Real Friends in a Virtual World: Thank you.

Have a glass of rosé, people! I had a surprise a couple of days ago – I discovered that it was my blogging birthday.

The war-torn veterans of this blog may know that MM has been polluting the blogosphere with her multiple meanderings for two years now. When I started out, I wasn’t sure how long the blog would last, or where I was going. I wasn’t seeking fame and fortune or trying to sell myself. I just wanted to get my writing out of my kitchen – somewhere other than in my head. When I clicked on publish for the first time, my heart practically leapt out of my mouth.

Then I got my first follows and comments, and I was dumbstruck. I hadn’t expected anyone to come across my blatherings, let alone read them. And when I saw the same people coming back again and again, I suddenly realized that I had become a tiny part of a complete stranger’s routine. A stranger who looked forward to reading more. It was scary, but I liked it.

I have pressed that “publish” button umpteen times since, and still get the same thrill out of it. But the most beautiful thing I have discovered is the unexpected support and friendship that has grown out of this blog. I started this for the writing, but meeting you wonderful people and reading about your lives on your blogs has become the best part of blogging by far. Although I’m trying hard to balance it out, I still feel that I have got so much more out of the blogging world than I put into it – all thanks to the human contact and input of the blogging community.

I used to say “thank you for the follow” when I started blogging. Two years later, I’d like to rephrase that as “thank you for the follow-through” – the humbling proof that real friendship can be found in a virtual world.

So happy birthday to us. To celebrate this milestone, I would like you to watch this. I suspect that if I was a nun, I’d be more a Sister Act than Mother Teresa. This young Sicilian nun is a reminder that you should never give up on a dream because of your choices in life, and that we should never judge a book by its cover. Just amazing.

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Five Things You Should Know Before You Marry a Biologist.

Please excuse the deafening silence. MM has hardly touched the ground over the last two weeks. Service will be back to normal soon. Or as normal as it gets around here.

If you have fallen for the charms of a biologist and you’re thinking about spending the rest of your life with him or her, here are a few things to consider before you say “yes”.

1. Biologists can get attached to the species they study. 

This is illustrated by the fact that like any other housewife, I said good morning to the Daltons this morning as I passed their tank. The Daltons are our snakes. Snakes are not cute or cuddly, and don’t get attached to you in any way (apart from wrapping themselves around your arm). Whilst other housewives brush their Westies and give the rabbit a carrot, I pick up snake poo and defrost mice. As I dangled dead rodents over the Daltons’ heads, it occurred to me that the plumber is coming this week to deal with the burst pipe beside their tank. I’d have to check if he was scared of snakes before I let him in. I often forget that the Daltons are there, and realise too late that my visitor is velcroed to the wall several feet behind me, eyes wide with terror as he or she points a quaking finger at the tank.

 "MM resolved to be clearer the next time PF asked her what she wanted him to bring back from his travels.  Rex certainly kept the children quieter than the stuffed toy she had ordered."

“MM resolved to be clearer the next time PF asked her what she wanted him to bring back from his business trip. However, it had to be said that Rex was certainly better at keeping the children quiet than the stuffed lion she had ordered.”

2. Biologists are a fountain of knowledge about nature. 

… and will willingly spout about it if you ask. It’s not just a job, it’s a 24/7 passion – and it’s infectious. A family visit to a zoo or a natural history museum requires rations for a week, camping gear and sleeping bags because PF explains the life cycle, knicker size and favourite TV programmes of every beast we clap eyes on. Any of you who have seen the wonder in a child’s eyes as they see a butterfly emerging from its cocoon should imagine a grown-up man doing the same. PF regularly runs in from the garden, muttering under his breath, and bombs back out with my camera. A cicada’s entry into the world last year seemed almost as fascinating to him as the birth of his own offspring.

3. Biologists never switch off. 

They read scientific articles in bed, correct their students’ exam papers at the kitchen table, and manage to find the only two hour-long TV documentary about traffic management in travelling dung beetle communities. Like little kids, they will find the remains of an insect during a family walk and insist on wrapping it carefully in a paper hanky and bringing it home to find out what it is. If it is unusual or rare, expect it to take pride of place on the kitchen window sill. Your biologist will only remember it once you have entrusted it to its final resting place in the kitchen bin. Childbirth is an event that is too cool for words – on top of the new daddy emotion, PF also got to see a placenta and umbilical cord, for realBiologist daddies don’t just cut the cord. They carefully inspect it when the nurse is looking the other way.

4. Biologists’ children inevitably get bitten by the bug.

I finally got my salad spinner back yesterday after my children hijacked it for use as a temporary hotel for a gang of huge, homeless tadpoles. Having a biologist parent can also cause problems at school: Little My went off her biology teacher recently when she told the class that all cells have a nucleus. Little My begged to differ, and the teacher laughed at her. No doubt eyeing her teacher as if she was an overripe heap of camel dung, Little My informed her that eukaryotic cells have a nucleus, but prokaryotic cells don’t. I suspect that my daughter’s homework will be handled like live ammunition from now on.

If the tadpoles survive, I'll have a good stock of potential Prince Charmings.

If our tadpoles survive, this is what they will turn into. I’ll have a good stock of potential Prince Charmings this year.

5. Biologist “business trips” are unlike all others.

Husbands in films go on business trips. They call from a tastefully decorated designer bedroom in a high-tech hotel somewhere in the vibrant centre of the business vortex to reassure their perfectly manicured spouses (usually prowling around their bedrooms wearing lipstick and cougar nighties) before going out to sign a corporate deal. They return home with perfume, silk underwear and Belgian chocolates.

For a biologist’s spouse, it’s a whole different kettle of fish. Forget Richard Gere, and imagine a hybrid of Richard Attenborough and Man Friday. The last time PF went away, he eventually called me from an island lost somewhere off the African coast. I was clad in my Bob the Builder dungarees and was attacking the sewer from hell with my latest weapon, caustic soda (my eternal thanks to my hero, Papounet, whose miracle remedy has saved me from getting covered in raw sewage and paying huge fees to the local plumber). PF babbled enthusiastically about his hut on stilts boasting all mod cons (running cold water, a noisy fan and a mosquito net), mud, mangroves, crabs, baobab trees, multi-coloured geckos, fruit bats the size of seagulls and sandwich-stealing lemurs. Then told me he had to run – he was invited out for a meal beside the lagoon. Ok, honey, shit happens (in our house, whilst he’s away). He’d come home eventually – with a fridge magnet, sea shells, soggy, cast-off crab exoskeletons to put on the window sill, and a toy lemur. Cos that’s the way we roll.

The Hottest Bitch on the Block.

She’s slim, sleek and blonde, with dreamy chocolate eyes. She shakes her booty with carefully calculated charm, and flicks her golden mane provocatively at any males within spitting distance. Her raw, animal whimper reduces them to quivering, libidinous heaps of testosterone. Her ears prick up and her snout trembles at the mere mention of the unmentionable. Meet Smelly Dog, the hottest bitch on the block.

People usually congratulate us on Smelly Dog’s behaviour. She walks at our heel without a lead, and politely sits and waits until we tell her it’s safe to cross the road. She gives her paw, rolls on demand, and doesn’t rip your fingers off if you offer her a morsel of cheese. But when Herr Hormone gets in on the act, Smelly Dog transforms into a she-wolf. A diabolical dervish with her butt on fire. Nymphodog.

Smelly Dog, the hottest bitch on the block. Forget the wining and dining, kiddo. This girl means business.

Smelly Dog, the hottest bitch on the block. Forget the wining and dining, kiddo. This girl means business.

As Lily Allen sang recently, it’s hard out here for a bitch. For ten days now, poor Smelly Dog has been glued to the front door. She has been possessed by a sudden gnawing desire to reproduce, and spends her day whining and making eyes at the line-up of drooling suitors waiting impatiently on the other side of the window. Instinct motivates her every move, and when she hears the door handle creak she will make a break for the door with a determination I would only show if there was a crate of beer and barrel of peanuts waiting for me on the other side.

Although I can’t smell a thing except the usual eau de mongrel, Smelly Dog’s presence  appears to be a glaringly obvious blip on the olfactory radar of the entire canine population within a 10km radius. They have all homed in on my dog’s pheromones and found their way to our home. The neighbour’s overgrown piece of land now has so many highways stampeded through it that I’m almost expecting toll booths manned by poodles to spring up soon. The day is punctuated by angry voices shouting at male dogs who insist on lifting their legs against the neighbours’ cars, garden furniture and pee-drenched gnomes in a bid to leave an olfactory visiting card for the fair maiden.

This situation makes the usually anodyne occupation of walking the dog a highly dangerous activity. It’s akin to walking a fig leaf-clad Scarlett Johansson through a high security prison, with the added complication of being tied to Ms J by a rope. She is driven by the combined hormonal force of 500 sex-deprived nuns, has no intention whatsoever to escape, and drags you into the fray with all the enthusiasm of a shopoholic crossing the threshold of Harvey Nichols on the first day of the summer sales.

Within five minutes of leaving the house, we are surrounded by mutts of all shapes, sizes, colours and race. This appreciative audience drools silently as Smelly Dog squats to do what a girl’s gotta do.  She pulls me at speed down the lane towards a four-legged lone-ranger, and I slalom between piles of dog poo as the gang of admirers behind us inhale the smell of her offerings with all the melancholy lovesickness of spotty teenagers sniffing a rock star’s sweaty T-shirt.

Remember the romantic Lady and the Tramp scene when two dogs share a plate of spaghetti? Well, forget it. It’s all lies. Smelly Dog is a modern girl: she homes in on her man, then calls the shots with remarkable audacity. Last year, we fixed up a few dates with Eros, the real hunk of a Golden Retriever up the road. The poor lad was soon completely overtaken by events – although Smelly Dog didn’t dress up in black leather and whip out (ar hum) a pair of handcuffs, she wasn’t far from it. She was outrageously flirtatious, and the poor beast was laid out flat on the ground like a spent Goliath every evening. But did she finally let him get his evil way? No way, José. Motherhood was not her cup of tea, and nor was arranged marriage. But teasing her suitor was right up her street. Bitch by name, bitch by nature.

When I took her out for her late-night wee yesterday, duly equipped with large stick and my best menacing voice, the amourous sheepdog was still hiding in a bush. He crept out and shyly flicked his ear out of his eye. It was all Smelly Dog needed as a come-on, and she belted up to him, stuffed her snout in his face as a perfunctory greeting, then did a neat 180. To his surprise, she flicked her tail sideways, niftily reversed and stuck her rump in his face. Shocking. No spaghetti dinner, no Italian music. She didn’t even ask what his parents did for a living. NADA. He couldn’t believe his luck. She turned her head, and I swear she winked at him. He jumped at the chance, only to be shooed away by a furious and determined MM.

Life’s a bitch. Ten more days to go.

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