No-one likes to think they are getting old and unadventurous do they?
When Gail and I woke up to a snowy street scene in Aberdeen on Friday morning, I could tell she was having second thoughts about our plan to drive across the Highlands to Torridon this weekend.
Well we went for the usual walk in the park ...
... then checked the weather forecast about 87 zillion times, and I bounced around the house reminding Gail of the importance of staying young at heart, and to my great relief she flipped into girl scout 'be prepared' mode and announced: "Ok Bertie let's put the shovel in the car, and a thermos of coffee, and charge the phone, pack loads of warm clothes (including your hot-off-the-knitting-needles new jumper) and head out west".
Five hours and only one minor skid later, just before dark, we arrived in Torridon.
I regard it as totally unimportant that come this morning the steep road leading down to the cottage is now too icy for Gail's car, even with its winter tyres, to ascend.
We have food and fuel for several days, books to read, a so-called broadband internet connection and a blog to write, and the world will not end if Gail fails to make it to that work meeting in Aberdeen on Tuesday...
Oh yes and later today we shall be calling round to visit our nice neighbour and expert knitter Julia. Do you think she'll approve of my sweater?
Sadly last week's snow melted away too soon into a mess of muddy sludge, so the focus chez Bertie has turned to domestic matters.
Did I mention already that Gail is knitting me a new jumper for Christmas? I am pleased to report that, unlike the sweater worn by one of Gail's colleagues to the work Xmas lunch, mine will not feature mating reindeer, nor indeed any other symbols of dubiously tasteful seasonal 'fun'. I offer you a sneak preview of the work in progress.
Oh and talking of fun, I have to say I did enjoy seeing Gail's friends Margaret and Jeffrey, who came round to our place on Saturday night. Not only did Margaret bring me some delicious biscuits, but she left her handbag open so I was able to excavate a treasure trove of tissues while everyone else was distracted by the pork fillet with homemade stuffing which Gail served up for dinner.
Although I was not offered any of the pork at the time, I have high hopes that some of the leftovers pictured below might make their way into my food bowl very soon.
Amidst all the hullaballoo following certain unhelpful* tweets emanating from the President of the USA last night, I want to make it quite clear how much Gail and I admire and respect our many friends across the Pond.
And let's not forget about the happier news concerning UK/US relations announced earlier this week. Although I, Bertie, am not yet personally acquainted with the fiancée of our very own Prince Harry, I would also like it to be known that this is one American whom I am very pleased to welcome to our shores.
Not only has Ms Markle already received the rare accolade of a positive vetting by the Queen's notoriously snooty corgis, but, even better, we learn that she is the adoring owner of two rescue dogs, Bogart and Guy.
Sadly, it seems that Bogart is too old to fly and so cannot come to live with Meghan and Harry in the UK.
I hope you will not think me heartless if I confess my first thought on hearing this news was: "Gosh, I guess that creates a vacancy then"...
Who would not want to be adopted by a lovely Princess and join Team Royal Family?
What fun one could have with all those splendid palaces to explore, and corgis to chase. (Although it might be wise, I understand, to steer clear of Princess Anne's Staffies...)
So anyway, I asked Gail, just out of interest you understand, totally theoretically etc, how one might go about putting oneself forward for the position of Bogart replacement?
I had better not publish Gail's response in full. It did contain phrases like 'world's most ungrateful dog', 'hurt feelings', 'no supper tonight', along with many other less nice words.
Well I'll be honest with you I backtracked faster than you could say empty food bowl. Peace was restored, and we agreed there are many other dogs in the UK whose circumstances are much less favourable than my own. And anyway, as part of her forthcoming UK citizenship classes, Meghan will surely be made aware of the canine adoption opportunities offered by Battersea Dogs Home and suchlike?
*That's an example of British understatement, BTW.
Just want to show you a few pictures from my walk in Glenbuchat last Sunday, in case anyone out there doubts that I am a properly tough NE Scotland male who is quite happy to venture out in freezing temperatures without a coat...
Rest assured, my paws were given a nice warm soak when we got home.
A couple of weeks ago I came across such an interesting article in the newspaper. Researchers in Sweden have found that owning a dog reduces the risk of death from heart disease. For single humans like Gail, it's a whopping effect. My presence in the house makes it at least a third less likely she will suffer a heart attack.
Oh yes and it turns out that of all the breed types, it is terriers, retrievers and scent hounds who have the most positive impact.
Now you might think that Gail would be pleased to read about this, wouldn't you? Perhaps a more empathetic owner might even believe their dog deserved a treat or two for conferring such spectacular health benefits.
Gail scanned the article with eyebrows raised and said she didn't think it applied to owners of wire-haired fox terriers. And then pointed out that I was directly responsible for her very nearly having a heart attack that time I jumped off the train at Newcastle Station... She also referenced (irrelevantly, I thought) the evening at puppy class when I tried to savage 'make friends with' Daisy the miniature dachshund and she came close to nervous collapse.
There's no pleasing some folk, is there...
Early morning walks on frosty mornings are particularly beneficial, I feel...
My source text is 'The Wind in the Willows' by Kenneth Grahame, and the phrases (from p87) to be used in my story are:
Line 8: As a matter of fact I did none of it
Line 12: Well very long ago
Line 16: Here where we are standing
[Regular blog readers will recognise that my piece is, as is traditional for first fiction, strongly autobiographical. I do hope this is allowed.]
Pees and Prejudice
Our tale today is one of injustice, reconciliation and forgiveness. It is a true story, which starts off, well, very long ago. The main character is a wee terrier puppy called Bernie, and we begin when Bernie went with his owner Gill to stay with his Human Grandma and Grandpa for the first time.
Now it is important to to understand that although Bernie was a wee puppy, he was already very advanced in his house-training and he absolutely knew the difference between indoors and outdoors and which was the right place to take a ‘comfort break’. In fact the thought of soiling his indoor territory was quite repulsive to him (as it is to most dogs).
Unfortunately, Bernie's Human Grandma held fast to the prejudice that all puppies pee on the carpet, as he realised when he overheard the following interchange between her and Gill:
“Gill, there are some dark marks here on the rug, I think it must be Bernie. Look, right here, where we are standing…”
In response, Gill sounded a bit irritated. “Oh Mother, that’s just a trick of the light, see it’s not even wet, really you are imagining things again.”
If Bernie had been able to speak, he would have added, quite firmly, "As a matter of fact Idid none of it".
But repeatedly throughout this and subsequent visits, poor Bernie was falsely accused of peeing on the carpet. He felt quite hurt, and was not sure he even liked his Human Grandma that much.
Now Bernie is an older and wiser pup, and his Human Grandpa is sadly no longer with us, he thinks he has worked out what was going on. At the time of those early visits, his dear Human Grandma was so worn to a frazzle caring for her beloved but by then very sick husband that she could barely think straight. She just knew that as a good wife it was her role to keep everything in the house clean and tidy, and was anxious lest she be found wanting in this respect. So her brain started conjuring up problems that weren’t real.
These days, Bernie's Human Grandma lives in a very nice care home and is no longer responsible for the housework, and she is much more relaxed and loves having Bernie to visit and never ever accuses him of peeing on the carpet. And so Bernie has forgiven his Human Grandma for all the earlier misunderstandings, as he can appreciate that it was neither his fault nor hers that the issues between them ever arose in the first place.
Click here to see the link up to the other FFF stories.
And a big THANK YOU to YAM Aunty for organising this fun challenge!
As you know, my usual early morning constitutional consists of a walk to Duthie Park and back.
So I was a bit surprised on Saturday when Gail bundled me into the car shortly after seven a.m. and announced:
"Bertie, we're having a change today and going to the beach for a dawn photoshoot".
It's only a ten minute drive to Aberdeen City Beach and we arrived about half an hour before sunrise.
Not all the photos Gail took in the low light with her smartphone turned out as intended...
But amongst the many fails (Gail blames cold hands which I guess is a valid excuse - the air is always, er, 'bracing' besides the North Sea), there were a few photos I have deemed acceptable for my blog.
As it started to get properly light, some other pups showed up on the beach.
Gosh it was all such fun, I do hope we can do it again some time.
In truth, these days, following my visit to veterinary dermatologist Peter Forsythe in April, a paw wash is ALWAYS imminent, even when I have been walking across ground that is nowhere near as muddy as that pictured above. And it's not just a gentle rinse, but a thorough working over, focusing on making sure the deep clefts between my paw pads are clear of mud and grit.
The good news is that I have been free of those horrid interdigital cysts, which made my (and Gail's) life a such misery earlier this year, for over six months now. Cross paws that things stay this way through the winter.
Gail says Dr Forsythe is already her clear choice for Man of the Year.
Gosh it has been proving hard to get Gail out of bed these last few dark and frosty mornings.
In truth, usually she is up and raring to go while I am still curled up snug and sleepy. But the combination of a sinus infection (Gail's Achilles heel, if that is not too medically confusing a metaphor) combined with what she says is a most fascinating book, have meant the roles have been reversed - one suspects temporarily - this week.
So the subject of the book that's been keeping me from my customary early attendance in Duthie Park is former UK Prime Minister, Clement Attlee. Perhaps you have heard of him, perhaps not.
Well it seems that when Attlee was deputy to Winston Churchill during the Second World War, he was considered by some as Churchill's lapdog. Leaving aside the implied slur against lapdogs (a status to which I aspire), this, according to biographer John Bew, was very much not the case, and Mr Attlee was in fact most influential despite (perhaps because of) being "shy, undramatic and without a trace of egotism".
Post-war this supposedly meek and ineffectual man defeated Churchill in the general election and became Prime Minister, and his Labour government introduced the National Health Service and laid the foundations of the modern welfare state.
Oh yes, and I should also mention that as a young man Attlee fought bravely and with distinction in the World War One, and was injured in the Battle of Hanna in Mesopotamia (now Iraq).
Not bad for a 'lapdog', I say!
And what a contrast, in both style and achievement, to certain of today's politicians on either side of the Atlantic..
PS from Gail: do we get a prize today for efforts in making the most unpromising subject matter 'dog relevant'???
Hi, I'm Bertie, a wire-haired fox terrier pup. I live with Gail in Aberdeen, Scotland. An old Westie called Hamish used to live here but he died on 18th February 2010 (exactly the same day I was born). People tell me that he used to have a blog and that I have big pawprints to fill. That's a bit too much responsibility for a very young puppy - and anyway, I intend to make my own mark!
(Gail says that Hamish could certainly have taught me a thing or two about marking stuff....)