So yesterday Gail took me for a walk in Clochandighter Wood, a patch of Forestry Commission land on the outskirts of Aberdeen. For much of the current pandemic, the small parking area had been barricaded off, but I'm pleased to report that the aggressively worded 'GO HOME' sign has now been removed and so we proceeded unhindered up the pleasant grassy path on the edge of the pine plantation.
Parts of this track are always boggy, even in the height of summer, and I want you to notice how, in the next two pictures, I do really try hard to keen my paws clean, if at all possible.
Further up the hill, Gail led me down a 'path less trodden'. With the forest closed off for much of the summer, and with Aberdeen's weather conditions in 2020 having been perfect for photosynthesis, the route through the thistles, spiky gorse bushes, stinging nettles and wild raspberry was even less trodden and more overgrown than usual. All but impassable in fact.
As we extricated ourselves from the tangle of prickly vegetation I observed Gail was treading unusually carefully across the uneven ground. Later she explained she'd had a flashback to 2001, the year of the foot and mouth disease epidemic in the UK.
That year too, the countryside around Aberdeen was mostly out of bounds for several months. Shortly after things had opened up again, Gail took my predecessor Hamish the Westie on an evening walk up Brimmond Hill. Another overgrown path (gorse bushes mostly), also uneven underfoot. On the way back to the car, but still with half a mile to go, Hamish had had enough and refused to budge. He could be very stubborn, I'm told. The light was fading fast, so Gail picked Hamish up and tried to force her way back through the gorse bushes, carrying him under her right arm. She stumbled awkwardly, her ankle made a distinct cracking noise, in shock she dropped Hamish and started hopping around in agony, convinced a bone had been broken. With no-one else in sight, and no mobile phone in those days, she somehow made it back to the car, by which time her ankle was the size of a generous water melon. She drove the five miles home in second gear, dropped Hamish off, called a cab to the hospital and spent a couple of hours waiting in A&E, where eventually an x-ray showed that the ankle was 'only' badly sprained, not broken.
I am relieved to say that yesterday there were no such mishaps.