Review: Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee

Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee
Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee by Cee Tee Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First selling point of this book is the author himself. Cee Tee Jackson is an ex-bank manager who runs a pet care/dog-walking business in the West of Scotland and sports a mohawk haircut.

Composed of a series of vignettes, the author shares true stories of his work with animals. The tales range from mildly amusing to hilarious, with the odd sadness thrown in. He has a personable and entertaining style of writing that would appeal to a wide age-range of readers.

Throughout the book, I was greatly impressed by the compassion and patience Cee Tee shows towards his charges, plus forgiveness towards animals with temperament issues. …I’m thinking he must have quite a lot of scars. For instance, he has a chapter titled “The Psychopaths” (a rabbit and a cat, to be precise).

My first job was as a kennel maid, which made this book of particular interest to me. I also used to keep rabbits that were all teeth and claws, and once tried offering a home to a rescue cat that was incurably homicidal (feeling great empathy with Cee Tee here).

Primarily, this is a book that dog owners will find incredibly entertaining. It’s clear that Cee Tee loves his work and hasn’t allowed redundancy (twice over) to tip him over into despondency. In fact I’m guessing, from some of his quips about the bank, that in hindsight he sees his new job as a liberation from an organisation he no longer respects.

However, it is obvious he respects animals and that he revels in his hours spent in the countryside rather than behind a desk in a stuffy office. He might end some days muddy, scratched, and smelling of damp dogs and rabbit wee but — what the hell? — the fellow is happy.

My only complaint about this book is that it is too short. Then again, the author does describe himself as “a bit of a short-arse, with a short attention span”.

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This sharing of book reviews is a new thing for me, as I’ve only just stumbled upon this feature on Goodreads.

The author of Damp Dogs & Rabbit Wee will be guest storytelling here in April. Meanwhile, you might like to visit Cee Tee’s blog

 

Guest Blogger, Jennifer B Graham, talks about the birth of her memoir

Jennifer B. Graham My memoir, An Immoral Proposal, started out as a novel. Its conception began in South Africa, as a forbidden, illegal love story played out against the backdrop of apartheid in 1974.

I approached my story as a novel because it was emotionally the safest mode to go. I felt I, the narrator, could be invisible. I thought all I needed was a vivid imagination and it would be like playing with the paper dolls I created as a child – over a hundred of them – each with its own personality and history. I’d breathe life into them and simply take off from there.

Trouble is, my story is not fantasy and facing the truth was simply too painful. So, in my re-ordered world, I set my family in a Pollyanna world with nice, clean characters.  But I wasn’t making any progress. It was like pushing a wheelbarrow of rocks uphill. The plot was garbled and the characters static and lifeless. Having no compass and not thinking clearly about what it is I really wanted to say, I was more focused on what I wanted to name the “baby”  – On the Other Side of the Fence.

I came to the realization my own story wasn’t one-dimensional but had multiple themes and working those out in a novel was a struggle. Along the way I changed the title to “Ham’s Daughter” but that still did nothing for the book. The whole project limped along in fits and starts leaving me highly frustrated and dejected.

Emotionally, I wrestled with sensitive subject matters in parts of my story, leaving me quite exhausted and depressed. Over the years, I kept putting the project on the back-burner while working through these emotions.  Just like you can’t force a butterfly from its chrysalis before it’s ready to hatch, you can’t rush the healing process.

I carried this ‘baby’ with me from country to country – England first, then Canada and the United States – all places I had lived. From the US, I took it to the ends of the earth – New Zealand!

In ‘The Land of the Long Cloud’, I made another last ditch effort to get this thing going. I asked a publisher friend to cast a critical eye over my novel. We spent a weekend at fabulous Hanmer Springs, a spa town near Christchurch.  Her response was, “Do you have a thick skin?”  She put it to me as diplomatically and gently as she could. It stank!  Looking back, I’m embarrassed to have even given her the material.

I refer to her as my literary mid-wife who told me the ‘baby’ was breech. She turned it around by suggesting that I tell my story as a memoir. “But I thought memoirs were for important public figures,” I replied. Anyway, I took her advice and once I began writing in this genre, the words simply began to flow as I tapped into my wellspring of memories and experiences.

Some were extremely painful and embarrassing to drudge up, but it forced me to confront my fears against which I had well insulated myself with layers of protective walls. Breaking them down was excruciatingly painful at times.

Three winters ago, I took my manuscript on vacation with me to the Dominican Republic where I made huge strides with it. It was there in the dreamy atmosphere of the Caribbean that the present title jumped off the page. After a twenty-five-year “pregnancy”, An Immoral Proposal was birthed on 9 November, 2013 and I’m pleased to say that, although the mother is going nuts with marketing minutia, the “baby” is growing quite well. tree pose Jennifer B. Graham is a self-proclaimed global nomad who began life in South Africa, left when she was 19 and since hasn’t looked back. She’s also lived in England, Canada, USA and New Zealand.

After earning her degree in communication/print journalism from the University of Mobile, Alabama, USA in 2001, she wrote freelance feature articles on topics such as food, health, travel and profiles for miscellaneous publications that include Destinations, Connections, The Press, The Citizen, The Fairhope Courier as well as Triond.com.

Jennifer is a member of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region. An Immoral Proposal is her first book. She lives with her husband near Toronto, Canada. Her five grandchildren split between Wilmington, Delaware and Regina, Saskatchewan, keep her wandering.

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Sarah says: Thank you so much, Jennifer, for guest posting on my blog, and telling us about your fascinating and often painful journey on the way to writing your memoir. I’m sure that some of my blog’s followers who are working on their memoirs just now, will be greatly inspired by what you’ve achieved.

Wishing you all the best with your book and any future projects you have in mind.

Guest Blogger, Uncle Spike: Change of Career, Continent, and Citizenship

For many years I was an avid traveller of far-flung places – basically, anywhere warmer and drier than the UK was my motto. I always favoured those warmer climes, and my passport collected stamps of places like Australia, Egypt, Tunisia, all over mainland US and Hawaii, New Zealand, China, Africa (north, east, and west), India, and much of the Near- and Middle East, plus most of Europe.

Now, I was no rich bitch cruising around on papa’s cash; just an ordinary guy in search of adventure. From the age of 12-13 saw me hitchhike, cycle and train travel much of the UK, before escaping by channel ferry in the early 80s following a bereavement and a subsequent engagement that had gone a bit skewwhiff. And so off I toddled ‘to find myself’ – dunno if I can say I ever did, by the way, but that quest kept me on the road for some three years.

Spike 01_blog

I then returned to the southern shores of dear old Blighty, and eventually settled down, got hitched and found myself stuck deskbound in a semi-respectable job in a bank (after a hearty dose of BS tendered to pass the interview). For the next 15 years or so I worked my up the greasy corporate ladder, ending up in the spotty-faced world of mainframe programming and IT management, way up in Yorkshire. Flat cap, dog, motorbike, and a hilltop stone cottage built c.1750 was the order of the day…. BUT travelling was still central to my agenda. Using all my annual entitlement, plus time-off-in-the-loo, my wife and I mustered some 5-8 weeks away on yonder shores each year.

Many times we came to Turkey; not to the touristy bits, but sampling rural village life, with eventual plans to retire early in such a place – doing what hadn’t even been considered at that stage. This mixed-up lifestyle continued for over a decade, forever working 60-80 hour weeks in order to travel in our spare time.

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Then life’s meaning changed.

My wife was called upstairs rather early by the big man himself, and the work/holiday lifestyle, the job, the plans… well, they all seemed a bit daft really. So faced with a crossroads (my life, not that soap with Benny), I decided to jack it all in and do something; I emigrated to Turkey, became a fruit farmer, remarried, became a middle-aged pop, naturalised as a Türk and then wandered into blogging

My life all seemed quite ‘normal’; until I wrote it down J

To summarise; my life’s guide very much aligns with the words of a certain seagull. The image that follows is a scan of an old postcard that I have had close by me for 30 years…

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Thanks for your hospitality Sarah J

UNCLE SPIKE

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Sarah says: It’s my pleasure, Uncle Spike, and thank you so much for accepting my invitation to guest here.

As an avid follower of your most entertaining blog, Uncle Spike’s Adventures, it was great to learn more about the man behind the Turkish fruit farm!

Hogwarts School of Wizardry, I Wish!

Inspired by Leigh Ward-Smith’s entertaining post Six-Word Stories: On School, I’m going to share with you twenty-one six-word memories of the girls-only boarding school I attended. Why twenty-one? Because that’s my age … hah, hah, I wish. You won’t see me cross my heart and hope to die on that score.

All girls school torture for tomboys.

School tuck box. Lemon sherbets. Toffees.

Not on diet. Pudding third helpings.

Playing vinyl records on portable player.

Terror of lacrosse and hockey sticks.

Sadistic sports teachers with hairy legs.

Sent out of chapel for giggling.

Bogey up French teacher’s nose distracts.

English teacher sings Joan Baez songs.

Art class. Life drawing resembles Queen.

Swearing. Mouth washed out with soap.

Performance nerves. Messes up school concert.

Headache, tears of frustration over algebra.

Slide rules. No calculators. Mental arithmetic.

Writing science fiction instead of studying.

Midnight. Reading banned books by torchlight.

Talking after lights out. Nocturnal detention.

Chicken pox. Mock O-levels in bed.

Blank paper in exams. Time up.

School Prize Day. Nothing for me.

Wishing too late, I’d worked harder.

Previous posts related to school:

School, serpents and sin

A tribute to Roald Dahl: bad school reports versus literary genius

 

Guest Post: Editor, Gary Bonn, Talks About His Fascination for Autobiographies

The sheer joy of editing (really!). Gary 1 290x290

The startling revelations of scary intimacy.

Themes that shock your soul.

Most authors are happy to edit other people’s work. This is often a reciprocal exercise and I don’t know of a single writer whose work doesn’t benefit from their having edited the work of others, or whose writing hasn’t been significantly improved by the labours of skilled and experienced input.

I am an editor, and working on autobiographies is my favourite by far. Everyone has a unique and fascinating life and I haven’t worked on a single autobiography that doesn’t have profound themes.

*Gasps from the audience* “Themes in non-fiction?”

Oh boy, yes.

Currently I’m working on the autobiography of a nurse who worked in the community, in a bombed-out area of London, shortly after the second world war.

As if her descriptions of post-war chaos, the beginnings of the Health Service, the antibiotic and immunisation revolutions weren’t enough to blow my mind, there are social and personal themes in her commentary that enable me to step outside of my world and take a hard look at how things are now—both in my world and in me.

As in fiction, the editor has to work out what the writer is trying to say, exterminating ambiguities, clarifying the unclear, and strengthening the weak. This is the most beautiful challenge, taking people’s often blurry ideas and accounts of real life and working with the writers to make everything crystal clear.

And you learn about the authors. There is nothing more fascinating to me than another human. I…

Oops… yes… themes… ahem. I was getting there, honest.

Themes are the depth of a novel and the most moving element of a personal history. But there can be no richer source of themes than another person.

Everyone heads off into life armed with around 18 years of it and the knowledge that they know just about everything. When amply supplied with 80 years’ experience, and the realisation that they’ve never really known anything, people’s wisdom and humanity are often their strongest points. These can reveal the themes of human existence—and can profoundly shake you.

One client was dying, and this catalysed a unique situation. On toxic levels of medication to fight the oedema that crept, day-by-day, up her legs and would eventually flood her lungs, she started to tell me her life story. Recording it was a race against time as either the medication, or heart-failure would inevitably kill her.

However, she became more interested in my life and insisted, like an interrogator, “I’m asking the questions!”.

So, over a couple of weeks, we discussed ourselves and each other.

What developed from this highlighted just about the strongest human theme imaginable. Fuelled by impending death, my client became increasingly honest and open. She warmly encouraged me to do the same.

I kept taking notes – notes I’ll probably not allow to be published, for both our sakes. Never have I had such an intimate conversation. It was a mutual invasion of each other – but with every question welcomed, respected and handled with absolute honesty and openness.

Scary stuff, asking a question reveals a lot about the person asking it.

We abandoned any moral judgements of each other. She helped me find the courage to follow her lead and ask personal questions. She led us both to a revelation.

The theme? How little we humans know about each other, how much we could know, but dare not ask about; how scared we are of ourselves, of revealing our most intimate secrets, even to close friends and relatives.

I’ve never heard of a conversation so unrestrained. Surely it’s happened to others at some time, but there’s nothing in all the literature and other media I’ve come across that even approaches it.

What emerged, and profoundly shocked both of us, was the depth of separation between people and the desperate tragedy of it. Even in our closest relationships we reveal very little of ourselves and know so little of each other. The tragedy is we are not aware of it.

My client and I realised how lonely humans are, at least in our culture, and how close they could be.

In a world where politicians role-model ways to humiliate and ridicule even a single statement made by another, and strut their momentary moral superiority like posturing cockerels and hens, it’s easy to understand why we’re so timid.

Caught up in this extraordinary situation, driven by imminent and inevitable death, this awe-inspiring and courageous woman pushed us both into a whirlpool of openness and unconditional acceptance. I learned not only how easy it is to accept everything about someone, but also how wonderful it is to have a person know you completely and yet still admire and cherish everything about you, no matter how much you despise yourself .

Maybe the details will never be aired, but, for me as a novelist, this theme is too hot not to handle.

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Sarah says: Thank you, so much, Gary for sharing this insight into autobiographies. I admit to not reading an autobiography for ages, but perhaps I should.

My beloved Grandmother, who died aged 98, read them avidly up to the end of her life. I remember her sometimes getting through about four books a week; then she’d delight me with snippets about whoever she’d been reading about, calling them by their first name as if they were her best friends. 

Other guest posts by Gary:

https://sarahpotterwrites.com/2014/04/05/aprils-guest-storyteller-gary-bonn/

https://sarahpotterwrites.com/2013/12/16/gary-bonn-talks-about-writerlot-where-im-guest-storytelling/

And for anyone interested in having their manuscript professionally edited by Gary, you can check out the details at

http://garybonn.com/about/editorial-services-2/