Cacomorphobia in Children

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” Have some more but don’t eat too much. You don’t want to be fat”

What? Did you just say that to my 5 year old munchkin?

All I wanted to say was, “I will love you equally even if you are fat. EAT EAT EAT!!” but I refrained and said, “Oh don’t worry Irene, eat as much as you want.”

So a couple of weeks ago we went down to the beautiful town of Sudbury, where Ed’s beloved 84 year old Godmother, Etain Todds resides. She is all in all a great person, (past her strong judgement about people’s intellect). She studied at the Cambridge University and went on to become a teacher. She has lived quite a life!

Half Zorastrian and half English, Etain grew up in a very affluent family. And as most of them do, she developed an immense knowledge and interest in arts, culture and literature. She is alien to the concept of technology. Yet she is on top of world affairs, books, musicals, theatre etc. She is socially active but lives on her own. Hence, we visit her from time to time. She owns a beautiful thatched house, with a huge backyard which is a dog heaven for Rustle and kids love lighting fire almost every time we visit. She isn’t big on cooking, but she puts a smorgasbord of finger food for us like sausages, eggs, GREENS (your children don’t eat enough greens – not true), bread, cheese, crackers, ice-creams, wine, martini etc. Enough to fill us up and felt looked after. (She also hides a cheque for us every now and then in an old – fashioned way inside a book she gifts us to read).

Before I met her, Ed had told me about her and almost warned me to be calm and not take her too seriously if she says something. He warned me that she could be judgmental and abrupt. So we decided to meet up at the Royal Academy in London. It couldn’t get more posh than that now. There was a glass of wine, food and Ed’s shy yet warm arms around me. It was all okay until she asked me the question I was dreading yet somehow not expecting, “So why are you with Ed?”.

Naughty as my thoughts could run, I had a so many inappropriate things to say to her only to annoy her but I refrained. And to fill the awkward silence, she threw some more words at me, “Do you know that he is married (and separated) and has two children? He is bringing his children over to England, would you be okay with that?” Honestly, hardly 3 months into a relationship, I am being told that I might have to become a step-mother to this man’s children. Anyhow, I don’t want to talk about that evening too much. This post is not about Etain or about our family to be true. But, the background will help understand that education and exposure although important, intuitions play a very important role in being a good – parent.

So almost 3 years later, we are all a happy family. I have two step-children and a doting fiancé in Ed. I suppose that answers Etain’s questions. Etain has come to appreciate my role in her great godson’s life and vice-versa. We visit her maybe every 3 months or so.

This particular time at Etain’s,  we were all eating and our little girl wanted  cheese and ice-cream. So she kept eating and asking for more politely as she does (she is very good with please and thank you). That is when Etain said those what seemed to me as horrible words to my child,

” Have some more but don’t eat too much. You don’t want to be FAT

And in the flow of conversation Ed responded, “Aaah it doesn’t matter. There is no fear of them becoming fat because…” (I knew he’d finish by saying nobody in their mum’s or dad’s family is fat) and I interrupted, shocked at the fact that is it just me who is seeing something wrong in this conversation,

“I don’t think it is appropriate to suggest anything related to becoming fat to a child of such tender age. Irene you may eat as much as you like and can we end this conversation right here.” Everyone politely agreed and my dear dear man changed the topic in a nano second.

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It is easy to say things in the passing without realising the effect it can have on children. Two things

a. You are suggesting eating a lot can make you fat and FAT is not acceptable.

b. Are you also suggesting if you become fat, you won’t be liked as much?

I don’t want my children to dislike overweight people, neither develop eating disorder because someone suggested it will make you fat and fat isn’t good.

On the way back home, I thought about it deeply. I come from a culture where chubby cheeks are loved by all and is almost seen as a symbol of a happy child with a healthy appetite. It has its pro and cons of course. I blamed my family for over-feeding me for my chubby cheeks that turned me into a fat ball as a teenager and pretty much all my life until my 20’s when I drastically lost all excess weight for some reason. Perhaps because I left my home and was living on my own. My mother wasn’t feeding me amazingly delicious home cooked food.

And as a mother I wanted to write this blog post, pointing out that we live in a country where bulimia and anorexia is so common. One must not take it lightly. And as a parent realise that every word we say, children may not understand or be able to rationalise it but it gets absorbed in their subconscious and who knows what may happen as they grow older.

The number of young adults with eating disorder is soringly high and some researchers have claimed that they have seen children as young as age of six suffering from eating disorder. There is already so much hype around weight issues, thanks to the super-models and westernised projection of size zero women on television and magazines! We don’t need peers and family to unknowingly encourage our children towards mental health problems of eating disorder or suffer from cacomorphobia – fear or disgust for fat people.

Ofcourse, keep an eye on what you feed them. Lay the law for eating habits and rituals. I believe in old school parenting and have never given my children any choice in picking food. If you don’t like your dinner, you may go straight to bed. My children have learnt the hard hardway. Also, when they do eat everything on their plate (or a good uncompromised amount), they get a treat of cheese, chocolate or anything that they may call ‘favourite’. My kids have learnt to respect authority (they won’t listen to you if you seem gullible of course) and honestly, come across as such blissfully well-behaved children, so I say myself. Our older boy is almost seven and now that he is a bit bigger, we give him a choice of ‘how much’ he may or may not eat unless we know he is totally taking the piss.

And if they do indulge one day, make sure you involve them in a lot of activity. The problem isn’t in eating, but most of the time it is the lack of physical activity and exercise. Put those video games and televisions away. Fatty food and television don’t go hand in hand!

Ofcourse this isn’t a post about good parenting. To each its own and I respect that. But as a new and young mum, I realise everyday and learn about innocent mistakes we as parents can make that may sometimes lead to nothing but sometimes lead to fundamental problems. Just be careful!!

Daphne – The Cocker Spaniel!!

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Meet the most benign guard-dog rescue, Daphne. If she is not on the beach or cuddling up with her owner Susan Barkham (Sue), she will be either sleeping on her bed in The Boat House (local shop on the jetty), or wag her tail welcoming every customer.

The very first time I met both Susan with her dog Daphne was on one of my beach adventures with Rustle. I saw this woman walking a cute little dog, who came across as very timid and shy. Without any hello, I remember Susan saying, “She wouldn’t poo here, I would like her to poo and pee out on the beach. She holds it in and will only do it in the backyard.” I didn’t see the harm in a dog performing her ablutionary obligations in the back yard. Then Susan said, “Well I have only just got her yesterday and I work in the shop on the jetty, 6 to 8 hours a day. There’s a beach she could go to but she holds it in until we get back home, that cannot be healthy.” So yes, she had a point! But as we spoke, Rustle pee’d on some seaweed and Daphne followed suit. Hurray! I hadn’t met a woman who celebrated a dog pee-ing on the beach so much before. It was definitely a happy moment of Sue’s life.

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Daphne is a two and half year old cocker spaniel. This rescue has had two previous owners before she found her forever home in Broadstairs.

Susan, 65 years old, who is a retired teacher had a labrador that passed away in 1992. Post – divorce and after her children left home, this dog was her only companion. If there was one thing she looked forward to going home was her ever so waggy tailed labrador. After the death of her Labrador, Sue couldn’t bear the emptiness in her house. So, she decided to take a break and go to Sicily and teach English for a few years before settling down in Broadstairs.

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Susan took a retirement from teaching only two years ago which eventually led to her adopting Daphne but there is an amazing chronology of events that took place leading up to her retirement. One fine day Susan’s daughter brought her the tickets to the Prince concert that she’d always dreamt of. The tickets were for a Saturday. Susan was aware there were two things in life she wanted to do before she got another dog, that is attend Prince Concert which was now possible and then travel to Spain. Susan said, “I thought well, the concert’s for the weekend – and I am close to retiring, so why not just quit. ” So she quit her job just like that, celebrated her retirement by going to the concert and then flew off to Spain.

Now, there was just one thing left to do – get a dog! Just a few days before getting the dog, she got offered a job at The Boathouse in Broadstairs. And her first question to the owner was, “Can I bring my dog to work?”. The owner said yes and asked, ” what kind of dog do you have?” and Susan replied, “Oh I don’t have a dog, I am asking just in case.” The owner probably was puzzled, I wouldn’t put words to his thoughts.

Anyhow, following that one evening when she was babysitting her grandson, who is apparently a computer geek (which kid isn’t these days!), randomly suggested his grandmother to look at some rescue dogs, and they found a cute little cocker spaniel and believe it or not within a day, Susan had the dog.

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Daphne at that time was living with a family in Suffolk who had adopted her from someone else, and the family dog wasn’t getting on very well with Daphne. The family put Daphne (16 months old) for adoption as they didn’t see it fair on their older dog to spend its last few years adjusting and compromising with a new addition of a dog. So as soon as they received the call from Susan, they hopped in the car the very next day and drove Daphne down to Broadstairs (Sue didn’t have a car and Daphne didn’t have any experience of traveling in trains, but the then current owners were desperate). And that is how Daphne ended up in Broadstairs.

Daphne is a lovely little thing bouncing around on the beach, very friendly and docile. She loves attention and cuddles, especially from Sue. Next time if you visit Broadstairs’ The Boathouse, don’t forget to say hello to our pretty pooch Daphne and her owner Sue.

Love Lace – Review

Amanda Seyfried has BOOBS!! Ok, this movie isn’t about that but I bet you would think that! Anyhow..let’s go ahead with my review.

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Dismissing a movie inspired by an autobiography or a true story has become fashionable today (or perhaps has always been) but if you ask me, calling Lovelace simply impressionable or less-achieved is smug.

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Lovelace (2013), is a biographical drama about a small town girl who was raised to always obey her husband, and her tale of how she ended up becoming the biggest porn star (Linda Lovelace) in the name of ‘obeying’ her abusive husband.

Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried), is depicted as a young girl vulnerable to love and freedom. Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), sweeps her off her feet and away from her parents. He charms her with his gentlemanly manners and ropes her into marrying him. In the name of ‘need of money’, he seeks help from his wife by turning her into a porn star. While Linda becomes the sensation of the biggest blue film The Deep Throat, she becomes more and more revolted with the idea of the industry but never could complaint without being abused by her husband.

Real Linda and Chuck

Real Linda and Chuck

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Chuck Traynor who is her husband also acts as her manager in the movie, and abuses her in every way possible for some money and fame. He rapes her, beats her up, sells her body to some random men for a gang bang etc all against her will.

She tries to seek help from her mother, who only sends her back home to her abusive husband. It portrays the time when women were blamed for everything that happened to them. When confided to about the domestic violence, the mother of Lovelace asked , “What did you do?”

Real Linda with her family

Real Linda with her family

Eventually, Linda Lovelace is shown taking a lie-detector test to validate the autobiography she is trying to publish. She is also seen married to another man (happily) with a child of their own. Her book is released and she is at the threshold of what Linda is known for now – activism against domestic violence and porn industry.

One could argue that the movie has failed to dwelt into the depth of Linda Lovelace’s work in later life fighting for women-kind suffering from domestic violence, lack of confidence and porn industry. But honestly, it would take more than just an hour and half to do that.

As an audience, I can say that it did a good job in portraying the cultural backwardness towards women and patriarchal hierarchy. It also managed to develop enough curiosity in me to go out there and find out more about Linda’s later life as an activist.

Director Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman captured the whole allure of the 70’s very beautifully. The 70’s big curls, retro clothing and the thirst in people to break-free and explore.

Lovelace Cast

Lovelace Cast

Amanda Seyfriend, as against her previous movies, had a chance to do some real acting and I think her screen presence was let’s say, felt!  Her presence, infact almost over-powered that of her catholic mother, played by the Sharon Stone. Another of my personal favourite casting was of Chris Noth, who plays the character of Anthony Romano, the producer of the sensational movie The Deep Throat. Chris Noth from Sex and the City and The Good Wife has always been shown to have this scary charisma and an eye for pretty women. I think to see him as a producer of porn movies is only a compliment to him from my perspective.

All in all, I would say that the movie is worth a watch. I would suggest leaving the feminist in you at home!

The Royal Duke of Broadstairs….

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Meet the ever so lovely Poetry Pleasence and her two pooches – giant gentle Duke and his big brother Sampson.

I remember meeting Duke, who is a 1 year old great dane, when he was only a few months old, and my pup Rustle went running up to him trying to reach his mouth to lick him of course. And , they ended up having a good old play.

Poetry, 17 told me that Duke wasn’t allowed to climb steps because his limbs might suffer as he grows older. As soon as she said that, “Mad dog lady” alert popped up in my head. So I chased her a bit more and have finally understood Duke’s whole story and I am guilty of being judgemental.

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Duke suffers from arthritis and hip dysplasia. Apparently, hip dysplasia and arthritis  is very painful, but for Duke it is the way of life. Turns out he was born with it. Hence, one would never be able to tell that he is probably in acute pain, when they look at the very playful and attention seeking Duke playing around or rubbing himself incessantly against your nice expensive jacket, moulting all over.

Now of course, when one has a pooch with such defects, the obvious question that comes to the mind is “puppy mill/farm?”

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Dog lover Poetry had Sampson, the ever so handsome 18 months old Weimaraner, her pride and joy who is as healthy as healthy can be and has recently fathered a litter. He is absolutely stable and calm. To keep him company and for the love of great dane, Poetry went on the internet and looked for pups on Pre-loved. There she came across a litter where Duke was up for mere £250. It looked dodgy and upon visit, she saw the state of the kennel and had an instant sympathy to rescue the poor little Duke. Now the breeder, who I would rather refer to as the dealer, showed kennel club papers etc (which could have quite possibly been fake as done very commonly). Having been aware of all this, Poetry couldn’t resist saving Duke’s life and she has been fighting for his life ever since, even though doctors have on occasions suggested otherwise.

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Poetry strongly suggests people to be very careful where they get their dogs from. Poetry doesn’t regret having Duke and wouldn’t change anything about the way she got him. But, she did enunciate that, “Do not fall for Kennel Club registrations. They do not mean anything. Visit the breeder, the parent dogs and meet the puppy a few times before you actually decide to bring them home. I couldn’t have been able to tell about Duke’s health earlier anyway as his symptoms were not obvious, any dog can have such defects but the state of the dogs lifestyle and hygiene was appalling and no animal should be living in such a state – healthy or not.”

As we all know, there is a lot of backyard breeding and dealing of puppies from the puppy farm. Brave and bright Poetry has all my respect for doing what she did as a seventeen year old, but as educated and aware citizens we do need to make sure we report such kennels and people who are into dodgy dealings and try and bring this to an end.

It was great to meet both Sampson and Duke along with Poetry, who has never had it easy. Dogs do act as a social bridge and help one know people better. Poetry is a hero, not only for rescuing Duke and fighting for Duke ( it didn’t look easy to walk and play with Duke who is taller than I am when he tries to jump up to “hug”), but for becoming the person that she is despite her tough past.

Pretty Poetry Pleasence(I love her name), was abandoned by her parents at a very young age of about 2 years old. She has never seen her mother since or father and has been raised her by grandmother (maternal). She has two other half- siblings. Despite her past, she has huge respect for the concept of “parents” and till date holds on to the respect for her father who she has never really met.

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True to her name, Poetry is  very pleasant, strikingly pretty, clever and has a very big heart! She grew up with a lot of dogs around her and she has every intention to keep that going for as long as she can.

When asked if she was seeing someone, she said, “My life has changed because of Duke. I cannot really trust anybody with Duke and hence I am bound indoors most of the time. Duke’s medicine, making sure the carpet is laid flat on the stairs so that Duke can avoid climbing them as much, being there for him if he has a fall and making sure he is doing alright takes up a lot of time and energy. I don’t get to go out much or have time for others.”

Well, I take that as a NO. So well boys out there, keep an eye for the gorgeous woman named Poetry with black and white patchy Duke and blueish grey Weimaraner. Good luck, if you can get close to her as her pooches are always on guard!!

P.S: Poetry brought Duke from someone called Carol J Roper from Shropshire. So please beware of that name and place perhaps.

Mr. Rustle Targett!!

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Meet Rustle!!

Rustle is my (our) very first and only dog that I have ever owned. He is a 22 months old staffordshire bull terrier (maybe cross). Rustle to me, means a companion.

I am an ardent animal lover and have always wanted a pet dog. As a child, I would always beg to my neighbours to let me walk their dogs and plead to my dad to get me one. But the complications of living in a busy city and a very small apartment didn’t make my father very agree-able, understandably! (I say that now as a grown up).

Not much has changed now, but we do live by the sea and in a bigger place than the one in Mumbai where I grew up. When I was asked if we should get this puppy who needs a home, I frowned! “How could we get a puppy in this house full of carpet, no garden, two toddlers, and who will walk him? who will train him? It is an added responsibility on me.”

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Alas,  I was later tricked into “just” visiting and having a look. Well, everybody knows what happens when you take a woman who always wanted a dog to visit a cute poor puppy in need of a home.

So about almost 2 years ago, my provider of wealth, health and wisdom ( fiancé), who was then reporting for the local newspaper called the Herne Bay Times, received a phone call from a “contact” with a puppy. This puppy was about 8 to 9 weeks old and came with an incredible story.

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Gemma, who called us up, had been to the boot fair in the morning, and found a lady with a puppy looking for a home. The boot fair lady rescued the puppy from a man who was apparently trying to drown him in the sea. Rescuing the puppy from a drunkard wasn’t just this woman’s only challenge but she had a bigger task on hand. Her German Shepherd didn’t take the puppy very well and hence, he ended up at the boot fair. Gemma, had a staffie puppy of similar age and thought she could perhaps keep him or maybe find him a better home. That is the story we got from Gemma.

When we visited Rustle, he was called Turbo. He was shy and very frail. I picked him up and he was shaking in comparison to the other rambunctious puppy which belonged to Gemma, who was all over the place – nibbling, biting, chewing shoes, paw’ing etc. It was instant love! We took the puppy home with us. What a surprise eh?!

When we got this puppy home, we knew we had to rename him. There was no way he was going to be called Turbo for the rest of his life. No offence, but it doesn’t get more Thanet than that, or so I thought! (It is a joke!)

The puppy loved to empty the polythene bags in the kitchen which we tried in vain to hide quite carefully in the name of “Green”, but we would find the puppy playing and chasing them around. Everytime, we heard a rustling sound, we knew what was going on. Hence, when Ed suggested the name Russell, we thought, “yes why not Rustle!” I have to say it was totally Ed’s idea and I loved it. He is good with the whole naming ritual. And, that is how Rustle, our very own puppy was christened.

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Today he is a very big boy. At about 16 inches tall and shiny brindle brown coat, he is every inch a very handsome, tall and loving dog. He runs like a greyhound, plays like a terrier, loves like a labrador and acts like a DOG! (something most domesticated dogs these days aren’t made to realise)

He is a so-called dangerous breed, if I have to go with the media and law; but he has never been in a fight, attacked or barked. He is pathetic at being a guard dog and has the ability to play with every breed possible. He loves little people and has never managed to knock them over. He has infact helped a couple of dogs locally get over their fear of other dogs and introduced them to dog play. He is the best dog we could have ever asked for as our first dog. Oh well, everyone thinks their dog is the best. But mine, definitely is, ask anyone!

Local Heroes and Champs

As a daily dog walker, I meet a lot of people. And I am fascinated, how many people know me and how many friends I have made over the past two years, only because of my dog.

When you have a cute little friendly puppy, everybody wants to stop and stroke your puppy. When the puppy grows bigger, yet acts friendly and appears calm (especially a staffie), everybody wants to stop and tell you what a great job you have done.

Every morning, you meet several people, and the most grumpiest of grumpy people like me are forced to talk to the fellow dog walkers. I mean how can you just stand next to the person with whose dog your puppy starts playing. Can you really tell them, “please don’t talk to me, I am here just for the dog.” So you can’t and hence, I never did. I am as friendly as my dog to be honest; and although grumpy in the morning, I have managed to alter that behaviour, all thanks to the dog.

I now know, that Peggy’s owner had a hip replacement surgery, Rosie’s female owner is paranoid of staffies, and Harvey and Twizzle’s owners are going to be my bridesmaids.

Some of them have become good friends and some others, who are they really? They smiles at me outside the supermarket, they talk to my children on the street, they tell me their deepest secrets but I really don’t know theirs names. We tend to know people by their pets name.

So through this segment of my blog, I have decided to get to know people more. Talk about local rescue stories, identify local heroes who help animals and champion dogs who have survived some terrible monstrosity imposed by human beings; and try to make an acquaintance with as many animal lovers as possible. I am sure they all have a story to tell. And what better way than through your beloved pet.

So keep your eyes peeled out as this segment will be talking about the dogs that you may know or stories you may relate to. Stay tuned.