Category Archives: Dogs

Spring is Sprung

That earlier post about pitch put me in a linguistic glitch.

Do drips drip and drops drop? Or drips drop and drops drip?

It all sounds wrong and looks funny on the page after a very short time indeed. Anyway Spring does indeed spring, but today, on the evening dog walk, I found evidence that it has also sprung. I am not convinced the sunny days and freezing nights are particularly conducive to tree blossom, but nature is giving it a good old go like the old broad she is, with blowsy, fuzzy leaf buds busting out all over.

This my eldest daughter’s favourite tree in the park. It’s quite nice that she has one.

The dog had the wind up his tail on the walk, spring has got him sprung too, although he did mention it was a bit parky to go naked (I had forgotten to put his coat on). A little girl in her pushchair asked her mum as we wended homeward, ‘Why has that doggie got so much legs?’ I am too deaf to have heard the answer, but had some mild amusement to think of the eight-legged beast on the end of my lead.

Anyway, here’s the evidence that spring has finally sprung from it’s winter irons:
an evening magnolia


magnolia close

‘The trouble with history…’

‘is that there are too many people involved.’ Nick Hornby, writer

And ain’t that the truth Rudi? Although we might have added ‘damn’ to ‘people’


Also, I have just notice my header image is missing. I wonder how long that’s been gawn?

My perfect life (not) part 2

The problem with writing blog posts in parts is that you forget a) where you finished last time b) what you called yesterday’s post. When I have to start checking these kinds of details it kind of makes me not want to write at all. Plus which I am not so enamoured of the humour of the situation I am writing about now as I was yesterday. Friday is a long day and there is a lot of work to be done. It’s emotionally demanding work and I am tired now, but that’s ok.

Anyway, back to mine and Rudi’s non-finest moment which I started yesterday. To recap, I had spent a morning talking to the dog and we finished up with me asking him to pick a dog biscuit selection which he did. We then made the best of our way home and I felt like a good owner with treats for the animal. The point of the treats was this. When I let the dog out last thing at night I can’t always remember when I get to bed whether I did let him back in. It’s one of those repetitive things that you do every day so can’t quite recall the detail e.g. I know there was out involved, but did we do in? I then get up and check and he is always there, on the sofa, looking cross with me for turning on the light. So I mark the letting in with a treat and then I find I remember giving him that more easily than I remember the door being opened to admit one dog into the house. It’s a memory marker. A trail of breadcrumbs through the dark woods of domestic memory. The problem is that I don’t buy dog biscuits, so if I give him the same treat every night, a slice of bread is the absolute favourite with him for some reason, I find myself back downstairs after I’ve gone to bed, turning on the lights and generally disgruntling the dog.

Bag of different biscuits means different memory markers means no more nocturnal memory lapses. I hung the biscuits in the bag on the key rack by the front door, out of the dog’s way. At some point later that day, my daughter took the bag down and gave Rudi a biscuit from the bag. I forgot by the evening I had bought the biscuits, so he got a slice of bread.

The following day the dog found the bag of biscuits which my daughter had conveniently left on the hearth. Dogs being what they are, he ate the lot. I was dismayed when I realised. The things were full of additives and colouring for goodness sake. I mildly remonstrated with the daughter (remonstrating with the dog is a pointless exercise).

‘It will be me later, clearing up the runny poo,’ I said.

She pulled a face at me. The dog declined his actual dinner for that day, so full was his belly of giant bone-shaped and heart-shaped biscuits. The whole thing spelled trouble.

The following day I took the dog for his walk. Quite often, in the winter months, I rock up at where the beach should be, only to find that the tide is out. An estuary tide covers quite a distance, so out is out by a few miles and in is nearly in to the pavement. No beach to walk on on this occasion, so we walked on the opposite side of the road until we reached a manicured piece of grass, slightly raised up and set back from the road. Benches line the edge overlooking the estuary and, in the summer, older people sit and sun themselves and enjoy the view. It is right next door to an art deco ice-cream parlour. Southend has its unclassy spots for sure, but this part of Westcliff-on-Sea is a little more genteel in a distressed 1930s fashion. Rudi designated the grassy knoll as his poo platform for the day and evacuated an alarming orange variety of runny poo (as predicted) in copious amounts.

I was pretty pissed off. All this hassle because of pick and mix biscuits and a faulty memory. The quantity involved meant it was a two-handed job, so I dropped my gloves and bag on the floor to tackle it. Sadly, some of it went where it shouldn’t have and left my right index finger daubed in orange. There are no words to describe the disgust of this experience and it’s worse when cars are driving past and elderly ladies are enjoying banana splits, ice-creams sundaes and retro milky coffees only ten feet to your left. I had to double bag the shit and beat a hasty retreat before someone came out and saw the enormous orange skid mark we’d left on the lawn.

I wanted to get straight home and wash my hands, but we had a way to walk yet, so I put the gloves back on in a delayed and after the horse has bolted protective measure. As I pulled on my right hand glove to cover the offending finger I noticed something. The index finger of the right hand glove was covered in bird shit…

My perfect life (not).

There’s a final insult which happened when I came home from work this afternoon. It involves the bag that the biscuits were thieved out of. I can’t bring myself to write about it now though. And I may never. God knows there are no illusions left to destroy round here, but there has to be a line drawn somewhere.

rudi sea

My perfect life (not)

There’s a blog I visit and read often. It’s a good blog because it’s written by a professional writer and because although the exterior of the thing always looks glossy and fabulous (nature, dogs, horses) and peaceful, the interior landscape of the writer sounds more or less interchangeable with your human experience, or mine, or anyone’s really. Different events and people, but same pain, angst and suffering.

So, here’s a blog that is not about my interior landscape. It is a post that would never appear on this other blog because these things just don’t seem to happen to everyone. Or maybe they do and have the sense to keep bloody quiet about it. This post is also designed for a certain member of the Wray Barton Wrecking Crew who has been having a torrid time lately, but has been the usual stalwart in the face it all. Perhaps it will make her smile. In which case it would all have been worth it.

The dog, have I mentioned the bloody dog on here? Oh yes. Often. He’s appeared in photos here looking winsome and he’s appeared looking snarly and people have commented on his looks and it’s all rather jolly having a dog to put on the blog on a slow day, or when he’s done something entertaining. The trouble is that lately the dog has been, literally, driving me mad. Or if not driving me mad, holding up a mirror to my madness.

We went out the other day, for a walk and thence to a pet superstore, only because I dared not return home without cat food (we had run out) and the cat was looking for my head on a stick by late lunchtime; she had not eaten since early breakfast and requires five meals a day minimum to maintain her usual surly and superior demeanour towards me. So I had to stop at this gargantuan warehouse of a pet shop because I didn’t have any cash on me and it’s the only place you can buy a cheap box of cat food with your card without the assistant hating you to your face.

As soon as I parked, which I did badly, hitting a kerb in the process, the dog started up whining because he knows that in that shop there is a pick and mix for mammals and birds which he likes to peruse. I took him in. We walked round and round the central island of pick and mix and he stuck his nose in various binnacles. Pink biscuits, yellow bones, multi-coloured bird seed and hay bars for rabbits – they have them all. It’s additive heaven. The dog enjoys it though and so did I until I realised that I had been conversing with him throughout…

I had started the chatting to him on the earlier walk and it didn’t really matter so much then because no-one was around but once I clocked myself in a busy pet emporium I had enough self-preservation left to realise what I might look like: a bit crazy. So then I told the dog, I really had to stop chatting out loud to him and could he just select his chosen pick and mix biscuits for me to put in a bag and then we could leave. Which, after some further deliberation and more accidentally verbalising what should have remained in my head from me, he did.

This will have to be continued. In my perfect life (not) I have to finish another thing I haven’t started yet and quickly tell the cat something, before I forget. Don’t worry though, I’ll get back to this story and it will so totally be worth the wait…



There are some research projects that just beggar belief i.e. that money is actually spent on this stuff. The latest case of this is an ‘experiment’ run down at the University of Portsmouth that has reached the stunning conclusion… wait for it… that dogs can understand some of their human’s perspective on things. Now, call me an ignorant non-scientific member of the general herd of sheep known as the dumb public, but you know what, I think you, or I, or even my dog could have told them that.

I know that subjective anecdote is not considered hard evidence in the scientific world but was it really necessary to run the following study. 84 dogs with their owners and a bowl of tempting food (not all in the same room at the same time one assumes); 84 dogs forbidden, in broad daylight, to eat the food. The dogs mainly comply. Then, the lights go off. Left in the dark with the humans that can’t see them: the dogs mainly eat the food. And I bet the dogs wouldn’t have been fooled if the researchers had made them put their paws over their eyes like those silly human babies are… Now you see me, now you don’t… The average poocher ain’t falling for that, no sir.

Any dog owner could have told you the same and the really intelligent ones don’t even wait until it’s dark – merely until your back is turned.

Dogs have a theory of mind? You betcha. Dogs, and other animals, are not the simpletons arrogant humans like to assume they are. Well, who knew? I mean, really.

Science? Have you really nothing better to do?


Rudi and Laddie: Plotting

One look at those faces tells you more about the inner life of dogs than some silly old lights on/off experiment.

Meet Unke (again)

Unke featured on the blog with the greyhound called Sally a few years ago at Easter. The post should have been called Free the Suffolk Two, but I didn’t have my head on straight that day. Sally is sadly no longer with us – she was cremated down the Suffolk garden in the linked picture on an epic conflagration last year.

Unke is quite simply, the most difficult dog in the world to photograph, which is annoying because she has the most marvellous and interesting face: all wrinkles and eye dribbles, contours and slobber. I spent a while last Easter with the camera trying to get her in all her boxer glory, with absolutely no success.

Yesterday, when we arrived at the paternal residence, the whole place hung thick with smoke. What was this? Not another cremation? Of sorts, as it turned out. A fir tree over the river behind the house had grown so fantastically tall that if it went over in a high wind it threatened to take out the whole house. It had therefore been pollarded and the top portion of the trunk was being disposed of in incendiary fashion. My kids went down with Unke to watch the flaming spectacle. At some point later they were messing with my phone and managed this fantastic study of the elusive Unke (wearing her jacket indoors, like me, which is what all the best personages do). Ok, we’ve got someone’s foot waving about in the background behind Unke’s head and they’ve got Unke’s nose squashed right up against the photographic frame but, still, great job.

The Visitors’ Book

I was trying to write a blog post yesterday, but after struggling through the first few paragraphs I realised I was hardly dashing away with the smoothing iron, so I stopped. I thought I might go back to it later, but I didn’t. Unusually, for me, I watched television until bedtime. This hardly ever happens and it felt like a great treat. Anyway, when I returned to this post today, I could see why it had felt laboured to write; when reading there was just no flow.

I had tried to give the reader some context to the post, but it felt a little offhand. I wanted you to know why I had come across a Visitors’ Book this weekend, but I wasn’t really committed to setting the scene properly. I wonder if I do that often. Anyway, that’s the context of the the context that follows. I’ve tried to tidy it up a bit but to be honest I think I am little bit blocked at the moment. Bear with me…

I have just stayed away for two nights in a nice little cottage (no open fire though). I had been co-opted onto the Wray Barton Wrecking Crew’s house hunting mission on Saturday although the first viewing was far too early for me and they went on their own with the two labradors, Jerry and Tramp, in the convertible Audi. The Audi is only relevant and name-checked because it was acting for a Land Rover and to stuff a Land Rover lifestyle into an Audi, even for a week, leaves some scars… They collected me at about ten for a round East Angular trip and it was only then that the whole endeavour started to remind me of a telly programme: think Location, Location, Location in a mash up with Two Fat Ladies (+1) and Blue Peter in the John Noakes and Shep era and you are partially there. There was also a Miranda moment too, namely when I shrieked like a fishwife ‘Big bend, big bend!’ I could go on, but to place a fig leaf over what remains of our anonymity I won’t. Suffice to say that, if you happened to see a black convertible with the roof down, containing the Mitchell Brothers of the Labrador frat, a jolly checked duvet and three unwashed women driving around Southwold at the weekend, that was us.

Anyway, after a day of all that wedged-in-a-convertible excitement, the required reading of an evening was the cottage’s Visitors’ Book. Sadly, because of the nature of our mission our doings were not things that we could usefully write about in The Book to aid future Visitors. We had discussed the true purpose of The Visitors’ Book at length. Is it, as the hosts seem to encourage, an opportunity to feedback on their performance – good or bad? Or is it more reasonable, as we finally decided, a place in which to record useful local information for other guests? After all, what use is it to know that the cottage is ‘Paradise’ itself when you are already in situ. Far better to be told where the best pub for lunch is, or the spot for a good walk, surely? We also decided that too many people confuse The Book with a metereological log, using its hallowed pages to record the state of the weather during their sojourn. Visitor Book contributors, please note: weather updates constitute entirely useless information for both future guests and the owners.

An example of this would be when we learned that three years ago, some visitors from the next county along, ‘arrived in fog…’ – gripping. We learned that many people had been there in rain. And that at least as many again had been there in sun. Marvellous. More entertaining were the repeat visitors: one couple had returned seven times (lack of imagination?), another couple drily remarked that on this, their ‘third visit,’ the grass remained uncut for the third time… Clearly, uncut grass, although worth remarking upon is not a deterrent to repeat bookings.

Then there were the remarks helpfully directed at the hosts. Most praised their hospitality and general fab ‘ness’ (we did not see them). No-one kvetched about the laminated sign in the conservatory asking guests to water the twenty-five ferns in individual pots with a cup of water every single day (we did not – kvetch or water). We noted that there were a number of sink leaks about the place, but this had been partially covered by a previous commenter who wrote, ‘The plug designer should be shot.’ There was also the guest who felt that the sensitive period conversion of the cottage had clearly been ‘done by a woman,’ because men ‘bang their head on the ceiling’ when they want to wee in one of the en-suites.

The best comment though was the person who wrote something along the lines that their stay had been generally wonderful, closing with the remark,

‘Us watching Bill the Cat. Bill the Cat watching us.’

Surreal. A period cottage can do that to you. Especially one with ferns that demand to be watered, central heating that carries a warning not to be tinkered with despite the screaming groans of the pipework all day long. We did not write anything about this. Neither did we mention the rough towels, the poor flush on the toilets, the leaking sinks, the counter-intuitively positioned cutlery drawers and the head fuck of a crockery cupboard. I didn’t comment that the vicious roses round the gate needed a trim and that the officious little note on the kitchen table carrying all kinds of commands about smoking and spot fines and taking out rubbish and stripping the beds and cleaning dog hair before departure made me feel quite surly about the whole paradise thing. I didn’t warn future guests that the local hostelry ‘The Cardinals Hat’ plays extremely loud music and has disease-ridden radiators, (not to mention the missing titular apostrophe which leaves one unsure if many cardinals are making do with the one mitre between them due to the triple-dip recession).

In short, we left The Visitors’ Book blank: its loss is your gain. Perhaps.

Tramp being asked to write in The Visitors' Book

Tramp being asked to write inThe Visitors’ Book

Jerry being asked... etc.

Jerry being asked… etc.

Hangovers & Leftovers

I watched a boy leaning on a tree vomiting this lunchtime. I was out for ‘a run’ with the dog. The truth is I’ve not ‘run’ anywhere for eighteen months, although in order to avoid being one of the hordes of New Year Resolutionists I had a tentative trot out a couple of times last week just to check everything sort of worked. (The jury is out on that one.)

Anyway, at first I thought the boy was older than he was, probably in the grip of a hangover. As I got closer I saw he was no more than twelve, maybe younger. He had got out of a silver car, parked on the wrong side of the road. A man, probably his father, was in the driver’s seat, his elbow sticking out of the fully open car window, the engine running. Car sickness probably. Football fans perhaps – the Shrimpers were having an early kick-off.

That, I thought to myself as I passed the poor kid, is the difference between a father and a mother. The mother would be out with the kid, by the tree, as useless as the father still sitting in the car, engine running, but she would be there. Then I carried on and thought I might die myself in the far muddy corner of the park as my lungs threatened to explode. My life is not glamorous, my trainers are covered in an inch of mud at all times and when I ‘run’ I can’t always breathe. Still, I hope I would get out of the car if my child was throwing up by a tree. It would make no difference of course, but one can’t, always. I am reminded of the quote from Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde which said, ‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.’ The gutter doesn’t change but the stars do. At the moment my stars are a bit hazy, like this one.


Another day, another dog walk

My dog has made me anti-social. Some might say more anti-social. The problem is that, like me, the dog is not anti meeting other dogs as such, he is just sensitive to the context and the type of dog. I would like to think, that in the latter case, I am more forbearing than he…

The problem with urban parks is that they are full of the kinds of dogs my dog might not like. It is hard to tell what kind of dog that might be; often I cannot tell until it is self-evident and far too late. I have started avoiding other dogs because it is easier. Often, I earmark a place as being suitable and empty of dogs and people. We begin our walk and then, lo and behold, it is like I have dropped an acid tab marked with a snarling set of canine choppers and we are surrounded by dogs.

That’s why today I drove out to the edge of the earth, although during the holiday period even the edge of the earth is busy with dogs. Still we managed to have a wild and windswept walk without encountering anyone too threatening. I took a few (rubbish) photos and the dog amused himself by doing his impression of a railer at Crayford greyhound track. He pretends he is wearing the red Trap 1 jacket, although he is actually wearing a green one with a red trim, and buzzes me at 25 mph, whilst I cross my fingers he doesn’t put his paw down a rabbit hole.

I thought I had lines from T.S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land in my head for a while out there today. The scenery was Waste Land ish and, because I took a short and muddy cut behind a driving range I found what must have been 2012’s quota of lost golf balls. Actually, the Eliot poem that mentions the ‘thousand lost golf balls’ is Choruses from the Rock. I have written about that before. I picked up 22 golf balls; there were more. Like the acid tabs marked dog, once you drop the one marked golf ball you can’t stop seeing them in the undergrowth or half-buried in the mud but if I hadn’t have stopped then, I would be there still. I threw the 22 back over the fence and high netting that was intended to prevent their escape in the first place. It was the opposite of returning them to the wild. I don’t know if it was the day’s good deed or not.

And the wind shall say: “Here were decent godless people:
Their only monument the asphalt road
And a thousand lost golf balls.”

On the way back to the car we were completely surrounded by dogs. Nightmare. Spaniels, terriers, puppies playing with footballs. If there is any time my dog is most likely to be anti-social it is when he has had his run and has his mind on a lie-down. I proceeded with caution.

One dog passed us, whining. He was a beautiful brown Saluki called Caspar – one of the Three Wise Men no less. He was, however, kept on a lead. His owner said he didn’t trust his recall, this was after two years. I pointed hopelessly at my dog who had slipped out of reach to greet a fellow, tethered, sighthound. ‘I don’t trust our recall after five,’ I said. We shared the brief moment of helpless embarrassment. These saluki and part-saluki lurchers are undoubtedly beautiful, but they are not of this world. They belong to camels and tents and following a star.

Following the star (at 25 mph)

Following the star (at 25 mph)

More Grey Skies

This morning, rain falls from them. Yesterday, we had a brief respite. Although I have passed flooded fields and roads over the past few days and have dreamed of being flooded myself we are not as likely to suffer the fate of so many others round the country. Having water plunging through your home must be a terrible experience.

The extended family have not always escaped the rising waters; some years ago my sister, Finky Wink, was flooded in her basement flat in West London and my Aunt and Uncle have been flooded three times in as many months in the West country. My father lives in an old water mill. Every year they watch the water cover the garden and creep up along the path to the house, but rising sea levels or not, whoever sited the mill (mentioned in the Domesday Book) on a very slight elevation had it right and the River Stour has never once made it through the door.

My own garden is a sea of mud. Wherever mud is not plastered, I can see a persistent moss green invading. It has spread up the wooden planter, over the paving and onto the fences. Whenever the dog goes out there, he returns up to his elbows in it and traipses it all over the floor. I wish he had galoshes to give the mop a break. Given the demented way he leaps out there and comes back with mud spattered all over his face, I swear he has mud fever. He is not the only one.

These photos are an attempt at a visual antidote to the unremitting grey, rain, damp green and ubiquitous mud out of my kitchen window. They were taken on yesterday’s walk. It’s given me an idea…