There are many things worth discussing at the moment: Nelson McCausland refusing to participate in Catholic services and Sinn Fein being outraged (an argument in which I can see neither's side, and yet still find myself getting quite worked up on everyone's behalf), that article by Jan Moir about Stephen Gately, a piece in the Belfast Telegraph about what age children should start school at (of particular interest, since Sister Smile is doing teacher training, and says (more or less) that they are currently operating a bizarre compromise whereby children start school at age 4 but don't actually do anything until they're aged 6 or 7). If you wish to know more on my thoughts on any of these, please indicate your interest in the comments section, and I'll see what I can do, but in the meantime, I direct your attention to 12 new dog breeds created by show groomers, which focusses on people who start with poodles and then turn them into better-looking things, like pandas, dinosaurs and chickens.
I have to confess that I really dislike poodles. I apologise to any poodle-lovers out there; I just can't stand them. I mean, I wouldn't be nasty to them, or cruel or anything, and if I found one in need of love and attention, I like to think I would take it in and treat it handsomely; it's just that if I was faced with a limited choice of dogs, I cannot forsee any line up in which the poodle would not be my final choice.
We used to have a dog called Glen, who agreed entirely with this. Glen was the best type of dog you could get: no stick or ball went unchased, no passer-by went unbarked at, and he was so terrified of vets that he used to sit on the table and shake, and then be scared of the rattling noise, and shake more, and so on and so forth in a never-ending vicious circle, until (a) the vet drugged him, (2) my dad lifted him off the table and spent the consultation holding him in his arms or (3) he wet himself and my dad resorted to a messier version of (2). He was also scared of Rice Krispies (honestly. We found this out one time my mum put them in his bowl to use up some leftover ones at the end of the packet. This was popular, but then she added milk (like the dog cared whether there was milk on them), and the ensuing snaps, crackles and pops transformed Glen into a cowering heap in the corner), most cats, and gunshots (despite being supposed to be a gundog - my uncle bought him for us, ostensibly as a present, with the proviso that he could borrow him for hunting. Hunting happened once, and ended with my uncle having to drag Glen home, quivering and shaking, to be forever scared of loud noises and fireworks. My uncle shortly afterward sold his shotgun and has never hunted since).
Anyway, Glen hated poodles, (particularly, incidentally, black ones (he wasn't that keen on black anythings)), but there was a lady we often used to meet when out for walks who had a little snow-white poodle called Snoopy, of which she was exceptionally proud. Snoopy had hair clips, was brushed to within an inch of its life, was dazzlingly clean, and wasn't allowed near anything dirty, particularly Glen. Frankly, I always thought it was asking for trouble to let Snoopy out onto the beach, but there you have it. I'm sure Snoopy was a perfectly nice dog, of course, but its owner was insufferable, and snobby.
So, on one particular day, I had taken Glen out for his customary walk on the beach, which had on this occasion involved a lot of being in the sea, rolling in seaweed, and generally enjoying all that the beach had to offer in the way of mess (on Glen's behalf I mean; I was just walking along watching him). Coming in the opposite direction, we spotted Snoopy and owner, and the dogs bounded over to each other. Snoopy's owner became apoplectic, shouting 'Snoopy, no! No, Snoopy! Don't go near that dog!! Snoopy!!! Come here!!!!' at increasing pitch and decibel levels. I vaguely called Glen, like I cared whether he got sand on Snoopy, and he ignored me, as always. Anyway, Glen had a little sniff around, and then realised that he was dealing with a poodle, and that no further interest was to be found. He also realised he needed to pee, lifted his leg, and did so, all over Snoopy's head. Which was unfortunate, but only slightly.