Sunday 31 October 2010

A musical interlude in Torridon

Sorry I haven’t been in touch much these last few days.

You see, we were over in Torridon. It’s been an interesting time.

I have been discovering that information from Gail is not always to be relied upon…

During the drive West on Wednesday, Gail told me that this Wind Quintet from the Netherlands (the Anemos Arts Ensemble) were coming over to give a concert in the local Community Centre and that they would all be staying in our cottage for the week. Well that much was true.

She went on and on about how I would have to mind my P’s and Q’s because these classical musicians would certainly be very prim and proper. But they look quite relaxed and normal when performing an afternoon concert for the local school children, don’t you think?

I was told that they would likely bring along only high-minded and intellectually stimulating reading material. But this is what I found on the coffee table in the cottage. Believe me, Gail never would buy magazines this interesting…

I was also told that I wouldn’t be allowed within a mile of all the precious musical instruments. But in fact I was given permission to stand on the table to get a closer look.

(I wanted Gail to take the photo with the instruments outside the cottage, but Sander was worried that it would be too cold for his oboe. An ‘interesting’ excuse for staying inside in the warmth, if ever I heard one.)

Gail said that the quintet would be very wary of letting me anywhere near their delicate and sensitive musicians’ hands. But French horn player Cleo was well up for a scrap…

Gail also said we were to expect a clean living and abstemious group, who would always go to bed early and not stay up late after the evening concert and demonstrate levitation phenomena and make rude jokes about Dutch horse breeders. 

Oh well, I guess the whisky, wine and beer bottles emptied themselves then…With no help at all from Karel the clarinettist or any one else…

Only orange man Lucas the bassoon player went to bed early. No doubt to contemplate the final of last summer’s soccer World Cup.

I do, by the way, resent Gail’s suggestion that it’s me that’s looking a bit squiffy in this next picture.  What you see here is the mature expression of dog who has just this week figured out how to cock his leg in a truly grown up and masculine fashion.

Oh and another thing. I don’t know if you noticed a rather strange new object leaning against the wall in the back of the photo of the Wind Quintet and their instruments.

Look here it is again, without anyone in the way.

This, Gail says, is a hand-crafted sea kayak, a gift to Gail from the musicians, for letting them stay in our cottage two years running.

Now I’m no great boatbuilding expert, but, well er, it doesn’t exactly look seaworthy, does it. Do you think we’ve been had….?

Gail here: I feel duty bound to explain that the wooden sea kayak frame was in fact made by flautist Angela’s wonderful husband Florian, also a musician although not one of the Quintet, and that he has promised to come over to Torridon next year and give the kayak its ‘skin’!

Oh. Well then, can I just add, Florian, that I am an Earth Dog, and have no intention of boarding any kind of a kayak, with or without holes in it, and as far as I am concerned, you can take as long as you like to finish it, as one thing is for certain, time Gail spends in the kayak will be time diverted from her primary duty of paying attention to me.

Anyway, moving on.

After the musicians had departed, Gail and I went for a long walk to Coire Mhic Fhearchair, round the back of Beinn Eighe. It was very windy and scary at the corrie, and on the way up there was a nasty stream crossing with stepping stones, which Gail kindly carried me across (as I said earlier, I don’t do water). 

We’ve had enough words today, so here are some pictures from the walk.

I am still waiting for that cheque from the Tourist Board.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Extra Treats from George / Quantum Physics

A HUGE thank you to my pal George down in Shropshire. We did have a little contretemps at the end of that Highland fiasco Field Trip, but now that he has agreed to share his beer, and even sent me some of his favourite Paddywacks (yum yum!), we are best mates once more. 

You could say that we've kissed and made up, but reserved British males don't do that sort of thing...

Cheers George!

PS I am having a bit of difficulty with the computer help at the moment, so this blog may be quiet-ish over the next few weeks. 

In which time, in preparation for the Quantum Physics lecture (the next in my ongoing course for budding canine scientists), I would like to you consider the following question. 

Please suggest reasons why physicist Erwin Schrödinger choose a cat not a dog for his famous thought experiment? You know! The one where the cat in the box was in a state of being simultaneously alive and dead until the box was opened........Answers in the comment box please. Responses from dogs, cats and even humans all equally welcome.  

Sunday 24 October 2010

Not so bonnie Scotland...

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that when we go out for our walks, Gail often gets me to 'pose' for photos in a particularly picturesque spot. (Sometimes I cooperate, sometimes I don't, that's a subject for another day.)

But is this the right thing to do anyway?

You see, I have started to worry I might be misleading my blogging friends by portraying an image of Scotland that is all stunning landscapes of mountains, lochs and glens, interspersed with the occasional ancient and historic castle here and there...

Well I would be quite happy to continue colluding with this deception, if the Scottish Tourist Board, or other organisation with an interest in perpetrating the myth that all parts of my homeland are beautiful and interesting, would be prepared to hand over a generous, er, 'consideration' for my efforts (on a regular basis of course).

But the ugly truth is, you don't have to go far in Aberdeen before you are confronted by some exceptionally dreary architecture..

I can show you an almost infinite number of similarly hideous buildings, and believe me they look much, much worse when the weather is more typically grey and Aberdonian than it was this afternoon.

Now please don't let this be interpreted as blackmail but...

If anyone out there wants me to stick to only posing in front of the scenic stuff, then well let's just say that I am willing to negotiate...

Thursday 21 October 2010

Gail's new job. NO!

Gail is threatening to go out to work for two days a week at the University.*

But she won't be able to, not without an ID card...

*That's the University of Aberdeen, not Robert Gordon/Donald Trump University, just to make it quite clear.

Monday 18 October 2010

Perfect Autumn Weekend

 Fine walks

Splendid scenery

Fiery Autumn colours

A tranquil loch (yes, for a nanosecond, we had no wind....)

And at the end of it all, a cosy evening in front of the fire with a good book.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Back home after an eventful field trip..

Gail, please can I come on your lap and have a cuddle?

Bertie, dear darling Bertie, you come here. You're looking quite down in the mouth. What's all this about?

(Big sigh) Oh Gail, it seemed such a good idea at the time. A Highland geology field trip with my pals. How did it all go so wrong?

Little Bertie, I'm sure it didn't ALL go wrong... OK, I admit, reading your previous post, that I was a mite concerned you had bitten off more than you could chew. It was a big project for such a wee man. Where do you think the trouble started? Oh little Bertie, please don't cry, you can tell me all about it, no-one else need know.

Well Gail, let's see, I think my first mistake was to let Uncle Eric drive the bus. Yes, I know, I had been warned.....Then the incident with Stella at the airport didn't help did it? Although, as it turns out she is a deluded fantastist, perhaps we were perhaps still better off without her? Despite all Ludo's whinging. I mean, you'd have to be deluded to imagine that a holiday on Lake Como with George Clooney would be more fun than a Highland geology field trip in the pouring rain, wouldn't you Gail?

Wouldn't you?

(Gail seems distracted, a bit dreamy eyed,  for a just moment).

Er Bertie, yes you're right, quite right there. Of course you would. 

And then Gail I'd always thought that at least my bassett Aunties Martha and Bailey were respectable and responsible types, despite being from the Glasgow area. How could I have known that they'd organise a lock-in in the hotel bar, behind my back? It was supposed to be only me and George that had access to alcohol...

So you see it was late the next day by the time we got back to the bus, and we saw that it had all but disappeared into the bog!  All the terriers, big and small, plus of course Kira and Riley and the rest, they all dug and dug and dug, but the bus just kept sinking deeper.

And that Mango, when he eventually turned up, was a hindrance not a help. Honestly Gail, knocking poor Toby over that ledge of Torridonian sandstone with his purple manbag while dancing the Highland Fling indeed! At least nurse Asta's unexpected appearance meant that little now not so little Toby went home to South Africa with his wounds neatly dressed...

As if all that wasn't enough, George and I had a bit of a barney over the merits of geologist Sir Roderick Murchison, who, as everybody knows, got his Highland geology all wrong. You know what he said at the end of it? "That's the last time I'm letting you share my secret beer supply Bertie". Boo hoo.

Oh my poor chappie, could it have got any worse? 

Yes it could! I can't believe that, of all dogs, it was Jake and Fergi who led the mutiny after I suggested we hike on over to Ardnamurchan to look at the volcanic ring complex. Then Jazzi, who I thought was such promising student, flagged down a tour bus destined for Aberdeen, saying she'd heard that the 'Oil Capital' had some Mexican restaurants to cater for all the Texan roughnecks. You know, that was when I realised I'd totally lost control.

Bertie, Bertie, Bertie, I just hate to see you all upset like this. (She wraps a blanket around her beloved, distraught young wire-haired fox terrier). Was there anything else? 

Only that Uncle Eric insisted on a diverting the bus to the Walkers shortbread factory in Aberlour, and forced us all to take part in some dumb competition. Then when we finally reached Aberdeen, and I tried to tell  everyone about the very interesting Rubislaw Quarry, source of the granite that built the city, and one of the biggest man-made holes in Europe, they all threatened to throw me right into the big hole if I didn't immediately show them the way to Chiquitos....

Now little Bertie, don't take it so hard. Surely there must have been some bits that were fun? 

Well Gail, OK, I guess it was rather lovely to have Katie and Fergi in my room late at night, looking so cute in their jimjams. Even if George did seem a bit miffed that they insisted on keeping them on. (That's the story we agreed, isn't it George?). Yes, that was pretty nice. Mmmmm.

And Bertie, I'm sure you learned a lot. So there's no need to be downhearted. Do you plan to carry on with the science lecture series? Maybe you need a bit of a break?

I've been thinking about that, Gail. I've decided I will take a break for a few weeks, and then I'll perhaps try something easier than geology.

Good idea Bertie, good idea. So what subject do you plan to tackle next?

Quantum physics would be suitable, I'm quite sure. Yes, definitely, it's going to be quantum physics.

Oh Lord give me strength.....

Gail?  Gail?  Er, I thought you said you were an atheist?



Oh and Bertie, just one more thing?  I really want you to make it up to Stella. For Hamish's sake. She and him were such good friends. And I'm sure you and Stella could be too if you would only show her a bit more respect. Will you do that for me? Please? 

OK Gail, I will. I promise. I like Stella too. A lot. I'll tell her I didn't mean what I said earlier....

Monday 11 October 2010

Scotch on the Rocks: Geology as never before....


The scene: It is late in the evening in the bar of an old Highland Hotel. About thirty dogs, mostly rather bedraggled, are variously slumped over the furniture, surreptitiously chewing the tartan rugs, or comforting themselves by licking their private parts....A few still have the energy to chase up and down the corridor or jump up at the antlers hung just out of reach on the old stone wall. Empty whisky glasses are strewn about the room.

Bertie speaks:

OK guys, listen up!

Well I know I said no alcohol on this trip but I certainly needed that wee dram, and I expect you all did too. What a day! The combination of Uncle Eric's unique driving style and our Highland roads has been, I must say, a little trying on the nerves. Even the Road Dogs, I noticed, found the ride tough going. The fact that the rear axle buckled after we loaded George's mysteriously heavy suitcase on to the minibus did not help, indeed. And it really was the last straw when Eric attempted that short cut across the bog. Auntie Martha, what were you thinking of? Why ever did you not stop him? After all, you are supposed to be familiar with this terrain. Surely you could have foreseen that our vehicle would get stuck. How fortunate that it was only a five mile walk on to the hotel, and the torrential rain stopped after the first four and three quarter miles. And I think that a valuable lesson has been learned, about the importance of wearing clothing that is weatherproof rather than stylish on a trip like this. I bet you felt all cosy in those fishermens' sweaters, didn't you, Jake and Just Harry. Yes, do feel free to have a little gloat at Lacie. That see-through and skimpy so-called 'rainwear' was not really suitable at all, was it my dear?  Perhaps you will warm up, and dry out your purple kiltie, if you sit closer to the fire. 

But let's looks on the bright side, we all arrived here in one piece didn't we? Oh, apart from Mango, who apparently missed his plane due to his idle Mom. And OK, yes, I did insist that we leave Stella behind at Inverness Airport. I really don't think I had any choice. Perhaps, when she hears about what a fantastic day we had, she will begin to regret throwing such a tantrum, simply because I refused to supply her with her very own special woolly blanket for the journey...

Just a shame that we did not have time for the boat trip out to the Isle of Muck. Don't worry Kira, I am sure your sailing skills will come in handy at some future date. 

Now before we all turn in for the night, I want us to review what happened out in the field today, to consolidate our knowledge of the local geology and to try and avoid future mishaps.

Archie!  Please be quiet on that d**d instrument. One might think that an elephant is being tortured. Yes we did appreciate the Beatles medley on the accordion while driving up here. Although the Rolling Stones might have been more apt. Who knew that the Fab Four wrote so many songs relevant to dogs?  But anyway, after 'I Want to Chew Your Hand', 'She's Leaving Bones', 'A Hard Dog's Night', 'We Can Walk It out', 'Yelp', 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Bark Club Hound' and 'Let it Pee'*, I think we have all had quite enough music for today. There is a time and a place for bagpipe playing, the time being NOT NOW and the place being up a remote glen at least ten miles from the nearest human or canine habitation. 

Now where were we? Ah yes, who can remember what we saw at the first stop?

Yes, Jake and Fergi, very good, it was Lewisian gneiss, of Precambrian age. Tell, you just stay here and listen! You too Auntie Bailey! No running off please. And do sit still and pay attention Maisie

Now perhaps Jazzi, when she has finished chomping on that last taco, can tell us some facts about about the gneiss. 

That's right Jazzi! It's the oldest rock round here and sometimes it is indeed a pretty pink swirly pattern, toning just nicely with your backpack.

Now class, it can be difficult to imagine quite how old these rocks really are. If you have been reading Jazzi's blog lately, you will have learned that many of us have Mums (or Moms) that are older than dirt. Well. If you add up all their ages, in human years, and then multiply the total by about ten million, then that is about the age of the Lewisian. 

Ludo? You are saying your Mum is not old at all? I do apologize. Think of her then as the Quaternary of the blogging Mums. (Gail by comparison, is Archaean). 

What else did we learn today about gneiss? Yes little Toby, it is an acid rock, excellent, what a smart wee chappie you are! OK, OK, OK, don't get all het up, not so wee, you're quite right, bigger than me now in fact? Haven't you grown fast.

The soil on top of acidic rocks tends to be peaty and boggy, as you would all have been aware, had you done your pre-class reading. What a pity that Uncle Eric is not a more diligent student.

OK. Moving on. Can anyone tell me what lies on top of the Lewisian gneiss?

What's that, Carrleigh, Lilly? Oh that is so not funny. The answer I am looking for is 'the Torridonian Sandstone' not 'our minibus'.

After the Torridonian comes the Cambrian Quartzite.  This is easily recognised by dogs as it breaks up to form sharp shards, which are very painful on the paws.

Dozer, please stop yawning over there. I am not being boring. Riley, what do you mean 'I came all this way for this?'

Ludo, please stop sulking. I am most certainly not going to pay for a taxi so that your friend Stella can rejoin us. 

Well alright, I admit it has been rather a long day. I think perhaps we are ready to turn in.

So good night all. Goodnight!

The dogs start to drift upstairs. 

Now George, please can I help you carry that suitcase up to your room? Oh, wait a minute, Katie, perhaps you would like to join George and I upstairs for an, er, extra tutorial? With refreshments! And we can teach you some structural geology. About how 'after the thrust comes the nappe' and so on.....Oh yes, and that's a very good idea George, let's ask Fergi too. (Yes, I have seen those cute photos of her in her jammies......)

Oh, and one final thing before you all disappear. It's an early start tomorrow morning. I want all the big dogs (Monty, Molly, Baby Rocket Dog, Kira, that means you, oh and OK, you too Toby) to be ready to show me you really are as good at digging as you claimed on your application forms. And please, if Mango turns up, nobody, and I mean NOBODY, is to laugh at his purple 'manbag' until after he has helped us. After all, unless we can haul our bus from out of that bog, we may never be going home.....

*Thanks to Marie-Therese and her family for the new song titles. And apologies to the Beatles.

Saturday 9 October 2010

More on Bertie's moment of fame....

Here's a video of Bertie's Donald Trump protest/BBC News feature, for those of you overseas who can't receive BBC iPlayer. It's poor quality as I filmed it off the screen with my camera, but you get the idea. Gail.

My one-dog Donald Trump protest makes the BBC News!

Albeit briefly. Click here*

For background, see earlier post: We hate Donald Trump

*If you're outside the UK you may not be able to access this link. Sorry.

Friday 8 October 2010

Tea pot still intact miracle..

My human carer Gail is a creature of habit. Every morning she comes downstairs first thing, feeds me and makes herself a pot of tea. She covers the pot with a cosy, and leaves the tea to 'mash' while she showers. 

This is the usual set up.
But yesterday morning, silly Gail left the teapot rather close to the counter edge.  I don't think the positioning was intentional, although just the other day I did overhear Gail asking my 'trainer', Mrs Munro, how best to stop me surfing the worktops.  Mrs Munro suggested placing some object, like a plastic mug of water, so that I could just reach it and would be startled (but not hurt) if I pulled it down.

Well anyway, when Gail returned to the kitchen, she found the tea cosy, teapot and contents spilled all over the tiled floor!

Amazingly, the little red earthenware teapot was undamaged.

Now I can't imagine how all this happened, can you?

Well let's think about it logically. It couldn't have been me,  'cos I'm still not scared of trying to pull things off tables and worktops.....

*****     *****     *****

Now about this geology field trip, scheduled for Monday. Thank you for all your applications. The standard has been variable! I would like to commend those dogs who put up special posts - each one absolutely brilliant. (You can see the links in the top right corner of the blog, below the header). Well done Jake and Just Harry, Jazzi, the Rockie Creek Scotties, George and Ludo. Oh and last minute entrants, the five (eek!) Road Dogs. But anyway, I have miraculously procured a Tardis-style minibus, so all the canine students who applied will be able to fit in. The conscientious amongst you will want to be reading the set text, Hutton's Arse, over the weekend.

Oh and finally. I just want to show you that sometimes, even in Aberdeen, we do have enough October sunshine to cast a shadow on our cobbled streets.

Monday 4 October 2010

King of the Castle (an Autumn Fantasy)

Sunday afternoon. Finally, it stopped raining.

But the weather still looked 'uncertain'. (Round these parts, that's code for 'could start pee-ing down again any minute'). So we decided against an exposed hill walk and instead went exploring the woods and gardens surrounding Crathes Castle.

We almost had the place to ourselves. I felt quite at home.

The Castle and adjacent land belongs to the National Trust for Scotland. Apparently the NTS are short of a bob or two. I have an idea!  Gail could buy it from them. I feel I deserve a country estate. Don't you think this would do nicely?
PS: You still have until Friday to apply for the field trip - see last but one post. BBB.