So Gail announced on Sunday morning that we were getting stuck in a rut, always going to the same places for our weekend walks, and today we would explore somewhere different. She had been consulting one of her favourite websites, www.walkhighlands.co.uk, and decided that the 'Correen Hills circuit, near Alford' would be a good route to try.
I looked with interest at the description, and was rather disappointed to learn that the walk had a 'Bog Factor' of only two, out of a possible score of five.
(You may need to biggify the image below).
Gail tried to tell me that I'd misunderstood the scoring system and that when it comes to Bog Factor, low is good, but that can't possibly be right can it?
Anyway, it was a super day for a hill walk, warm and sunny with almost no wind, so off we set. Soon Gail was muttering about "Bog Factor of just two, my wet foot! They must have come here in the Permian Era, when Scotland was a desert."
I think you will see from the pictures below that she had a point.
I find I have some spare time on my paws just now, so I've decided to write a wee letter to Human Granny. When someone is many miles distant and you are missing them, it's a good way of feeling closer, don't you think?
Hmmm, what shall I say?
Dear Dearest HGY,
I just wanted to write and let you know that I miss you a lot. I am so sorry I was stuck in prison camp last week while Gail was down in Nottingham for a visit. It was not my choice!
I must admit, when Gail returned here I confronted her with a long list of complaints about my treatment 'inside'. You know what she said in reply?
"Oh Bertie, why can't you be more like Human Granny? Life isn't perfect for her either but she always tries to make the best of her new situation. She introduced me to her friend Irene and both of them were telling me they think there's no point being miserable in the care home and they try to stay cheerful and interested in life".
Well, I suppose that is indeed a good attitude.
Human Granny, I hope you have been enjoying the Rugby World Cup on the telly. (Well maybe not the game last night…) Gail says watching rugby always makes her think of Human Grandad. I expect it is the same for you. Tell me, is it really true that he took you to a game at Lansdowne Road on your honeymoon in Dublin? And that you later said you thought you'd married a quiet man until that day?
What else can I tell you?
Oh I wish you were able to walk round Duthie Park with me. The flowers are still looking really pretty, as you can see in the photos I've included below. I've been told how you and HGD used to love coming to Scotland to visit Gail, although that was before I was born. You've travelled a lot in your long life, haven't you HGY? Last time I was in Nottingham, Gail showed me some photos from when you were evacuated to Canada during the Second World War. Fancy setting out across the Atlantic in a big ship, aged only nine, and not seeing your parents for four years. There is even a picture of you standing on tip toes to post a letter to your Mum and Dad back in England. Perhaps that was when you learned to be brave and not a Moaning Minnie!
Now the good news here is that Gail has absolutely promised I will be allowed to come next time she visits Nottingham. And believe me, I am going to hold her to that (terrier's honour!)
Meanwhile, I am sending fondest hugs and licks,
Your very own "Petsy",
PS Perhaps you had better not let on to the staff at the care home that you have received a letter from your daughter's dog? These things can easily be misunderstood in the wrong context…
Today is, of course, the day for Murphy and Stanley's FFHT. Hooray! As usual, this month's special phrase is highlighted in red in the story below.
A Dream Come True
"Hey, look at you, woolly WFTer with the painted paws!"
That's what some dumb mutt barked at me in the park yesterday. But did I care? I did not. Let me explain why.
It is only fitting, don't you think, that royalty in the dog-blogging world should on occasion consort with fellow celebrities from other walks of life?
Oh how I have always wanted to meet the diminutive pop star known as Prince. I feel he is a kindred spirit. So much charisma packed into a small frame. Such an interesting and creative chappie.
And, reluctant though I am to admit it, my home town of Aberdeen is not always top of the list of places in Europe which famous Americans want to visit. (Excepting Donald Trump of course, and the least said about him the better).
In prison earlier this summer, I had time to think long and hard about how I might tempt Prince to come and visit NE Scotland.
I carefully studied his song lyrics to glean some ideas, and suddenly, inspiration - aided by Wikipedia - struck.
As you are aware, Scotland is renowned worldwide for its damp climate. Normally our rainfall is kind of a dreary greyish colour.
Another point to note is that September is blackberry season and this year’s crop has been abundant, perhaps on account of the precipitation.
So my idea was to conduct an experiment, using local resources, which I hoped might catch the attention of the wee mannie from Minneapolis, Minnesota.
First of all, I arranged, through my extensive local contacts, for every single blackberry bush in within a 20 miles radius of Aberdeen to be stripped bare of fruit. With the assistance of some industrial sized kitchen equipment, the mountain of berries collected was then crushed to a juicy pulp.
As for the next step, how fortunate we are that the RAF base in nearby Lossiemouth is still operational.
Now it was merely a matter of timing.
I waited until the Met Office was predicting several days of continuous rainfall, then summoned a fleet of specially adapted Tornado jets to fly above the mass of clouds gathering to the west, and spray them with a generous quantity of my blackberry juice.
And guess what?
Of course, Prince heard about the sensational weather phenomenon on social media and flew straight over to Scotland. I was there at Aberdeen airport to meet him. It was still raining. I raced across the runway through the puddles. And that’s why my toes turned purple.
Prince was so awestruck by the spectacle he scarcely glanced at me. But did I care? I did not. My long cherished dream had come true. And no-one was going to be allowed to wash my paws for at least a month!
PS Gail says I might be in contention for the most ludicrous and contrived FFHT ever written. When will I be ever taken seriously (sigh)?
Just before dropping me off again at 'camp' the other day, Gail waved a book by Jeffrey Archer in my face in a mildly threatening manner and addressed me thus:
"So Bertie, rather than whinging endlessly about this place you insist on calling prison, why not make good use of your stint 'inside' and write a journal, like other high profile convicts have done? For sure we'll have a blockbuster on our hands before you can say disgraced Tory politician".
Having taken a wee peek at Mr Archer's bestselling effort, I concluded that book buyers can't be such a discriminating bunch as sometimes made out, and I might as well follow Gail's suggestion.
Day 1: Was taken to my cell by a prison officer called Emma, who bolted the door and disappeared. Dogs in neighbouring cells were barking so I decided to join in (although I am usually a quiet chappie). Was taken out for a brief walk and given some food. Barked some more. Fell asleep eventually. Day 2: Joined in the canine dawn chorus. Went for an early morning walk with Prison Governor Wendy and fellow inmate Rory the German shepherd. Wendy, a former Scottish track cycling champion, asked me if Gail was away on another bicycle tour. As if I was actually interested in this topic! I growled at Rory then ignored him. Back to cell. Ate breakfast. Then entered into an 'I'm having the last yap' contest with Lhasa Apso neighbour Freda. I won. Later, am taken out for another walk. Barked some more. Slept some more...
I like to think I have mastered a range of writing styles, but even I - not always the most self-critical of creatures - can see that this diary is turning into a less than riveting read. Is prison life really so dull? Where are the inmates whose backstories involve gut-churningly gory crimes? How can I provide fascinating insights into the prison's social hierarchy when all I see around me is a bunch of common or garden dogs who bark a lot? As an innocent pup with scientific bent, I am scarcely a candidate for some sensational, life-transforming religious conversion while inside. It's hard even to write about how bad the food is when I'm getting my normal diet, albeit with a slightly restricted supply of gravy bones.
You know what? That Jeffrey Archer fellow had it easy.
N.B. I want to reassure you, that I, Bouncing Bertie Boffin, Scientific Advisor to Blogville etc. etc., have identified the specimen of fungus in the photo above as a 'fly agaric', more formally Amanita muscaria, of the phylum Basidiomycota. This type of toadstool is known to contain psychoactive substances, which may explain (scientifically of course) its cultural association with fairies and such like!
Now we established last week, didn’t we, that if a Chihuahua can undertake a ten hour flight from Seattle to Frankfurt, then there is absolutely no reason for an only slightly oversized wire-haired fox terrier not to travel around the globe with his doting human?
So imagine my horror when Gail announced that she is flying to London for a business meeting next week, and taking the opportunity while ‘Down South’ to visit Human Granny in Nottingham for a few days, and as a result I am being left behind AGAIN.
I feel it is a failure of imagination on Gail’s part, that she can’t figure out how I could accompany her on this trip. But I am a creative kind of a pup, with a terrier’s tenacity, and I have been gnawing away at the problem.
You know, to me it seems simple. One just need to take things one step at a time.
The flight from Aberdeen to London: the fact that British Airways do not allow dogs in the cabin is no obstacle, I think. Either I could be smuggled in using a cabin bag with air holes (the flight is only 90 mins) or Gail could pretend she was fat or pregnant and hide me under her coat. If she removes my collar, I see no reason why I should be detected by the scanner…
The colleague accompanying Gail: I gather he is a friendly chap called Ishfaq and, although of Asian background, was born and bred in Scotland and so is culturally hard-wired to be dog tolerant and thus happy to co-operate with my escapade. Furthermore, his brown skin may act as an additional distraction at airport security (these folk are known to deal in the crudest of stereotypes) thus aiding my plan to slip through unnoticed.
Heathrow to London SW3: I googled this one and am pleased to report that dogs are allowed the Heathrow Express, the London Underground and in black cabs. For sure an Uber driver would take me too?
While the meeting is taking place: two options here I think.
The meeting is hosted by a French oil company with swanky offices just behind the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. In an ideal world I would be welcomed into the meeting room with open arms, immediately supplied with water and at lunch fed a choice selection from the buffet provided for the humans. The fact that the first time Gail ever visited this office, the new General Manager - just arrived from France - threw a big hissy fit at the poor standard of the lunchtime refreshments, bodes well, surely, for a quality offering this time around.
However, I think it wise to have a contingency plan just in case anyone at the meeting kicks up a fuss and claims to be allergic to dogs. Mine is to be temporarily adopted by one of the international super-model type women whose natural habitat is the Sloane Square end of Kings Road.
Such ladies, I believe, regard cute fluffy pups as a fashionable accessory and, let’s face it, few are as cute as my good self. So if I am expelled from the office building and onto the street, I aim to execute a perfectly timed bounce into the handbag of one such lady, who will exclaim ‘too cute’ and take me on a tour of designer boutiques, ply me with deliciously tooth-rotting treats and show me off to all her friends. Since such people have short attention spans, and their stick thin arms are not made for carrying 9 kg of WFT for long, I anticipate my adopter will tire of me after a few hours and will abandon me near to where I was picked up, just in time to reunite with Gail when her meeting ends. What could possibly go wrong?
London to Nottingham: now we are on the home straight, as Nottingham is less than two hours away from London by train and once safely arrived, not even Gail can dream up further objections to my remaining with her for the duration.
So on Friday afternoon it was all "come on Bertie, let's smarten you up, we're going into town for a Very Special Outing".
Leaving aside the rather obvious objection that we already live in town my next thought was to wonder if Gail was skipping a generation and turning into her Granny.
£175 on eBay, anyone?
Many's the time I've heard about how Gail's teenage years were ruined (OK slight exaggeration) by her mother's mother constantly criticising her for going into Nottingham City Centre on a Saturday afternoon clad in the then regulation patched flares and Afghan coat, when she really should have smartened herself up and worn a nice skirt and ladylike shoes and gloves.
But back to the present day.
Well the deal is that Aberdeen Council are conducting a so-called 'café culture trial', an experiment in al fresco eating, and has permitted certain restaurants and coffee shops to expand onto the street in a small, pedestrianised area of the city centre.
If any of you are thinking, well Bertie that is hardly remarkable, let me emphasise that here in NE Scotland we are not blessed with a local government bursting with imagination, creativity and joie de vivre.
Anyway, Gail decided, as the mid-afternoon temperatures are for the moment still above frigid, she would test out the street scene and I was invited along on the assumption that dogs would be allowed in the pavement cafés. (Otherwise, to be honest, what would be the point of them?)
On arriving at Belmont Street Gail carefully checked out the afternoon tea options, rejecting the first because of lack of facilities and the second (disappointingly) for fear that I might be distracted by the other customers.
Finally, we settled on the third café, where clearly the management had taken note of local conditions and thought things through.
So this place offered protection from the sun (or more likely rain), and not only an outdoor heater but blankets for patrons to wrap around themselves should they foolishly have left their winter coats at home.
Oh yes, and I can vouch for the fact that the cherry scones are nice too, having eventually been offered a morsel after proving my "good boy" credentials.
All in all, I am pleased to report I had a thoroughly satisfactory experience, and I am thinking of writing a letter to Aberdeen Council in praise of their latest initiative.
So Gail consigns me to prison for over two weeks (and no Madi, it was not ‘camp’ and I did not develop any new craft skills nor learn 'fun' campfire songs) and then she has the temerity to complain that I am “a bit smelly, well actually more than a bit” when she comes to pick me up.
Like she was all fresh as a daisy, still in her travelling clothes and unwashed after a sixteen hour journey overnight.
Oh yes, and worse, when I arrived home I detected a distinct whiff of OTHER DOGS emanating from her dirty laundry bag.
On further enquiry I learned that her American friend Marse lives with these two rescue pups, Josh (part dachshund, part Labrador, so Marse was told) and Liddie (more credibly a corgi/ King Charles spaniel cross).
Gail was apparently not the only person to have observed Josh’s brindle coat and queried the story about his parentage. Another friend of Marse’s had earlier noted that certain of the less scrupulous rescue centres in the USA will tell prospective owners a dog is part lab when they really mean part pit bull…
Anyway, you will pleased to know that both Gail and I are now bathed and groomed, the laundry has been fumigated, and I have reclaimed sole rights to my errant owner.