Friday 28 November 2014

FFHT: The forty year wait (a true story)

It's Murphy and Stanley's FFHT time again.

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Once upon a time, there was a little girl, born one foggy November night in Nottingham a long long time ago (1958, to be precise).

From a very early age, this little girl disliked dolls, finding their plastic faces creepy, but she loved her furry animal toys very much. She loved Mr and Mrs Teddy, and Uncle Edward the Elephant. But best of all, she loved her Airedale wheelie dog, even though she cannot now recall his name.

As she grew older she wished more than anything that she could have a real live dog. She would spend hours perusing her 'Observers' Book of Dogs' published in 1961, trying to decide, in her imaginary world, which type of dog she would choose. The entry for the wire-haired fox terrier stated that this was the most popular terrier breed.

Sadly, neither her parents nor her granny nor her brother, all of whom lived in the same house, shared her desire for a pup, and her only childhood pets were Goldie the goldfish (won by her brother at Goose Fair) and Arthur the guinea pig, whose lifespan of eight years may yet be a world record.

Fast forward to 1999, and the little girl is forty years old. After living in London almost all her adult life, a company relocation takes her to Northeast Scotland. She now has a house with a garden, friendly neighbours and a five minute commute to the office.

One evening, she circles a small ad in the Aberdeen Evening Express. "Three year old male Westie needs a new home". She phones the number. A farmer from near Fraserburgh answers. She is too embarrassed to tell him that she only understands one word in five of his strong Doric accent. The story seems to be that the farmer wanted to use the Westie for breeding but then realised the dog was too closely related to the intended bitch. An appointment is made to view the dog. His name is Hamish.

For Gail, things would never be the same after this phone call.

(It was only later it occurred to Gail that farmer's story never made any sense!)

Thursday 27 November 2014

Thanks Blogville!

Thanks for the fun and friendship!

Oh gosh, I could say so much more, but, well, you see, I have a bit of a lump in my throat when I think too of all the kindness.

Oh and can you believe Gail gave me a shampoo and even tried to floof up the furs on my legs, just so I'd be looking my best for all my wonderful pals on this special Blogville Thanksgiving Day.

Sunday 23 November 2014


BBB (Bouncing Bertie Boffin) here.

Can you even imagine how awesome it must be to land on a comet?

You would be bouncing with excitement. Well I would, for sure.

You know, when I bounce, I'll be honest with you, I only stay up in the air for a fraction of a second.

Now look at this picture of the European Space Agency's Philae lander last week hitting the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for the first time. And then bouncing off again.

It was nearly two hours before Philae came down again the second time.

The next bounce lasted a 'mere' seven minutes.

Frankly I'd have been happy with that.

Earth's gravity field is such a drag.

Thursday 20 November 2014

Still waiting for my Shetland wool jumper

Of course you'll remember that Gail was given some lovely yarn spun from the fleece of the Shetland sheep who live next door to the Torridon cottage and belong to our neighbour, knitting enthusiast Julia.

Many of my talented and creative readers came up with grrrreat ideas for how this yarn could be converted into a manly sweater for yours truly.

You can imagine how disappointed I was when I saw the pattern Gail had chosen.

Yes, that's right. How could anyone be so selfish? She decided to knit a 'Nordic snowflake beanie' for herself.


Then when I objected (by giving the knitting needles a little chew) Gail tried to soften the blow by saying that this beanie is just a practice run, and claiming she will adapt the pattern to fashion a matching Nordic snowflake sweater pour moi, "in due course"....

You can see how impressed I was with that answer.

I supposed I'd better show you the picture of Gail wearing the finished product. I had never before thought of my human as vain, but having now seen how many 'selfies' were rejected before this one was finally deemed acceptable, I have revised my view.

I must say the texture of the wool when knitted up is particularly lovely. But personally, I think the hat would look better with a white pom pom on the top.

Do you agree?

Monday 17 November 2014

Into Thick Air

I could have told Gail before we set off that there would be no good views from the top of Millstone Hill on Sunday morning.

As we ascended into the mist, the only thing to become clearer was the accuracy of my prediction.

Of course, you might think my presence at the summit counts as a 'good view'.

Which would be entirely reasonable.

Friday 14 November 2014

The truth about Hamish on Stac Pollaidh

Bertie on Stac Pollaidh

Stac Pollaidh from Achnahaird beach 
The geographically astute amongst you might have already realised that, in passing by Gruinard Bay last Sunday, we were some distance from our usual Torridon patch.

Yes indeed, after a chilly Saturday night at the cottage (the ancient wood burning stove has been decommissioned and the new and hopefully much more efficient one not yet installed) we headed north along the breathtaking coastline for a wee November mini-break, staying two nights at Gail's favourite hotel, The Ceilidh Place in Ullapool.

Oh I could go on and on about what a smashing and dog-friendly hotel this is, but today, as the title suggests, I want instead to tell you something about my predecessor Hamish the Westie. Something I only learned when Gail and I climbed a renowned Assynt landmark, Stac Pollaidh, on Monday morning. Information that had hitherto been suppressed.
Red arrow points to Stac Pollaidh
Hamish accompanied Gail on her first ever visit to this eerily spectacular part of Scotland. He was still quite young (about my age now in fact). I'm always being told about what a capable hill climber the wee fellow was, despite his short legs and solid body. In fact Gail can be quite boring on the topic of his apparently first rate scrambling skills. Skills which I lack due to my higher centre of gravity.

Fellow pups, have you ever struggled to live up to your human's memories of an earlier pet?

Path up Stac Pollaidh
Well, as you can see from the pictures, Stac Pollaidh, although not high compared with many Scottish peaks, is steep and rocky towards the summit. Just the sort of scramble at which Hamish reputedly excelled.
Near the summit - Gail in camouflage
So it was only when we descended that Gail let slip, as if it were a minor detail, how she was quite relieved at not having to carry me down. And how it had always been hard to keep her balance while holding Hamish's ten plus kilograms against her hip on a precipitous descent.

Yes you read that right. Hamish the world famous mountaineering Westie had to be carried down from the summit of Stac Pollaidh. And from many other summits apparently. He was only ever any good at going uphill. He would just get to the top, sit down and refuse to budge, in his stubborn Westie way.

Oh you have no idea how much better I feel, having learned this.

Not that I'm competitive or anything….

View north towards Suilven (worth biggifying!)

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Pet grooming versus nuclear fusion

Bouncing Bertie Boffin here!

Gosh you learn can some interesting things watching the telly can't you?

Now you might think from this wee video clip that I was not paying attention last week while Gail was entranced by her hero Brian Cox pontificating about science, energy resources and the future of mankind.

But can bet your bottom dollar that my flappy little ears pricked up when I heard Professor Cox assert the following:

"Americans spend ten times more money a year on pet grooming than they do on nuclear fusion."

I think some criticism was implied.

Well my friends, what to make of this?

As we know, an explosive release of energy can sometimes result if a muddy dog is confronted with a tub of warm water and a bottle of shampoo.

However is a settled fact in the Bertie and Gail household that very little money is spent on pet grooming. It costs nothing to rinse a pup in the River Dee after all.

But before Gail starts to look any sort of smug, I ask her just how much of her hard earned cash went on nuclear fusion over the past twelve months.

This elicits a rambling response about paying taxes and government funded scientific research, blah blah, blah, all of which amounts to an admission that the hairbrush she purchased from Pets at Home back in February might have cost more than any indirect contribution she's made to solving the world energy crisis.

Fellow pups, I am wondering if we might start a campaign. Next time your owner threatens you with a 'spa day', why not suggest instead they put their pennies in an envelope and send them off to their nearest nuclear fusion laboratory…?

How else will we secure a carbon-free energy future?

Sunday 9 November 2014

Remembrance Sunday in Wester Ross

We were headed to the beach today but Gail insisted we pause first at the Remembrance Sunday ceremony in Gairloch.

It was at the war memorial besides the Free Presbyterian Church.

I was standing there all quiet and respectful but Gail was still worried she might be condemned to eternal damnation for filming the 'Wee Frees' on the Sabbath.

Of course I made friends as always and there was no problem.

One last look at the poppies...

And it was off to Gruinard Bay.

Yes, this really is Northwest Scotland in November! 

Wednesday 5 November 2014

At the centre of things...

Enzo - Bertie - Malachi (Duthie Park, 2 November 2014)

Sunday 2 November 2014

A near perfect park experience

We arrive at Duthie Park shortly after sun-up.

It is the unrushed weekend.

First encounter is with a Weimeraner, his harness being held firmly by an anxious owner. I steer clear and focus on leaf sniffing.

The brown-skinned runner flashes past. We see him circuiting the park every morning. Gail admires his lithe movement.

Next we meet more regulars, deaf Sheila and her blind and diabetic wee schnauzer Sadie. They are walking round with Ida, whose indeterminate-breed sheepdog Trixie sniffs Gail's treat pocket. Sheila comments on Gail being out without a jacket in November. We are invited to admire Sadie's new haircut, which is smart but I fear might give Gail 'ideas'.

A passing border terrier, a newcomer, rolls over on his back immediately I approach. His owner laughs, and says his dog needs to "man up".

We are lapped by the brown-skinned runner.

Further round, both Gail and I are attracted by the sight of a pretty, fine-boned and fluffy grey pup, about the same height as me. OK, I'll admit, I am more attracted by her smell. We learn she is a Bedlington/whippet mix. Oh she smells nice. I am accused of getting frisky and my lead is clamped on until she is a safe distance away.

As we reach the park gates, I spot my Goldendoodle pal and race over to say hello. His owner notes that the incident with Jake has not made me fearful at all. Gail tells her I was a bit more growly with other dogs for a week or two but now seem back to normal.

The runner passes us one more time. Gail resists the urge to stop him to ask how many times he circuits the park each morning and instead gazes back in appreciation as his handsome athletic form rapidly recedes.

Walking home along the street we meet paper delivery girl Arizono with her border collie. The collie sports a tasteful tartan neckerchief. Arizona wears a tiger-striped onesie. The cartoony outfit cannot hide a sad face. This girl from a troubled home was fostered by Corinne, a kind lady living four doors down from Gail. Corinne died of a brain tumour earlier this year. Gail says hello to Arizona who for once looks up and acknowledges the greeting and even smiles, briefly.