I knew something was up when I caught Gail cleaning the chain on her bicycle.
Finally, she confessed. In a few days time she is heading off to the USA to visit her dear friend Marse in Tacoma, WA. She will be away for over two weeks and during that time she and Marse will be joining a group of Marse's friends for a bicycle tour around NW Montana.
You know what? I am not concerned for myself (in truth the boarding kennels aren't too bad, although don't tell anyone I admitted this). But oh gosh I am VERY WORRIED about Gail.
Among my fears are:
That Gail will stay safe when travelling. Remember earlier in the year when she was perilously close to being blown up in a terrorist attack in St Petersburg? Really, I have to tell you that Gail was quite traumatised by the whole affair (a dog can detect these things) and I must say I was hoping the episode would put her off international travel, at least for a while.
That the US immigration authorities will not allow her in the country, given that Gail's work sometimes involves dealing with companies from countries that Mr Trump does not approve of one bit.
Oh yes, President Trump.... I understand that it might be OK for Gail to air her somewhat liberal political views when in the Seattle-Tacoma area, but once out in the wilds of Montana, I am thinking she had better keep schtum...
And how will Gail cope in Montana if I am not there to protect her from grizzly bear attacks?
I have never met Marse, and I guess she must be OK 'cos she and Gail have been good friends for nearly thirty years, but I am a little worried nonetheless given that several of Gail's stories about the many trips they have take together involve (according to Gail) her near starvation due to their differences in metabolism. Concerning one notorious backpacking trip in Yosemite in 1989, Gail tells me "I lost 8 lb during those two weeks, and I really didn't need to".
The one thing that reassures me, is that a certain pair of esteemed Blogville former mayors (and their humans) will be meeting up with Gail one afternoon in Tacoma.
It's such a relief to know that blogging friends I trust and respect will be checking up on her.
So those of you who know the Greyfriars Bobby story will have worked out that Gail is in Edinburgh, and the observant amongst you will have noticed that I am not there.
Gail could of course have taken me to Edinburgh - after all we know I am an excellent traveller and a well behaved house guest - but she claims it would have been "inconvenient" as she was down for a couple of days with her Book Group, attending various Festival Fringe events.
Have you ever been called "INCONVENIENT"???!!!
What's more, it has come to my notice that one of the events the Book Group attended was a comedy show by Sara Pascoe, and this apparently included several references to Ms Pascoe's love of dogs... (including a routine about how her now ex boyfriend refused to let her have a puppy so she considered instead getting pregnant so she could then dress up the baby as dogs of increasing size, from chihuahua to St Bernard, as it grew. I guess you had to be there.)
Gail and friends also had lunch at a restaurant called 'Badger & Co', located in a house where Kenneth Grahame (author of Wind in the Willows) once lived. I would have enjoyed that too.
I am pleased to report Gail is now safely back home and even found time to take me for a nice riverside walk this afternoon, and although we saw neither Mole, nor Ratty nor Badger, all is well.
Yesterday Gail announced she was going to Siccar Point.
Oh wow, how exciting, I said. Of course I shall be coming too? It has been such a long time since I went on a geological field trip, and it is the aspiration, surely, of every serious earth scientist, to visit the hallowed ground at Siccar Point where, in 1788, Scottish pioneer of geology James Hutton, recognised the now famous unconformity as proof of his uniformitarian theory. Come on Gail, hurry up, it is a long drive down to Berwickshire. And don't forget to pack my hard hat. Look, here it is in the bag.
Imagine my disappointment to learn that 'Siccar Point' is also the name of some boring old energy company in Aberdeen and this was where Gail was attending a meeting. And that dogs are not welcome in their offices (although I would have done a fine job of hoovering up the left-over lunchtime sandwiches).
On the upside, Gail has promised that we really will go to visit James Hutton's most famous Scottish unconformity at some time the future.
I am hoping that when she says "some time" Gail is thinking human or even dog terms, and not in Deep (i.e. geological) Time, the concept first developed by our estimable Mr Hutton,
Siccar Point unconformity: Photo by dave souza - Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3831554
So on Sunday I wanted to help Human Granny unwrap her birthday presents, but Gail said HGY didn't need any assistance and if I wanted to show everyone what a good dog I am, I should just sit down and pose nicely for a birthday picture.
Well I've now been in Nottingham long enough to have established a regular morning walk. Perhaps you would like to join me?
Before heading down the road to Beeston lock, it is important to check there have been no overnight trespassers in Janet's wee front garden.
When we reach the canal, I like to inspect the houseboats, and contemplate an alternative life style.
The river Trent flows beside the canal here, and yesterday, when Gail was admiring the reflections of the willow trees on the far bank, I inadvertently stepped into to water that was deeper than anticipated and nearly had to be rescued. (Gail was too shaken to take any photos of my wet and muddy self).
To continue the circuit we cut through the grounds of the Nottingham Casuals rugby club. Human Grandad used to play for this club in the 1950s.
Just a few days ago Gail asked an old family friend, the wife of one of HGD's erstwhile rugby club pals, about the origin of the name 'Casuals'. The reply came back thus: "Well I don't think they took the game too seriously Gail, they were all a bit hopeless really, and mostly interested in the booze..." And then she went on the describe the pub on the edge of the Lace Market (in the days when that part of Nottingham was derelict not trendy) where the rugby players and the braver of their girlfriends congregated after the games, and how it always smelled of cat pee.
Those were the days...
Back to the walk. Finally, we return along the embankment on the other side of the canal.
Although this stretch is best avoided on Saturday mornings when the 'Park Run' fraternity meet.
It is, of course, a good place for making friends. And as Gail is always reminding me, Nottingham has long been famed for its surplus of pretty girls...
Well apparently our summer sojourn down in Nottingham comes to an end tomorrow when, after calling in to wish Human Granny Happy Birthday, we shall be setting off home to Scotland.
Well I am pleased to report that I did eventually get to visit Human Granny on Sunday, and found her quite cheerful despite her wobbly knees, bent back and ever slower movements.
Gail and I are staying in Nottingham for the whole week. We are hoping our host Janet does not subscribe to that thing about house guests being like fish and smelling after three days. Although Gail has just pointed out that I was, in her words, "stinking to high heaven" (see previous post) when I arrived. So where does that leave us, I wonder?
I want you to know that I have now been bathed and shampoo'd VERY THOROUGHLY.
On to other matters. The part of Nottingham where Janet lives is called Beeston, home to Nottingham University and former HQ of well known UK company Boots the Chemists.
Yesterday morning Gail and I walked over to the Boots 'D6' factory building, where Human Grandad worked for the best part of 30 years.
Apparently D6, constructed in 1938, is now a 'listed' historic building, considered to be an icon of British modernist architecture. Oh I could have shown you so much more if Gail and I had been allowed past the security gates, but a very rude man shouted at us and called us back when we attempted to saunter casually through...
So if you want to learn more about D6 (and I'm sure you do!) then you will need to click here.
So the second leg of our drive to Nottingham started so well when Gail, for once, actually ordered a 'proper' breakfast AND even agreed to divvy up the bacon into something approaching equitable shares (weight for weight at least).
Then we had an early lunch in the agreeable town of Richmond, North Yorkshire, where at the Crossview Tea Room on the market square the waitress recognised how I was on the verge of collapse through starvation and brought me my very own plate of sausage.
Approaching Nottingham, Gail decided we should go for a walk beside the River Trent before calling in to see Human Granny, and as we passed tbrough a field where cattle had recently been grazing, I saw fit to adorn myself with some locally sourced pastoral perfume, as for sure HGY would want to meet me smelling my best...
But Gail saw things differently and I was subjected to an uncalled for dunk in the river. It was small comfort to learn that the Trent is now, unlike when Gail was a child in Nottingham in the sixties, relatively clean and so I was unlikely to catch some nasty pollution related illness. When we returned to the car I was pleased to note though, that the smell of manure still lingered.
Imagine my shock and disappointment when we arrived at Human Granny's care home and I was made to stay all alone in the car for the duration of Gail's visit...