So I ran into next door neighbour Ruby in the park a couple of nights ago and after we exchanged bottom sniffs she asked me what I'd been up to lately.
Do you have friends who ask such questions purely, you later realise, in the hope that you will ask the same question in return?
Well I was telling Ruby all about my recent adventures on the Nottingham public transport system, but I noticed her eyes glazing over and so, being a well brought up pup, I enquired politely, and what about you Ruby?
Ruby brightened up considerably.
"Oh gosh Bertie I had such an amazing experience when I went away to Killin in Perthshire last weekend with my owners Paul and Jan. Can you imagine, we were in the hotel bar and who should walk in but Prince William and a bunch of his friends! And Prince William patted me on the head and one of his friends asked "does it hunt?" So Paul explained that I was a Briard, a French dog bred for herding and guarding sheep, and not in any way a hunter. Then later in the evening, when Paul and I were outside enjoying the peace and quiet of the Highland night, who should come over and join us but Prince William himself. And he spoke to me, just me not Paul, for quite a while, in French! Of course, I shall be keeping our conversation confidential…… And Bertie it is not at all respectful of you to ask how many beers my new best friend Prince William had been drinking and to suggest he was envious of my luxuriant furs. Do you want to be locked in the Tower?"
To continue this week's theme of public transport….
Now that Human Granny has given away her car, when in Nottingham I am having to accustom myself to travelling around with Gail by bus. This is a new experience for me, and something Gail has not done since her school days.
Here is a picture of the type of double decker Gail caught every day for eleven years:
The fare on the number 11 bus from Valley Road to the City Centre was 4d when Gail started doing that journey into Nottingham, age seven, with no parental supervision and a walk of nearly a mile through a rough part of town at the other end.
Well that's quite enough of the nostalgia-fest Gail! And we won't even think about all that secondary cigarette smoke you inhaled on the top deck of the bus…
Back to the present day.
Gail was most upset to learn that these days on Rushcliffe Mainline bus services, unlike on trains, dogs no longer travel for free. She was indeed quite outraged that it costs a whole 50p per trip to buy me the privilege of boarding the bus from Nottingham railway station to Radcliffe on Trent, where Human Granny now resides.
Fear not friends, it didn't take me long to realise there is an upside to this charge! (And, let's face it, only someone who has lived too long in Aberdeen could begrudge a pup less than the price of a Mars Bar for a six mile bus ride…)
So anyway, as I see it, certain consumer rights attend my new status a paying customer. I now feel entitled to demand a superior quality of service on the bus and to bark loudly if these requirements are not met.
After four bus journeys, I wish to make the following observations regarding various deficiencies in the service on offer, and to request that these be remedied as soon as possible…
My first complaint concerns the dog unfriendly nature of the driving. Really, everything on a bus is so stop-start it is hard to settle down, and reckless cornering does not help.
And speaking of "hard to settle down", where are the soft cushions to lie on? I accept that my 50p ticket might not qualify me for my own seat, but really, the bus floor is cold and rigid and those vibrations go right through the belly and are most uncomfortable.
Not only is there no refreshment trolley available, nor friendly attendant with a pocket full of shortbread (as one sometimes gets on Scotrail) but I was not offered a bowl of fresh drinking water once during any of my journeys. So inconsiderate.
Although ‘free wi-fi’ is advertised prominently on every bus, I was unable to read my friends' blogs whilst aboard due what that Gail described as bandwidth so narrow that the data download speed could be measured in individual bytes per hour.
Well all this aside, I must say I found my new bus travel experience quite agreeable. On the basis that it's the squeaky wheel what gets the grease, I am confident that the bus company will act on my complaints and all future travel around Nottingham will be plain sailing.
When I was One, I had just begun. When I was Two, I was nearly new. When I was Three, I was hardly me. When I was Four, I was not much more. When I was Five, I was just alive. But now I am Six, I'm as clever as clever. So I think I'll be Six now for ever and ever.
from 'NOW WE ARE SIX' by A.A.Milne.
Yes that's right, it's my birthday today. Yippee! Oh and it's going to be just the bestest of days!
Gail is taking me down to Nottingham on the train to visit Human Granny.
We will be away for a few days and may not be spending much time near a computer. But before I go I must show you this wonderful 'bouncing frog' card that arrived yesterday, all the way from Raleigh, North Carolina.
Isn't it fun? And look what it says inside.
Thank you so much Madi (and your kind and lovely Mom). You have made me feel really special.
Oh and one last thing. The wee poem at the top of this post comes from 'Now We Are Six', a collection of verse by 'Winnie the Pooh' author A.A. Milne. Human Granny was given the book by her 'Mummie and Daddy' on her sixth birthday, in 1936. Later, in the 1960's HGY used to read to it Gail when Gail was just a wee pup.
So I like it that Gail read me this special poem on my sixth birthday, although (between you and me) I am rather hoping for some treats too when we get to Nottingham.
It's been five long years since I last accompanied Gail on a cross country skiing outing. For some reason she always refers to that occasion, when I was less than one year old, as an "unmitigated disaster".
OK so as a puppy I was very scared of those long planks attached to her feet, but I'm a big boy now, right?
Well at last, on Sunday, she had the decency to give me a second chance to prove my credentials as a winter sports companion, and off we went to Clashindarroch Forest, just over an hours drive from Aberdeen and generally considered the best 'snow-holding' forest in the UK.
Gosh it was fun too, as you can see from the pictures below.
When it comes to how I performed, well I thought I had scored a perfect ten, but apparently not. Really, I don't know why it should count against me that I brushed up against another skier and he went down like a skittle. After all he wasn't hurt and his wife did laugh and point out it was the fourth time he'd toppled over that morning...
A love poem dedicated to my sweetheart Addi, and inspired by the recent and thrilling announcement that gravity waves have finally been detected, a century after Albert Einstein first predicted their existence:
ALL OF A FLUTTER by Bouncing Bertie Boffin When I think of you Addi, so large yet so sweet My heart starts a pounding. It will not behave In the regular way. So strong are its beats I believe I've produced gravitational waves. These faint fluctuations will surely distort The space-time continuum betwixt you and me. I know you will feel them; a lass of your sort Has the requisite fine sensitivity. In my mind I imagine old Einstein is smiling His forecasts are all now proved right. And you dearest Addi, I find most beguiling; So massive, so dense and so white.
It is possible that life in our capital city Edinburgh is not all that it's cracked up to be.
Initially I was quite envious of Labradoodle Lily, who belongs to one of Gail's book group friends, when I heard that she and her family are moving away from Aberdeen and going to live in a nice flat in Edinburgh New Town (that's 'new' as in only about 200 years old).
I looked on the map and saw that there is a lovely park, Queen Street Gardens, right by the flat. I even found a photo on the internet.
Won't that be a splendid place for Lily to run around in, I said to Gail.
But Gail responded that life for Lily in Edinburgh would not be so simple. First of all, access to the gardens is only open to a restricted number of local property owners, and there is a waiting list. Worse, there is a SEPARATE WAITING LIST FOR DOGS.
Gail went on to say that Lily would probably have to pass an exam before gaining a key to the park, demonstrating her knowledge of acceptable social behaviour in the Edinburgh canine context, and may be blackballed by 'The Committee' anyway on account of being a non-traditional breed (the horror!) who does not attend the right doggie creche or high end grooming parlour...
OK, I think Gail was kidding me about the exam business etc, possibly having read one too many of Alexander McCall Smith's 'Scotland Street' novels.
But I have decided anyway I am quite content with life in Aberdeen.
Gail, on Sunday, when we left the nature reserve and walked down into Collieston village, you put on my lead, although there was no traffic around. This is not the first time I have noticed you do this, although I am at a loss to understand why. Can you please explain?
Oh Bertie, I'm sure a clever chap like you can work it out. You are just too nosy. When we come close to houses, you always want to run off to explore the gardens, and more than once you have ignored my shouts, made a beeline for an open front door and invited yourself inside.
Well of course, one always likes to investigate new places. What you so sniffily call being 'nosy', I would categorise as evidence of a lively curiosity, which surely is a good thing?
But Bertie, it is at best embarrassing when I have to retrieve you after you've entered someone else's property without permission. And, although it's true we don't live in America and it is unlikely anyone here would go after you with a gun (unless perhaps you were on a farm and worrying the livestock), it would be very understandable if the property owner became irate and started shouting at me, and you.
Gail, you may be right in theory, but in practice it has never happened like that has it? On the contrary, my distinct impression is that people are delighted and amused by my impromptu visits, and my friendly fuzzy-faced presence has brought a little ray of sunshine to many an otherwise dull existence. Really what is embarrassing is having you go all, "sorry, sorry, I'm so sorry, I promise it won't happen again, Bertie you are such a naughty dog", when I have just provided the householder best entertainment they've enjoyed all week.
Er, yes Bertie, up to a point. But may I introduce you to the concept of not pushing one's luck…..?
By Sunday morning, our latest winter storm had passed by. Gail took me for long walk around Forvie Sands Nature Reserve, having judged correctly that the high winds had finally eased enough and I was no longer in danger of getting sand blown in my eyes (which is very uncomfortable).
The Ythan estuary is popular with birdwatchers, an 'activity' that personally I find rather boring. I can see the point of eider ducks, given their association with comfy bedding, but oystercatchers? I mean, am I supposed to be impressed? How hard can it be to catch an oyster?
Oystercatchers and wigeon
When we reached the point where the estuary meets the sea, Gail clamped on my lead.
You would not believe how many big fat smelly seals were noisily mooching around on the sand bank.
Frankly, I found them most unsettling. As you can tell from the set of my tail...
… which did not resume its normal jaunty angle until we had reached the safety of the cliff path, a mile or so beyond those scary monsters.
PS from Gail: I have never before seen Bertie's tail stay so firmly obeying the laws of gravity for more than a minute or two. The seals, which on past visits he has taken in his stride, really did seem to unnerve him this time.