Learning to use a sewing machine

Years ago my late mother in law bought me a sewing machine. I tried to use it, I made curtains with it (very successfully, in one case) and a skirt and that was it. Eventually it got re-cycled to a charity shop. I had started to have problems with it, the tension was wrong and the thread got all tight and kept breaking, the bobbin underneath wouldn’t thread properly and I didn’t have a clue how to use it, correct any problems or even where to start.

Fast forward some 30 years and after a few years of pondering and deliberating I took the plunge and bought myself a new machine. It is a Brother LS14 – very simple, just for beginners, and it arrived while my friend was stopping with me so she could guide me through setting it up and threading it and using it for the first time.

When it arrived I was surprised at how light it was! My old machine was very heavy and perhaps that was partly why I gave up on it. I set it up, and together we managed to fathom out the instructions for threading it up and I set to work on my first project.

I wanted to make a towelling bag to put the dog into when she is wet and muddy, rather than have it all over the boot of my car or in the motorhome. So off I went. I sewed up and down in straight lines, backwards and forwards to stop and start a row of stitches. A couple of jams meant that my tension was wrong so we changed it slightly and no more problems.

I was delighted. The machine is quiet and easy to use. I am looking forward to experimenting more, and I have several other dog related projects (very simple) lined up to have a crack at. I am also thinking about how I can incorporate the machine into my photography. I have several ideas for tactile photos. Not sure if they will work or not so watch this space!



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My First Job

My first paying job for a proper employer was back in the late 70’s. I had done babysitting for friends of the family, but that was infrequent and as there wasn’t a lot of money coming into the home, my Step-Mother suggested that I get a Saturday/holiday job to help with household income, seeing as I was staying on at School.

So, I wandered up and down the High Street, and asked, and asked, and asked and eventually I wandered into the Toy Shop. I didn’t hold out a lot of hope. When you are sixteen with the confidence of a gnat you don’t think you are going to get anywhere.

The old man on the till, looked me up and down, asked me a few questions, said come back for a trial on Saturday – be here at 8.30am sharp. We’ll provide your uniform, no jeans, sensible shoes.

So, I turned up the following week, I hadn’t asked what the pay was, what my hours were, or even if I was going to get paid for the trial! Long story short, I got taken on, given a scarlet red crimplene (yes, really!) dress to wear over my trousers and introduced to the other staff. Shown where the staff room (back shed) was and the loo and left to get on with it.

It was great working in a toy shop, we had to know our stock, what it could do and how it worked. So we got to play with all the new stuff, as well as putting it up in the stick room. I worked there for two years. Did two Christmases. Let me tell you, Christmas in a toy shop is hell. The stock room was groaning from August onwards, and we could have had the staff party in it by the middle of November. The latest must have would have sold out weeks before Christmas, and the bosses would be desperately trying to get hold of more supplies.
The best bit for me was selling the Britains farm animals and Matchbox cars to the children who were spending their pocket money. The discussions over whether to have 2 piglets and a lamb, or one horse and a farmer would go on for ages. The Matchbox cars were in a display and we had to get the chosen item from upstairs.
Eventually, I graduated onto the model trains section and I could discuss Z gauge N gauge, 00 and 0 gauge with the best of them, Hornby trains, Fleichmann, plus the bits and bobs for modelling the sets.

We also had a pram and cot section. The parents would come in to try out the different prams, and we would sell the visivent mattresses, often we got to see the new babies when the proud parents would come back in for supplies of something or another. I remember that Mr Neal would not let a pram go out of the store until the baby had been born and all was well. He would personally deliver the pram to the new family, and I am sure that a teddy was given as well.
I can remember that on Saturday’s when the FA cup or the Grand National was on, the High Street would be dead from about 2pm, but we weren’t allowed to go home, we had to clean the shop, or stock the shelves. One year we entered the town carnival procession. The delivery vehicle was decorated in the yard and driven down the street covered in flags. We had to stay in the shop, but we watched it go past.

It was those days that taught me the value of customer service, something that I have taken with me through out my working life. If we didn’t have an item in stock, we tried our hardest to get it. If we couldn’t, we would tell our customer where they could try instead, and people would come back to us because we cared.

I can’t remember how much I got paid to start with, but I know I finished on a fiver a day. I loved working in the holidays, it seemed like a bumper pay day after a week at work, even if most of it when into the pot at home.

Great days. A Saturday job I loved. Sadly, the shop went by the bye some years later, as shops like Argos and the Supermarkets took their trade. A small family firm, with family values.



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In which Lucky and Tinca show the benefits of training.

When we got the girls, we said we were going to make sure they went to puppy classes. We have had dogs before, and although we do know what we need to do, we did feel rather rusty and our last dog was a terrier with a mind of her own so our confidence was knocked a bit. We wanted dogs who walked nicely on a lead and who came when called (among other things that we are still working on).


Learning to sit.

So both puppies went initially to puppy classes, Nigel handling Tinca and me Lucky. What with one thing and another Tinca didn’t get to as many classes as Lucky, although she is a quick learner and will do anything for her dried food.

Lucky on the other hand is a bit of a diva. She will learn, she is a clever little dog, but she will only do things for nice rewards – ham, chicken, garlic sausage, proper sausages, and cheese, and if she has had enough she stops. Refuses to do anything.

By keeping her treats and training varied we have managed to get a good solid recall – well, at the moment, anyway. Lucky still goes to training classes and I use what I learn to teach Tinca. Now I have written this, it will all go to pot! and we have been working on Loose Lead Walking, not pulling and walking nicely alongside whoever has the lead. Lucky is doing quite well with this, and Tinca has been a bit slower to pick it up (knowing that we have treats, her mind is focussed on this and not what she is supposed to be doing!) and if we go out together, then it goes wrong. Both dogs want to be together and if that means they have to pull to do it, then that is what happens. Normally. Except today was a lightbulb day.

We took them out together, I handled Lucky and Nigel had Tinca. We went in the car to a local river and walked along the bank, and around a field. There was a fishing match being held so we had the dogs on leads by the river and did some Loose Lead Walking with them. THEY DID IT!! not all the way, not all the time, but enough for it to be a very pleasant walk. We let them off as we walked round the field, they didn’t hare off, they came back when called and it was  fabulous.

Training pays off. We had a lovely afternoon.


Asleep – what normally happens after a walk



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In Which Lucky and Tinca go on holiday abroad.

When we got Lucky and Tinca, one thing we knew we wanted to do was go abroad with our dogs in our Motorhome. So when the opportunity arose for us to visit family and friends in France at the start of December, we jumped at it.

Both dogs already have their passport, Lucky came with hers, and Tinca had a visit to the vet for her rabies vaccination and they filled out a passport for her. Job done. You have to wait for 21 days after the vaccination before they can travel. We had Tinca vaccinated earlier so it wasn’t a problem to just book and go. We also got two new ID discs with our details on and my sister-in-law’s french telephone number – just in case!

We chose to drive in the car rather than take the Motorhome, for cost reasons. We opted to go by Eurotunnel as we could have the dogs with us all the time.  So, on the morning of departure we set off earlier than we thought, and had just one break in the 3 hour journey to get the dogs out of their crate. They were sound asleep and not really impressed at being woken up to go to the toilet and they didn’t want a drink either!

The crate we use for travel is a fabric one, they have bedding inside it and it seems really comfortable, they certainly go in willingly and settle quickly. It is more than big enough for the two of them, and fits nicely inside the boot of the car, although we actually had it on the back seat as the boot was full of stuff for Nigel’s sister in France!

I was very impressed by the facilities once we reached the Tunnel, Eurotunnel have definitely thought about the facilities needed. The exercise area is large, with poo bags available if needed, water in a bowl which can be topped up with the tap. Shelter for humans and dogs, places to sit, and obstacles for the dogs to use if they are up for it. Plus a separate area (again, fenced) for bitches in season to use. It was later that we spotted the designated parking spaces for dog owners (coloured paw prints opposite the facility).

We didn’t need to show the pet passports on the way out, or on arrival in France.

As we had an 8 hour journey ahead of us, we had already decided to stop lots of times on the way, however, the dogs had other ideas and they slept a lot more than we expected them to. We ended up stopping about 3 times in the end for them to stretch their legs.

We had a fabulous time with Nigel’s sister and her family, and their dogs. They have got a veg plot which was fenced off and became a puppy playpen. Lucky and Tinca met ferrets and chickens, and got on well with them. They liked the rabbits too! Lucky discovered a passion for digging out mole hills. Messy! We took them for walks along rivers and enjoyed good weather.


Posing on a wall in France

A week went by pretty quickly and we moved on to friends in Normandy. They have a French Bulldog and they have all met before so no issues at all. Lucky and Tinca had a visit to a beach for the first time where they could be let off, and they absolutely loved that. Walks in the French countryside and we had some happy muddy puppies.


Running Loose on the Beach.

Before we came home we had to visit a vet in France for the dogs to be checked over and for them to be given a worming tablet (required for re-entry to the UK). We registered at our friend’s vet who spoke English and she checked them over. Lucky was fine in the waiting room, but closed down completely when the vet tried to give her a tablet, it took a little while for her to forgive us and regain her equilibrium. Tinca just ate hers quite happily!

At the tunnel to come home, we followed the paw prints to the check in centre. Again as soon as we stepped into the building Lucky closed down, began to shake and I had to pick her up to comfort her (luckily she is small!! can’t imagine picking up a big dog!) it took a bit of time for her to get her curiosity back. We decided to let the two dogs sit on my lap during the trip to and on the train, but back in the crate for the main journey back home!


Looking where we are going at Eurotunnel – on the way home.

Once again I was impressed by the facilities for dogs, a closed in exercise area by the check in centre and another where the queues are.

Although we had to pay extra for the dogs, we have decided we would definitley use Eurotunnel for our next trip to Europe with the dogs. An easy way to travel.



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Our New Additions

Since I last put a blog post up on this site, things have changed a bit for me. We settled back slowly into a routine having been living in the Motorhome for three months, we caught up with household stuff and friends, and began to plan our next trip away.

We co-marshalled an owners club rally, which was great fun, and spent time on the South Coast before moving onto Wales and catching up with my brother who was over from Canada. For the first time in ages, all four siblings were in one place at the same time, and a few photographs were taken!

While we were at Shoreham, we kept driving past the Dogs Trust home that is there, in our little two-seater Mazda, and saying to ourselves, shall we pop in and have a look? Each time telling ourselves that our lifestyle so didn’t suit dogs and that we planned to do much more travelling.

Once back home we drew up a list of all the places we wanted to see in the world, and thought about how we  could do it. We threw our ideas at a travel agent specialising in long haul and round the world trips and we got an itinery back and a cost. Gulp. Six months away, a lot of travelling and an awful lot of countries.

Talking to our sons, one said we could only do it if we took him with us, the other said he would miss us and he didn’t really want us to do it. Why not get a dog instead?

I said that as much as I would love to have a dog, I wasn’t going to make the decision about it, that was down to OH.

Fast forward a few months, and we now have two dogs! Not one – TWO! How did that happen?

Both puppies booked into puppy school and a whole new way of life for all of us.

I suspect this blog may turn into the adventures of Tinca (the Cavalier) and Lucky (the rescue) as in the short while we have had them our lives have been turned upside down (in a good way) as they meet things and people and go to places for the first time. Their different characters make for interesting reactions and it is great fun to help them learn about their new lives.

Tinca is now 16 weeks old (4 months) and Lucky is approx 24 weeks (6 months) and both will travel with us in the Motorhome when we go abroad into Europe.


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