Monday 30 March 2020

Making the most of things

I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to bring you any more scenic pictures of the Scottish Highlands for the time being at least. New government orders are that we're to start walks from our home in the city and avoid all 'non-essential' travel. Apparently driving me inland to the hills is deemed 'non-essential', but Gail says I'm not to moan, lots of folk are having a much harder time than we are just now. And it's true, we do have plenty of nice open spaces, reachable on two or four legs, to explore.

So on Saturday morning Gail led me through Duthie Park, across the King George VI Bridge over the River Dee, up Provost Watt Drive in Kincorth to an area of heathland known locally as 'The Gramps'.

What did we see?

In the park, lots of runners, and some past their peak crocuses.

Along Provost Watt Drive, examples of Aberdeen's unlovely 1960s housing schemes.

From the Gramps, a fine view north across the city and environs,

Then a wildlife pond scummy with frog spawn.

Blue sky appeared momentarily,

Then a storm moved across and, with faces battered by hailstones, we hastened home, photography forgotten.

Gail and I want to send love and (virtual) hugs to our blogging friends all over the world. And please, to those of my fellow pups who, like me, live in a single human household, do allow your human to give you extra cuddles as they'll be needing you more than ever for company.

Friday 27 March 2020


We're keeping things virus free today.

Last weekend, I misheard Gail, imagining she was proposing a walk to see some crumbs. Strange, I thought, but anything related to cookies gets my vote. Let's go!

Well it turns out the word she said was 'Krummholz' and although sadly this has nothing to do with foodables, the subject does at least fit the bill for Arty, Jakey and Rosy's Nature Friday bloghop.

Have a look at the Scots pine trees I encountered on my hike around the Beinn Eighe NNR Mountain Trail (this outing also featured on Tuesday's post).

At the base of the slope they stand tall and straight. 

Pausing for breath as one ascends the steep gradient, one notices that where the forest thins out the pines have more space to spread their branches.

And finally you reach the tree line, where the poor pines struggle to survive in thin soils and are constantly buffeted by strong and freezing winds, and they grow all twisted and stunted. This vegetation is the aforementioned 'Krummholz', which is German for 'crumpled wood'. 

We were lucky on this hike. For once, the breeze was gentle, as the more observant of you will have deduced from the 'at rest' setting of my flappy little ears.

Happy Nature Friday folks!

Tuesday 24 March 2020

A mountain walk inspires a haiku for our times

Upwards through soft pines,
To snow and a darkening chill.
So sudden a change.

PS A word from Gail: Bertie and I made a quick trip across to Torridon at the weekend for a long planned meeting with a builder to discuss upgrading the cottage (more on that in due course). Before returning home to Aberdeen we went for a hike round the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail, a viciously steep but always exhilarating circuit, climbing from near sea level to 550 m. At the upper level we encountered more snow and ice than anticipated and the going was borderline 'adventurous'. We only saw two other people on the trail. You've no idea how much better I felt after this little expedition to the sub-arctic and back! Such a sense of freedom. I'll admit that, much as I understand their necessity, I am not at all looking forward to the movement restrictions which as of last night are being imposed in the UK.

Sunday 22 March 2020

Social Distancing Survival Kit

One bicycle and one dog.

PS Gail hid the 'one bottle of whisky' when taking the photograph...

Friday 20 March 2020

Behind the curve...

Happy Nature Friday friends!

Up here in Aberdeen, north of the 57th parallel, our spring flowers can be reluctant to emerge from their winter hiding places. So I'm delighted to report that just this week a splash of colour finally appeared in the open area at the top of our street, with those dinky little daffodils bringing welcome brightness to the walk around the block.

I'm also happy to report that, in this neck of the woods at least, the coronavirus epidemic has prompted a flowering of neighbourliness and goodwill. Everyone seems suddenly to have time for a chat - while standing the regulation two meters apart of course. Although in NE Scotland we are also somewhat behind the curve in terms of the spread of the horrid virus, the humans here are naturally worried. (Us pups, not so much, frankly.) There is much discussion about offering help for the older folk and vulnerable local folk who are 'self-isolating', and I can't help but notice that those now 'working at home' seem to have discovered renewed enthusiasm for taking their dogs out for walks several times a day. So it's not all bad news!

Wednesday 18 March 2020

How to keep your human occupied....

I'm guessing that many of my readers, both canine and human, are suddenly having to adapt to changes to their lifestyle, and there is a danger that some humans might be finding themselves with time to fill.

As always, you can rely on your friend Bertie to come up with a useful suggestion to help you while away the empty hours!

Gail and I are back in Aberdeen now, but on Monday we were supposed to meeting one of her cousins down in England. When the cousin cancelled late the previous evening due to concerns about coronavirus, Gail was in danger of being under occupied for a few hours.

So in retrospect it was thoughtful and generous of me, in the early hours of Monday, to make sure Gail was not at a loss for something to do later that morning.

You know how it is when, for some unexplained reason your bladder goes into overdrive?  That's what happened to me at about 5 a.m. I gave Gail a little nudge (we were staying at Janet's house, where I am allowed on the bed, or at least have been so far....).  But my dear owner seemed to want to ignore me and pretend she was still asleep. Instead of making a big fuss and insisting on being let me out, I decided it would be better all round if I simply squatted down to relieve myself, copiously, on the nice absorbent quilt.

I can report that Gail roused herself all of a sudden when she realised what was going on...

So  thanks to me, Gail was then busy for the rest of the morning, washing the sheets, covers and 'mattress protector' and  taking the big quilt to the launderette - an experience which, by the way, not only filled a couple of otherwise empty hours but also enabled her to mentally time-travel back to her student days in a house without a washing machine.

But can you believe, Gail has yet to show one tiny flicker of gratitude to me for my efforts on her behalf?

At least the whole day was not a 'washout'. We went across town to check up on Human Granny and Granddad's final resting place, visited an old family friend and then had a pleasant stroll along the nearby River Trent.

I think I am almost forgiven. Gail says we are fortunate indeed that Janet is such a kind and tolerant host.

And OK, I'll admit that peeing on a bed belonging to one of your best friends is perhaps not such a great idea after all...

Sunday 15 March 2020

Things going awry...

With other Spring travel plans having gone awry, Gail and I are making a quick visit to friends and relatives in England. Given the way things are in the UK, coronavirus-wise, this could be our last trip away from Scotland for quite a while.

The daffodils in Yorkshire were looking cheery, but there was such sad news when we reached Gail's brother and sister-in-law's house on the edge of the Peak District. I don't know if you remember my poodle cousins Percy and Coco? Percy had reached the grand old age of fourteen - a fine, long life for a HUGE, (and frankly rather bossy) fellow. But just one day before our visit, dear Percy had apparently suffered a stroke and his humans were forced to make the hardest but kindest decision on his behalf, and so Coco is now an only pup.

After seeing Coco, we made a brief stop in the nearby town of Chesterfield, and I couldn't help but notice that there was something amiss with the church spire. Gosh, I was beginning to wonder if the whole world was becoming a bit out of true, but Gail tells me the spire at least has always been like that.

We are now staying for a few days with Janet in Nottingham - she's one of my favourite people, as you know. The three of us went for a splendid walk across squelchy fields yesterday, but I still can't understand why we had to sit at an outside table for lunch at the cosy looking Cowshed café. It seemed all wrong to me...
"Muddy paws? Moi?"

Friday 13 March 2020

Bertie's bright idea

Once again, I stand accused of stretching the definition of a 'Nature Friday' post.

Well, the world's atmosphere is part of 'nature' is it not?

And thus the efforts of our humans to clean up the atmosphere and curb carbon dioxide emissions are surely a valid topic for the LLB Gang's weekly blog hop?

Hard by the entrance to Duthie Park in Aberdeen we have a charging point for electric vehicles. This has been in place for about five years, but it's only recently that we've started to see more and more private cars using it. 

Now humans (Gail included) often say how one problem with electric cars is that the batteries take ages to recharge, so this is a limitation on longer journeys. Moreover, the battery charge runs out faster when it's cold and dark and you have the heater and lights on, and these are common conditions in Scotland in winter. 

Well I would like to put the counter-argument, make a suggestion.

As we all know, when driving long distances, especially with a canine passenger, it is important anyway to stop for a break every 2 -3 hours. My suggestion to those who are responsible for installing charging points is that surely the best place for them is, as here, beside dog-friendly parks, or alternatively at the start point of hiking trails or near nice sandy beaches? That way, the pups (and humans) get to enjoy some fresh air and exercise, and the time while waiting for the battery to charge will be well spent. 

Does your human have an electric car yet?

Wednesday 11 March 2020

Welcome to my world!

I bet I'm not the only pup whose human seems lately to have been washing their hands more often and more thoroughly than usual. I've even heard Gail, as per the instructions from the government's chief medical officer, humming the 'Happy Birthday' song twice as she does so, and I only hope she doesn't do this when out and about in public, given her woeful inability to carry a tune.

Well folks, all I can say is: "Welcome to my world".

Ever since the day in May 2017, when the dermatology specialist suggested that the root cause of my interdigital cyst problems was my unusually compact (I prefer to say "dainty") feet, and prescribed frequent paw washing, with particular attention to be paid to the clefts between the pads, I have been subject to a stringent paw hygiene regime.

So at least every two days, and every day if I've been out in the mud, I am lifted up into the sink, and I am now accepting of, or at least resigned to, much fussing over my foot-focussed ablutions.

The good news is that all this paw palaver has rid me of those horrid, nasty and painful interdigital cysts, and for this I am truly grateful.

I do hope that the current hand washing fervour will keep all my lovely human friends safe and well too.

PS I'm pleased to report I haven't been standing in the kitchen sink all week. Yesterday I went out to lunch with my lady friend Rosie the Westie, after we'd enjoyed a not too muddy walk in Hazlehead Park with our humans.

Isn't Rosie pretty? I must say I'm rather enjoying Gail's retirement so far! 

Monday 9 March 2020

A walk into the forest

The sunny sandy track shades into slippy ice,
And deeper darker in, the forest firmly grips the snow, 
And dainty paws can dance across where heavy booted feet will founder.

Friday 6 March 2020

Bored of crocuses yet?

So back in Aberdeen, in Duthie Park, I sprinted over to Gail when she called my name, in high expectation of some quality treats.

But I was firmly told I had to pose in the crocuses first, and of course I obliged, despite my suspicions that some long term readers of this blog will be thinking (correctly): "Don't we see the Duthie Park crocuses on Bertie's blog every March?"

Gail says that after the gloom of winter, everyone will be pleased when these bright harbingers of Spring appear, and no-one could possibly tire of the sight of me sitting amidst such pretty purple, mauve and yellow blooms.

Is this really true, I wondered, as finally I was given my reward, and was carefully checking I'd not left any crumbs for the parks resident crows and magpies....

Happy Nature Friday dear readers! Do go and visit the other posts on this blog hop, which as always is hosted by our lovely friends Arty, Jakey, and Rosy. Maybe you'll even see some more original Spring photos! 

Tuesday 3 March 2020

Training new walking companions

On Sunday morning Gail and I went out for a walk on the Coulin Estate with our nice part-time Torridon neighbours, Tess and Richard. Despite being based in London, this couple are keen hill-walkers, and I was looking forward very much to the outing.

T & R are not dog owners, so I made allowances for the fact that some training in the matter of my walking requirements would be required.

First off, it was important to establish that an intact male dog needs time to mark his territory, and so the walking pace must permit this, especially when that dog is ten years old.

And then, I mean, can you believe, Tess imagined I might pose with her for a photo beside Loch Clair despite my knowing full well that she was not carrying treats! It was only when Gail handed her a small morsel of dried venison that I obliged (sort of).

So Tess, for future reference, I know you are a vegetarian, more or less, but perhaps you might consider putting a few pieces of hard cheese, or even a biscuit (which doesn't have to be especially for dogs, shortbread would do) in your pocket before you leave the house.

Later on, the humans chose a route that involved about a mile on newly laid gravel of the type that is rather hard on the paws. Now I appreciate that it's difficult to avoid this sort of surface altogether - after all, one can't predict if a Land Rover track will have been recently resurfaced - but I'm sure T & R will note for future reference that this terrier prefers soft grass, or a muddy path, or smooth pebbles, or even tarmac.

I will concede that the gravel track led to a very satisfactory footpath along a beautiful wee valley edged with native Scots pine trees. Here I reminded Tess of my right to block the trail whenever an interesting smell presents itself.

A bit further along, Gail and I showed how to pose nicely in the snow and beside waterfalls.

As we climbed higher, I romped ahead to give a practical demonstration of the concept of selective deafness while Gail cried: "Bertie, wait! WAIT!"

All in all though, it was a thoroughly enjoyable ten mile hike, and I am hoping, now that Tess and Richard are properly trained, we'll have many more adventures with them in the future.