Friday 31 August 2012

"Squirty Bertie" protests

It's not nice is it, when you are suffering a bad dose of the runs and your human just goes around making stupid rhyming 'jokes' ...

And then, no soon as you're better, she goes off for a couple of days cycling in the Far North of Scotland with her pals (who, frankly, from the evidence of this photo taken outside the Invershin Hotel, appear to be showing the effects of having ridden all the way from Land's End in the last two weeks...)

And as if that weren't bad enough, it appears that she enjoyed the company of other dogs at a lunch stop in the Crask Inn, north of Lairg....

Then the final straw. She says that on the way back home she saw this porker in a field and his black patches reminded her of me....

Sunday 26 August 2012

Observe. Describe. Interpret.

"He's brilliant. He's been a star. Every field trip should have a Bertie."

These words from Jim, the leader, at the end our our two-day geological excursion to Lossiemouth are still singing in my flappy little terrier ears.

Oh I can't tell you how much fun I had, I am so, so grateful that I was allowed to take part. To show just how happy I am, and that I learned lots, I am going to present this report according to Jim's rules for geological field work.

So first you will have an observation (in the form of a photo), which I shall describe carefully and only then shall I propose an interpretation.

(1) At CoveSea East, the first outcrop

Description: The leader Jim is standing in front of some sandstone cliffs discussing the rocks with three members of the field party. A small handsome terrier is on the move.
Interpretation: Rocks are very fascinating, for sure, but sometimes one must attend to important sniffing business.

(2) Further along the shore at CoveSea

Description: In front of the cliff, some of the geologists are looking at the rocks and others are admiring a handsome wee terrier.
Interpretation: Geologists may need a break from struggling with the concept that back in the Permo-Triassic Scotland was a desert with dunes and all.

(3) At Hopeman

Description: The field party  relaxes besides colourful beach huts. There are no rocks in sight.
Interpretation: It was that time of day when stomachs were starting to rumble. Oh and I absolutely must point out Victor, the nice geologist on the left in the green shirt. Apparently back in his homeland of Romania, he too has a fox terrier.

(4) Interesting sedimentary feature

Description: A handsome wee terrier, for once sporting a lead, although this is not attached to a human, is standing on some wavy rocks.
Interpretation: The fact that many of the field party had taken a photo of this feature even before I stood there tells one that it must have a particular geological significance. But who could argue that the feature is greatly enhanced by the presence of a handsome wee terrier, and not just because he is providing a 'scale'? (Shoulder height 42 cm, for the record).

(5) Art work

Description: Handsome wee terrier sitting in front of a concentric pattern of differently coloured pebbles, arranged on the shore near Hopeman.
Interpretation: Geologists can be a tiny bit philistine, just possibly, as none of them came over to look at what most would consider a rather attractive human artwork.

(6) A demonstration

Description: Jim is kneeling on the beach with a small red bucket in his hand, in front of some failed sandcastles. A handsome wee terrier is also present.
Interpretation: The notion that this is 'serious field work' stretches credulity. Does Jim truly expect me to buy the line that he is attempting to demonstrate an important principle of soft sedimentation? I think that the short video below says it all, really.

(7) At the Skerry Brae hotel, Stotfield

Description: Handsome wee terrier is resting on the only bed in a basic but comfortable hotel bedroom. His food and water bowls can be seen bottom right.
Interpretation: Keeping the troops entertained during a long day out in the field is an exhausting business. Oh, and I wonder where Gail is going to sleep?

(8) The next morning at Burghead

Description: An encounter between geologist Iain and wire-haired fox terrier Bertie, half way up a sandstone rock face.
Interpretation: Iain proposes that these rocks are different from the ones we saw yesterday, in that the sediments appear to have been transported by an ancient river, rather than being part of a system of wind blown dunes. Bertie is not yet convinced.

(9) A closer look

Description: Bertie joins the other geologists for a closer look at the rocks.
Interpretation: You know, Iain could be right. Isn't geology just intriguing? Yes, those larger pebbles must have been transported by water not wind, don't you think?

(10) And a little bit of history

Description: Fox terrier examines a sign telling all about the history of Burghead, site of possibly the largest Iron Age Fort in Britain, where the native Picts gathered to defend themselves against the marauding Viking hordes.
Interpretation: Warring tribes? Marauding hordes? Well the rocks here may speak of a different environment in Northeast Scotland in times past, but frankly that sounds just like Union Street, Aberdeen on any Saturday night...

(11) More interesting features at Clashach Quarry

Description: Geologist, with can of Irn Bru in left hand, is pointing at what look like tyre tracks on a slab of rock. Handsome terrier inspects.
Interpretation: Conclusive proof here that this field trip is taking place in Scotland, as nowhere else on earth would Irn Bru be considered a potable liquid....Oh and the 'tyre tracks' were apparently left behind by some Permo-Triassic reptile dragging its tail across the sand. The 'eye of faith' will also detect the ancient beast's paw prints. Wow!

(12) A new role?

Description: Wee fox terrier stands confidently besides leader Jim, in front of some knobbly, partly crystalline rocks at Stotfield Bay.
Interpretation: This has the look of a promising partnership doesn't it? Wire-haired fox terrier has proved his worth as geological field assistant, one feels.

(13) And finally

Description: Gail is standing in the main street in Lossiemouth, holding a cone of Miele's vanilla ice-cream. Fox terrier is sitting by her, patiently, but with tail wagging furiously.
Interpretation: It is the end of the field trip. Fox terrier knows that he has played a blinder, having been on best behaviour throughout, and has every expectation of being rewarded with a tasty fragment of ice-cream wafer.

(14) Yes! Result!

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Medium, but in no way average

"He's a strong wee dog".

Gail's face burst into proud smile when the 'measuring lady' told her that, as I stood on the table being gently persuaded into the correct stance.

I haven't lately said much about my agility club activities have I? Truth to tell, Gail and I are not the most dedicated and committed members of the Deeside Dog Agility Club. So some weeks we go along to training, others we do not.

Now Gail is being encouraged to enter me into local events, although I have not yet mastered the see-saw and am far from convinced that there is a point to weaving along a line of poles. But anyway, as a first step, it was decided on Saturday that we would drive down to Camperdown Park in Dundee, where an agility show was taking place all weekend, and I could be 'officially' measured and logged into the system.

As you can see, there was a long queue of dogs waiting to be measured.

And if you are thinking, gosh Bertie, that all sounds quite a palaver, then I would say, you might be onto something there.

Well, for the record, I stand precisely 42 cm, or 16 1/2 inches, high at the withers. In agility terms, that means I'm classed as 'medium', despite the fact that in every other area of endeavour I am clearly well above average.

Gail made me watch some other dogs perform, which was supposed to inspire me. "Look Bertie, see how the dogs all jump over the hurdles rather than running under them...."

Well, if by inspiring me Gail meant instilling the thought that "I could at least do better than that", then I guess the process was to some degree successful.

I mean, one German Shepherd wasn't even walking round the course, much less running, he was taking it all at a slow amble. Then there was the Collie who climbed back and forth over the 'A' frame three or four times.  Not to mention the handler who stumbled, fell flat on his face AND incurred ten penalty points for his dog by knocking over the jump as he went down...

Well all this was very interesting, but with Gail too mean to pay for any of the  extra-curricular activities on offer...

... and the weather threatening to turn typically Scottish...
 ... we decided to call it a day and head home with my newly acquired Kennel Club Agility Record Book.

Oh and I did get a new toy out of the deal too.

Saturday 18 August 2012

Office life?

Gail, I have been thinking...

Oh no, Bertie, I fear you have been spending to much time with my mother. This favourite phrase of hers usually precedes some unwelcome pronouncement.

Well Gail, I have been thinking about the job you started a few months ago. I overheard you yesterday talking about your new office, and how the environment was friendly and relaxed.

Er, yes Bertie, it is, mostly.

And that there was plenty of space in the nice big light room where you and three others work.

That's true too.

And that your colleagues are mostly energetic types who enjoy outdoor activities, and there is even a group that goes out walking in the hills one evening a week in the summer.

My Bertie, those flappy little ears of yours hear well.

And that your boss adores animals and owns two horses.

I think I am beginning to see where we're heading with this...

Oh and did you say something about there being a coffee room just down the corridor with free biscuits available every morning? And that just behind the office there is a beautiful riverside path where lots of people exercise their dogs? And that you miss me during the day, and that I'm always well behaved these days when you are working at your computer at home, lying in a quietly encouraging fashion at your feet. And that one of your colleagues brought her cocker spaniel into the office for a couple of hours last week before taking her for a grooming session? It does sound a perfect environment for a wire-haired fox terrier...

Bertie, for a pup with small, beady eyes almost covered in fuzz, you can put on a most effective pleading expression. But the sad truth is that dogs and offices in general don't mix. 

Oh. Oh. Are you quite sure?

Dear little chappie, there's no need to look so downcast. You will meet some of my new workmates next week anyway. We are going on a field trip to look at some rocks near Lossiemouth, and you have been granted special permission to come along too, and even to stay in the hotel with us for one night. 

Really! That's brilliant! Oh I am bouncing with excitement, I just can't wait! A real geological field trip!

Now Bertie, I promised the leader that you were a well-behaved dog and wouldn't be any trouble at all. You won't let me down will you?

(Bertie looks away, insulted at the mere suggestion.)

OK Bertie, I'm so sorry, I'm sure you'll be fine. Now if you'll just stand still a minute while I measure you up for a hard hat...

Thursday 16 August 2012

Not Scottish Nationalists

Gail is considering buying a new Mini, and I want us to have it painted like this one (which belongs to a neighbour).

But she says no Bertie, people will think we're Scottish Nationalists.

Which apparently we are not, despite all the lovely lochs.

Monday 13 August 2012


It has come to my attention that some of my overseas readers (not to mention those from England) might be a bit confused about the Scottish word 'loch'.

Well this weekend I was over in Northwest Scotland, enjoying some lovely warm weather, and I went for a paddle in two different types of loch, so now is a good time for me to provide an explanation. 

I might add that these two, Loch Torridon and Loch Maree, are, in my not-so-humble opinion, the most beautiful lochs in Scotland.

First I paddled in Loch Maree. This is a fresh water lake, like Loch Ness, but more beautiful (did I say that already) and with far fewer tourists and no silly monster legends attached. 

Then I paddled in Loch Torridon. This is a long narrow sea inlet, the same idea as a fjord, only not so steep sided and Norwegian. 

The Loch Torridon water is salty and near the shore there is lots of seaweed, and when the tide goes out you might find one of these stranded on the beach. 

I hope that's all clear now.

And no, that jellyfish did not taste good...

Thursday 9 August 2012

August afternoon in Aberdeen...

So that shy stranger the Scottish sun (try woofing that one out loud, pups) finally appears, and for my afternoon walk in the park I am made to wear my lead, an unnecessary precaution I'm sure you'll agree.

I have so totally grown out of chasing after noisy little children with flappy arms and trying to eat their ice-creams.

Anyway, we walk over the bridge to the other, usually child-free side of the river and I gain my freedom.

Now I can hear what you're thinking. "Bertie, how come you are always moaning about the grey and gloomy weather, it looks just lovely, over 20ÂșC surely".

Er yes, it was. For a couple of hours. One learns to seize the moment.

'Cos you just know, that a cold wet blanket of haar, which the sharp eyed amongst you might have spotted hovering in the background on the river photo, is about to move onshore from the North Sea and pounce on my neighbourhood.
Bye bye sun.

Will ye no come back again?

PS Gail wants me to say a couple more things about the cloudberries which featured in my previous post. Firstly, that we did find more than one! At least half a dozen made it back home and into the dessert, only to be smothered in the whipped cream. And secondly, that in Europe cloudberries are little known outside Scandinavia. In the UK they are restricted to a very few upland localities, where their requirements for moisture (hence 'cloud' berries), acid soil and low temperatures are met.

Monday 6 August 2012

From Cloud Nine to Cloudberries

Things started a bit slowly chez Bertie on Sunday morning. Gail had been glued to the telly the night before, awestruck by the sight of some other humans running and jumping and throwing things about down at the Olympics in London.

So I bounced up on her bed reminded her that no-one gets a body like Jessica Ennis by lying horizontal all morning, and that anyway she'd promised me we'd go on a cloudberry hunt today.

Now to be honest with you, although Gail can get excited about picking what apparently is a rare delicacy, I personally am not to fussed about berries of any description. My interest was only sparked when I learned that to find a cloudberry in NE Scotland you have to climb up to about 2000 ft and then you also need a bog, and well, that sounds like a mighty fine walk doesn't it, especially the boggy bit....

Anyway, before too long we'd driven forty miles inland and were climbing a hill called Morven. From on high, I surveyed the scene.

Of course, being Scotland, it didn't take long to locate a boggy area...

I veered off the track and went to investigate.

"Look Gail, see the little red thing, is that when we're after?"

"Let's have a closer look."

Well apparently this was a cloudberry, and I was dead chuffed with myself, until Gail told me that the red berries are not yet ripe and that we needed to find some golden orange coloured ones.

So I bounced around the bog a bit more, until I spotted this.

And for once Gail was delighted and full of praise. "Perfect Bertie just perfect, this is even more exciting than the Olympics".

Well, readers might have their own opinion about THAT.

Now Gail is telling me all about how cloudberries have a unique and intense flavour and are chock full of vitamins and anti-oxidants and stuff and so are super-healthy. 

But I have my doubts that the dessert she made when we got home, based on a Norwegian recipe (whipped cream, sugar and just a sprinkling of the precious cloudberries) was going to help her perform like Jessica Ennis any time soon.