Friday, 30 August 2013

Life (the dogs), the universe (my garden) and everything (life!)

What makes a good day?

- One isolated good event, or a sequence of good happenings?

- A sprinkle of joy and any pesky spirit of sadness banished to beneath a well-worn corner of a floor rug, where he has to stay until the balance of emotions tilts back down into his deep and dark direction. 'Til then the horizon looks bright.

This good day added up as follows

  • number of people who cried = 3 (only three! Three is good. I am often the keeper of the tear- switch and when people see me they reach across and switch it on. On a day when only three cry I finish early and leave work happy. Going home early is always, most definitely good)
  • number of bars of chocolate consumed = 0 (proving to myself that I can do it. Number of hours since I last ate chocolate - 26 and 53 minutes .... approximately! It's not that I'm counting, of course. I'm just keeping a record. Sort of metaphorically patting myself on the back; well done me. I didn't know that I had that much willpower. It might have something to do with the relative paucity of use of the tear-switch this morning ...)
  • number of dogs washed = 2 (number of dogs who enjoyed their meeting with the hose = 0. Number of dogs who stood far too close to me when they shook themselves dry = 2)
  • number of apples ripped of the apple tree = 2 (Bertie Baggins led Four-legged-friend over the fence, so they could both enjoy an illicit, crunchy, green elevenses)
  • number of wheelbarrows filled = 3 (Yay! A wonderful afternoon in the garden)

  • number that the shortlist for the annual-biggest-thug-in-the-garden prize has been narrowed down to = 1 And the 2013 winner is ... tah-dah ... honeysuckle!!! Rampant, strangle-everything-in-my-path honeysuckle. And I'm-hidden-round-a-corner-so-can-do-my-own-mass-murdering-thing-without-being-noticed honeysuckle. And I'm-attractive-to-wasps-so-no-one-will-dare-to-hack-me-back-anyway honeysuckle. Pah!-  it clearly hadn't reckoned on the cutting capacity of the following
  • number of Felco shears sharpened with new Felco diamond-coated sharpening stone = 1 Sharp!
  • number of dead plants found beneath the hacked-back honeysuckle = 2

  • number of dogs interested in the rabbit holes found beneath the strangled plants = 1

  • number of little dogs who can still look very puppyish at times and find watching gardening activities completely exhausting = 1

  • Number of exhausted puppies who plunge into a don't-wake-me-up-til-tea-time sleep = 1


  • number of cups of coffee made for me by someone else = 2
  • number of infinitives split by me as I attempt to numerically define a good day = 1
  • number of dinners cooked last night =  0 (the perfect end to a good day is having a friend cook you dinner. Plus having no washing up to do the following morning.)
  • number of apples picked =  17 ... note boys, it is possible to pick an apple rather than rip it off the tree. It involves a slight twist which is probably beyond the 'dexterity' of the jaws of most dogs. And before anyone who can count counts the number of apples in the basin and wishes to point out that there are at least 19 in the picture, I have never been particularly good at arithmetic and some of them were windfalls so picked up, rather than picked off.

  • number of salads prepared = 3. Actually it will be three, as I plan half an hour more in the garden first. Then, warm potato salad with chives; green salad (Abel and Cole lettuce, finely sliced runner beans, cucumber and celery) and caprese which is pronounced ca-prrr-ay-say with the emphasis on the middle 'ay' (sliced tomatoes, basil leaves, olive oil, salt and a little balsamic vinegar. Best prepared an hour or so in advance of eating, to let the oil and salt draw out the flavour of the tomatoes. Mmmm ... *sigh* ... shut your eyes and believe you are in Italy.)

Thus the numbers that make up a good day add up to 42... which happily is the number that Douglas Adams determined was the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Which pretty much sums up the meaning of good.

Monday, 26 August 2013

National Dog Day? Definitely.

Wow! An official day for dogs. And I almost didn't notice.

Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins didn't notice either - no bones; no extra walk; no gift of flip flops to chew (that was yesterday's entertainment). Just another day, much like all the other days. A day in a dog's life - sleep, eat, chase something - your tail, a rabbit, each other, a shadow, a butterfly (not exactly manly, but with a satisfyingly crunchy reward at the end), a wasp (okay ... you only chase one of those once. Ever.) - walk around a bit and sleep again, dreaming of more to eat.

And that needs a whole dedicated day for the nation to celebrate? Hmm ... definitely.

A dog is not called 'man's best friend' for nothing. Where else do you see eyes so trusting? What else do you fall over because it's lying at your feet? Who else nudges your knee and leans against you thereby telling you that it's okay, things will work out?

Yes ... they deposit piles of poo all over the garden.

Yes ... they are the sock monster.

Yes ...their hair gets everywhere (even inside the fridge).

But we are better of with than without them.

Sadly Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins did nothing special for their national day other than fulfill their doggy-members-of-the-family roles.

They had an exhausting morning ... watching me garden;

they vigorously assisted with the fruit picking (it is not in a dog's nature, even when it is their National Day, to show a plant, particularly one bearing juicy blackberries, any mercy at all. Overzealous ripping off of fruit, plus leaves, plus several inches of stems means that there will be fewer branches bearing fruit next year);

and they got terribly excited when we returned home from an afternoon barbeque with friends.

Four-legged-friend was excited but, as all four of his legs and his bottom were on the ground, you can't see his tail wagging.

Should I feel guilty - no special walk; no best wishes cards for a Happy National Dog Day (I bet that if there aren't cards now, there will be in a year or two!) and no presents?

Their pictures published here ... that'll have to do.

And tummy rubs at bed-time.

Before bed is there time to sneak in some dog related poetry?

Ted Hughes captured this moment of a dog's relationship with his master -

'I ate a bowl of good boy
Still keeping my master's eyes safe,
And resting his footsteps in my right ear
Till I slept.'

Those of us lucky enough to have dogs know that moment well when we glance up and find our eyes 'kept safe' or see the ear that twitches when we move, betraying that our faithful friend is not yet asleep.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Tut, Tut, soggy feet again

"Tut, Tut, looks like rain."

Tut, Tut probably isn't the first thing that springs to mind when viewing this picture. And faced with bleak weather and a sad-looking symbol of national pride it is unlikely that many would consider a small bear  a personage of sufficient gravitas to quote.

However, Walking the Dog was in Scotland (was rather than is, because was there last week without internet). And Walking the Dog likes Pooh. That sort of Pooh - the sort with an 'h' at the end.

A. A. Milne had a lot to say about the weather. He gave Eeyore my favourite weather-related observation , "The nicest thing about the rain is that it always stops. Eventually."

And last Thursday, it did stop.

Long enough for Littlest and I to walk to our pooh-sticks bridge.

Long enough for us to get half way there, along the grassy path.

Long enough for us to chat to the cows (we had to shout as they stubbornly stayed at the distant end of the field).

Long enough for us to find the river.

Before it started to rain. Again.

We sheltered briefly on the 'broken' bridge (once a road bridge, but most of it now lies in the stream and a tree is growing out of its arch). But the rain failed to deter us (for us read Littlest as I was perfectly happy sheltering).

Our acquaintance was eventually renewed with the pooh-sticks bridge. Sticks were ripped out of the verge. And dropped.

'Sometimes, if you ... lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.' Milne again.

In our case, 'all that was to be known' was that a tree, which had been bereft of leaves in the late autumn of our last visit, was now a stick-catcher. An exceedingly effective stick-catcher. In fact, an Olympian of stick-catching, for not one of our sticks escaped its grasp. Pooh-sticks became a game of can-anyone-throw-a-stick-that-doesn't-land-in-the-tree, or on the rocky outcrop upon which the tree appeared to be growing. Clinging to life precariously in the middle of a river. Surviving only because its tortuous roots are strong and sinuous like tendons gripping the rock. Clinging on and struggling simply to survive. That was before a man called Milne invented a game and people who should have known better came along and threw sticks at its branches.

Eventually, two water rats gave up on the hopeless pooh-sticks and trudged home. Despite soggy feet and dripping hair, giggling ruled. Songs were sung - mainly about hippos and smiles and mud and rain. And rain-drops off the ends of our noses were caught with our tongues.

"And really," as AA Milne wrote, "it wasn't much good having anything exciting like floods (... or rain), if you couldn't share them with somebody."

Monday, 12 August 2013

Names, apples, fences, tape-worms and more apples.

Hello, Bertie Baggins here. Yes, the small, yellow one, nephew and self-appointed tormentor-in-chief of Four-legged-friend.

It's been a bit quiet on this blog recently due to Herbie's general rushed-off-her-feetedness so I thought I'd stand in and take a turn - share with you some of my observations on a dog's life and tell you a bit of what I have been doing. And shouldn't have been doing.

Before I start, I think I should share with you the history of my name. After all, you are reading this, so it is only fair that you have a clear understanding of exactly who I am:

Bertie stems from Gilbert. In keeping with my uncle, the afore-mentioned Four-legged-friend, otherwise known as M ... oops! He likes to keep his name out of this blog. Perhaps in case something embarrassing is written about him. Me ... I don't care. What could I possibly do that I would be embarrassed about? I'm a dog! Anyway, Four-legged-friend and me are named after Scottish Saints. Saints! Old guys who did something deemed to be worthy, once upon a time, in the very distant past, probably half-way up a midge-ridden mountain, knee-deep in a bog and with a gentle drizzle slowly soaking their saintly rags. Maybe it was hoped that some saintliness would rub off on us.

Hmmm ... I don't think it has.

I answer (sometimes ... occasionally ... okay - seldom or only when feeling saintly) to lots of other names:

  • 'Bertie Baggins' - the Baggins is apparently something to do with where I came from. Or a hobbit.
  • 'Boys!' - this is what it sounds like when humans bark.
  • 'Get out! - I'm not sure if that one is a name but I get called it a lot when I sneak up to the kitchen table, especially when it's laden with food. It's usually accompanied by a finger that points to where I have to go. 
  • 'Get down!' is another one with hand signals that confuses me. 
  • 'No!' is perhaps my nick name. If nick-names are the most frequent name after your actual name. It's short and I like it. I tend to stick around when it's said. That way I usually hear it again.
  • Four-legged-friend gets called 'Good boy' much more than I do. I'm pretty certain that one is a name. Maybe it's his nick-name. 
  • And I quite often get 'BURR-TEEE!!!!' when I have been gorging myself on apples.The hand signals with that one are very impressive. They whiz past your ear and fly around dangerously!
And whilst on the subject of apples - these are mine

Could someone explain why it has become so impossible to help one-in-a-permanent-state-of-tummy-rumbliness-self to these hard green and bitter balls of tongue-tingly crunchiness? A couple of weeks ago it was 'here we grow help yourself.' 

So us 'Boys!' did.

Now there's a fence!

In fact it's a constantly changing fence. It started off all easy-to-push-yourself-through stringy, which later sprouted silver discs that were meant to blind the apple thieves - which would have been good if they had, because I certainly don't want anyone stealing my apples. I didn't mind the CDs and sometimes jumped in to 'stock-take' -

Mum helped me to hop back out several times, using that 'No!' name that I like so much. She sometimes forgot that she wasn't in the kitchen and called me 'Out!' too. But then the 'BURR-TEEE!!!' naming started. And the fence stopped being made of string and was built of chicken-wire instead. 

Chicken-wire is sharp and scratchy particularly if it catches on sensitive places, but it can be squashed if jumped on and straddled with a hungry tummy. It stopped being squashy however when it was reinforced with bamboo canes. Which was most inconsiderate.

Hurrumph ... if I can't get at them, I hope that pesky apple thief can't take them either!

... do I have to tell you about my tape-worm or can that keep for another blog? I'm having much more fun writing about apples.