Friday 30 August 2013

Eeeek! New worries about Skye field trip

Elgol, Skye: photo by Santa Cruiser on

Thank you all my friends for your useful comments which have helped me come to a decision about which hard hat to wear on the Isle of Skye geological field course.

Yes it will of course be the 'cricket box' as proposed by Riley. In the end it was no contest. But I am a bit confused about ClimbingMandy's assertion that I will need to bring a thick skin to handle the ribbing from Gail's workmates. Why would anyone tease me about such smart, sleek protective headgear? (Other than perhaps from jealousy.)

So no worries on that score.

No, my new concerns arise from a latest peep at emails circulating in Gail's workplace, about the field course accommodation.

On learning that the bunkhouse will, contrary to earlier information, supply 'one bath towel each (not a large one)', a certain colleague, who will remain anonymous but is not at all junior, responded thus:

"Good, I was going to go native, and use an otter or other similar local furry animal for that purpose".

I would like to remind anyone in this bunkhouse who is short of something suitable with which to dry themselves that I am a WIRE-HAIRED fox terrier, hand stripped to preserve the COARSENESS and WIRY-NESS of my coat which very effectively REPELS water and is not at all absorbent. I also have teeth.

Got that?

We head west to Skye on Sunday. Wish me luck. This blog will be quiet for a few days.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

My hard hat decision

Well of course I knew all along that I had a brilliant, creative and safety conscious pack of bloggie pals.

You'll remember, of course, my post earlier this month, when Gail put in a plea for designs for a hard hat that I could wear on the forthcoming geological field trip to the Isle of Skye. Something to protect my precious noggin from falling rocks when loitering underneath unstable cliffs etc.

It is customary in these circumstances to say that the response has been  overwhelming. And that indeed is the case, as you can see from the comments on that 8th August post.

Being a systematic kind of a fellow, I noticed that the entries received fell into three broad categories, and I am going to discuss these below.

By the way, I hope no-one will be offended by my pointing out shortcomings of aspects of the suggestions. I mean, they were all brilliant in their way, and much appreciated.

But the first category comprises ideas proposed by those of  you who seem to have mistaken Scotland for a hot, dry country, and suggested designs either with ventilation holes or poorly suited to wet conditions. So thank you very much Molly, Dip-Dip and The Bridge, Jazzi, and Asta, all of whom put forward some variant of an upended small colander, but really I doubt there will be a danger of overheating on Skye at the end of August, and all those holes will just let in the rain. Likewise, papier maché based designs, as proposed by Frankie Furter (who generously provided detailed instructions that even Gail might have been able to follow) and Craig, have been ruled out due to the poor protection afforded by wearing a soggy pile of shredded newspaper and flour on one's head. Craig patriotically suggested a Saltire as decoration, but good heavens, what would Alex Salmond say if our national flag ended up a gooey morass?

Rear view of tea packet design

I regret that Gail and I have also had to rule out our friend Auntie Yam's ingenious suggestion, pictured left, for similar reasons. Although she is Scottish, this wonderful lady lives in India and it may have slipped her mind that thin cardboard is not proof against her native climate. Anyway, please do visit Aunty Yam's blog to see the tea packet based hard(ish) hat design in all its glory. The ear and nose flap detail is particularly impressive. Should any of you happen to be travelling to an arid country where the falling rocks are not very heavy (pumice perhaps?) then you may find this one comes in very handy.

Christmas hat
Pippa's Christmas hat, another possibility, is beyond question most attractive (at least when worn by Pippa) but somehow it just does not seem right for August.

Moving on to the more climate-appropriate ideas, a number of you worked the 'small bowl, upside down' theme and this comprises the second - and perhaps most successful - category. Gail was impressed with Daisy, Bella and Roxy's practical suggestion that an enamel bowl could double as a water/food dish, but was concerned that such a dish might not stay in place on my head for long should I go bouncing over rocks, scrambling down cliffs etc. Finn too suggested the dual use container. Amber da Weenie and Wyatt both addressed the attachment problem, proposing a plastic bowl tied in place with a ribbon or strap. (Being mindful of my appearance, I was particularly pleased with Amber's comment that the bowl should be 'nicely coloured'). Madi and Mom's carefully thought out design (pers. comm.) combined an upside down cup and with a coffee filter to provide the brim. Outstanding!

bike helmet
Our third category is 'ideas for hard hats one could buy on the internet'. Now I appreciate that many of my friends here are taking a realistic approach given Gail's lack of craft skills, but after much agonising, I have concluded these must be disqualified, as being counter to the DIY spirit of the exercise. So Gizmo's batters' helmets, and the helmets specially made for dogs on bikes (Sally Ann and Andy, Pip, and Bonnie and Kenzie) have been ruled out, as, with some regret, have MaxMom's utterly wonderful South African 'Makarapa'.

I will say that I queried Gail's apparent reluctance to spend money on my personal protective equipment, reminding her that her employers, who after all are paying for the jolly intensive field course, say that 'safety is the number one priority'. After a lengthy negotiation, we agreed an initial budget of not more than two items purchased from Poundland.

But then Riley in New Zealand delivered a googly in the form of the inspired suggestion which I am going to quote in full:

I'm not sure what size your head is but perhaps Gail could get you a large cricket box (yes I do mean the guard with air holes that batsmen wear), as if it can take the full force of a cricket ball it should cope with small rocks. Gail could shop via Amazon (if she doesn't want to explain to sales assistant why she needs one), choose you a bright colour, add some straps, a bit of extra padding inside and your name. 

Box (in USA, 'athletic cup')
Both Gail and I agreed that this was such a brilliant example of lateral thinking that we might stretch the rules and budget to include the purchase of a 'box'. I would have been happy to settle for a second hand one on eBay, thinking it might smell rather interesting, but Gail, to my surprise, insisted on shelling out for a brand new box, and even went to some trouble to locate this item in an Aberdeen sportswear shop. (By strange coincidence, the customer in front of her, a young Pakistani male, was purchasing the identical piece of equipment, although we think probably not for the same intended use...)

Well in the end it has proved extraordinarily difficult to chose the optimum design of helmet, thus Gail (with my help) has agreed to put together three possibilities, taking a pick and mix approach to some of the amazing ideas that you, my friends, have supplied.

1. Plastic bowl tied on with red ribbon.

2. Enamel bowl, with bubble-wrap liner for added comfort, black ribbon.

3. Cricket box, tartan ribbon and bow.

Please help me select which one to take to Skye next week....We have a Saltire flag sticker, all ready  to decorate preferred option.

PS I reserve the right to decide that Sweet William's 'no hat needed for such a tough terrier' suggestion (I paraphrase) was in fact the most appropriate of all....

Friday 23 August 2013

Breed standard, breed schmandard!

"The tail should be high set and carried erect but not curling over the back."

Who made up those rules anyway?  

I mean, could I be more handsome?

PS from Gail: Low self-esteem has never been a problem with Bertie.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Torridon life: walking and woofing

OK, so come on Gail, I'm ready.

Look this is the way to the front gate.

Why must you put on my lead before we exit the cottage garden?

Oh. Sheep.

Well at least I can bark at them. No?

Gail stop staring at the clouds. I'm sure it's not going to rain. We're not turning back anyway.

Uh oh. I am not going to cross this cattle grid on my own. I don't care if Hamish would have managed it. I want to be carried.

Thank you.

Great, so no sheep this side. You can take my lead off now.

BTW, why isn't it called a sheep grid?

Don't flap, I promise I'll stay close. We'll hear in plenty of time if a car's coming.

Stop! I could swear I spotted a frog right here.

Wow, that house has changed shape quite radically since we last walked past. What a huge window.

Oh yawn, Gail, I'm sure nobody cares that it now belongs to a former Labour cabinet minister.

Ah, I remember now, the path back through the trees is this way.


One day I'll figure out how to get through this kissing gate by myself.

Hmm. A kissing gate. If only Addi were here...

Race you home Gail!

Sunday 18 August 2013

Corvus: an unsuitable read

I wonder if my fellow pups feel the need to monitor the reading habits of their humans?

Mostly, in this household, I am pretty relaxed about Gail's choices. When I was younger, I used to worry about the shelves devoted to travel in far away lands, and fear that I could at any time be abandoned should my owner be suddenly inspired to go for a short walk in the Hindu Kush, or take a notion to run with the reindeer in Arctic Russia or to cycle full tilt from Europe to India.

But I have come to understand that these days she enjoys the comforts of home and dog, and is not quite so adventurous as her book collection might have you believe.

Likewise, one might get concerned about the wide range of popular science titles found on our shelves, after all, history shows that those with an interest in scientific experimentation have often turned to their pets as involuntary participants in their researches. Think Pavlov, Schrödinger* etc. But I am pleased to say that in practice Gail's inclination is for geology, which is an observational and not an experimental science.

Of course there is any amount of fiction  in our household library, but thank goodness not too much evidence of any interest in gruesome crime novels or disturbing fantasy material.

Incidentally, I have been a little anxious about the obsession that Angus (owner of the delightful Bob and Sophie) has with biographies of US presidents. However, having PONdered long and hard on this issue, I have concluded that there is little to worry about here, given that so many presidents seem either to genuinely adore their own pups, or at least to find it politically expedient to to pretend they do.

I digress.

All this preamble is in order that you understand I do not lightly criticise Gail's  literary choices, nor do I make a fuss where none is warranted.

But really. There comes a time when one has to take a stand. 

Like when you notice the look of delight fluttering across on your owner's face as she reads a book about the joys of life with a pet rook.

Yes you read that right, a rook (confusingly called Chicken). Oh, and a magpie, a cockatiel and a sun conure too. All in living in the same house, in quite a posh area of ABERDEEN.

Has no-one seen Hitchcock's 'The Birds'?

Oh this is all so horribly close to home. In my very own city, there lives this woman, Esther Woolfson, who promotes the dangerous idea that birds, in particular those of the family Corvidae, can be intelligent, affectionate and rewarding pets. And Gail seems to find the concept quite intriguing.

I've even overheard her enthusing about the book, 'Corvus' to several of her friends, twittering on about how it has changed the way she thinks about our feathered 'friends'.

I really am most concerned. Perhaps some of you might like to suggest more suitable reading material.

Preferably something that reasserts the supremacy of the dog as pet of choice for the discerning animal lover.

*Yes I do know that Schrödinger's was only a thought experiment. But I also know that the thought is father to the deed....

Friday 16 August 2013

British Military Fitness in Duthie Park

Humans are odd creatures, aren't they?

Many these days have sedentary jobs and so get out of shape, but for reasons beyond my comprehension they reject the obvious solution of adopting an active and energetic pup.

Instead, every weekday evening in summer, even when it is raining, you can see dozens of office workers in the park, subjecting themselves to the apparent torture that is the British Military Fitness programme.

Warning: you may need to turn the volume down when viewing this wee video...

I do hope that instructor's bark is worse than his bite...

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Tassie and the Tartan Army

You can learn all sorts of things from the friends you see in the park of a morning.

Meet Lhasa Apso ‘Tassie’, she of the playful demeanour and piercing bark. (Gail, why are you saying “pot, kettle, black”?)

Some weeks I see Tassie every day and some weeks not at all. She tells me this is because her Dad supervises the deck crew on an oil field diving support vessel, and when he is away offshore, for up to a month at a time, her exercise regime with 'the wife' is more relaxed.

Well it seems that this week, Tassie is going to be alone with 'the wife' for a different reason. Dad is off down to London for three nights with his Tartan Army pals, the main event being of course the England versus Scotland football match at Wembley on Wednesday night.

It surprised me to learn that Tassie’s Dad, whose normal parkwear is a well worn sweatshirt and track pants, is quite the snappy dresser when following the Scottish football team.

Apparently he has just purchased some brand new Timberland boots, beige in colour, because, to quote directly “ye cannae wear auld trainers wi’ a kilt”. Gail asked politely which tartan his kilt is made from. He seemed uncertain of the clan, but told her it was a purple plaid and that he hoped it would still fit around his expanding girth.

I guess this is the look Tassie's Dad is aiming for:

We also learned from him that airport security is a problem for the kilt wearer, as not only the belt, but also the sporran and the kilt pin have to be removed before you pass through the scanner, and all skean dhus are confiscated, including those made from plastic.

Worse, the Scotland fans are not allowed to take bagpipes into Wembley Stadium, also ostensibly on grounds of security, although Tassie confides in me that the real reason is because the English have no equivalent noise producing instruments.

Well, Gail and I shall be watching the football on the telly on Wednesday night, shouting and barking for our respective teams, and maybe looking out for Tassie’s smartly clad Dad in the crowd.
A household with divided loyalties

Sunday 11 August 2013

A very special walk up Morven

Just over a month ago (July 2nd to be precise) Gail disappeared off for the day with some of her oldest friends. I was most put out later to learn that they had all been for a walk up Morven, one of my favourite hills, and was not at all satisfied by being told it had been a "very special walk" and that my presence that day would "not have been appropriate".

Well I'm pleased to report that this weekend Gail decided to revisit Morven. This time I was allowed to accompany her and along the way I learned a little about the earlier "special walk".

It was disappointing to have to start off on the lead. Gail seemed to think I might chase after the sheep in field at the base of the hill, but I only wanted to commiserate with them over their terrible haircuts.

I regained my freedom when we started climbing the steeper slopes. I even stopped to pose in the heather, although, not being a Westie, this is not part of my contract.

Near the top Gail told me that the "special walk" in July had been to scatter the ashes of her dear friend Kate, who passed away earlier in the year in Australia, but who wanted to be laid to rest on this particular Scottish hill. A group of nearly twenty, led by Kate's husband Henry, had taken part in a simple but unforgettable goodbye ceremony on the windswept summit, on what would have been the twenty fifth anniversary of the only wedding at which Gail was ever a bridesmaid. 

In the summit cairn there is a visitors book, hidden in a waterproof plastic box, behind a wooden door.

Gail showed me what was written on 2nd July 2013.

After adding a brief note to record our visit today, we headed back down.

An off piste diversion to chase some noisy, low flying grouse (I SO nearly got 'em) led to an awesome patch of ripe cloudberries.

Gail would have been picking them all afternoon had I not pointed out the deteriorating weather conditions and that she already had enough for a nice 'multekrem' anyway.

Luckily we made it back to the car before the rain set in. Although not before I had been required to do yet more posing in the heather...

PS from Gail: Thank you for all your wonderful suggestions for a hard hat for Bertie. Please keep them coming!

Thursday 8 August 2013

Hard hat needed + I kissed a CAT!

So much has been going on here of late that I haven't found time to tell you all about the Works Summer Outing I went on with Gail a couple of weeks ago.

It was an unusually warm evening for a stroll along the seashore at Stonehaven (15 miles from Aberdeen and just south of the Highland Boundary Fault). Some of Gail's colleagues were, gasp, actually wearing shorts...

And yes, you've guessed it, we were there to look at rocks. Silurian, since you ask. My observation is that some were slippery and some were sharp on the paws.

I am hoping for easier terrain on the forthcoming Skye field trip.

Oh and I hope that the company Health and Safety guy Mr Medler (yes, really) doesn't see this post.  
I mean of course I would have worn a hard hat had a suitable one been provided.

When we gathered to pose for the customary group photo (before heading off for the pub) I found myself sat next to a lovely and lickable lady.

But imagine my horror when I learned that her name is cat KAT!!!!

PS from Gail: I am wondering if any of our creative friends in Blogville can think up a practical design for a hard hat /protective headwear which Bertie can wear when he joins the Isle of Skye geology field course at the end of this month? If you have a good idea (using everyday materials), please either post it on your blog and leave a comment, or just leave a comment describing your design. I shall post links to any blog which takes part, and shall attempt to replicate the design I deem most suitable and take photos of Bertie wearing it on Skye. Deadline is Monday 26 August.

Monday 5 August 2013

Bertie's motoring fantasy

It is a long drive from Aberdeen to Nottingham and back.

Yes, we did go by car this time. For some reason Gail decided to give the train a break...

Much as I like the Mini, and approve of the arrangement whereby the rear seats are folded down and all the space in the back is devoted to my comfort, I have to say that in warmer weather the lack of air conditioning is a drawback.

One can only stand with one's nose sticking out the front window for so long.

I have been looking out for a new car for us for quite some time now.

On the way home yesterday, we stopped for a break in the cute wee town of Moffat and I spotted the perfect vehicle in a hotel car park.

A vintage Bugatti.

I checked it over quite carefully.

Stylish, full of character, beautifully engineered and designed for staying cool.

Oh yes, I can imagine myself being driven all over the Scottish Highlands, wind in my furs, drawing gasps of admiration from envious bystanders (even more so than usual).

Gail, where can we buy one in Aberdeen?

Oh I am going to put my paws over my flappy little ears if you start on with your boring objections. And it doesn't rain here that much. Does it......?

PS I have been told to mention that my sore paw is quite better now. To tell you the truth, I had forgotten all about it. 

Thursday 1 August 2013

Choosing the right breed of human

Fellow pups, I have been giving much thought this week to an oft overlooked matter, namely the importance of selecting the right breed of owner, with suitable characteristics compatible with one's own lifestyle.

You see, I have come to realise that in the case of my human, it is very important for her mental stability and overall well-being that she is given energetic exercise at least once a day.

As you know I am normally very diligent in carrying out this duty, being a lively little chap myself (yes Gail, 'lively' is the word I meant to use, not 'hyper'). But this week, on top of all else that is going on here in Nottingham, I have had a very sore paw, and although I try not to make a fuss it really has not been possible to give Gail the exercise she needs and as a result she has become fractious.

Worse, last night, Gail managed to open the front door when she was not attached to my lead, and took herself for a walk ON HER OWN. Well of course I was frantic with worry, especially as I was unable to go and search for her. I am so relieved that she returned safe and sound an hour later, just before it got properly dark.

I might also note that Gail needs feeding at regular intervals, as if the blood sugar drops below a critical level, then her normally sunny disposition clouds over faster than you can say emergency Mars Bar.

It is clear from my observations over the past three years that this requirement for lots of exercise and frequent feeding is a breed trait common to all Gail's family.

Perfect for me of course.

I wonder what kind of humans my canine friends live with, and would be most interested to know, for scientific purposes you understand, if they too have noticed any unique and interesting breed characteristics?

PS from Gail: Bertie has picked up a paw infection, presumably through a cut in in his right rear pad, and it is news to me that he has 'not been making a fuss'....After a visit yesterday to a local vet, he is being treated with antibiotics.