Wednesday 27 June 2012

A walk on the wild side...

You know how it is when you're given a promotion at work?

You think, isn't it great! Finally, I'll be trusted to get on with things by myself, to work independently, with no more too close supervision and irritating micro-management.

Life can be so disappointing.

You will all be aware by now that I was recently elevated from 'Assistant' to 'Associate' Webguide Volunteer for the VisitWoods Scotland project.

And you may remember that Gail and I have already had 'issues' about what that means in terms of who gets to choose which woods we visit.

Nonetheless, I have been operating under the entirely reasonable assumption that an Associate should be allowed to conduct his own inspections of local woods without the need for a hectoring human in close proximity.

We arrived at the entrance to Dunnottar Woods last Friday.

Oh it didn't take long to realise that there was plenty here worth checking out.

And then I caught a whiff of something most interesting in the dense undergrowth.

In such circumstances, I believe I am contractually obliged to conduct a thorough follow-up investigation. 

Look, remember I am an Associate now.

Really Gail made a most ridiculous fuss when she lost sight of me for a few minutes. I can scarcely bear to tell you what happened next, it is so humiliating.

She actually went and spoke to some other humans who were out walking their dogs, and asked if they'd seen a wire-haired fox terrier anywhere. She was on the point of giving them her mobile phone number when I ran back to tell her all about the red squirrels, rabbits and deer that I'd seen, and the wonderful, just wonderful foxy aroma that I simply had to follow through the ferns to the furthest reaches of the wood.

But instead of being impressed, Gail just clamped on my lead - the horror - and said firmly, "that's quite enough independence for today, my wee mannie, you're staying right by my side all the way back to the car". 

As if the promotion had never happened. 

Sunday 24 June 2012

Bertie’s Blogville Olympics Bouncing Event.

My name is Bouncing Bertie, we all know I love to bounce.
But today I’ll cease my movements ‘cos I’ve something to announce.

I expect you’ve heard already about Blogville’s great event,
Our very own Olympics (and it won’t cost you a cent).

 I’ve answered Mayor Frankie’s call to host a brand new game.
For those of you who love to write, this is your chance for fame!

I’m asking all participants to pick up pen and paper,
And tell me why they think that bouncing is just such a joyous caper.

In not more than three hundred words, perhaps you’d like to say,
Why, where and when you bounce, and then with whom you like to play.

Do you bounce upon your Human? Do you like to trampoline? 
Do you use a favourite sofa that your 'Mum' prefers kept clean? 

I’m sure you have some stories, and I want to emphasise
I’ll be most liberal about how ‘bouncing’ is defined.

Some prose, a poem, dialogue, a limerick, haiku,
You can choose whatever form makes your creative juices flow.

I’ll post all entries on my blog on 29 July,
But you need to mail them earlier*, you know the reasons why.

You might want, if you like, to send a photo for ID,
Just remember this game’s all about the words you write for me!

*Entries to be sent to this email between 9th and 18th July please. 

As you probably know, there are loads and loads of other exciting events in the Blogville Olympics, all hosted by my fellow dog bloggers. You can enter as many as you like. 
Oh I just can't wait! 

Bounce Bounce.


Friday 27th July 
Posey:  Parade of Athletes
Roo:  OPENING Extravaganza
Frankie Furter:  Olympic Committee

Saturday 28th July
Jazzi:  Window Nose Art
Sarge:  Swimming

Sunday 29th July
Oscar:  Crazy Sleeping Singles and Synchronized Sleepers
Bertie:  Bouncing (narrative style)

Monday 30th July 
WHN:  Cross Neighborhood Walkabout and Catch me IF you Can
Benny and Lily:  Beach Ball

Tuesday 31st July 
Madi:  Gymnastics 
Lily Bell and Muffin:  Couch Potato Peeling

Wednesday 1st August
Mona and Weenie:  Tongue Curling/Raspberry and Critter Stalking
Pip:  Discus / Frisbee

Thursday 2nd August
Goose:  Stick(s)

Friday 3rd August
Murphy and Stanley:  Marathon Chewing

Saturday 4th August
Declan:  Tuneful Farting

Sunday 5th August
Rubie and Poots:  Equestrian
Mayzie:  Camera Avoidance Tae Kwon Do

Monday 6th August
Shasta and Shiloh:  Synchronized Peeing

Tuesday 7th August
Susie and Sidebite:  Free Style Zoomies
Ruby and Penny:  Roaching and Rolling

Wednesday 8th August 
Bailey and Katy:  Squirrel Hurdles
Indigo:  DRAW your Peeple
Lulu:  Snack Sack Race

Thursday 9th August
Sasha:  Boxing
Frank the Tank:  EXTREME Weather Sports

Friday 10th August
Max:  Turbo Track
Luna and Cynder:  Snoopendous SniffAthon

Saturday 11th August
Mollie Jo:  The Great Tennis Ball Tournament
Uji and Izzy:  Bathtub Wrestling

Sunday 12th August 

Thursday 21 June 2012

Gifts for humans - a case history

Readers, before I go any further, I want you to reassure you I am aware, as a proper grown-up dog, that not all presents are meant for me. I do understand it is appropriate that Gail too should receive gifts from time to time.

But you will, I think, allow me to express an opinion about what is or is not a suitable gift for a human, and this is the subject of today's blog post.

I shall put forward my argument in the form of a case study. It concerns two presents Gail has been given by friends who have several times enjoyed the use of our Torridon cottage. To save embarrassment, I shall use only the initials of these friends.

The first present, from 'F' and 'A', was a hand-built sea kayak. This is an example of an unsuitable gift. Long time readers of this blog may remember me expressing my concerns about Gail's new kayak last October. Well. Now that the Scottish so-called 'summer' is upon us Gail has again been venturing out in this flimsiest of craft. Lest you think me selfish for disapproving of a toy that results in me being left alone onshore, let me point out it is merely Gail's welfare I have at heart. Do you know how windy it can be, even in June, how high the waves, even in a supposedly sheltered sea loch, how strong the tidal currents, and how cold the water, despite the purportedly warming effect of the Gulf Stream. And how low in the water a sea kayak is, and how vulnerable to being up-ended by a basking shark?
And how lonely I would be if Gail were 'lost at sea'.....

By contrast, the second present, a redwood garden bench from 'M' and 'J', is, I believe, an excellent example of an entirely suitable gift. It is substantial, aesthetically pleasing and most importantly designed to stay on solid ground - in this case in the front garden of the cottage - and be sat on. It encourages the humans to relax outside, safely enjoying the view of Loch Torridon without any danger of drowning. They may be tempted to consume their meals while sitting on the bench, and as we know, when humans dine outdoors, especially when they have already enjoyed a glass of wine or two prior to eating, they become a little more, shall we say casual, about their manners, with a subsequent increase in foraging opportunities for the alert canine.

A perfect gift indeed.

So readers, in particular those of you contemplating the purchase of a present for a human friend or relative, I hope you will stop a while and ponder the lessons from today's little case study, and make sure you chose wisely and well.

PS Watch out for the invitation to take part in my unique Blogville Olympics Bouncing Event, which I'll be posting this coming weekend!

Sunday 17 June 2012

More irritating than the midges Part II?

This is Clare, out on a walk in the Torridon area on Saturday. She is no relation to the infamous Michael.

May I also introduce Gail's cousin Sue and her husband Martin.  I met them both for the first time this weekend.
Isn't it nice when you can so quickly feel comfortable with someone?

Sunday 10 June 2012

Maybe some woods are not worth visiting..?

Hey Gail! Now that I have been officially promoted to Associate VisitWoods Web Guide, I think I should take some responsibility for deciding which woods we inspect.

OK then Bertie, that's fine with me. We have some free time this afternoon. Where would you like to go?

Well Gail, I checked on the VisitWoods website, and was surprised to find that there is no information yet about the wood nearest to our home, St Fitticks Community Woodland. Look, see, there on the map, it's listed as being only 1.4 miles away, so perhaps we could walk from here?

Oh Bertie, I fear there may be good reasons for the lack of information. I see that it's very small, and is right next to that smelly waste treatment plant....

A smelly waste treatment plant! Whoopee! Oh that sounds right up my street. Come on, where's my lead?

(Gail sighs, and fetches the lead). 

Bertie, if we absolutely must visit this wood, can we at least go via the harbour and round by the coast? It's a longer walk, but more varied and we won't then have to go through the really ugly housing estate.

A longer walk? Super! Off we jolly well go!

First we take a shortcut round the back of our Aberdeen neighbours' houses.

They do look a bit smarter from the front.

The shortcut takes us down to the River Dee. See how patiently I wait at the road crossing (despite there being no cars).

On the other side of the river I race the Aberdeen Rowing Club.

We're at the harbour in no time at all.

Sadly, dogs aren't allowed in the oil field supply base so we have to walk round behind it.

Soon enough we come to a little beach at the mouth of the harbour.

The harbour mouth is where the local bottlenose dolphins hang out, but we can't spot any today. I think the sea is too rough.

Further round the headland, we go past the lighthouse.

And a half a mile later, we've arrived at our destination!

Er, yes. Those sticks are part of the St Fitticks Community Woodland, apparently. And that's the landfill and waste treatment site behind. Disappointingly odour free today...

I guess Gail does have a point about the ugly housing...

But the 'wood' has one or two pretty corners with bigger trees, if you look hard enough.

We take a different route back, and after a short stretch through the housing scheme and across a busy road, we end up in more green space, south of the Dee.

Then it's back across the river and into Duthie Park. Lots of 'my' park is still fenced off due to the ongoing restoration project.

But at least the kiddies' playground is still open and busy.

Finally we're home. That's my house on the right, behind my Mini.

Well I thought it was a great wee expedition, but Gail is saying she's going to retain rights of veto on my future woodland choices.

Can that be fair?

Friday 8 June 2012

Inscrutable? (And thank you Jill)

You know I felt quite hurt the other day when I overheard Gail saying to a friend that she doesn't think I have nearly such an expressive face as Hamish did.

Then I thought about it a bit more and decided  I must be mysterious and inscrutable, and that is altogether preferable, isn't it?

But now Gail is laughing as she types this for me, and saying "Bertie, you are about as inscrutable as Gwyneth Paltrow on Oscar night" and explaining what she meant is that I communicate my emotions using my whole body, and do it very effectively.

Well I hope that you can see my delight here at receiving a positive response to my recent request for promotion.

Oh I am just thrilled to bits with this letter I received from the Volunteer Coordinator Jill at the VisitWoods project, which arrived a few days ago, along with a most prestigious certificate. (You will want to click on the images to biggify them so that you can read them properly, I'm sure.)

Jill has now moved on to bigger and better things at the Woodland Trust, and I think I speak for all my fellow volunteers when I say that she has done an absolutely magnificent job for VisitWoods Scotland, we loved working with her and wish her all the best in her new role as People Engagement Officer. I am certain that the Woodland Trust have made the perfect choice and will benefit greatly from her enthusiasm, energy, organisational ability and lovely manner. What a super lady. Here she is in action:

So now it's time for me to go and check out a new wood!

Tuesday 5 June 2012

A complaint about the BBC's Jubilee Pageant coverage

Dear Head of the BBC,

It comes to something, doesn't it, when a ninety year old man with Alzheimer's disease can provide a more interesting commentary than all your finest and most highly paid 'presenters'. Not only was the BBC's coverage of the Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames absolutely lamentable (even wetter than the London weather), as many have already noted, but worse, it was insulting to dogs, a fact that has so far been mysteriously overlooked.

On behalf of my owner Gail and her parents, I would like to claim a refund of their licence fees.

So there I was, relaxing on the sofa on Sunday afternoon, looking forward to an afternoon with the human grandparents, watching the river pageant on TV, prepared for their sake cheerfully to put up with what might be thought an excess of grovelling deference to inherited privilege.

Well I have to tell you it wasn't at all long before Gail started grumbling about the way the BBC commentary team kept telling us that the flotilla was passing in front of so many 'iconic' buildings, without once telling us a single interesting fact about any of these buildings. Surely, the BBC is bursting at the seams with Oxbridge arts graduates who could have provided some more informative cultural context?

Well I just let all this wash over me, until it came to an interview on one of the historic boats in the flotilla, a Dutch barge. My eye was naturally drawn to the beautiful Keeshond sat between the boat's owners. Now this perfectly nice couple had just told the BBC presenter about how Keeshonds were bred to be barge dogs. Intriguing I thought, worth a water-related follow up question or two, perhaps. So imagine my disappointment when I heard the interviewer's inane and hurtful response.

"Fascinating, yes fascinating, and the dog looks just like my microphone".

Well a couple of hours later - it felt like days - it was announced that the planned finale, a Royal Navy helicopter fly past, was cancelled due to the appalling commentary conditions. Human Grandad (HGD) actually woke up at this point and said "I took part in a fly past of Buckingham Palace at the end of the war, did you know that?"

At last, something genuinely interesting.

I'm told that HGD's memory was once excellent, but sadly no longer, and words often elude him, but when Gail located the relevant page in his old RAF log book, more memories surfaced.

"Ah yes, it was Peace Day, 8th June 1946, shortly before I was demobbed. I was flying one of the six Mosquitos. We dipped our wings when we flew over the Palace. Beforehand, our Wing Commander was much more nervous about the whole event than he ever seemed to be when we were in action firing on German shipping."

So, Mr Head of BBC, I  have enclosed in this letter a picture of HGD in his RAF pilot's uniform, with his older brother Jack (a navigator in Bomber Command), taken when they were both on active service in Italy in 1944. I hope this serves as a reminder to you and your vacuous presenters, of what a true British Celebrity looks like.

Yours faithfully,
Bouncing Bertie,

PS I want to exempt the lovely Clare Balding from the criticisms above, as I do believe she is part puppy herself.