a non-fiction book about it. Les Parisennes by Anne Sebba, another non-fiction book, this time about the women of Paris during World War Two. I just finished Die of Shame by Mark Billingham, which was really good, and I'm just about to start The Shadow Queen by Anne O'Brien. She's one of my favourite historical fiction authors and this one, about Joan of Kent, looks really good.
I can never stick to one book at a time.

Which three cities would you most like to visit and why?
Paris, again! I've been to Paris so many times, but I'm always happy to go again. I love wandering around Montmartre.
Venice. It's beautiful, and it's disappearing.
Rome. All that history! I've read all the Mary Beard and Tom Holland books about it and now I want to see it.

Tell us about the character that you've written that you like the most - no spoilers!
I'm tempted to say Mary Watson, as I like her ability to just charge straight into any situation. But I think it's Mrs Hudson. She's quiet and still and stands in the background and everyone ignores her. However she sees and hears everything, and she's clever, and when the moment is right, she steps into the limelight and is magnificent. I always cheer when she does that.

What is your favourite biscuit?
Bourbons. I like to pull them apart and eat that cream then the biscuit. I am aware that this makes a monster in some people's eyes!

In the film of your life who would play you?
Olivia Colman! Because I just think she's wonderful, and she's so good at playing those characters everyone underestimates, and seems so ordinary and clumsy, but have brilliant moments. And she got to act with David Tennant and Tom Hiddleston. Lucky woman.

If you could genetically cross an animal and a vegetable, what would you pick and why? I like the idea of asparagus and a giraffe...tender neck
A tomato and a small dog. So you'd end up with something small and round and furry and eminently cuddleworthy, and also bright red, my favourite colour.

Grab a copy of The House at Baker Street here

and a copy of The Women of Baker Street here

And find Michelle on Facebook here

Do check out her words this Wednesday (or any day!) and as always a big thanks to our author this week, Michelle Birkby.


How to stop a puppy chewing your stuff


I joked last year when we got a new puppy that I was a puppy expert. Now one year on I'm starting to think maybe I'm just a really lucky puppy buyer!

We got our first puppy before we had DD, back in the 1990s and he was a pedigree border terrier called Diesel. He was my first dog (discounting family dogs when I was a child as they were always fun but rarely my responsibility) He was the runt of the litter, so small and cute I couldn't resist him, (since choosing him I have been told by many people that's a terrible choice, a terrible reason to pick a dog and temperament is everything). He was from fairly good lines but his breeder was not in the 'show world' and his mum was a pet.

We bought a million things for our new 'baby', a dog crate (cage) which was a new idea at the time, an American idea that was rather frowned on here but has since caught on. We bought stair gates and leads, bowls, balls, chew toys, treats, squeaky toys, rope toys, soft toys and throw toys. We had a house full of puppy stuff!

We got our pup in the summer as I was assured that housetraining was easier when you could leave doors open and the puppy would be happier to go out in nice weather and do you know what...it worked! It all worked, Diesel didn't chew shoes, he never nibbled furniture, he didn't touch what wasn't his. After the first night he didn't whine at bed time, he housetrained quickly with few accidents.

When we bought Jeep three years later we followed the same plan, we bought her from a show breeder this time and were matched by temperament, she was crated at night and when we were out, she had an abundance of toys of all sorts so she never bothered with our stuff, she learned faster than Diesel too, because she had him to copy.

Last year, after we had been dogless for over 3 years we realised we needed another and a third border terrier entered our lives. Once again we chose the early summer, Once again we followed the same pattern. Again I picked an established dog breeder. Once again we used a dog crate, bought WAY too many toys. We have stair gates and rules (which have become slightly more relaxed as Miss Fizz is such a stubborn little princess who demands lap time!) but once again we have a dog that doesn't chew things she shouldn't, who I can leave alone with shoes, or handbags, with books and newspapers and she just ignores them.

Butter wouldn't melt....
Fizz was a nippy biter of hands, trouser legs and anything that moved when she was a couple of months old, but while at the time the tiny teeth drawing blood at every opportunity seemed like it would last for ever, looking back we really only had a few weeks of it until she realised she was hurting us and her 'mouthing' during play became soft.

Is the secret a million chew toys and the firm explanation (Via a stern "No" when she nosed anything not hers) ? Is it breeding? Or breed?  or have we just been lucky?

I see so many other blog posts about dogs and puppies destroying school shoes, eating children's toys, ripping up library books and chewing through charging cables that I begin to wonder if there is a secret to it. Fizz even has her own ipad game, and as soon as she sees me open the ipad she swipes at the screen to find her game (I'm not even joking, she's addicted - you can find the dog game for ipad here) and she never bites or chews at our electrical stuff.

So purely from our experience, top tips for not getting your stuff chewed are:
  • Don't leave a small puppy alone with anything it could chew that it shouldn't.
  • Don't leave a puppy alone with children, they are rubbish at  supervising puppies.
  • Crate your puppy when you can't be there.
  • Buy loads of toys, ensure lots of different types, soft, hard, noisy, etc
  • Never give a puppy anything of yours, even if it's old (shoes etc) as the puppy won't know what is his and what is yours.
  • Be firm if the pup tries to touch what is yours.
  • Encourage the pup to play and destroy his own stuff. Buy some cheap toys he can shred for fun.
  • If you encourage your puppy to shred paper for fun, no book or newspaper will ever be safe again. (ditto plant pots - Fizz does destroy plastic plant pots but we keep them out of reach unless we have decided she can 'help' with the gardening)

"I iz allowed to chew this, it iz mine"
Do you have any top tips to prevent dogs chewing what they shouldn't? And has your dog ever demolished something it should have left well alone?