Sunday 29 September 2013

FAO Bouncing Bertie (from Robert Macfarlane)

Oh I cannot tell you how utterly delighted I am. Bouncing with joy in fact. And so is Gail.

I don't know if you remember the letter I sent earlier this summer to the distinguished writer Robert Macfarlane, complaining that I had been unwalked in Torridon all weekend because Gail was so engrossed in his book 'The Old Ways'.

Well yesterday I received, via Gail's email account, this wonderful, beautiful reply.

Dear Bertie

You were benevolent enough to write a brilliantly bouncy letter to me back on Bloomsday, the beginning of the summer. You must have thought me quite the curmudgeon, though, or at least a sniffy snob (an Afghan Hound?) when no reply came. Well, I'm afraid that I lack the energy of a three-year-old wire-haired terrier. In fact, I lack the energy of an AA-battery that's been on torch-duty for a decade. The reason, you see, is that I became a father again for the third time late last year, and our lovely little boy Will came into the world, and turned it upside-down. He remains convinced that sleeping at night is for ninnies, and prefers to keep vampire hours. I have become an explorer-in-residence, rarely getting further than the corner-shop (which sells, incidentally, so I'm told, dog biscuits of an unusually high grade). Though, in fact, things are easing just a touch now, such that last week I left home for a few days for the first time since last November, and travelled up to the Cairngorms, and spent some time up there on the plateau. The mountains obliged with a parade of miracles: golden eagles above Lurcher's Crag, wild geese flying south through the Lairig Ghru, a parhelion or sundog (yes, I thought you'd like that nickname for this phenomenon) at dusk, a moonbow in mist at night, and temperatures on the tops so warm that I could sleep out without even a tent at 4000 feet, just below the summit of Braeriarch, where the springs rise from the granite that are the true source of the Dee, the river near whose banks, many miles to the east, you and Gail live. And so, at last, I also have a chance to reply to you, to thank you for your letter, to convince you that I am no high-and-mighty-hound, and to apologise for the fact that Gail took such pleasure in my book The Old Ways that she spent the weekend inside, reading about the outside, and so you went unwalked (unbounced)! Naturally, I was thrilled to learn of Gail's reaction to my book, but the thrill carried, well, a dark and powerful undertow of guilt at the knowledge of your supine two days. I trust there has been bings of bouncing since then. It is mighty kind of you to invite me to your cottage on Loch Torridon. I could see the Torridonian hills over a sea of cloud from the summit of Braeriarch near sunset; I haven't been there for more than a decade now. So - if I come north-west, I will delightedly take you up on your very kind offer, and learn a little more about what it means to walk in canine company. Bless you, Bertie! All the very best from the flatlands of Cambridgeshire,


Dr Macfarlane, you are so totally forgiven. It is clear that you have a good understanding of us dogs, bouncy ones in particular, and an excellent sense of humour!  Now I am going to insist, as soon as my paws have vacated the keyboard, that Gail immediately orders your very latest book, 'Holloway', no matter that it is still not available in paperback!

You know, we are down in the relative flatlands of Nottingham this weekend, and the situation with the human grandparents is difficult, and this message from one of the writers Gail admires most has lifted spirits no end.

Wouldn't it be just brilliant to meet and walk with Dr Macfarlane in Torridon one of these days....

Thursday 26 September 2013

In a flap on Bennachie

 Where it is always windy, no matter the season. 

So tell me, which way do you prefer my ears?


Or down?

PS Long time readers will recognise Gail's friend the Oilman, and my Westie girlfriend Lucy. Lucy's older sister Florrie is now in semi-retirement and these days only attempts gentle walks in the park.

Monday 23 September 2013

How not to sell a dog

Gail has been rereading an old book, a satirical novel from the 1920's by the Czech author Jaroslav Hašek.

I was most concerned about what I saw on page 174. The context, I believe, is that the main character, the eponymous soldier Švejk, formerly "in the dog business" is giving his lieutenant advice on how to sell a pup that is past its prime:

'Dogs can't dye their hair like ladies do. This always has to be done by the person who wants to sell them. If a dog is so old that it's completely grey and you want to sell it as a year old puppy or pretend that the old dodderer is nine months old, then you must buy some silver nitrate, dissolve it and paint the dog black so that it looks quite new. And you must feed it like a horse with arsenic, so that it gains strength and you must clean its teeth with sand paper like they use for cleaning rusty knives. And before you lead it out to be sold to a customer, you must pour some slivovice down its throat, so that it gets a bit tipsy. Then it'll immediately get lively, gay, bark joyfully and make friends with anyone, like a drunken town councillor.'

Should I allow Gail to continue reading?

Friday 20 September 2013

Bertie clears the beach

Now look here you oystercatchers....

Go catch some oysters. (How hard can it be?)

This is my beach!

That's more like it.

Monday 16 September 2013

Bragging rights to Horatio?

Bertie, you weren't being too friendly with your wiry pal Horatio when we met up for a walk with him and his family near Braemar on Sunday. Now why was that?

Gail, have you ever won anything at athletics? Can you list any major sporting achievements?

Well, er, Bertie, before we go into that, I would like you to answer my question first.

Oh Gail, Horatio was being quite insufferable today. Gloating about how his owner Amanda is now a world famous athlete, having won the Crathes Half Marathon the day before. Saying she is going to be in all the papers - well the Press and Journal at least - and how this makes him, by association, the top dog around Deeside at the moment.

Now Bertie, I think we should all be celebrating Amanda's awesome achievement. I trust you told Horatio how impressed you were?

You've gotta be kidding Gail. No I pointed out that he was looking a good bit tubbier than when we last met, and probably wouldn't himself be winning any marathons any time soon. I thought it was supposed to be kinder to tell the truth and so I called him a lardy-arse...

Bertie, you didn't! That is so rude. I hope Horatio rose above it all.

Absolutely not. He started on about how come I style myself Bouncing Bertie when his brother Harris Vizsla was that very moment demonstrating bouncing around in the heather to heights I could only dream about.

Well yes, Harris did put on an excellent display of bouncing I must say. I'm only sorry I didn't catch it so well on camera. 

Now going back to your sporting triumphs Gail....

Bertie will you just leave it alone? OK I did win a few 100 m races about a zillion years ago. And you've seen the dust gathering on that racquetball trophy from when I worked in Oklahoma. School hockey colours? Yes. Then remember I came in 3rd in the 'females 50-59' in the 100 km Cycle Sportive event last May. It's not so much, I admit. In truth Bertie, I have always been more of a 'competent all rounder' type, rather than a top sportswoman. 

Ha ha ha, is that an 'all rounder' like Horatio, ha ha ha?

Very funny Bertie. Not. Oh yes and I now I remember, what ever were you thinking of, embarrassing me by peeing on Scott's wellington boots right as soon as we met up?


And Gail, please explain that nonsense by the wee loch, when you kept trying to get me and Horatio to 'pose nicely' with Amanda and her twin sister Fiona?

Sigh. I guess I just thought it would make a fun photo Bertie. Why do you always have to be so difficult?

Me, difficult? I think my readers will come to a different conclusion.

Friday 13 September 2013

I am all about silver linings

Did you realise, horrid Mr. Burglar, that you stole my rival?
You see, Gail's lap was not quite big enough for MacBook and me.
Oh how lovely it has been this week to cuddle undisturbed.
I have noticed that quite often we breathe in synchrony.

The iPad mini rests lightly on my back.
Attempts at posting photos fail, but
You can picture me, I'm sure,
Relaxed, content, a wiry comfort blanket.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Remember to stand tall...

... through life's ups and downs.

Sunday 8 September 2013

Swap me for a German Shepherd?

So this strange man forced his way through the back door last night, and into our kitchen. He seemed friendly, patted me on the head, gave me a yummy treat and told me to be a quiet pup and not to disturb anyone. I followed him into the study and watched him put Gail's MacBook into a big bag, along with her purse.

Gail has lately been complaining about how the computer is now slower than an abacus, so I guessed that this chappie had come to take it away for repairs. Although I did (silently) wonder why he had arrived at three in the morning and why he would take her purse too...

After he left, I settled down on the sofa - so much more comfortable than the cushion on the kitchen floor - and happily went back to sleep until Gail came downstairs at about seven o'clock, all red in the face (her, not me), and asked me what kind of a guard dog was I, didn't I realise that we'd been burgled and how would I like to be exchanged for a German Shepherd?

Well what to do to calm her down?

I gave her my cutest look and licked her hand, and after a few moments she said "Oh well Bertie, at least I still have the most precious thing in this house" and gave me a hug.

PS from Gail: there will be a blogging hiatus while I sort out a new computer. Meanwhile, I never imagined I'd be asking for readers' tips on how to get my wire haired fox terrier to bark a bit more...

Thursday 5 September 2013

Skye: the full story

OK, now that it has been officially been announced that Gail's employer has been bought by, well let's just call them 'LR', I can exclusively reveal my real role on the recent geological field trip to Skye.

Yes indeed, I have been carrying out a secret commission on behalf of the new owners to assess the true value to the company of these excursions.  The context is that, regrettably, there is in some senior levels of management a degree of cynicism about the business justification for such trips and a suspicion that geologists just like to be paid for swanning off to scenic locations and pontificating about rocks.

I must emphasise that I have taken my task here extremely seriously, given the high likelihood that my findings will strongly influence future company policy.

My report takes the form of responses to a series of questions that were posed by the high heid yins at LR. 

Q: Can you state categorically that the subsurface team were not just out for a three day jolly on company time?

A: Believe me, if it had been a 'jolly' they would have chosen somewhere with better weather.

Q: Will this trip help our subsurface staff to advise on finding and exploiting reserves of oil and gas?

A. Absolutely yes no question about it. Oh I could say so much about this. Gosh, where do I start?  I mean, between you and me, I had hoped that we were going to be spending our time tracking down dinosaur footprints and ammonite fossils, and hearing exciting stories about exploding volcanoes etc. etc, but the truth is that it was all about looking at features within the sandstone beds and inferring their lateral continuity which has important implications for modelling oil fields, and about how you could judge a rock's permeability by observing the rainwater soaking into the sandstone but forming puddles on the basalt and how examining the vertical changes in a rock succession in a cliff can help you predict what's happening in the same age rocks many miles away and that when interpreting cores from oil wells you need to have a picture in your mind what the rocks look like at a larger scale and oh you know, whatever...

Q: Does this sort of expedition offer staff opportunities to develop their creativity and problem solving capabilities? Perhaps you could give us an illustration?

A: Oh I most certainly could. Let's say, for example (a purely hypothetical scenario you understand) that you have a dog on the field trip who is a teeny weeny bit impatient and tends to bark if kept waiting by the car while everyone is faffing around putting on their weatherproof clothing.
Well, maybe someone, Simon perhaps, says "I have an idea how to shut him up. Let's put some of those pebbles from the dolerite dyke into an empty water bottle and shake it in his face next time he utters a sound. He won't like that at all, and will stop barking in an instant". And you know what? The theory was tested and found to be most effective.....

Q: Can you explain how field trips foster teamworking and communication skills?

A: When you are standing in a 25 mph wind and horizontal rain, important lessons about communication can be learned. For example, that if you want anyone to hear what you are saying you need to stand up wind of your audience and shout loudly. 

And of course, crossing a stream in spate can, as referred to in my previous post, involve inter-species teamwork, especially when one participant is frightened of fast flowing water...

Q: Is it safe for our staff to take part in field courses?

A: I can't believe that this question was even asked. Did no one read my earlier posts regarding appropriate protective helmets for ALL mammalian participants? The fact that in some (OK all) of the photos taken in the field I am bare headed is testament to the toughness of the typical terrier skull, and in absolutely no way to be construed as a negligent approach to HSE. 

Q: We are keen as a company to promote technical excellence at all levels. Was this goal met on the field trip?

A: Oh I could have stood there for hours listening to our esteemed and inspirational field trip leaders Jim and Iain giving us the benefit of their in depth knowledge of the geology of Skye. 

In fact, oh yes, I did...

Q: Finally Bertie, would you recommend that this field trip be repeated next year?

A: Well now let me see. It is best that geologists are exposed to a range of different environments, to broaden their experience. I feel that perhaps what is needed is for this team to follow up with a study of  modern day carbonate formation. Such as happens, you know, in places like the Caribbean...

I would be quite prepared, despite the inevitable hardships, once again to review the quality and value of the educational experience. 


Wednesday 4 September 2013

In safe hands...

Gail and I returned home from Skye last night, and I shall be issuing a detailed report on the field trip course in a a day or so.

But first I want to issue a huge, massive, great big THANK YOU to Gail's well balanced and surefooted boss Ali.
What a splendid lady.

I am even prepared, on this one occasion, to disregard this blog's unwritten rule banning advertising, product placement etc. and say too that Aigle neoprene wellies are clearly the business!