Gail, I have noticed there have a been a lot of 'training rides' lately, and also much fiddling around with your touring bicycle. I surmise you are off again on a trip shortly. Is that so?
Indeed it is Bertie, I'm leaving tomorrow in fact.
And where are you headed this time?
[Bertie looks puzzled at the response].
Are you OK Gail? It sounded like you were being sick? Perhaps you had better stay home with me.
Silly Bertie, I was just listing the places where we'll be staying. Let me try again, more slowly this time. Dubrovnik and Molunat, Croatia; Bilica, Bosnia-Herzogovina; Niksic, Podgorica and Kotor, Montenegro; Shkoder, Albania. Got it?
Er, yes, OK, fine. But what about me?
Well Bertie, you will be just across the road with our neighbours Yvonne and Neil. Won't that be nice?
That's Neil who likes long walks and Yvonne who does lots of cooking and often gives me treats? Oh yes, that would be most acceptable. A big improvement on so-called "camp" for sure. In fact, YIPPEE! No need to hurry back Gail…
PS Gail told me some super news this week. Well I think it's super, she is a bit more equivocal. Anyway, from 1st July onwards she will be working 2 1/2 days a week rather than the current 4 days. She assures me there will still be enough money for my food AND treats. So I am currently drawing up a detailed plan for how she will spend the extra free time. I am sure my friends will have some good suggestions too, and if so, please let me know via comments and I will do my best to incorporate these before the plan (which of course I shall be sharing with you) is finalised.
I expect some of you are wondering where I stay these days on visits to Nottingham, now that Human Granny's house has been sold.
Well I am delighted to report that Gail's friend Janet is proving a most accommodating hostess.
The wee house she bought last year is perfectly suited to my needs.
The double bed in Janet's spare room is most comfortable, and may even have space for Gail.
It is only a short walk from the house to a pretty, willow lined canal.
Although I'm not sure why Gail was looking nervous at this particular point as I inspected the lock...
Anyway, on Sunday afternoon, while Gail was visiting Human Granny, I showed my gratitude to Janet by volunteering to help her with some gardening.
I believe I understood it correctly, that my role was to transport soil from the recently dug flower bed to the kitchen floor?
Oh and I ate up some cat poo I found too.
At least Janet seemed pleased with me 'cos later she left a whole box of flapjacks out on the back doorstep, and of course, being a well brought up pup, I knew she would be insulted if I didn't consume them right away. And then lick the container clean.
Yes, all in all, it was most satisfactory visit.
I do hope I'll be invited again.
Oh, Gail is saying I have presented an "interesting" account of my stay, and that readers might just choose to put a different interpretation on the events reported here...
If I tell you I was thrilled when I learned I would be spending an afternoon at Prestonfield House in Edinburgh, then you'll probably be thinking I was just looking forward to taking part in the final of the Ambassadog contest (see previous post).
How wrong you would be.
The rest of the dogs last Sunday might have been happy to romp around on the lawn all afternoon and perform silly tricks for the cameras, but you'll know that such trivia would not satisfy your Bouncing Boffin for long.
So when no-one else was looking I snuck away from the official proceedings and entered the hotel, in search of a very special room.
I took a few wrong turns...
Then regained my bearings.
I exercised great self control and desisted from chewing the furniture...
And eventually I reached my destination.
Isn't that exciting! The Benjamin Franklin Suite! Yes the great man really did stay right here during a visit to Scotland in 1759.
So I had a good sniff around and imagined conversing about theories of electricity with one of my scientific heroes.
Gosh I felt so inspired. I could only feel pity for those poor ignorant pups who had stayed outside and missed such a wonderful opportunity to commune with the spirit of genius across the centuries.
And although I am not the official 'Ambassadog' (and to demonstrate that there are no sour grapes) I still want do my bit in telling the world about my wonderful homeland. I feel I can do no better today than to leave you with words from Mr B. Franklin himself, taken from a letter he wrote to one of his Scottish hosts:
"….the pleasure we had enjoyed, and the kindnesses we had received in Scotland, and how far that country had exceeded our expectations. On the whole, I must say, I think the time we spent there, was six weeks of the densest happiness I have met with in any part of my life; and the agreeable and instructive society we found there in such plenty, has left so pleasing an impression on my memory, that did not strong connexions draw me elsewhere, I believe Scotland would be the country I should choose to spend the remainder of my days in."
PS You might also like to know that when Benjamin Franklin stayed at Prestonfield House, his host was the eminent Edinburgh physician Sir Alexander Dick, whose many claims to fame include having introduced rhubarb to Scotland...
Some of the others on the shortlist were frolicking with a ball, but I had no time to waste. There was one particular dog I was keen to meet.
I'd watched and admired her wee video. But when I saw her in the flesh I realised that nothing could have prepared me for such overwhelming beauty.
Oh my word was there ever a more fragrant rear end? It was love at first sniff.
Gail tried to get me to socialise with the other pups...
...but Fenton, the Sheltie from Shetland, was the only girl for me! Oh what a vision of loveliness! And yes, I was thrilled to learn she really is named after "FENTON!!!!" of YouTube fame. Such distinction...
I just couldn't leave her alone.
OK so the other pups were cute and stuff,
And golden retriever George from Glasgow, the winner of the Ambassadog title, is undoubtedly a handsome fellow (and surprisingly well-mannered, for a 'Weegie'…)
But oh I have eyes only for Fenton.
Saying goodbye was almost more than I could bear.
As soon as I arrived home, I was onto the internet and looking up timetables. The next ferry to Shetland leaves from Aberdeen Harbour this evening.
Can anyone offer tips on how to become a stowaway? Would it help if I wore my Shetland wool jumper?
PS from Gail: when Bertie has recovered from his overwrought state (and apologised to Addi for his shockingly unfaithful behaviour) he will tell you about a rather more cerebral adventure inside Prestonfield House.
What's that you're saying? The boardwalk is there for a purpose?
PS Thank you for all your encouraging comments ahead of Sunday's big Ambassadog event. Oh I can scarcely contain my excitement! A special trip to Edinbugh! An afternoon at a fancy hotel! We promise a full report early next week. Meanwhile, click here if you want read what our local Aberdeen newspaper had to say today about me making the shortlist. (And yes they did spell Gail's surname wrong).
Do you remember a few weeks ago, when I told you that our tourist people VisitScotland had advertised for an Ambassadog, and that I was going to apply?
Many of my readers were even kind enough to provide references in support of my application.
Well I am thrilled to announce that, with your help, I have reached the shortlist of nine dogs and have been invited to a special Ambassadog Selection Day in Edinburgh next Sunday.
But before that, last Friday VisitScotland came to Aberdeen to make a wee video of me on my home turf. Can you believe it took them 4 1/2 hours to make a 90 second video? Frankly I was mightily handicapped by Gail, who is, well, let's just say that not all of us can be naturals in front of the camera. Not to mention the minor problem of her distinctly English accent. Oh yes, and there was the worst of Aberdeen weather to contend with - even inside the house the videographer complained about the noise of the the rain lashing against the window as I was being filmed sat on Gail's lap on the sofa.
So anyway I'm sure you'll want to see the wee video.
PS from Gail: It is a bit rich being criticised for my performance by a dog who, having sat peacefully on my lap for forty minutes of repeated takes, decided to growl at the camera and head for the door the moment I started talking about "our bond" and how he enjoys being close to me....Perfect timing Bertie!
Gail, I see you have a new book, 'Being a Beast' by Charles Foster. The title sounds interesting. Do tell me what it's all about.
Well Bertie, where to begin? The author, who is an Oxford academic and also a qualified vet, decided he would attempt to experience life as a variety of wild animals and then write about it. So he spent several months living as a badger in a makeshift set. He also had a shot a being an urban fox, an otter, a red deer and, perhaps least successfully, a swift.
Hmmm. Most intriguing. How did the badger thing go?
So the badger chapter opens with the arresting statement: "When you put a worm in your mouth, it senses the heat as something sinister". Later on he deploys the wine tasters' concept of 'terroir' to describe the way the taste of a worm varies according to the soil type in which it lives.
Gosh, isn't that a tiny bit pretentious? As well as unpleasant. Did he fare any better as an urban fox?
Not really. It seems the policeman who found him sleeping rough under a rhododendron bush on private land was not too impressed with his "I'm trying to be a fox" line and told him to "bugger off home, SIR, and get a life".
Oh dear, it all sounds a most unpromising enterprise. Perhaps it would have been easier if the author had chosen to replicate a dog's life?
Well Bertie, I suspect that a daily routine of being taken for nice walks, having all one's food provided in a clean and convenient bowl on the kitchen floor, and spending evenings being given belly rubs on the sofa, would not offer the sort of 'nature red in tooth and claw' experience Mr Foster had in mind for the book.
You have a point Gail. And anyway, who needs to read about humans pretending to be dogs when so many of my own species have already mastered the art of social media….?
P.S. For those readers interested in the progress of my 'Ambassadog' application - there will be an update on Tuesday this week. Watch this space!