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Archive for March, 2008

Chin-chin

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We went to the British Museum today to see The First Emperor exhibition. It wasn’t too crowded, but everyone was so busy looking at the exhibits that I started whining to try and get some attention.

– Mum, who’s the First Emperor?

Mum explained – He was born Ying Zheng in 259BC and became King of Qin when he was 13. Qin was a small region in China. He developed sophisticated weaponry and military strategy, and conquered the other main Chinese states. He declared himself the Emperor of China and of the Universe.

What mum really liked was all the additional exhibits which added depth to the exhibition. It wasn’t just the terracotta warriors being shown, as she had thought. We learned how the First Emperor ordered a single currency to be used. The coinage was round with a square hole because this signified earth under heaven, as the circular shape represents Heaven, the square hole, Earth.

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The First Emperor also commanded that a single script be used. Mum could understand some of the script but she said it’s changed so much. It’s an ancient style of Chinese calligraphy called unified small seal script. It reminded her of cave drawings that she’s seen. In museums, not in real life, silly.

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He built more than 270 palaces in his capital city of Xianyang, which housed the rulers of the states he conquered. Each palace was furnished with the war goods from that region. Walls were joined between states to create the First Great Wall. The belt holders and jewellery were to die for – such amazing craftsmanship.

The most fascinating part of the collection was what had been discovered underneath the ground. The First Emperor wanted to live forever, and built a tomb with an underworld complex reminiscent of the Egyptians. His tomb took more than 30 years to build. Film clips in the exhibition show the extent of the underground complex – it was huge. Seven thousand terracotta soldiers have been found buried outside the tomb, and there are likely to be many more, made to guard the First Emperor in the afterlife. Only a few had been brought to the exhibition.

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They were individual, with different expressions, hairstyles, and clothing. They were a little larger than a real life soldier at 6′ – 6′ 5″ and were absolutely stunning, even though the colourful paints had worn off with exposure to sunlight.

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The First Emperor died when he was 49, one year after the tomb was completed. Over 700,000 workers had been used to build the tomb and the terracotta army, many of them had been worked to death, and thousands were buried with the First Emperor, so no-one would know the location of the tomb. Spooky! The Emperor’s 3,000 harem was buried alive with him as well – these women were told they would get eternal life with him, so they died quite happily. The farmer who discovered the terracotta warriors in 1974 lost his farmland and was paid 30 yuan (worth £2.14 today) in recompense, but he is now quite happily making money out of his notoriety, posing for photos with tourists.

Amazingly, the tomb has still not been excavated, as geological tests have shown high mercury readings under the tomb. The man-made mountain is larger than the Giza pyramids, protected by hair-trigger crossbows and is rumoured to contain a scale model of his empire with rivers of mercury. The underground complex is littered with bronze birds and chariots, pottery musicians, entertainers, and horses – all of which had an example shown in the exhibition. Every pottery item was individual. The terracotta soldiers had held real weapons (many stolen by the Hans) and wore armour made specially for them in jade and stone.

This exhibition totally wowed us over.

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Smacked

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I got smacked today. For the first time ever.

Mum took me to Strada for lunch. She had risotto and Phil had pizza and everything smelled so delicious, I kept stabbing her in the leg and making eyes at Phil. Well, I wanted a taste too. Even mum loved the food, and she’s so fussy. And mum had forgotten to give me breakfast this morning as we left the house in such a hurry. I was soooo hungry.

When we got back to the office I got my breakfast then I had a nap. Gina had brought in some sticky home-made brownies as today was her last day, she’s off to a posh firm called McKinsey. Mum said I couldn’t have a brownie even though I begged, tried to sniff the plate and wagged my tail hard. At 5pm, mum joined in with the farewell drinks in the kitchen. So I took the opportunity to have a good nose around all the offices.

In Gina’s office, I found a huge bag of dried apricots in her bag and ripped it open. Mum found me in the corridor, working my way through the sticky apricots. She grabbed me by the collar and took the apricots off me, and apologised to Gina, she was really embarrassed. I wandered off again. Mum came to look for me and found I had emptied Martin’s bin and Hurmine’s bin. She sent me to bed *sulks*

We got home and mum gave me my dinner. She poured herself a glass of wine and got out a large chocolate chip cookie, and put them on the coffee table. She nipped to the bathroom and came back to find the cookie gone, crumbs everywhere … and I was still chewing so she knew it was me. So I got smacked.

Sob.

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Salads to go-go

We popped into Marks & Spencer today to get some salad (for mum). We’ve been into this particular branch lots of times, and it’s mostly ok, we’ve only been stopped once recently.

We got stopped today by security. This wasn’t the nice security hooman who stepped in the last time we got stopped. This was somebody younger with a smirk on his face. He said,

– We don’t allow dogs in the shop.

He was right in mum’s face and she wasn’t happy. Invading her personal space and all that, and almost stepping on my toes as well! She explained the situation and he didn’t believe her so she asked for the manager. The manager was standing right behind her and she explained my rights to him. He didn’t believe her either.

All the customers were listening in as she explained there are six different types of assistance dogs in the UK, that they are allowed in all public places by law. They still didn’t believe her.

Oooohhhh.

Mum saw red.

She got loud. Really loud. I put my paws on her, to calm her down, and kept them there, so she’d remember I’m there for her.

One customer stepped in and backed her up. They clearly still didn’t believe her. She got out my cards –

One is my ID card – as you can see here,

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it says I’m a proper Hearing Dog, and not a fake (there are a few fakes around, believe it or not). See how slim I look in the photo, it was taken when I was two.

My other card is from the Institute of Environmental Health, which says

    ‘The Institute of Environmental Health Officers. Hearing Dogs are allowed entry to restaurants, food shops and other food premises. Their very special training means that they are not a risk to hygiene in such premises.’

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Mum showed them to the manager and told him to read them.

He apologised. Mum told him not to stop her in the shop again, she’s been stopped too many times. He passed my cards back to her and she gave them to the security hooman, and told him to read them. In a “I’m not taking any crap” voice.

The little security hooman then piped up.

– Why do you have this dog?

Mum explained she can’t hear the fire alarms and I’m trained to tell her when it goes off.

So now she has to explain why she has me with her? I thought that was quite rude. None of his business really is it!

She dumped the salads and we walked out. But we’ll be back. Today’s Friday and mum just wants a break.

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Fiddlesticks and drumsticks

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It was 7pm. Karen popped her head round our door and said,

– There’s some food in the conference room if you’re hungry.

Hungry? Who says we aren’t?!

– It’s cold so you’ll have to heat it up in the microwave.

(Who cares?!)

We ran over as fast as we could. There were platters of food laid out. Onion rings. Chicken nuggets. Chicken drumsticks. Dips. Pizza. Garlic mushrooms. Fruit.

Suddenly Patrice started shouting.

– He’s got a drumstick! He’s eaten chicken bones!

She tried to open my mouth but it was far, far too late. Mum said,

– It’s too late. He’s eaten it. He gets food down his neck faster than you would believe. It’s gone! Give up, Patrice!

Patrice was still trying to get me to open my mouth, while Karen, Kathy and mum stood there laughing at my greed. Mum picked up the bin and put it on a chair. Out of my reach. Patrice asked how my diet was going. Mum said she thinks I’m slowly losing a bit. They all agreed that I look better. Wahey! Does that mean I’m sexy?

So why am I still on this stoopid diet?

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Shattered

It’s Sunday evening and I’m shattered. Nite nite.

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Whenever I walk past other dogs, they like to bark at me. Sometimes they go mad barking. If we walk past a car, and there are two dogs inside, the dogs bark frantically and the car shakes madly. It makes mum laugh.

What mum loves best of all is the super-dignified way I carry myself. I always ignore the barking and carry on walking past with my nose in the air. I never bark back – why should I lower myself to their level? Sometimes I look at the other dog as if to say ‘Who are YOU?’.

Mum says they bark because they’re jealous I’m so handsome and that I live the life of Riley.

– Mum, who’s Riley??

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Books galore

Mum took me to the British Library at St Pancras. It’s so big! She had coffee and cookies in the Business and Intellectual Property centre, I had a jammy dodger and a shortbread biscuit. Mmmmm! After a presentation, we had a private tour of the library. Did you know, the British Library has over 13 million books? They receive a copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland. That’s seriously impressive. We went behind the scenes and saw the book tracking system – they have never ever lost a book, and over 16,000 people use the collections each day.

They’ve got the Magna Carta, the Lindisfarne Gospels, and wow double wow, Leonardo da Vinci’s Notebook. They’ve also got The Times first edition from 18 March 1788, material from 300 BC to today’s newspapers, manuscripts from Jane Austen, James Joyce, Handel and the Beatles. And over 4 million maps.

Mum was amazed. One of her favourites was a Turning the Pages stand in the entrance hall. This is photographs from famous books transferred onto a computer, which you can zoom into, and turn the pages as if reading a real book. She was fascinated by Leonardo da Vinci’s doodles.

Nearby was a seat which made mum laugh…. it’s a book!

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