Saturday, 28 March 2015

On returning to Scotland from Nottingham


No more flatland Trent-side walks
On claggy floodplain clay.
I'm back amongst the heather'd hills
The bonnie banks and braes.

Enough of dismal redbrick towns
And concrete urban sprawl
For now. I'm home, a home that's built
Of silver granite walls.

Goodbye to triffid pylons marching
Over hedgeless fields and wastes.
Hello to birches, burns and bogs.
I'm back. This is my place.


Friday, 27 March 2015

FFHT: Hamish at Cruden Bay

It's Murphy and Stanley's FFHT time again. And after missing the last two months due to Gail being distracted by other matters, we are delighted to be taking part again.



HAMISH AT CRUDEN BAY (OR, WHEN THEY REALLY SHOULD HAVE MOVED THE GOALPOSTS…)

Sometimes, of an evening, when I am cuddled up on Gail's lap, I like to hear stories about my predecessor Hamish the Westie. The best ones are, of course, those in which Hamish commits some dreadful misdemeanour.

This is what Gail related last night:

Bertie, did I ever tell you about the first time I took Hamish for a walk on the beach at Cruden Bay, when he was about four years old? I knew I would remember this incident forever, because of the reaction of the lady who witnessed it…..

It was a lovely sunny afternoon in the middle of summer - well, lovely at least by Aberdeenshire standards. The haar had stayed offshore and, although hardly tee shirt weather, it was warm enough not to need an anorak. Quite a few other folk were enjoying the beach that day, including one family party who were working off their picnic lunch with an impromptu game of football. Discarded clothing served as goalposts. 

Imagine my horror when Hamish made a beeline for the makeshift posts and cocked his leg. Before I could stop him he had generously 'decorated' a jacket made of highly absorbent material. What's worse, a lady about my age, presumably one of the family, was standing right there watching him. 

"Oh I am SO SORRY", I grovelled, "I should have been keeping a closer eye on him, I feel terrible, please you must let me give you some money for dry cleaning, oh dear, Hamish you are a BAD DOG!"

But you know what? The lady just stood there and laughed. 

"Oh don't you worry about it, it's not a problem at all, it's only my husband's jacket!"  


Bertie at Cruden Bay,  June 2014

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Does such a creature exist?


Coffe shop near Human Granny's new residence

Sunday, 22 March 2015

A new home for Human Granny - mixed emotions

Note from Gail: Due to some scheduling confusion (details too boring to explain), I'm repeat posting this blogpost as I know many of Bertie's friends are concerned about Human Granny. 

I was all bouncing with delight to learn that Human Granny was finally coming out of the rehabilitation hospital this week. I've been so missing her fond pats and her calling me Petsy (no-one else does that). This house in Nottingham feels a bit empty when she's not here.

So then I felt sad when Gail told me that HGY is moving to a new home called 'Westcliffe', where she can be looked after night and day. Gail says it is for the best as she has been very ill indeed and even before that she was struggling so much after Human Grandad died.

Checking out the garden at Westcliffe

Has Human Granny really been so ill? Yesterday Gail took me to see her and she looked better than she has done for, oh, for ever so long. She was sat in a nice comfy chair in a bright room overlooking a well tended garden, reading the paper and appearing content. There were other old ladies in the sitting room, and one of them seemed friendly and gave my ears a rub and told Gail she was born in 1916.

Now relative youngsters like me are all about excitement and new experiences, but Gail tells me when you are older these things get harder, and she suspects Human Granny is wearing a brave face, something her generation are often good at.

But that is so much better than wearing a glum face isn't it?

I have my paws crossed that she will be OK.

A new home for Human Granny and mixed emotions


I was all bouncing with delight to learn that Human Granny was finally coming out of the rehabilitation hospital this week. I've been so missing her fond pats and her calling me Petsy (no-one else does that). This house in Nottingham feels a bit empty when she's not here.

So then I felt sad when Gail told me that HGY is moving to a new home called 'Westcliffe', where she can be looked after night and day. Gail says it is for the best as she has been very ill indeed and even before that she was struggling so much after Human Grandad died.

Checking out the garden at Westcliffe

Has Human Granny really been so ill? Yesterday Gail took me to see her and she looked better than she has done for, oh, for ever so long. She was sat in a nice comfy chair in a bright room overlooking a well tended garden, reading the paper and appearing content. There were other old ladies in the sitting room, and one of them seemed friendly and gave my ears a rub and told Gail she was born in 1916.

Now relative youngsters like me are all about excitement and new experiences, but Gail tells me when you are older these things get harder, and she suspects Human Granny is wearing a brave face, something her generation are often good at.

But that is so much better than wearing a glum face isn't it?

I have my paws crossed that she will be OK.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

A change of scene for Inspector Rebus?

So Gail and I travelled down to Nottingham (again), on Sunday, this time by train.

As usual, we broke the journey in Edinburgh, where Gail decided we'd go for a nice lunch rather than our customary leg stretch around Arthur's Seat.

Earlier Googling for dog friendly pubs not too far from Waverley Station had indicated the Cambridge Bar on Young Street might be worth a try.

The sign on the door said 'Dugs Welcome' and so I led the way in.

Oh isn't it brilliant when a place not just lives up to but exceeds one's expectations!

No soon as I'd trotted through the door than the young barman and barmaid came rushing to greet me.

"Oh isn't he gorgeous!  What's his name? Bertie? Would Bertie like to sit here? Shall we bring him a bowl of water? Is he allowed treats? Aw, I love his fuzzy face. Just like a teddy bear. Where does he like to be scratched? Oh don't worry about him jumping up, we don't mind at all".

And so it went on. Yummy treats for me and a 'designer burger' for Gail, who said it was fortunate there weren't too many other customers, as they might have felt a bit neglected, not to mention concerned about food hygiene standards. Personally I didn't see that as a problem.

After a most pleasant lunch hour, Gail extracted me from the cuddles of a second barmaid and we headed out again. Just down the street we spotted the Oxford Bar, which fans of Ian Rankin's crime novels will recognise as the favourite haunt of Inspector Rebus.

In my opinion, Rebus has been missing a trick all these years, ignoring the wee gem of a pub just a few paces along the road.

P.S. from Gail: for those of you concerned about Human Granny, Bertie will be posting an update shortly. Meanwhile, rest assured she is doing OK. 

Monday, 16 March 2015

Wire-haired fox terrier problems (2)


This is the second of an occasional series of short posts dealing with life problems affecting (but surely not unique to) my own breed.

  • Have you ever aspired to overtake a high speed train?
  • Are you convinced you really could bring down a Monarch of the Glen?
  • Winged flight - do you feel our feathered friends have an unfair advantage?

Todays today's topic is:

Excess of Ambition versus Realistic Goals…


I could run faster than that train if only I were allowed. 

The scent of a deer! I'm after it. Of course my legs are long enough...

One day I'll grow wings...

Writers more illustrious than myself have addressed this issue, and their words will, I hope, suffice.


William Shakespeare (Macbeth)
I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself,
And falls on th'other. . . .


Ah, but a man's dog's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for? 
ROBERT BROWNING, "Andrea del Sarto"



Saturday, 14 March 2015

Watching the rugby


England play Scotland at Twickenham. Against all expectations, Scotland lead at half time. Bertie prepares for a tense forty minutes…


Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Finished at last, but is it "Sunday best"?


The spring flowers might be peeking out here in Aberdeen, but the icy winds still have bite. Thank heavens Gail has at last finished knitting my new Shetland wool jumper (with Fair Isle pattern detail).

It is very manly, I'm sure you'll agree.





The yarn for my new knitwear comes directly off the backs of a small herd of Torridon-based Shetland sheep owned by Julia Marsh. It has not been dyed or otherwise messed around with, and so should be perfect outdoor wear for a roughty toughty terrier like me, don't you think?

So I was quite surprised when Gail said, "Bertie, we'd better reserve this jumper for Sunday best". Especially when I comprehended that "Sunday best" implies clothing that has to be kept clean and smart as if we were going to church (which, I need hardly tell you, we never do).

Well my idea of the best sort of Sunday is to bounce into the wilds of Scotland, where devotional activity involves appreciating the shadow play of the low northern light across the heather-clad hills, the tinkling of a burn as it tumbles over speckled granite boulders, the earthy smell of the lush, damp and fern bedecked forest floor…

For this one needs eyes, ears, a nose, and energy a-plenty. Smart Shetland sweaters are, I guess, optional.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Springing back to life


Sadly, I was not allowed to visit Human Granny in the rehabilitation hospital before we returned to Aberdeen a couple of days ago. This was disappointing 'cos there is a sign there saying dogs are allowed in the day room. But it seems that during visiting hours patients are usually sat by their beds on the ward.

Anyway, Gail assures me that HGY is really much better, and even walking again, just a few steps and with the help of a frame and a friendly physiotherapist. In fact, the doctors have described her recovery from her life-threatening brain illness (presumed viral encephalitis) as "astonishing". I am promised we will be going down to Nottingham again in a week or so, so cross paws that I will be able to check her out for myself soon.

In Duthie Park, I find the crocuses out in full force, wind battered but still vibrant. I persuade Gail that it would be nice for Human Granny to have a card with a photo of me and the crocuses by her bedside, so people can talk about me, saying things like "what a cute dog" and "you don't see so many of them these days". 

I hope you too like the results of the photoshoot. 


Thursday, 5 March 2015

A misunderstanding about dykes...

...er, it's not what you might be thinking.

When we go for walks along the river near Human Granny's house, much of the time the footpath runs along specially constructed elevated dykes

How generous of the local authorities, I have been thinking, to build such an extensive network of excellent dog walking trails.

One can sprint to one's heart's content, 

Or make new friends,

Or simply pose and take in the flat Trent Valley landscape from a conveniently elevated position.  

The humans seem to like the dykes too, as the ground underfoot is less squelchy than in the surrounding fields.

So I was all for writing a heartfelt letter of appreciation to Nottinghamshire County Council, on behalf of the local dogs and their owners, when Gail pointed out the error in my thinking.

"Oh Bertie, when will you ever learn? It's not all about you. Those dykes were built as a flood protection measure and not for the convenience of the area's canine population."

Well, I guess we should all be pleased that Human Granny's house is safeguarded against the worst of the East Midlands weather then.

Although I still don't quite get the "not all about you" thing...

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Netherfield tails/tales


So, on Friday morning, Gail and I went in search of doggy treats (hooray!) We drove to Netherfield, a small community near where Human Granny lives.

Netherfield was built mainly to house railway workers back in the 19th century.

These days it is, let's say, Staffie not golden retriever territory. Amidst the terraced cottages, we sniffed out an eclectic selection of independent businesses. 


Eventually we found the pet shop; a modest establishment, with noisy caged birds more prominent than goods for the canine palate.

The place was empty and Gail browsed the (frustratingly out of reach) selection of bones, pigs ears, dried tripe, chicken feet etc. undisturbed for a minute or two.

Then a man appears from the back and, within seconds, is all over me like a rash.

"A wire-haired fox terrier! You don't see so many of them these days. At least not round these parts. There's a fair few in Lincolnshire. What's this one's name? Bertie? What a fine specimen he is. His coat looks great, I hate to see them all shorn close. My grandfather used to breed fox terriers just down the road from here. He won loads of trophies at Crufts and all. Those dogs wanted for nothing. He took them out every morning for an hour's run round Colwick Woods, then back to heated kennels each with a large enclosure and treats galore. Oh and the time he spent grooming them for the shows".

He pauses for breath and to caress my tail. He notes the slight kink in the middle and asks if it was damaged when I was a pup.

"Of course you're not allowed to dock the tails any more. Grandfather used to do it himself with his bare teeth."

The pet shop man then demonstrates the action, thankfully putting his fingers and not my tail in his mouth.

"Of course my dad always told him not to but there was no telling Grandfather…."

With disturbing enthusiasm, he repeats the demonstration several times, perhaps to indicate the docking of a large litter.

At this point I notice that Gail has gone ever so slightly pale and seeks to change the subject to her intended purchase of pigs ears and a rawhide bone.

To be honest I was, for the first time in my life, not entirely sorry to exit a pet shop.

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