Sunday 30 July 2017

A team effort and a question

Readers, I guess you might be wondering how things are going with my paws, after I had so many problems with painful interdigital cysts earlier in the year.

Well I'm delighted to report it's all good news!  When Gail took me for a follow up visit with dermatology specialist Peter Forsythe on Friday (in Aberdeen not Glasgow this time) he carefully examined the skin between the pads and said he was really pleased 'cos there were no signs of any soreness or infection and, basically, everything looked hunky dory.

I could claim the credit for the improvement, as I've been so good about tolerating all the paw washes and the poking around making sure not one tiny grain of dirt is left in even the deepest cleft between my pads.

But, I will concede, Gail is also to be congratulated on her persistence in making sure that every single day, even when she has to get to work early, she never omits to go through the now well established paw cleansing routine after my morning park walk.

And then of course, we have to recognise the contribution of Mr Forsythe, who took the time to consider my medical history, examined me carefully, and then applied his expert knowledge and judgement to work out the likely source of the problem.

So really, the fact that my paws are now in finest of fettles is down to a team effort - so often the best way of solving a seemingly intractable problem, don't you think?

Oh and talking of team efforts (or not..) I have a question for my readers in the USA. Watching the TV news this week, I am, frankly, puzzled.

You see, whenever Gail tells me about her time working in your country, and about the friends she still has over there, she says how almost all the Americans she's met have been kind, polite, considerate and gracious in their behaviour.

So it is disappointing to find out that across the Pond there are several humans in positions of power  who are setting a very different sort of example.

How could this happen? I am, I admit, confused.

Thursday 27 July 2017

A novel concept: the refreshing dip!

You know what? Last weekend I made a most surprising discovery.

It really can be quite refreshing you know, going for a quick dip in a Scottish river!

(Hitherto I had thought of such an activity more as an endurance test).

Let me explain the context.

Although not sunny,  it was warm and a tad muggy on Sunday afternoon here in Northern Scotland when Gail took me for a long walk around Glen Tanar.

After six or seven miles I was feeling a wee bit weary and, you know what, the orangey brown river water (so coloured 'cos it contains dissolved organic matter from the upstream peat soils, nothing to do with pollution) began to look quite inviting. 

So I tentatively waded in, taking care to keep a firm footing.

Look, wasn't I brave - the water is almost up to my belly.

And I emerged feeling like a brand new dog, and came close to achieving escape velocity on the last two miles back to the car...

Monday 24 July 2017

New Duthie Park Café and Canine Rights

There is an important debate going on in Duthie Park this morning. Let's listen in for a minute.

Well it seems that the newly renovated café in Duthie Park is about to open, at last*. 

The regular dog walking gang are asking the manager if the café is going to be 'dog-friendly'. It looks like the dogs are joining in. Really the case in unanswerable, don't you think?
  • First off, it is noted that year round, we dogs and our owners are the main park users, we come here come rain or shine, every day, unlike your fair weather, school holiday visitors, Saturday afternoon cricketers or bus tourists doing the rounds of the Winter Gardens. So we feel we have rights.
  • Secondly, it is not good enough for dogs merely to be given access to the outside terrace area, which apparently is the current plan. I mean, how many days per year in Aberdeen is it actually warm enough for even the hardiest and most loving dog owner to want to be eating outdoors? 
  • Finally, there is the economic argument, which is of course paramount in the minds of so many humans. Not only will allowing dogs in increase takings, but just think how much could be saved in floor sweeping costs with all those canine Dysons to hoover up the cake crumbs...
We shall be reviewing the café in due course.

*Behind that 'at last' is a long and sorry saga of Aberdeen City Council mismanagement, incompetence in letting the café contract to an untrustworthy party, lies told by said party, delays, near bankruptcy, supposed investors dematerialising when payments are due and - oh gosh we had better stop here before Gail explodes in a fit of apoplexy...

Thursday 20 July 2017

A gneiss lecture for Yvonne

Hey Gail! What is this stone doing on our kitchen floor?

Well Bertie it's a present from our friend Yvonne. She picked it up on a beach on her recent trip to the Isle of Lewis. It's nice isn't it?

Oh ha ha very droll. Of course I know it's gneiss. Lewisian gneiss in fact. But really, isn't there something a bit coals-to-Newcastle about giving a lump of rock to a geoscientist?

Bertie now, we must learn to be more appreciative. Yvonne told me she wants in return a lesson on the whole topic of the Lewisian gneiss - she is keen to be taught some geology and this should be encouraged. Maybe you could put on your Bertie Boffin hat and help me prepare something for her?

OK then, that's a great idea. Well let me see.

First off, the Lewisian is very old. Even older than Yvonne. Archaean in fact! It is the oldest rock formation in the UK, although if you go to Australia or Greenland or Canada, you can easily find rocks which are even older.

Secondly, it is a metamorphic rock, which means it has been changed, i.e. metamorphosed, from its initial state. Originally this boulder was probably a granite. Just like the stone from which our house, and Yvonne's, are built.  Perhaps Yvonne could imagine our houses were somehow buried tens of kilometres under the earth, where the heat and pressure are so intense that the granite minerals very slowly recrystallise into the type of rock we call a gneiss.
In general, we explain how rocks get deeply buried in the earth, and then rise up again, by applying plate tectonics theory, as in the image above. But way, way back in the Archaean era (when of course there were no houses as there were no humans nor other life forms excepting maybe a few bacteria) the plate tectonics thing was only just getting going and the earth was a whole lot hotter than it is now, so the favourite geologist's dictum, 'the present is the key to the past', is a bit hard to apply to this phase of Earth's history.

So around 1.7 to 3.0 billion years ago, when the Lewisian was forming, geologists now believe that rather than the current set-up of tectonic plates, there were all these 'terranes' crashing into each other, and, truth to tell, it was a long time ago (did I say that already?) and it all gets very, very complicated.

Gosh you know what? I've just remembered. The son of one of our Torridon neighbours, a fine young chap called Dr John MacDonald of Glasgow University, is a proper expert on the Lewisian formation. He has written papers with titles like:

Temperature–time evolution of the Assynt Terrane of the Lewisian Gneiss Complex of Northwest Scotland from zircon U-Pb dating and Ti 

I am thinking we should invite Yvonne over to Torridon (where, after all, we have a bunch of Lewisian rocks just around the corner) and if Yvonne asks nicely, then John, a real bona fide lecturer, can tell her all she would ever want to know about Scotland's most ancient rock formation. And possibly more...
Lewisian rocks (pink): distribution in NW Scotland

Fine Bertie, but in the meantime I expect Yvonne will want to learn about the pretty pink bits in our rock. 

Oh yes of course. The pink splodges are in fact a mineral called potassium feldspar. It's the same mineral that gives the granite buildings in the Deeside town of Banchory their pinkish tinge. Although in Aberdeen the granite is grey because it crystallised from a magma of slightly different chemical composition.

Er Gail, I am feeling a bit tired. This teaching business is hard work isn't it? 

Also, could you please tell Yvonne that a better present would be one of those delicious chewy things from the 'Pet Comforts' shop, rather than some random old rock? 

Or should I, next time she pops over for a cuppa, tap in to Yvonne's own area of expertise and demand a Jungian analysis of that dream I had last night about chasing sheep? 

Tuesday 18 July 2017

The price you pay

So finally the skies over NW Scotland cleared, and on Sunday Gail and I went for a most agreeable stroll along from Incheril to the banks of Loch Maree, at the foot of that fine mountain, Slioch. (We decided not to climb up Slioch as it is a steep and rocky ascent and Gail thought that after all the rain on the previous day it would be too slippery underfoot).

Gosh the views of the surrounding landscape were stunning as we gaily trotted along together through the luxuriant bracken.

It does seem a bit unfair that the flattest bit of this glacial valley floor has been commandeered by sheep, and so the footpath along the edge is harder going than one might expect as it traverses the uneven surface of the lateral moraine. 

At one point Gail stumbled and fell into the bracken, and then had the cheek to criticise me for using the opportunity to try to run off up the hill rather than rush over to comfort her and lick her (very minor) wounds - fat lot of good that would have done...

Oh yes it was a glorious afternoon, and I must agree with Gail that if downpours such as we endured  the previous day are a necessary condition for having such lovely soft meadows and heathland, all delicately spattered with tormentil, buttercups, self heal, heath spotted orchids, bog asphodel, cotton grass, heather and sundew, then it is a price worth paying.

Sunday 16 July 2017

Not necessarily a compliment...

Did Shakespeare get it wrong?

I mean, to say:

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"

Is not necessarily a compliment in Northern Britain.

Hmm. The delights of July in Torridon. (And I haven't even mentioned the midges yet.)

You know what? I think I'll stay indoors...

Thursday 13 July 2017

Today - something a bit highbrow

Never let it be said that videos of pets on YouTube represent a dumbing down of our culture.....

Fine speech by WFT Hamlet, don't you think?

Monday 10 July 2017

Tour de Tedium

It may not come as a surprise to you that I find watching the Tour de France highlights on the telly considerably less enthralling than does my owner Gail.

Gail says I should consider myself lucky that I am not named after one of her cycling heroes, which is the fate of her friend Jo's cat, Cavendish, affectionately known as Cav.

Truth to tell, I was secretly hoping that after Mark Cavendish crashed out on Tuesday's stage, the race might become less of a preoccupation in this household.

However, I guess it was too much to hope that Gail's fascination with 'Le Tour' would fade so easily, given she started following the event on TV  back in the 1980s, in the era when Stephen Roche from Ireland won in fine style and  Scotsman Robert Millar took the 'King of the Mountains' title.

Of course, one has to feel sorry for any long-lived pet who was named after Robert Millar, given that this always highly individualistic former cycling champion confirmed last week what has been long rumoured, and that he has now fully 'transitioned' from male to female and is henceforth to be known as Philippa York.

Let's hope there are no parrots or tortoises belonging to middle-aged cycling fans somewhere in Glasgow, having to deal with a late life name change. Or worse...

Friday 7 July 2017

A bad idea...?

Do you ever get tired of your furstyle?

My facial furs have fallen more or less symmetrically either side of my snout my whole life, more or less.

So last night I decided to ring the changes and experiment with a side-parting, just for once.

But after Gail told me the words that came to mind when she saw the result were "comb over", "Bobby Charlton" (you have to be of a certain age and nationality to appreciate that one, apparently) and, horror of horrors; "Donald Trump", I realised that it might not be such a great idea after all.

What do you think?

Tuesday 4 July 2017

Aberdeenshire highlights

Gosh I am sorry I haven't been around much these past few days, but between you and me, I must say I have been run off my compact little paws showing Gail's friend Janet (the Nottingham one) around all my favourite Aberdeenshire haunts.

Every visitor to these parts has to go to Dunnottar Castle where I was delighted to discover that, in addition to all the interesting (to some) history about hiding the Crown Jewels of Scotland from Oliver Cromwell etc. etc., they also now have a kiosk selling yummy ice cream.

A tour around the gardens of Crathes Castle is also a must, so I dutifully allowed Gail and Janet to wander off to look at all the flowers while I waited patiently in the car.

Rules for dogs are not so strict at the Forvie Sands Nature Reserve. The regulations are clearly stated on a noticeboard at the entry point, which I think is polite.

No trip to this part of the world is complete without ascent of Bennachie to inspect the Pictish hill fort, and I am pleased to report that, once I had gently reminded Janet that quality tour guides expect rewards, she duly delivered the goods.

Finally, back home in the evenings, I was able to show Janet the correct way to relax after a nice day out in my home territory.