Friday 31 December 2010

Dinner time with the grandparents

There are several things that I hope you have noticed in the picture above:

1. Human Granny and Grandad are very well trained at posing for the camera aren't they? (I am told I would do well to follow their lead, but that's not fair is it? I mean, I am posing nicely here too).
2. Did you spot the festive table decoration? We think it dates back to the Precambrian....
3. Grandad may not be as sharp as he once was (he is in his ninetieth year), but he still knows to guard his glass of wine against prying noses and tongues.....
4. Can you see Granny's home made steak and kidney pie? Gail says it's the tastiest in the WHOLE WORLD. I was allowed a little bit of kidney after the meal and it was HEAVENLY!
5. The dish on the right contains tagliatelle, a heated up left-over from an earlier meal. Never mind that this is an unconventional accompaniment to steak and kidney pie. The generation that experienced rationing does not waste food.
6. Isn't it a pretty Nottingham lace tablecloth, a wedding present from Grandad's friend Keith, back in 1956. Those of you who used to read Hamish's blog might remember the story about him, some scones and jam, and this very same tablecloth.  For some reason I was never allowed up close enough to check out if the stains were still visible....

Happy New Year everyone. I hope we all have a fabulous 2011. 

Wednesday 29 December 2010

A quick hello from Nottingham

So sorry I haven't been around much lately. Gail and I are staying with her elderly parents in Nottingham. The pace of life is slow here, as is the computer connection (and it's Microsoft Windows - yuk!) and I am on strict orders to behave myself impeccably....

But don't worry friends, normal service will resume after New Year when we return to Scotland.

Toodle pip!

Tuesday 21 December 2010

An outrage! Call Amnesty International!

Friends, I have a question for you.

It is customary, is it not, when one's name and picture are featured prominently on the invitation, that one is actually allowed to attend the party?!

Another question.

Since when was an enthusiastic and affectionate greeting a crime punishable by solitary confinement?

Oh, and another thing.

Where did it say 'humans only' on the invite?

So all my neighbourhood friends (next door's springer spaniel Molly, dinky little Daisy the yorkie, Mackay the black lab and handsome flat-coated retriever Jake from across the road, plus puppy Harry schnauzer, Border terrier Bonnie and wee 'apricot' poodle Jack, who all live down the bottom of the street, and finally Bunty whom we have met previously and who stays just quarter of a mile away), all of them were  heartlessly abandoned on Sunday night as their humans were merrily knocking back copious quantities of mulled wine and scoffing mince pies in MY KITCHEN.

And I was imprisoned without due process in the unheated back room.

Seasonal cheer? I think not.

Bah humbug.

PS from Gail: I would like to point out that is is a grossly inaccurate account of events on Sunday. Bertie was only 'confined' in the back room for a short period on grounds of over-exuberance in the presence of nervous toddlers. He then spent the rest of the evening thoroughly enjoying being carried around, patted on the head and generally fussed over to a quite absurd degree...

Amnesty International Aberdeen Group

Friday 17 December 2010

Bertie's Christmas Poem

I am not yet quite one year old,
So barely past a pup,
But I was ever brave and bold
While I was growing up.

I’m told that terriers can be
Quite naughty, when they choose.
Of course that can’t apply to me,
So please do not accuse

Me, I did never chew
That cashmere top, no way!
Nor did I ever steal Gail’s shoes
Not me, I only want to play.

At puppy class I bounced around,
And strived so hard to please,
But Daisy Dachshund, silly hound,
Kept trembling at the knees.

I learnt to sit, like, in a flash,
It’s easy if you try.
Of course I do prefer to dash
About. Why sit still? Why?

I know how sad Gail felt that night,
That dreadful night when Hamish died.
But even as he lost the fight,
New life was born. Through tears came smiles.

And now with Christmas drawing near,
We have a splendid tree,
And Gail’s face shows a look of fear
When I approach to pee…..

Oh it is very difficult
To keep these humans happy.
Maybe when I'm a true adult,
I’ll be a well-conducted chappie!

‘Til then I wish my friends good cheer
And ‘Slàinte Mhòr’ and ‘Toodle Pip!’
I hope you had a splendid year,
And through the next one gaily skip.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

I am very worried about Gail....

Most mornings, on our way back from the park, we stop at the paper shop. Gail leaves me tied up to a railing, goes in to buy her newspaper and then gives me a little reward for waiting outside quietly.

Only yesterday..

She tried to pay for her Guardian with a dog biscuit......

Saturday 11 December 2010

In a panic over Christmas? Bertie advises...

What to do..

Grab a beer.

Help with the decorations.

Remove any irritating and questionably 'seasonal' neckwear.

Go for a walk somewhere nice*.

Then chill...

Tuesday 7 December 2010

My park / Duthie Park

We've been debating, Gail and I, the title of my previous post, in which I declared that 'my park' had been invaded by Eskimos.

Leaving aside the matter of where the Eskimos disappeared to (we never found any), what Gail is objecting to is that I claimed the park as my very own.

Well let me set record straight, and tell you a little more about Duthie Park, to give the correct name, as it is such an important feature of my daily life.

Elizabeth Duthie, of the family that owned the Duthie Shipyards,  gifted the 44 acres to the Aberdeen Council in 1881.

When did you last hear of a modern day philanthropist donating land for public benefit and the enjoyment of city dwellers? (Gail says rants "these days we just have the Donald Trumps, buying up beautiful stretches of our coast, which were previously open and free for all to enjoy, but which in future will be accessible only to rich golfers).

Oh Gail, you do need to move on....Back to Duthie Park.

Well on dark winter mornings, it does feel like the place belongs just to us dogs and our faithful owners, out for the regular pre-work walk. You do also at this time of day see the occasional juicy-calved jogger, who I am not supposed to chase, and a few hardy fluorescent cyclists taking a short cut to the office.

On a sunny summer weekends it's a whole different picture: kids whooshing back and forth on the swings and vainly trying to descend the non-slip surface of the slide (a council 'health and safety' feature....), families noisily queuing up for ice-creams at the café, games of cricket (the players mostly brown-skinned south Asians dressed in some approximation to the traditional white outfit), picnickers surprisingly careless of their sandwiches given the number of unleashed dogs on the look-out, students lazily tossing around a frisbee, model boat enthusiasts making good use the large shallow pond, coach parties of old ladies visiting the Winter Gardens (I'm not allowed in the greenhouses, more's the pity. I did once sneak in. It's lovely and warm in the tropical house).

The park has a big grassy area with a bandstand in the middle, plus some beautifully tended formal flower beds, monuments, trees for peeing on, footpaths, ponds and fountains. Dogs are allowed everywhere except the Winter Gardens and do not have to be on a lead, although we are supposed to be 'under control'.

It's only a quarter of a mile walk from my house, so the morning circuit down to and round the park and back again is about a mile long and takes 20-30 minutes, depending on how many pals I meet en route and whether we call in at the paper shop on the way home.

Aren't I lucky to have such a nice place so close? Even if it's not, strictly speaking, 'mine'.

Sunday 5 December 2010

My park has been invaded by Eskimos!

The evidence...

I have noticed that all this snow makes humans very snap-happy, which explains yet more mostly white photos below. (If bored of pictures of snowy me, then I suggest you move on to visit some southern hemisphere dogs, say Toby in South Africa, or Downunder Daisy).

Oh and finally, please could someone send Gail tips on how to look more stylish in cold weather? Please? I mean there's me, always so handsome, it's embarrassing to be seen out with her sometimes.....

Thursday 2 December 2010

A new mug. About time.

Er Gail, now that we're all nice and cosy snuggled up together in the warmth, can I have quiet word?

Yes of course Bertie, what's on your mind, I'm listening. 

Well it's just that I've noticed you have a new coffee mug, and I want to tell you how much I like it.

Oh Bertie, you mean this one I guess, the one with 'wirehaired fox terrier' written on, and a picture of a fine handsome WFT face? 

Yes that's the one.

I get the sense there's more you want to say Bertie?

Yes Gail, there is.  You see Gail, I've been living in this house all these months, and everywhere I look it's been Westie this and Westie that.  Mugs, wall hangings, stuffed toys, ornaments, cards, fridge magnets, you name it....  Can't you see, it's been a little hard, surrounded by all these Hamish look-a-likes, not to worry just a wee bit that you think I'm second best?

Oh Bertie. Bertie Bertie Bertie.  Oh I am so sorry.  I had no idea you felt like that. I admit that when Hamish was here, I loved him more than words can say.  But now you've come along, and I've found a new and huge and special place in my heart for loving you just as much.  As for all those Westie knick-knacks, it's very simple.  It seems every other shop in Scotland sells something with a Westie picture on it; they're sort of the national dog.  The only reason we don't have a house full of fox terrier stuff is that it's much harder to come by. 

So where did you get the new mug from then?

Well Bertie, we're very lucky that Marie-Thérèse lives with us and is so clever at finding nice things on the internet. She gave me the mug as a birthday present last week.

Oh I might have guessed.  She is so thoughtful.  Where is she?  I want to give her another cuddle right now.  Just after I've had a sip of your coffee that is.....
PS Gail wants me to point out that I wasn't actually drinking her coffee, it was the 'dog beer' that my friend George sent me a while back. It was totally dee-lish!

Sunday 28 November 2010

Snowy early morning

You've slept long enough and your hot water bottle is cold

It's a brand new day and time for your walk in the park

You step outside and wait for Gail to get all togged up

You check out unfamiliar objects

You spot some new friends in the distance

You join them for a conference

You learn their names are Ziggy and Rumpole

Gail admires the moon

You return home for porridge and coffee...

The simple things in life are the best.

Friday 26 November 2010

Bunty's list: Bertie reveals his competitive side...

Bertie: the picture of innocence
Remember Bunty? The little border terrier pup who ate my lunch?

Well. She sent me an email the other day.

I know what you're thinking. About time she apologised for that dreadful behaviour. Perhaps she's finally learning some manners.

Not one bit of it.

The email simply read as follows:

Trousers, leaves, pansies (eaten rather than chewed), dressing gown, cardboard boxes, woollen hats, twigs, feet of antique tables, flex, toilet paper, flower pots, combs, remembrance poppies, firewood, shoes, boots, matches, fir cones, newspapers.

This is, of course, a list of household objects she's chewed up so far. I think I'm supposed to be impressed.

Is this some sort of a contest Bunty?

Well let me make a few things quite clear:

1. I too have chewed just about every single item on your pathetic little list, and then some.
2. If Gail had owned any antique furniture, then I certainly would have had a go at that too.
3. Did you see what I did to that egg box?
4. Ditto the dog flap.

Finally Bunty, I would like to bet you half a dozen choice lamb shanks that you can't compete with my proudest achievement to date.

It used to be Gail's favourite cashmere sweater, but I guess it isn't anymore as I haven't seen her wear it lately...

Monday 22 November 2010

Leaping about in an excited state...

Welcome, students, to this the latest in my lecture series for budding canine scientists. Today, we tackle quantum physics. Do pay attention.

I am delighted that several of you already have engaged with the subject. Your answers to my Schrödinger’s cat question were most interesting and, er, creative…..And a big well done to the Special Wires, the only dogs apparently to appreciate the difference between a thought experiment and a real one. Back to the top of the class after that wee ‘hiccup’ on the Field Trip!

But I do know what some others of you are thinking – “Oh, no, quantum physics, this doesn’t sound like my cup of tea at all, Bertie.  Tell you what, I’ll pop back later when you’re posting some cute photos or telling a story about pinching your granny’s home baked scones….”

Well, if you want to pass up on this unique opportunity for improving your mind, so be it.

I’m not denying it has been something of a challenge, deciding how to present quantum physics in a canine-friendly fashion. But I would not be a true terrier were my middle name not ‘tenacious’.  After reading widely and deeply on the subject I am pleased to say I have come to realize that us dogs in general, and wire-haired fox terriers in particular, embody several of the key concepts of this particular sub-atomic science, at a macro-level, as I explain below!

For starters we – especially the younger pups - can surely relate to a theory based the notion that a burst of energy produces a tendency to suddenly leap about in various different and unique states of excitement? And there you have it; the quantum jump and the Pauli Exclusion Principle in a nutshell. Easy peasy.

Yes indeed, the rules for the quantum world might only apply at an atomic scale, but the basic concepts are ones that we can all readily comprehend.

The fast moving amongst us will have already observed that our humans often find it impossible to determine exactly where we are and how quickly we are moving at the same time. In fact a perfect illustration of the famous Heisenberg uncertainty principle! A related issue is the problem of the measurement system interacting with the thing being measured, and vice versa. Supposedly a difficult idea to grasp. Well I ask you, how often have you been to the vets and chewed up the thermometer? The real mystery is quite why anyone thought this measurement problem remarkable enough to even mention, much less mull over for years and write scientific papers on.  

Incidentally, this Heisenberg (left) sounds a mighty sensible chap, as well as smart (and despite his apparent fondness for lederhosen). When he needed to solve a scientific conundrum he would go for a hike in the mountains and the answer would come to him. If only he had had a dog to walk, then surely the still elusive unified theory of absolutely everything would already have been in the bag… 

On to another key aspect of quantum theory. Paired electron spin.  Think Agatha and Archie (right). They may not have realized it at the time, but our dear wire-haired friends in Boston provided a perfect illustration of this principle in their blog a week ago – click here and watch the short video at the very end of their post and you will grasp the spin thing quite quickly, I am sure*. 

Yes the more you think about, the odder it is that some humans have found the concepts of quantum physics a teeny little bit challenging. When it all becomes so clear if thought about in terms of wire-haired fox terrier behaviour!  Consider my own good self. On one hand, I can be seen as an adorable little chappie who loves nothing more than to cuddle up on a friendly human lap and gently lick the hand that strokes me in an affectionate and endearing, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth manner. Whilst at the same time, I can be a true terrorterrier, ever ready to bounce into action, teeth bared, and tear to shreds the nearest cat flap or cashmere sweater at a moment’s notice. I expect that several of my students recognize in themselves this dual nature too? Why then should a ray of light (an infinitely more simple entity than a wire-haired fox terrier, we might all agree) not be both a stream of photons and an electromagnetic wave, as Louis de Broglie proposed in his ‘wave-particle duality’ hypothesis?

Then of course we have action at a distance, and the related idea of entanglement. Two more basic tenets of the quantum world. And both so very familiar to dogs with blogs. I mean, how many times in the past year has ‘the Power of the Paw’ been invoked to aid an ailing fellow canine? Do we care if you are in Australia or Atlanta, France or the Philppines,  South Africa or Scotland? We do not. A few keystrokes in one part of the world and the impact is felt on the other side of the globe. Action at a distance indeed.

So dear Asta, my favourite New York based WFT. I hope you now can see that quantum physics is really very simple, and that you might even be able to explain it all to your Mommi in a way she can understand. Perhaps, with your help, she could now even retake that Physics 101 course 105 years later and snag a decent grade!  

*By the way, I believe that Agatha has prepared a side lecture, which she claims (??) will complement this one, on 'how to deal with a brother who is a crazy man'. As they say on Agatha's side of the Pond, "Go figure".

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Nice people and broken dog flaps

I am just taking a wee break from intensive preparations for next Monday's canine science lecture (it's Quantum Physics - you need to be there....) in order to tell you about a couple of my extra specially nice human friends.

First and foremost is Marie-Thérèse, who lives with us here in Gail's home while she is writing up her PhD thesis, and is, much more importantly, chief purveyor of absolutely the best cuddles going. She doesn't want me to show her face (although it is a very agreeable one) but I think you get the idea.

Secondly there is Clare, who loves to play, and always ignores Gail when she says "oh don't wind him up that's the last thing we need!" On Sunday she left me a great new toy. It was meant for me, wasn't it Clare?

(In case you are wondering, the fragments you see dimly on the far right of the photo above are the chewed remains of my dog flap. A new one has been ordered, meanwhile it is a little cold and breezy in our 'conservatory', although that doesn't matter 'cos the few plants are all dead anyway, some humans just have brown fingers I guess...)

Well that's all I have time for today. Of course I have lots more friends and and I'll tell you about them in some future post. Meanwhile, back to the physics equations. See you on Monday!

Sunday 14 November 2010

More on this grooming business

Is it right that our humans should give priority to their own grooming needs?

I'm just asking 'cos I overheard Gail the other day saying to a friend "well at least if I deal with Bertie's coat myself, then I'm no longer spending more on the dog's haircut than on my own. Which was the case when Hamish was around..."

Talk about selfish!

Now a certain person disappeared for a couple of hours yesterday morning after our walk in the park, and I couldn't help but notice when she returned that the pathetic little patch of fur on her head was even shorter than before and had changed colour. Less 'Aberdeen granite' now, and more 'ripe cornfield in the setting sun'.

Do you think she's been hand-stripped?

Oh, I am being told to stop focussing on trivia and knuckle down to work on my forthcoming quantum physics lecture (Monday 22nd November). I know some of my readers were hoping this next class in my course for budding canine scientists would also involve a field trip. Well I regret to inform you that theoretical physics is a subject best practiced indoors, with one's head stuck in a textbook full of very complicated equations.....

I'm sure you all can't wait!

Thursday 11 November 2010

At fifty seven point two degrees North ...

Yesterday afternoon, only half past three, and the river was turning pink...

Sunday, walking in the Deeside hills,  the path was all dusted with cold white powdery stuff and my paws were tingling...

And I couldn't tell where to tread...

Now which was the way to the equator?