Wednesday 30 October 2013

Godparent decision (involving an element of emotional blackmail)

Oh my gosh I had NO IDEA that I had so many lovely friends out there who would volunteer to be my godparent.

So first I want to thank all of you who took the time to apply for the post. Gail and I feel quite overwhelmed. I mean some of you wrote whole essays.

But what a problem this created. How on earth was I to choose?

Now I have to tell you, I was all for accepting each and every one of the applicants, they all sounded so wonderful. I mean, if wee Prince George can have seven godparents, then fifteen or so is surely not too many for a bouncy wire-haired fox terrier?

But Gail said no, that would be greedy. She also vetoed my suggestion that word count should be the deciding factor in the application (sorry Aunty Yam), and likewise number or variety of treats promised.

Well we were getting nowhere, so I suggested a walk, the best way to clear one's head when difficult decisions are to be made.

As we sauntered along by the River Dee, casting the occasional anxious glance at the clouds gathering to the west, Gail was bending my ear (although it is flappy enough already).

"Bertie, I've been thinking carefully about this doggodparent business. I know you have several lovely American friends who applied for the post, but realistically, I don't think I'll be taking you on a transatlantic flight any time soon. As much as I would love to have an excuse to visit Colorado, or Virginia, or Oklahoma, or North Carolina, or Massachusetts, Minnesota, or Illinois, or Florida, I think it would be better to select someone on this side of the Pond. Don't you agree?"

I could tell she had more to say.

"Now Bertie I'm going to be serious for a minute. You know that my Swiss godmother Doris died back in the summer? Well she had reached the age of ninety and had been very ill, so it wasn't unexpected but I was sad all the same. You see, Doris was all that one could ever hope for in a godmother and much more. I'll never forget when I went to visit her at a bad time in my life and she made me feel loved and valued again. To me, the words 'Swiss' and 'godmother' go together like, well, like 'Bertie' and 'bouncing'. So, wouldn't it be nice for you too to have godparents who lived in Switzerland? And I do think that your (bi)continental dachshund friend Tootsie put forward a particularly compelling case in her application, don't you? And did you see the photos of the Alpine hike she described earlier this week? Awesome, wasn't it? Oh yes, I'm sure Tootsie could be such a good influence in your life. She is known as a savvy sausage after all.  So can we invite her and her Mom and Dachshund Daddy  to be your godparents? Please Bertie. Please. I'm sure we can overlook those moths in DD's wallet..."

And then Gail tried to put on a pleading expression, looked into my eyes and even, if I am not mistaken, tilted her head to one side for extra effect.

Well how could I say no?

Oh I do hope Tootsie and her family will accept.

Sunday 27 October 2013

We all need cheering up sometimes

Oh by the way, has it ever occurred to you that this blog is just like the British Broadcasting Corporation?

It hasn't? Really? Let me try and explain. So what do we, me and the BBC that is, have in common? Well I can think of three things right off:

  • A Reithian commitment to enlighten, educate and entertain the public
  • A belief in balanced reporting, misinterpreted by some as liberal/left wing bias
  • A ban on advertising, product placement etc. 
The fact remains a shoestring operation, lacking BBC's multimillion pound budget, is down to the unfortunate lack of government legislation requiring my readers to pay a licence fee. (Believe me, the BBC's aggressive pursuit of those it deems, often wrongly, to have failed to cough up for a licence, has much of the terrier about it...)

Anyway, as sometimes happen at the BBC, this blog's high-minded attempt to remain unsullied by commerce occasionally comes into conflict with the real world. How so?

Some of you will already be aware of my lovely Bicontinental Dachshund friend Tootsie's Shoppe. Well a few weeks ago she invited her pals to leave comments on what they thought of the Shoppe, with the incentive that the names of all the commenters would go into a prize draw.

And guess what? I won. So exciting! The prize was a pack of the most beautiful cards, as pictured at the top of this post. They are of course available from Tootsie's Shoppe. Gosh, I am sure you have a friend who needs cheering up and would love to receive one of these cards.

Of course there are lots more dachshund themed gifts available; original, amusing and utterly delightful, every single one. I have even heard a rumour that a card featuring a wire-haired fox terrier is in the offing. 

And can you believe that my notoriously tight fisted owner has actually ordered one of Tootsie's mugs? Paid for with real money (well a credit card).

I am being told to get back to my core mission. Educate and enlighten.

So. Did you know that Lord Reith, founder of the BBC, was born in Stonehaven, just down the road from here? No I didn't either, but isn't Wikipedia a wonder!

PS. Thank you so much for your marvellous response to my last post in which I invited  readers to apply to be my godparent. Gail and I are busy reviewing the comments and we shall be providing feedback to all the applicants in a post later this week....

Friday 25 October 2013

Wanted - some dog/godparents!

I expect you saw in the papers the photos of Prince George's christening earlier in the week.

And were you too not struck by the generous supply of godparents awarded to the wee royal laddie?

Seven at last count.

Gail is always telling me how fortunate she was in her parents' choices of her godparents. First there was HGD's older brother, Uncle Jack. How I would have loved to visit him. A delightful man, by all accounts, the more so, surely, because he owned and ran the village butchers shop in Hartfield, Sussex. A butchers shop! Imagine! Then there was wealthy Great Aunty Dot, who lived in Leicestershire in a house with two staircases and a billiard room, and kept a poodle and an alsatian, plus various cats and horses. Thirdly, Doris in Lucerne, strong, independent-minded and generous, the lady Gail once described to a colleague as a role model (to which the colleague responded "that's a Swiss roll model then?")

Uncle Jack c.1996

Doris in 2005
So anyway, it occurred to me that never once has Gail mentioned any godparents for yours truly.

Surely it is not too late?

Perhaps some of my blog friends would like to apply for the post. In which case, let me specify some of the traits I would be looking for in a doggodparent. They should:
  • Live in an attractive part of the world where dog-friendly trails are plentiful.
  • Be hospitable to boisterous visitors.
  • Have loads of free time and the desire to spend it with a bouncy WFT.
  • Possess a moth-free wallet, and an in-depth knowledge of local pet treat suppliers.
  • Be relaxed about the animals on furniture issue, bearing in mind a favourite quote from Doris. "We own the house, the house doesn't own us".
  • Enjoy cuddles, laughs and adventures.
Taking a flexible approach to the 'god' aspect of godparenting, the position(s) are open to those of all religions and none, although, given my 'Blogville Boffin' status, I think I would have to draw the line at a Creationist.

Applications can be made via comments on this blog.

Thursday 24 October 2013

It's not just about the mountains

Bertie, Loch Maree, Slioch and the basal Torridonian unconformity

Here are some other important elements of the perfect weekend in Torridon. (You'll need the sound turned on.)

Listening to the birds singing in the cottage garden:

Noisily anticipating adventures with friends:

Monitoring the crackly wood-burning stove:

Motoring along single track roads with Robbie* on the car radio:

*Listeners to BBC Radio Scotland will be familiar with veteran broadcaster Robbie Shepherd's long running traditional music programme, the essential soundtrack to a Sunday afternoon drive in the Highlands. 

Monday 21 October 2013

Bedtime secrets

May I make a little confession?

You remember a few weeks ago, when a burglar entered our house through the kitchen where I sleep, and Gail was cross at me for not sounding the alarm? Oh yes, it was all "for heavens sake Bertie, you happily wake up the whole street when you feel like it, why on earth couldn't you have barked a bit when it actually would have been useful" etc. etc.

Well since then I have been secretly hoping that my perceived failure as a guard dog might work to my advantage, and Gail would realise there is no point whatsoever in leaving me downstairs at night, and I may as well keep her company in her bedroom and, incidentally, save on the need for a special dog bed.

Sadly, Gail has not yet come round to my way of thinking.

Although, for some reason, I have always been allowed to share her very comfortable bed when we are at the cottage in Torridon, which is where the picture above was taken.

Humans are puzzling creatures, aren't they?

Savouring the fresh air in Torridon this weekend

Thursday 17 October 2013

Small talk in the park

Hi, that's a nice human you have, how old is she? It is a she isn't it?

Yes it's a she. Hard to tell sometimes I know with these dog walking clothes they wear. As for age, she's in her mid fifties, not quite as fresh-faced as she used to be, but I love her all the same.  How old's your one? 

She's says she'd be nine if she were a dog, so I guess that's about the same age.

Well I have to say she looks in pretty good nick. Do you mind me asking where she goes to be groomed? Really, it's embarrassing being seen out with my human, she is so resistant to the idea of getting spruced up etc.  

I guess they have to be trained when young, or else it's a hopeless case. Can't teach an old human new tricks, eh? Tell me, do you often let yours off the lead?

Oh absolutely. I keep an eye on her, of course, but she's pretty reliable on the whole, except if there's an ice-cream van nearby. 

And is she well socialised with other humans?

Gosh, that's a hard one. She's OK with small groups, but put her in a big crowd and she gets a bit anxious.

You know I've noticed mine is fine so long as the other humans aren't too, well how shall I put it, loud and overbearing.

Do you find that yours needs a lot of exercise? Mine certainly does. Far more than all the human books suggest is necessary for a typical middle aged Anglo-Saxon female.

Oh no, mine's just the opposite. I have to drag her out of bed every morning. She's only really happy when lying besides me on the couch watching the telly and munching chocolate.

Well now, I think it's time to be off. Work to do - digging the garden and hoovering the floor, you know how it is...

Nice to meet you. Cheerio then.

See you again soon I expect. Cheers!

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Celebrating Professor Higgs and his Boson

A whole week has gone by since the announcement and I haven't yet told you how thrilled I am that our very own Scottish boffin, Peter Higgs of Edinburgh University, has won the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Yes, you deserve better from Blogville's Special Science Advisor.

Now I have blogged before about Professor Higgs and his boson, and I am pleased to report that, of all my 404 published posts to date, The Higgs Boson Diet Plan has been the most popular by far, with over 1350 page views, more than double the number recorded for the nearest contender. Yes really! Who knew my readers had such a passion for particle physics?

So I hope you won't all be too disappointed today when I steer clear of explaining the significance of the Nobel Prize winning research - after all, it was published nearly half a century ago - and instead say something about Peter Higgs the person.

What a nice chap he sounds. Shy, modest, retiring, brilliant, this eighty-four year old still does not own a mobile phone. When journalists were unable to contact him after the prize was announced, it was suspected in some quarters that he had disappeared off into the Scottish Highlands for a walking holiday, to avoid the predictable press brouhaha. (This turned out not to be true, but the fact that it was thought likely tells you a lot.) Also admirable is the fact that Professor Higgs apparently dislikes his boson being referred to as 'the God particle', in part because, although he is an atheist, he does not want to offend religious folk.

My in-depth research (i.e. googling Peter Higgs + dog) has, I'm afraid, failed to yield any indication that Scotland's most famous living physicist is a dog lover, but one can live in hope.

Below are some pictures of my weekend walk in Glen Tanar. Yes I admit that these are not strictly relevant to the rest of this post, other than that this is surely a place which would appeal to a distinguished Nobel laureate who prefers to lead a quiet life.

Saturday 12 October 2013

The gift that keeps on giving

Lately I have been worrying about what would happen if, like some other bloggers, I should ever run out of subject matter for my blog.

Gail, I regret to say, has not been taking my concerns seriously. "Will the Daily Express ever be short of stories about Princess Diana? Will conspiracy theorists ever give up on the assassination of JFK?"

Of course, my owner and I are not always of one mind when it comes to deciding which topics readers will want me to cover in my posts.

Gail says I really must tell you about what she calls "the unfortunate incident on the 'A' frame", which took place at the end of the last week's DDAC* training session in Drumforskie barn.

I can't imagine that any of you would be interested but, for the sake of domestic harmony, I have agreed to post Gail's rather poor quality cartoon of what occurred.

*Deeside Dog Agility Club

Wednesday 9 October 2013

The cup half full perspective

I want you to know that, just because I have yet to win any prizes or rosettes at Agility, this does not mean that I am not making excellent progress.

Gail entered me into four events at the Ross-shire Dog Agility Competition last Sunday.

In the first event, 'Open Jumping', I tackled all the jumps and the tunnel in the correct order and did not knock any poles down, nor at any point go AWOL from the designated course. The fact that I treated three of the hurdles as an opportunity to show off my limbo dancing skills is surely evidence of impressive versatility.

In the second event, also 'Open Jumping', my slow start enabled me to demonstrate my capacity for rapid acceleration.

Thirdly, came the first 'Agility' class. In this I struggled manfully on to complete the twenty obstacle course, despite the fact that Gail had lost her bearings completely before we were a quarter of the way round. Her excuse was that she had been convinced, based on past competition experience, that I would refuse the second obstacle, the 'dog walk', so she hadn't really bothered to try to remember the rest of the route. Yes you are correct, it is downright insulting.

As is the fact that she didn't ask anyone to photograph my performances for fear, so she claims, of tempting fate.

So you'll have to rely on my word for it that I very nearly achieved a clear round in the final 'Agility' class for medium sized dogs grades 1-7, and was prevented from doing so only by the fact that the judge lady rudely came over to move me on, just as I had paused for a minute or two to catch my breath and admire the splendid view of Ben Wyvis from the fulcrum of the seesaw...

It is not my fault that some folk will fail to recognise star quality when it is staring them in the face.

Monday 7 October 2013

Sad news from the Oilman

I have some very sad news to tell you this morning. 

You remember a couple of weeks ago when Gail and I went for a windy walk with her friend the Oilman and his Westie Lucy and we left Lucy's companion Florrie, also a Westie, at home? Well, although thirteen year old Florrie was no longer up to hillwalking, she seemed that day to be quite well and still enjoying life. But Oilman has now reported that dear Florrie passed away peacefully last Tuesday.
Florrie in her prime

Florrie was a frequent walking companion of my predecessor Hamish the Westie, and they stayed with each other a few times as well. Florrie and Lucy had recently been living in Guernsey while Oilman was away in Yemen and their thrilling trip back to Scotland by private plane was described on my blog last year. 

Although we will all miss Florrie, I do hope that her best friend Lucy will continue to be one of my walking girlfriends for a long time to come.

PS from Gail: I am remembering, with fond sadness, the first meeting between Hamish, then four years old, and brand new puppy Florrie. I never saw Hamish run away so fast as when wee Florrie attempted to latch on to him as her missing mother substitute. Hamish most definitely did not want to know... Fortunately, over the course of many enjoyable adventures in the hills of Aberdeenshire and beyond, a degree of mutual tolerance and respect was established.

Saturday 5 October 2013

Bertie the good sport

I am just back from a busy few days in Nottingham, visiting the human grandparents and making myself available for frequent cuddles.

We travelled by train and I was as good as gold. Yes really.

Readers should know that the Friday 9:52 a.m. East Coast train from Aberdeen is, unofficially, the Stag and Hen Party Express.

What fun!

So many jolly, lively and not at all drunk folk on board to keep Gail and I entertained as we sped south.

Newcastle was the main destination for these party people. For some reason* Gail was holding me very tight as we watched them disembarking...

....and she breathed a big sigh of relief as the train pulled out of the station. 

*Click here to read about the earlier 'Newcastle Station Incident'.

Friday 4 October 2013

Bertie's International No Taco Day...

WANTED: A new assistant.

(For real tacos, visit Jazzi).