Unusual Pets & A Pet Store Mixup

Mystic The Owl - Clovelly

Walking into Clovelly from the coast path last week, I was taken by how the woman’s hair in the photo matched the color of the owl’s eyes. When I politely squeezed my way into the conversation, I was moderately surprised to discover that the six-month old Bengal Eagle-Owl was a pet out for a stroll and not a money making opportunity for the woman you see holding it.

She told me she’d bought it from a breeder when it was only 10 days-old and had hand fed it so now it thought of her as its mother. I found it odd to see an owl out in the early afternoon and asked her about it’s sleeping habits. She said it stayed in the bathroom at home and was awake  so she had decided to bring it outside for a bit of air. I never got around to asking her what she fed it, but when I looked it up online, I found that while they eat rodents, instead of swallowing them whole as I’d imagined, they like to tear them up first. I’m pretty sure I would not want to clean up her bathroom after her owl had a meal.

Hearing that she kept it in the bathroom made me think of a pet that I’d when I was 23 because I kept it in the bathroom too when I went to work during the day. Delilah, or Dilly as I called her, was a skunk. I’d bought her at a pet store on impulse without doing any real research on skunks, a decision I quickly came to regret. Although she was cute and fuzzy like a kitten, she soon let me know that she was no pussy cat. Dilly had a wild animal’s temperament despite being fed and housed by me and she had a few habits I did not find amusing.

I’ll admit I thought it was kind of cute at first when she’d stamp her feet at me and back up with her tail in the air trying to use what nature gave her when she needed to run off a predator, but having been de-scented before I bought her, all she could do was a funny looking backward bounce step while looking over her shoulder to gauge the effect. It’s interesting looking back now at the way she knew what to do instinctually and I feel bad that I must have done something to cause her to respond in a protective mode.

Dilly was a terror at redecorating as I quickly discovered when I came home from work one day to discover that she’d torn up huge chunks of the bathroom floor while I was away. It seems she’d found a loose tile and pawed at it until it came up. Once she’d pulled out the first one, the others came up like dominos in reverse as whole rows of tiny ceramics tiles found their freedom. It was a mess!

I accepted this in much the way a new pet owner would the accidents that go with training a new puppy not to chew up the furniture or wee on the carpet, but when Dilly began to bite despite my attempts to discourage her, I decided I’d had enough.

In frustration I called the pet store and after having going back and forth with the owner, we agreed I could give her back so she might be re-homed. I told him that I didn’t want a refund, I just wanted him to take her back. He searched through his list of interested people and found someone who was willing to take her and I drove her back the the pet store where I thought they were expecting her.

Only they weren’t expecting her when I arrived, at least not at the pet store where I left Dilly. There was a teenage boy there who said he didn’t know what I was talking about, but I explained that I had spoken with someone there who said I could bring her in for her new owner to pick up. After a lot of back and forth, he took Dilly and I made a mad dash for the store exit, rushing back to my car in a hurry to get to work.

A few hours later, I received a phone call from the pet store owner asking about Dilly. I said I’d dropped her off like we’d agreed and explained about my interaction with the guy who’d  finally taken her from me.

As it turns out, I had taken her to the wrong pet store. It was an embarrassing mistake especially as the pet store owner had worked to find her a new home. It all got sorted and she finally made it to the right place, but I felt really stupid.

Mystic, the owl looked well cared for and unlike me at the time of my skunk experience, her owner looked mature enough to take on any issues that might come up. I did ask her about longevity and she admitted that with some owls living up to sixty years, you needed to have a backup guardian lined up in case the owner died first.

Sorry for the blurry state of this image, I was a long distance away when I shot it. If you look you can see the empty glove and leather straps used to hold the owl, while Mystic, is tucked under her owner’s arm like a small dog.

In the video link below, you can see two very cute baby Bengal Eagle-Owls. One is moving his head in the same way I saw Mystic move hers. Her owner said that was how they focused their eyes and hearing.

Baby Bengal Eagle-Owls

 What’s your most unusual pet story?

Memorial Day 2012 – Put Down That Plate Of Barbecue And Think About Today

From where I sit this morning, there are no “Buy one, get one free, sales” and no families planning a cookout or any opening day festivities at the neighborhood pool. No one here is celebrating the end of the school year or the beginning of summer. It’s just another Monday. I’m not even sure my friends in UK community know what today is in the US. I don’t expect them to, but it’s kind of lonely in a way.

Today is Memorial Day in America and it’s national holiday meant to remember those who died in wars or other military conflicts. It always occurs on the last Monday in May creating a three-day weekend for vacation-hungry Americans and while it was never intended as a day for shopping or beer drinking and pool-side fun, 147 years after its post Civil War beginnings, that is all Memorial Day means to many people. I will confess that before I moved to the UK and despite having served in the Army myself, I tended to fall into the category of seeing it as a much needed day off from work.

I’ve realized how important the day itself is having watched the Remembrance Day ceremonies here in the UK for those who died in wartime. It occurs every November 11 when the leaves are gone and the sky is more likely to be grey, all of which adds to the solemnness of the occasion. People are primarily focused on honoring the war dead on that day with rituals and traditions that remain much the same as they have since WWI ended and Remembrance Day began.

I wish our Memorial Day had more focus on the sacrifice that inspired it and less on shopping and summer celebrations.

This is not my first Memorial Day post and it’s interesting to see the progression of my thoughts since moving to Cornwall. You can read more if you’d like by clicking the links for 2010 & 2011. In 2010, I wrote about Eleanor Grace Alexander and later about my great-uncle, Hugh Lee Stephens who died in France just before the end of WWII.

If you have someone you remember on this day and would like to share them with us, please leave their name in comment below or if you’ve written a Memorial Day post, feel free to leave a link.

El

Where Is Home … When Your Accent Morphs Into Something Neither Here Nor There

“You’re a long way from home … are you Canadian?”

When I first moved to England four years ago, I sometimes felt a bit shy going into stores or meeting new people in public places, I tended to keep conversation to a minimum which you’d find really funny if you knew how chatty I am. My hesitancy to speak up reminded me of when I lived in Germany and how embarrassed I was when stumbled over language.

It’s funny that even though English is spoken in the US and the UK, some words can have vastly different meanings and pronunciation, both of which can be an opportunity for your listener to have a hearty chuckle at your expense.

Take the word Derby, which is the name of a city here that has come up in conversation before, if I’m supposed to pronounce it as Darby instead of Derby, I think it should be spelled that way. I’ve had this talk a few times with John and it usually ends with me saying something along the lines of, “Am I’m supposed to intuit some other pronunciation other than the obvious one?”

His response is never satisfactory and usually involves Kansas and what he refers to as ” R-Kansas ” instead of pronouncing Arkansas as we would in the US. He keeps using this example to counter those like the one above, while there are many others I can use such as pronouncing Mousehole like Mowzel (Mousehole is a village in Cornwall.) I don’t mind being corrected when these things come up, but the smirking or laughing people do when you say it as written does feel a bit much.

After almost four years of living in the UK, having an accent that makes people pause no longer bothers me nor does the question that always follows … “Are you Canadian?” Ask a Canadian that question and a Brit will tell you how upset they get, but I never mind and find it funny when people here say Canadians have softer accents, with many people going so far as to say they are less loud than Americans.

People I meet seem to have this idea about how Americans sound in general and based on what they say to me about volume along with their attempts at replicating an American accent, I think at least half of them must have gleaned what they think they know from watching American made gangster movies or the sometimes odd variety of imported American television programs that I see on my Brit TV.

It’s as if they think life in the US is one big gun convention where we all talk like the most recent version of whatever New York based crime show is bringing in viewers.

There tend to be a couple of themes when people are showing off their best version of an American accent, most of which sound like a bad caricature of real life. These themes seem to come directly from American television or our big screen movies and it’s been my experience that they generally fit into one of the three areas below.

Westerns ~  I’ve said this before about my husband whose best impersonation of an American accent tends to sound like a mix of between a 1950s black & white western and George W. Bush. (He’s not alone in this one)

Crime Shows ~ I call this the “Say it fast and loud approach” and they almost always include a gun reference with this one when showcasing their take on how Americans speak.

Southern ~  (Being from Georgia, this one is my personal favorite) The southern accent they offer up makes Americans sound as if they’re  extras from The Dukes of Hazzard, The Walton’s, or The Beverly Hillbillies, all of which they’ve seen in reruns over here. If I had a pound for every time someone here said, “Night, Elizabeth, Night, John-Boy … ” Ugh! I just give them a good “you ain’t right” kind of head shake  and go home when this happens. But the best and by that I mean the worst, is the occasional reference to the movie Deliverance when I say I’m from Georgia which usually involves what’s meant as a knowing look and a few words about banjo’s and pigs  … I think you get the picture.

Probably the oddest exchange happened when a 90 year-old woman asked me where I was from and after hearing me say Georgia, spoke Russian to me. That was funny!

Most of the time I don’t mind being teased about being different and I’m not too “bovvered by those who like to believe we all fit in one of the three categories I mentioned above, but I have to say I do get a bit irritated when they pull out the old standby of how they think Americans do British accents.

Mary Poppins was made in 1964, and meant as an entertaining bit of fun, but many people here still use Dick Van Dyke’s version of a Cockney  accent to illustrate their argument that Americans can’t do British accents whenever I suggest that their idea of an American accent is lacking in authenticity.

To counter the Dick Van Dyke legacy, I usually bring up a few American actors who’ve won accolades with their British character roles such as Meryl Streep, Renee Zellweger, and Reese Withersp0on all of whom manage to sound throughly British, but Dick Van Dyke remains the default example of an American attempting a British accent.

My sister, Margaret and my daughter, Miranda would never say I sound Canadian as they go automatically for a Madonna comparison. I think Madonna’s a bit of a stretch for me especially since no one else ever cites my speech as Madonna-esque.

I do understand why Madonna’s “people” have said that she was not was putting on a fake accent but picking up the accent of the area where she lived instead. I’ve had the same thing happen to me where I suddenly start to sound like the people I spend a lot of time with so it’s no wonder mine sounds different now.

Living in Cornwall, you’d think I would sound more Cornish than Canadian by now and I promise I’m really not trying to sound like Madonna, When I choose to fake a British accent, I prefer something a little more exotic like the East London sound you hear on Eastenders. (Click the link,” if ya wanna hav a larf”)

While I tend to look to Catherine Tate’s characters for vocal coaching because they do make me laugh, the next time someone launches into a hearty rendition of a mutilated American accent, I may be forced to contrive a posh English one loaded with all the majesty I can muster to let them know that like another Elizabeth,  “We are not amused!”

Speedy Evie Fairman Carries The Torch For The 2012 London Olympics

Evie Fairman, London 2012 Olympic Torchbearer with her proud Mom

There are times when I’m fortunate to be standing in just the right place to see and capture a moment that touches my heart. On Saturday I got a bit teary watching my friend, Julie greet her daughter, Evie as she arrived at the spot where we’d been waiting to cheer her on. Fifteen year-old Evie was one the special folks chosen to carry the Olympic flame through Cornwall and she did her family proud in her role as an Olympic Torchbearer.

The Olympic flame will pass through quite a few more hands before reaching London in time for the 2012 opening ceremony in 67 days and while I won’t be able to see any of the events live as I’ll be in the US for most of the Olympics, I won’t forget watching Evie run or the tender mother-daughter embrace on Evie’s big day.

I managed to get a few shots of Evie posing for pictures while she waited for the torchbearer before her, (#105) to arrive with the flame. You can see her with her torch as it looked before the big kiss … (the moment the flame is passed is called a kiss.)

I’ve lifted a bit of Evie’s nomination story from the Torchbearers site so you can read more about her, but let me just say having run along side her through the crowds yesterday with her dad, brother, and loads of other people all trying to get a photo, I learned that  … Speedy Evie Fairman can really run!

“Although Evie was born with only half a working heart (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome), she has always lived life to the full. From playing football and taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme to singing in the school choir and performing in musicals, she takes everything in her stride. She is an active member of the Youth Council of ‘Little Hearts Matter’, a national charity set up to provide support and information for children with single ventricular heart problems and their families, as well as raise awareness of the conditions and the care and attention these children need. As part of her Youth Council work, Evie spends a lot of her time mentoring other younger members, giving them advice and a chance to discuss their anxieties. By participating in major fund raising efforts and writing to celebrities for their help, she also works hard to help raise awareness which will only lead to more heart babies being treated swiftly soon after birth. Recently the City of Birmingham (where the charity’s offices are situated) recognised the extraordinary efforts of the Youth Council by giving each member the Freedom of the City. Evie may only have half a heart but she uses it to the full. She is an inspiration to all who come into contact with her and I feel honoured to be one of them.”  (Evie was nominated by one of her teachers at school)

Evie with her brother, Fred and her mom, Julie. (Sorry about the focus)

She posed for photos like a red carpet veteran.

The Kiss
I love the look on her face in this shot and the energy of the crowd scrambling to get a photograph. There were people in trees and hanging out of windows along the way.
This one looks as if she’s getting some last-minute advice before she takes off.
Security was tight with loads of police officers along the route.
In addition to the police, Evie had Olympic escorts who ran with her and kept the crowd from getting in her way. She was just about to begin running in this photograph. Notice the van in front with the camera crew in the back. There was point when the van driver had to speed up because Evie was running so fast.
And then she was off!
I was running along with her dad, Ben while he was trying to hang on to her brother, Fred and shoot video at the same time. People were running all around us so it was a bit hectic, but very exciting.
I stopped briefly for the dog shot below. It had come off its leash somehow and was frightened by all the bodies running past. I was going to try to help catch it, but the dog’s owner grabbed it right after I took the photo.
I got behind them after slowing down for the dogs and it was about here that I realized my friend Nicola Mitchell was there too when I saw her just above Fred’s head. She’s holding the cell photo with the pink stripe around it.
Fred couldn’t see a thing as was the case with me in the next minute and then he was lifted up for a better view. This was the moment where Evie passed the flame on to the next torchbearer, but I couldn’t get a shot of it. You can see the flame and torch just behind the police officer’s head.
On the far right you can see the last bit of the flame. Evie’s dad, Ben is right in front of me with the video camera and her brother, Fred has the best view of the exchange.
The was a party afterwards at the pub with family and friends making a great finish to a fun afternoon and evening. Well done, Evie!

Buttercup Madness & Mid-May Diversions

It’s one of my favorite times of the year in Cornwall when the buttercups go mad popping up everywhere. The weather has been iffy for the last few weeks and I’ve been feeling slightly desperate to see a color other than grey. Yesterday delivered big time so John and I went out for a walk in the afternoon after I finished with work.  I was getting ready to photograph him sitting in the buttercups when he disappeared!

You can barely see him in the shot above.

When I looked up to see where he’d gone, I found him flat on his back soaking up the sun. A few weeks ago the buttercups were just beginning to show up, and I wrote a post with links explaining why this meadow is so special to us. You can follow the link if you’re new to GOTJ and interested in learning more.

Ahhh … there he is!

John snapped this one of me while I was trying to get a macro shot.

We posed for a timed shot with the buttercup field behind us before moving on for a walk through the woods.

From this angle you can see the buttercup field through the trees. This area is stunning all year round and John and I often talk about how lucky we are to have this walking distance from our home.

This tree with its fresh new leaves was more beautiful than my camera could capture and too large to get more than a bit of it in the shot.

Walking on a bit, I saw a path I had not explored and was off down the hill to see the water I could hear below.

Again, my little Canon can’t begin to communicate how beautiful this space is or how the water rushing over the rocks in places sounds like people murmuring together, carrying on a conversation I can’t make out.

The banks and surrounding area have these gorgeous bluebells scattered all around.

After hearing John calling out to me saying he was going on, I hurried up the hill to walk the rest of the way with him.

We walked on reaching the village by way of the main road after we left the wood and we saw a common sight, where riders on horseback share the road with cars. That’s our village church in the background.

Have you got a favorite place you go to clear your head or find your balance after a tough day? Nature always does it for me.

Mother’s Day – Blooming Through The Bitter & The Sweet

Some celebrations are not always happy ones and Mother’s Day probably causes more angst than most for many people each year. If you’ve been reading GOTJ for long, you already know some what makes it both bitter and sweet for me.

The sweet is clearly visible in the image above. My daughter Miranda is only a few hours old in this photograph of my step-mom Cullene, holding her for the first time.

What I know best about ” mothering and being mothered ” I learned from these two precious people and it’s important for me to be sure they know it especially on days like today.

Cullene, like most mothers would tell me not to get her anything to mark this day, ” No gifts please, a card will be fine … ” and I understand exactly where that comes from especially with a child of my own, but while a card may be enough for her it isn’t enough for me.

Being so far away, I miss spending time sitting and talking with her in the chairs by the kitchen fireplace like we do when I’m there, making it more important for me to give her a little reminder of how much she means to me since I’m not close enough to show her in other ways.

A few years ago, I discovered that my favorite tree from my home in Georgia also grows here in Cornwall. Being in the southwest of England, we have just the right kind of environment Dogwood trees need to thrive and bloom.

When I first saw pictures of the jewelry my friend Leslye was making I fell in love with one piece in particular and it pleases me greatly to be able to give one of her dogwood flower necklaces to Cullene for Mother’s Day.

Leslye was the first blogging friend I met face to face as she lives in Atlanta and we’ve seen each other a few times since. Fittingly for today, her blog is a mother-daughter collaboration where she and her daughter share their photos and thoughts.

I like the idea of Cullene having a tangible reminder of what I am aware of everyday … that I am better able to bloom through the seasons of my life due in large part to her care and nurturing.

She won’t see this post until after she opens her present so I’m giving you a sneak peek at the lovely work Leslye does over at Autumn Sun Jewelry.

Autumn Sun Jewelry

Autumn Sun Jewelry

I’ve included two images so you can get a good look at the necklace before it’s boxed up by Leslye and sent, along with the bottom one so you can see it as Cullene will when she opens it.

Isn’t that the sweetest way to wrap a gift inspired by nature … I wish I could be there to see her face!

Prom Night – My Grand Entrance

The American tradition of a prom night bash for teens migrated to the UK some time ago and a conversation with some of the girls at our pub about their dresses sent me searching through my files for a photo of mine. I seem to remember floor length and sweet as being very in style in 1977 unlike what I think of as the “sexy too soon” look that has been the rage for a long time.

I’d be willing to bet none of the girls I talked with will be wearing anything as demure as my cream-colored Gunne Sax dress with all of its lace, and pearl buttons. I’m not saying sleek and glamorous should be ditched in favor of a dress that looks as if you’re practicing for a premature walk down the wedding aisle, but do girls have really to look so old, so soon?

In the photo above, I’m standing in front of my high school sweetheart’s house making some serious googly-eyes at him. Looking at it now you’d never believe the experience we’d shared less than an hour or so earlier when he’d arrived at my house to pick me up for the evening.

I’d spent all afternoon getting ready as I struggled to make my normally stick straight hair bend to my will. It took less time than I expected so I was ready before my date was due to arrive. My step-mom, Cullene saw his car (no limo for us) coming through the trees down the long gravel road that connected our home in the woods to the rest of the world. She suggested that I should go back upstairs so I could come down the curving staircase and make an entrance befitting my dress and the occasion.

Lifting the hem of my dress a few inches so as not to trip, I ran up the stairs and stood off to one side so I couldn’t be seen from below. I listened as my dad opened the door and greeted my boyfriend and then heard Cullene say, “Elizabeth, Scott’s here.” Pausing for a moment at the top of the stairs, I looked down over the railing smiling at my boyfriend who was wearing a dark suit that he could wear again instead renting a pastel tux, a look that was very popular that year.

It was the most dressed up I’d ever seen him as he lived in jeans and t-shirts no matter what the season, but I didn’t have time to think about how handsome he looked or what he might be thinking about my dress because as my eyes met his and I took the second step intending to glide down the stairs like a romantic figure in a Jane Austin novel, my new shoes slipped on the carpet causing my feet to go straight out in front of me as the heels of my shoes snapped off. I hit the stairs hard and slid on my backside, bumping down three or four steps before coming to a stop.

I was shocked out of my embarrassment when I heard Cullene say, ” Oh Elizabeth! Are you okay? ” Almost as soon as I said, ” Yes,” I heard my family begin to laugh nervously as if they were having trouble keeping it in but didn’t want to hurt my feelings. I was laughing too before long and poor Scott, who didn’t know what to make of us by now laughing like we were coming unglued, shook his head and walked towards the door doing his best to keep from losing it too.

After realizing my high-heeled opened toed sandals had suddenly become flats, I worried aloud about what to do for shoes until my dad grabbed a hammer and some small nails and pieced them back together so we could go on to the prom.

There are of course other parts of the evening that I remember, such as our expensive dinner with its tiny portions and the grandness the Fox Theatre’s Egyptian Ballroom, but the most memorable moment for me remains my dramatic entrance and how quickly I bounced back afterwards.

I’d love to hear your prom night stories if you have one or a most embarrassing moment if you’re feeling brave.