Friday 30 April 2021

Spring babies in Torridon

When inspecting the Torridon cottage earlier in the week, Gail noticed that a blackbird family has taken advantage of a hole the builder recently made in the back wall (as a precursor to installing a new window there).

She has asked the builder to delay enlarging this hole until after the blackbird chicks have flown the nest.

Meanwhile, in the surrounding fields, spring lambs are arriving thick and fast. 

Gail has long been hoping that I would follow the pattern set by my predecessor Hamish the Westie, and lose interest in chasing sheep and lambs as I got older.

Now why would she imagine that might happen...

So I am only allowed to roam off-lead in sheep-free areas of Torridon.

Happy Nature Friday friends, and thank you so much to our lovely LLB Gang friends for continuing to host the blog hop!

Wednesday 28 April 2021

Behind schedule?

So a couple of friends have been asking if the renovation and remodelling work on the Torridon cottage is yet complete.

While politely reminding my readers that this is supposed to be a dog blog and not a home improvement blog, I am happy to take you for a wee sniff around inside the cottage to see how things are going. 


So what do you think? 

Gail recalls how when she first bought the cottage (November 2002) a German neighbour warned her the prevailing attitude in the NW Highlands was deep suspicion of the 'maƱana' concept as it implied far too much haste! Over the past few months, the pandemic and associated restrictions + Brexit + Highland Council's slow processing of a building warrant + the particular vagaries of the builder, have all combined to make for slow progress. The delays were to some extent anticipated, and Gail is working hard (and mostly succeeding) at not getting too frustrated by the situation...

And who can feel cross for long when just behind the cottage there are mountains to explore?

That's more like it! 

Monday 26 April 2021

Just in time for summer...

Gosh Gail, this is most kind of you to be knitting me a nice cosy blanket. Thank you so much. Is it nearly finished?

Bertie! No!

What's the problem Gail?

You know perfectly well Bertie that it's not a blanket for you, it is a new jumper for myself. You even posted about it back in January. Now please shift over and let me get on with the knit-one-purl-one crew neck.


Oh well done Gail. So you have completed your nice warm jumper just in time for summer.

To be honest Bertie, I am not sure here whether you are being sarcastic or are making a realistic appraisal of the weather conditions to be expected in a typical Scottish summer. But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt...

PS The good news is that we have made it across to Torridon to check up on the cottage and, for one day at least, the sun shone warmly. 

Friday 23 April 2021

Just dead wood?

Earlier this week during a short walk in the forest I stopped for a moment beside a pile of logs. To be honest, I was hoping that if I sat and posed nicely I might score some treats, but that is not the subject of today's Nature Friday post. 

No, instead I have a question.

How did it ever happen that 'just dead wood' became a metaphor used to describe people or things that are no longer useful or productive?

Let's have a closer look at this pile of logs. What do we see? 

We have several different species of beautiful mosses and lichens.

We have fungus,

And ferns,
And even new saplings sprouting up, 

Not to mention a multitude of creepy crawlies which Gail failed to capture with her camera.

So it turns out that far from 'just dead wood' the whole edifice is teeming with new life. Such a productive mini-ecosystem in fact.

'Just dead wood' indeed. You would think that humans could make better use of their supposedly superior language skills...

OK, that's enough posing. As no treats are forthcoming, I'm off to find something else to pontificate about!

Happy Nature Friday! 

Wednesday 21 April 2021

What I've learned about humans...

I bet I'm not the only pup out there who has learned a few new things about humans during this Covid pandemic.

OK, to be strictly accurate, I've learned a few new things about ONE PARTICULAR HUMAN.

For example:

  • Unlike dogs, most of whom are naturally wary of the grooming table, it seems that the lack of availability of hairdressers causes a certain amount of anguish, even among humans whom one normally thinks of as not too fussy about their appearance.
  • If a human was never, pre-pandemic, a fan of domestic pursuits such as decorating and gardening, then even if they suddenly have infinite time on their hands and nowhere to go, they are unlikely to become enthusiastic about these activities.
  • The human might, however, display hitherto unsuspected talents when it comes to legalistic interpretations of new rules design to reign in other activities which they actually enjoy. For example, they might point out how a rule decreeing outdoor exercise (e.g. cycling, dog-walking) must begin and end not more than five miles from the city boundary is silent on where one ventures between the beginning and end of said ride or walk.
  • Through spying on the human's electronic messages, one learns that there is among any human friendship group a 'hierarchy of obedience' and that it is not always easy to predict which humans will slavishly follow all rules and restrictions relating to the pandemic, and which will take an informed but more pragmatic approach.
  • I had previously understood that taking the dog for a walk was primarily for the dog's benefit. How wrong I was. We pups are just handy accessories used to justify restless humans' need for frequent outdoor exercise and a degree of interaction with other human beings in their front gardens or the park. Suck it up, pups!
  • Regarding food intake one's human can be quite disciplined (I gather this is not the case with all humans) but still be capable of creating time-consuming rituals to rival the Japanese tea ceremony. Er yes, Gail, your obsessive cup warming prior to pouring that mid-morning coffee of such precisely calibrated strength has been noted. I fear you might be turning into your mother...
  • However hard one might try to persuade one's human that sitting on the sofa reading books about or set in other parts of the world while snuggled up closely with their favourite dog is the perfect way to travel, one can see that the human is not quite convinced...
I could go on, but I think you get the gist.

Have you learned anything new about humans/your particular human over the past year?

'Before' and 'After' hairdresser visit

Sunday 18 April 2021

Thoughts from Balmoral

It won't come as a surprise to my readers that, as soon as light dawned on Friday, the first day this year when we were allowed to drive into the hills, Gail was bundling me into the car and heading up Deeside to one of our favourite haunts, Ballochbuie Forest

The spring sun was shining brightly on this unfrequented corner of the Queen's Balmoral Estate, and in carefree mode I even ventured in to the sparkling river for a wee paddle.

Only up to the knees mind you.

Among the ancient pines the air was crystal clear and sweet, and the warming temperatures had melted most of the ice from the higher level streams and ponds.

And as we wandered around the royal forest Gail remembered it was the the eve of Prince Philip's funeral, and her thoughts turned to our Queen, widowed after 73 years of what was apparently a strong and supportive marriage. We are told that, throughout their long life together, she and Philip enjoyed some of their happiest moments in this most lovely and tranquil corner of the Scotland. 

Friday 16 April 2021

Freedom Friday !!!

M and J bursting through the gorse bushes in Warren Wood

Gosh I have exciting news this week! 

On Tuesday the Scottish government announced that they are, as of today and ten days ahead of the the previously announced schedule, relaxing the ban on venturing more than five miles from one's local authority (in our case Aberdeen City) boundary.

So far this year, we've had to content ourselves with gazing on mountains from afar while sticking to our local area. 

But as of today, we can go ANYWHERE IN SCOTLAND!

More exciting adventures to come for sure.

Oh and also, next week Gail will be getting her first professional haircut in six months, and there will be no more danger of her being mistaken for a Highland Coo...

The bad news is that ever since Tuesday's announcement Gail has been singing this song.

And believe me, Gail singing is always a regrettable occurrence.

Happy Nature Friday friends, and thanks once again to our LLB Gang friends for hosting this our favourite blog hop.

Wednesday 14 April 2021

The 'Secret Gorge' Adventure

First we heard about it from Imogen.

"Did you know there's a secret gorge hidden away in the woods near Maryculter? It's such a special place. You access it via a tunnel under the road, and through a metal barrier. The route is quite steep and there's not really a proper path"

Then it turned out our friends M and J had also discovered the gorge and we heard more.

"The ground is rough and overgrown in places. Our Dutch friend Kees showed us the way. It was quite an adventure. Not suitable for Bertie, I think."


Talk about a red rag to a bull...

So anyway, last Friday, Imogen had promised to show Gail what might be the one remaining piece of new (to Gail and me) untrodden territory within our currently permitted five mile limit. And when Gail heard that Muriel would also be joining us, and bringing some home-baked shortbread especially for me, it was inconceivable that I could be left at home.

And after such a build up, I was expecting at least the Grand Canyon!

[I admit I was a bit confused when Gail put on my harness as a "precaution". Long term readers will know that this is usually deployed in preparation for a train journey, ever since a particular incident at Newcastle station...]

It is fortunate that neither Gail nor I have piled on the pounds during lockdown, as the first part of the expedition involved a bit of a squeeze.

Can you see Gail in camouflage there?

Soon we reached the 'gorge'.

Er, not quite the Grand Canyon is it Gail? But a pretty enough spot, and that was only the start of the adventure.

We scrambled up through the woods, past what might be the remains of a Polish workers camp from WW2, and evidence of the area's more recent past as a children's play park.

Eventually we came down to the river and, not before time, Muriel broke out the shortbread.

All in all it was a grand little outing and I hope I get to go back there some day.

Oh and by the way, the harness was quite unnecessary for a roughty toughty and sure-pawed terrier like yours truly! 

Sunday 11 April 2021

The Ballad of the Nordic Snowflake

The knitting pattern didn't look quite right,
The pictured dog not Bertie's shape one bit
But Gail thought, she surely could adapt
The size, and make a jumper just to fit.

Come late September, yarn and needles bought,
But then that fateful visit to the vet,
The bladder cancer diagnosis shock,
A poor prognosis for her precious pet. 

The pup of course went on his merry way,
As happy and as bouncy as before,
The tablet he was given once a day,
He thought of as a treat and nothing more. 

And Gail decided she should press ahead. 
And knit this Christmas jumper just as planned.
To not do so would be a breach of faith, 
The thought of Bertie's passing, more than she could stand.

So Christmas came and he was bouncing still,
For sure he knew how handsome he appeared
In his red sweater. Gail was thrilled,
And optimistic for the coming year.

In January, he's doing fine. He's such
A loving pup, so fond, so smart, so bright,
One might imagine that he knows how much
Gail needs him through these long dark Covid nights.

The weather worsens, ice and snow set in,
The Nordic snowflake sweater earns its keep,
And passers by see Bertie, stop and grin, 
And comment on his winter wear. "So chic!"

Six months now passed since Gail first was told
That Bertie likely would not live too long.
This jolly jumper represents her hopes, 
And she is full of joy he's fighting on.