Writing 101: Serially Lost.

I’m going to write about the loss that always barges to the front of my mind when I think about loss. This is still the case even though the loss in question happened over thirty years ago.

The being that I lost, and whose loss still leaves a hole in my heart is the dog that I grew up with. He was bought by my parents when I was four years old, and he was there at my side until I was fifteen.

In the wider world he wasn’t a special dog. He wasn’t a pedigree, but he was the dog who was there through my childhood. He was the dog who would greet me excitedly when I got home from school, the dog who would sit beside me when I was watching TV or doing homework. He was the dog who I would throw sticks for, but who would look at you as if to say ‘You threw it, you go get it.’.

And years later I realised how much I felt I owed him. I learned the strength of love, all encompassing, unconditional love, and how dogs are better at that sort of love than just about any other animal on the planet. I also learned how important it was to have someone that could listen to what you wanted to say, and they wouldn’t interrupt, and they definitely wouldn’t pass judgement on what you had to say.

When I got older Rex was getting older too. He didn’t run as far or as fast, but he still had a joy in life, in chasing cats and in finding new and interesting smells. He never got used to being left on his own in the house, and would complain vocally until one of the family was home. We suspected that it had never really occurred to him that he was a dog, and he expected human company.

Old age came suddenly upon him. He got old, and slow, and suddenly walking was obviously painful. He could hardly make it out of the door to go to the toilet. Pretty quickly we found out he had advanced cancer and my parents had the awful job of having him put down. I didn’t get to see him go. I’m never sure whether I would have wanted to, to be able to say goodbye, but I know that I will always have such strong memories of him.

Nowadays, we have another dog. It took a long time to make the decision to get a dog. A lot of thought, and one of the things that held me back for so long was the concern about leaving the dog at home during the day. Our dog gets a walk each lunchtime with our local dog walker who loves her almost as much as we do. And my daughter I can see gets as much out of her relationship with Smudge as I did with Rex.

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The Box Trolls – A Short Review.

A quick disclaimer. This post may contain spoilers.

A Warm Hearted Animated Film.

We took my daughter and five of her friends to see this film as her birthday treat. I would consider any children’s film which manages to hold the attention of six 7 and 8 year old children for an hour and a half to be a success, and The Box Trolls definitely met that criteria. And as a bonus it was good enough that my wife and I both enjoyed it too.

The film is a stop-frame animation, though I suspect there may have been some CGI post processing. But there is a lovely section right at the end of the film where two characters are standing talking, and one of the animators begins to be ghosted into the shot as the camera pulls out. This allows you to see both the characters and the set that they are being filmed in, but also the painstaking work of the animators. The speech that one of the characters gives about someone moving his arm in tiny movements is both amusing and full of pathos.

The Story.

The story takes its sensibilities very much from fairy tale type stories. A child has been taken, and is presumed to have been killed by the subterranean Box Trolls of the title. We are given reassurance that the child is safe, and is being raised by the Box Trolls. The child grows up, becomes known as Eggs (from the name written on his box).

Then an exterminator, a social climber who longs to join a Guild devoted to the love of cheese, takes advantage of a public outcry to obtain the commission to rid the town of the Box Trolls once and for all. The Box Trolls, peaceful and kind by nature are no match for Snatcher and his unpleasant crew, and their numbers dwindle rapidly. Eggs decides that they must fight to save themselves.

In this fight it is revealed how Eggs ended up being raised by the Box Trolls, and just how wicked Snatcher can be.

As is befitting for a children’s story, the good triumph, and the bad are vanquished, and those who were uncomfortable with their involvement are given the chance of redemption.

Final Thoughts.

A great film for children that parents can enjoy too. My only complaint is that I found myself trying to identify one of the actors from their voice for almost the whole film. It was a relief when the credits came round and I was able to identify Richard Ayoade.

It Wasn’t A Graduation, But It Was Lovely.

Yesterday was my daughter’s last day at her infant school. She has been there for three years, and has been happy there almost all the time.

To mark the end of their time at the school they held a special leaver’s assembly. It was a simple affair. Once all the parents and other children were seated there was a procession of each of the children down the aisle of the church (it is a Church of England school), while their teacher said something about what sort of pupil they were, and what their memories of the child would be. It was very sweet, each child wearing a hand made cardboard mortar board.

I’m very glad to say that the school wasn’t silly enough to use terms like graduating, graduation or graduate. These are seven year old children who are leaving one school and moving on to another. They have come a long way in the time they have been at their current school, but they have a long way to go as well.

The wonderful parts of the whole event were:

  • The understandably proud look on each child’s face as the proceeded down the aisle while the teacher sang their praises.
  • The multiple photo opportunities for individual children, groups of friends and families.
  • The fun ‘throw your hats in the air’ photo opportunity.
  • The chance to say hi to the former teachers that the children had had, but who had moved on in the interim.
  • A yearbook full of wonderful memories and sweet biographies. The spelling is sometimes hilarious due to the use of phonetics, but the sentiments ranged from sweet, through funny to full of pathos and almost heart breaking sadness.

A new, exciting, and sometimes scary adventure awaits the children who left the school yesterday, but a great deal has been done to prepare each child for a bright future.

Cool Tree, and Lizzie Too.

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Lizzie is at Summer Camp this week. One of the reasons that we chose this particular holiday activity is that the location is just a little walk off of the bus route I use to get to work which meant that with a bit of planning I could take Lizzie each day, dropping her off before walking into work, and then picking her up on the way home. This has worked out well, though the walk is a little further than little legs are really happy with, and takes a lot longer than I had expected! But in the evening we take what I call a short cut, but isn’t really. The Botanical Gardens lie between the summer camp and the bus stop. Normally there is a charge to go to the gardens, but as I work, in part, for the Plant Sciences department, I don’t have to pay. And the walk is a nice one, away from the roads. Lizzie particularly likes the tree pictured, so last night I took a picture. If you look closely you can even see Lizzie standing at the foot of it…