Friday 31 December 2021

A tranquil moment

As the year draws to a close and we look forward to good things in 2022, I want all my friends to pause for a few moments, and join me in the tranquil environment of the Caledonian pine forest of Glen Tanar. 

As you contemplate the scene below (clicking on the picture to enlarge it would be a good idea), imagine your feet crunching on the ice-crisp undergrowth, the faint rays of the winter sun kissing your cheeks, and the fresh, clean aroma of the Scots pines wafting into your nostrils as you listen to the burbling of the whisky-coloured river rushing down the glen.

Happy Nature Friday! 

Wednesday 29 December 2021

Lesson time...

Since neither Gail nor I have had much success this week in getting our guest Ella to "pose nicely" beside me for the camera, on Monday Gail decided to recruit her friend Imogen, a retired schoolteacher, to give little Ella a lesson.

I sat there patiently for a while as the wee poodle received her instruction. 

But as all schoolteachers know, the problem is that the advanced pupils readily get bored and want to hasten on to the next thing...

Monday 27 December 2021

My kind of a day

So our wee poodle guest Ella woke me up early on Christmas morning and wanted to know what we'd be doing that day. 

To be honest, I had no idea. But shortly after, when we were all up and about, I observed Gail filling the vacuum flask with coffee, tucking a few treats (dog and human) into her daypack along with her Bernie Sanders style mittens, and I whispered to Ella that I thought we might be going for a nice long walk and a picnic somewhere.

Soon we two dogs were bundled into the back of the car and were heading inland towards Aboyne. Ella, who has quite a good brain underneath all that adorable fluff, confided in me her worries that Gail had not packed enough food for the three of us, and this remained a concern until an hour later we arrived at the Glen Tanar car park.

There we found our friends M and J, and their friend K. To my great relief I saw that M had come equipped with all the makings of a feast, and these were being placed in the humans' various backpacks for, one presumed, later consumption. 

Suitably equipped, we set off up the glen, Ella a bit nervous at first but soon getting into the spirit of things. 

At -2ºC when we left the car park, it was slippery underfoot/paw, and chilly enough for me to be glad of my Nordic sweater. For brief moments the sun did peep over the sides of the valley. 

After a couple of miles we reached the picnic destination and the humans expressed relief that their favoured spot beneath the bridge had not already been taken. 

That this was a better class of picnic than the sort Gail usually puts together was evident from the moment M laid out a table cloth on the snow-covered stone bench.

I was tied to a nearby tree trunk and given a top quality chew while the humans consumed their turkey sandwiches, tasty nibbles, tiramisu and 1/4 can each of naturally chilled Prosecco. I thought it a bit unfair that Ella was allowed to roam free during the picnic, and wasn't too happy when Gail said "it's because she has better manners than you do Bertie". 

But then I remembered it is the season of goodwill. I decided to accept the situation and sat there quietly as the humans drank a toast to many more Merry Christmases (and I was given another treat...) 

All in all, it was my kind of a Christmas Day. And Gail's too, I believe.

Friday 24 December 2021

Bertie's 2021 Christmas Greetings and Poem

The Bonus Christmas

I am not a miracle, I'll have you know.
I'm very scientifical in fact.
And just because this cancer thing I've got
Is not behaving as vets say it should,
It's all to the good.
But not a miracle. Understood? 

Because a WFT's a complex entity,
His journey can't be easily foretold.
So many interactions and what ifs, 
Combine to unpredictable effect,
And when that means another year of life
Please join with me and celebrate! 

I might be, statistic'ly, 
An outlier in survival terms.
But though it's sometimes difficult to pee
And Gail finds it a bore to wait for me, 
In all other ways, these sweet extra days 
Are, oh I nearly said the word,

A miracle (of sorts).

Wednesday 22 December 2021

Not what I had in mind...

So when, at the end of a muddy walk this week, Gail suggested I needed a paw spa, I envisaged this kind of a set up.

Followed maybe by this...

Whereas what I got was a cold dip in the River Dee.

And scant sympathy from my owner, who just said don't make a fuss Bertie, I can't see any ice floes...

At least it wasn't total immersion.

PS BREAKING NEWS: It has just been confirmed that my wee poodle pal Ella is arriving at our house tomorrow for a five day Christmas holiday. Oh we're going to have such fun!

Sunday 19 December 2021

The clue is in the jumper

Hmmm, Gail, I see from the messages and photos on your phone that our friend Muriel is now in Tenerife, on a month long walking and cycling holiday spanning Christmas and New Year. 

That's correct Bertie. And your point is?

Well Gail, I'm just wondering why she would fly all that way when she could be here in Aberdeenshire enjoying lovely walks in the sunshine on nearly deserted beaches with her favourite wire-haired fox terrier? 

Bertie I cannot begin to imagine. OK, perhaps I can try. Could it be at least in part because the sun barely rises above the horizon here in Northern Scotland in mid-December, and it is dark most of the time. I would note that the photo above was taken just before midday and look at the length of your shadow. 

Oh and the fact that you are all rugged up in your Nordic snowflake sweater is perhaps a clue as to the chilly air temperature right now, even on a bright and (all too rare) wind free day?

I rather like the low sun and long shadows Gail. After all, one can't have enough WFT, don't you think? And surely there is no beachwear more stylish than a cosy and Christmassy red sweater? 

OK, Bertie, you win. I have absolutely no idea why Muriel would want to winter on a subtropical island 2000 miles south of Aberdeen and where Nordic-style knitwear might seem inappropriate. 

It's a complete mystery.
(Last two photos courtesy of Muriel, who seems to be bearing up fine under the rigours of a Tenerife December...)

Friday 17 December 2021

Botanical Bertie?

I am delighted to be able to tell you that last week, for once, I was allowed to join Gail at one of her meetings with her botanist friends.

The plan was for a walk along the old railway line, looking out for any wildflowers still in bloom at this unpromising time of year. 

Apparently the reason I'm normally excluded from such outings is that I'm considered too impatient. Where that idea comes from is a mystery to me...

The sharp eyed ladies (not necessarily Gail) spotted eight different species in bloom, although, to be honest, most of the flowers were looking rather sad. I posed nicely beside some yarrow and I'm sure you'll agree that my presence rescued what would otherwise have been an unimpressive picture. 

For the record, the other plants seen in flower were: gorse, dandelion, ragwort, broom, ivy, bugloss and one other we can't remember. Gail claims she didn't manage to take any more flower photos as she was too busy chasing after a certain deaf WFT...

Happy Nature Friday! 

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Sunday 12 December 2021

It's a deal

Living together is all about compromise, don't you agree? 

Although I do not in all honesty approve of my owner's bicycling habit, I have come to appreciate that her unfortunate hobby is important to her mental as well as physical wellbeing and so we have made a deal. 

For every time that Gail heads out of the house on two wheels to join her cycling buddies for the morning (and sometimes the afternoon too) it is agreed that the next day, or as soon as the weather allows, she will take me out to a place where I can have an exciting adventure, roaming unleashed in the glorious Scottish countryside.

So it was this week. 

When Gail showed me this photo of her pals getting togged up to ride home after an elevenses stop at  the 'Teacake' café in Chapelton near Newtonhill, I successfully negotiated a compensatory walk in the hills, setting off from near Ballater.

It turned out to be a pretty good deal.

Invigorated by the snow, I set a lively pace up the valley towards Morven*, our favourite hill. 

A couple of miles on, we were out of the trees and our way was increasingly impeded by remnant snow drifts

So on reaching the deer fence, with the rounded slopes of Morven glistening white in the background, we called a halt, and after a tasty snack... was back down the valley at pace.

Can you believe Gail could hardly keep up?

*Gail says: I haven't taken Bertie up Morven for at least a year, thinking this steep 2800' climb now too much for his 'not as young as they used to be' legs. But judging by the speed at which he raced up and down the far from flat valley on Friday, a round trip of over five miles, I began to wonder if I've been underestimating my plucky wee pup! 

Friday 10 December 2021

Soothing or boring?

To assuage my disappointment on learning that the second big storm to hit the UK in less than two weeks was not named after yours truly, Gail took me for a nice walk along the seafront at Stonehaven on Wednesday afternoon.

We paused to admire some new nautical artwork,

and some very ancient lumps of rock.

The gale force winds had died down but the waves whipped up by Storm Barra (what kind of a name is 'Barra', BTW?) were still crashing against the stony beach.  To be honest, there's only so long a terrier is prepared to stand patiently watching and listening the motion of sea, but Gail was quite transfixed and seems to think my readers might also enjoy the spectacle. She says don't forget to turn up the volume on the video.

So Happy Nature Friday! And thanks once again to our lovely friends Rosy, Sunny and Jakey for hosting the blog hop. Gail and I are so excited to learn they are moving to New Mexico, and wish their Mama and Daddy all the best with packing up the house. We're looking forward to lots of wonderful Nature Friday posts from their beautiful new state.

Wednesday 8 December 2021

Monday 6 December 2021

The best place to be...

What comes to mind when you hear the word 'Macduff'?

If you are a literary or theatrical type, you might think of Shakespeare and 'the Scottish play'. But to the Bertie and Gail household, Macduff is the small town on the Moray Firth, c.40 miles north of Aberdeen, where our dear friends Molly and Neil live, along with their agreeable lurcher pup Maisie.

For the usual boring reasons we hadn't been up there for a long while, but made good on a promise to visit this weekend.

I was so happy to see the familiar cheerful red gate to the old house near the harbour.

But no soon as we'd stepped inside than we headed out again, taking advantage of a rare glimpse of sunshine for a walk along the shore near Whitehills, a short distance to the east.

Maisie, who is the same age as me, does not have her own social media presence and so is unaccustomed to posing. But no worries, I soon licked her into shape.

Can you see how all the grass is flattened, after last week's Storm Arwen droves waves well beyond the usual high tide mark? In some areas the grass was spattered with seashells too.

On Saturday morning Gail took me for a short walk around the town and down to the harbour. It was cold, and raining hard.

What you don't see on the photos is how things nearly went all Mary Poppins when a strong onshore gust caught Gail's golf umbrella...

When Gail paused to take a photo of Neil and Molly's house, I was impatient to be back indoors.

Specifically, to the shelter of the kitchen table.

Sometimes it's the simply best place to be.

Away from the horrid weather Gail and Molly, friends for over forty years, enjoyed a good old natter while Neil strummed his  banjo quietly in the background. 

Gail thinks some of you might be entertained, as she was, by this decade old YouTube video of Neil and his mates and their version of a well known Mexican tune. Neil's the one in the shorts:

PS from Gail: these days I only take Bertie to visit friends who are tolerant and not overly house proud. I am pleased to report that Bertie did not do too badly - there was no bladder leakage over Molly and Neil's brand new sofa, and just one small and easily mopped up puddle on the tiled kitchen floor!