I'll be straight with you. On Day Two of the long weekend at Inshriach, I wasn't altogether sorry when Gail decreed I was to stay in the house and be cared for by fellow guest Sean, while she and some of the others went off for a nine mile tramp over to Loch an Eilein and back.
I mean, it's true that my paws are lots better, but after a day of setting to rights that young Border collie chappie Hemp, it felt time for some rest and relaxation.
And anyway, Sean and I have so much in common, both being noted writers and poets and all that. In fact I wondered if I should show him a few of my poems - perhaps he might welcome some tips? But Gail said she thought on the whole perhaps not, and it would be much better if I just sat there quietly and did not disturb him while he worked. And being an obedient sort of a chap, I did just that.
Come the morning of Day Three, and after John had supplemented my breakfast with a generous helping of the 'Best Black Pudding in Scotland' I was fairly bouncing off the walls of Inshriach House, and made it quite clear I was up for the planned four mile walk around Glenmore Forest Park.
Gosh it was hard to believe it really was March and we really were in the Scottish Highlands.
Don't tell Gail this, but I was secretly pleased that she had stripped my furs the other week! The humans were sweltering in their merino wool thermals and by the afternoon, when the temperature hit 20ºC, some of them were even wishing they had packed their shorts.
(Although, curiously, no-one saw fit to join me when I went to dip my toes in the pretty lochan at the top of the path.)
All too soon it was over and Gail said we had to head back to Aberdeen.
Oh I do hope I shall not have to wait another six years before I visit Inshriach and spend time with such a lovely group of people again.
Lyn (above) gives the best ever cuddles. And who knows, I might even make friends with Hemp one day...
Really? Winter's over?
Please present your evidence!
The London-centric media may declare it so,
And talk of balmy days, but we have snow
On higher ground.
The case that Scotland is another country
Climate-wise at least, makes sense.
I’ll grant you, for the pre-work park walk
My collar-light’s required no more.
And by midday my square dog shadow
(Should the shy sun grace us with a beam or two)
Is less elongated than before.
But down by the North Sea
(The clue is in the name)
A fierce onshore gale cruelly exposes
The folly of last week’s over-zealous grooming session.
Oh how I wish those furs were still attached,
All seven ounces of them…
It’s true, brash ranks of daffodils
Are now amassed on southern facing banks.
They breed ‘em tough at these high latitudes.
But as for me, tho’ born of Buchan stock,
I’ll keep my Fair Isle jumper on
Until my precious wiry fur’s regrowed.
PS Thank you dear friends for all your kind messages about my paws. Delighted to report they are feeling loads better now.
I know you'll all be bored with hearing about my podiatric issues, but I had a bit of a setback last week, when the horrid cyst thingy on my right front paw reappeared.
So it was another trip to vet Katrina. We came home with a bucketful of antibiotics, and with these and yet more gentle paw washing I am again slowly recovering my bounce.
I indicated to Gail that although I did not feel like walking too far, I would appreciate a change of scene at the weekend, and she kindly agreed to drive me down to the wee fishing village of Johnshaven, about 30 miles south of Aberdeen.
It is a sleepy place, especially in March, but of course I found plenty of interesting things to sniff out.
Someone with a cottage by the shore has an unconventional idea of garden ornamentation, don't you think?
You will of course deduce from the sandstone houses that we are south of that most important geological dividing line in Scotland, the Highland Boundary fault.
Gail liked the nautical theme of this front door, and politely requested that I pose in front of it.
Which of course I was happy to do, on the promise of a 'baked cheesy oatie (wheat free)'.
I'm please to report that, unlike when I was younger, Gail now trusts me not to be jump recklessly off harbour walls and into the sea.
Although in truth it was more fun deciding which bit of fishing equipment was most in need of 'decoration'.
Next weekend Gail and I going off with friends to stay at Inshriach, a big house on the edge of Cairngorm Mountains. (We went to Inshriach once before, many years ago, you can read all about how that went if you click here and here).
I am hoping my paws will be in better shape to tackle more adventurous walks by then.
Gail, the England versus Scotland rugby match is starting in half an hour and you have not yet found my Scotland flag bandana. This is terrible! I fear it will bring the Scotland team bad luck if I cannot make my support visible. Please look again, you must have put it somewhere.
Oh Bertie I am so sorry, I have searched high and low and I cannot find the Saltire pattern neckerchief anywhere. How about you put on one of your other bandanas? They are all very smart.
You are totally missing the point Gail! None of those bandanas is remotely fit for the occasion, quite obviously.
Well perhaps you're right Bertie. Oh but look what I've found in the clothing bag. Your pretty pink frock! For some reason you have not worn it lately. This is perfect for the rugby, don't you think?
Gail, you are teasing me, and it is SO NOT FUNNY. Look, here's my old tartan scarf. I guess I'll have to make do with that.
Now let's turn on the telly, so I can bark along with the anthem.
"O Flower of Scotland,
When will we see
Your like again,
That fought and died for,
Your wee bit Hill and Glen,
And stood against him,
Proud Edward's Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again."
COME ON SCOTLAND!
Two hours later...
England 61 Scotland 21.
Oh dear. If only I been wearing the bandana...
Do you remember me telling you back in January about how this winter I was the subject of a very important scientific experiment relating to my furs?
Instead of the normal 'little and often' hand stripping of my wiry hair, which is Gail's usual practice, this year she decided to leave my coat untouched all winter (other than a trim round the eyes now and then) to test the theory that come Spring the furs would be so loosely attached that the dreaded stripping process would be painless both for me and for Gail's increasingly arthritic thumbs.
As you know, I live in Northern Scotland, and if you are thinking that early March is these parts scarcely counts as Spring, well you would be perfectly right about that.
Ignoring this important fact, Gail set too with the stripping knife on Saturday. It was five whole months since I was last stripped and, well, I guess she kind of got carried away...
As I munched my way through two pig's ears and one medium sized Pedigree Jumbone, a whole 6 oz of furs were detached from my person.
After another session on Sunday morning, I was most thankful when Gail finally called a halt, having spotted a couple of bare patches on my saddle. (The black furs are thinner than the white, and always come away more easily).
The brilliant news is that my paws are feeling ever so much better, and to celebrate this, as well as the completion of my mammoth grooming session, on Sunday afternoon I was taken on a 'proper' walk, my first in ages, up Scolty Hill.
Gosh it was nice to have a real leg stretch, although, given my sudden loss of insulation, I was a mighty relieved that the storm clouds gathering in the west passed us by.
PS Gail says we are not going to repeat the experiment next winter, having learned that when my coat gets longer and thicker it is much more effort to brush, collects more dirt, and when damp smells more 'doggy' (although I fail to see how that last point is a Bad Thing)..
You know what? When Gail came home on Thursday evening from an all day meeting at the Aberdeen office of the French oil company Total, she gave me a big smile and an extra treat as well as the usual fond hug.
Yes I was surprised too, until Gail explained the backstory.
If you have been on a train at all in the last twenty years you will certainly have come across those irritating people who engage in long work-related conversations on their mobile phones, thus disturbing their fellow passengers whose only wish is to sit quietly and read. Well a week last Friday, during the journey to Nottingham, Gail became one of these annoying types. For the time it took us to travel between Darlington and Doncaster she was engaged in a conference call involving colleagues at Total in Aberdeen and at Danish company Dong in London. (Yes 'Dong' is a funny name isn't it!)
I was a wee bit insulted to learn later that she had felt it necessary to pre-warn the other call participants she would be on a train, with "a dog", and so things might not all go smoothly.
Well as you are aware, these days my train manners are impeccable and I snoozed quietly on Gail's lap for the duration of the call. We were past Newcastle so the hen parties had disembarked and the carriage was relatively quiet. Since Gail was mostly listening not talking, she hopes the other passengers were not too put out.
Anyway, this week's meeting at the Total office was an 'in person' one with the same chaps (it is still mostly chaps in her business) who had taken part in the earlier conference call. Apparently they all said how mightily impressed they were that Gail had managed to join in without any interruptions, and what a well-behaved dog I must be.