Saga of a woman old enough to know better who lets her life be governed by the ridiculous hobby of breeding and showing dogs, musing on life, the twenty first century, Cameron and his mini-me, and the occasional sheep.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


I suppose I will go ahead and confess to the sordid shipwreck story.

Palm trees shedding coconuts on desert island beaches are not involved here. Readjust your anticipation - we are on Loch Lomond in a rising force 5 on a chilly September day. I can hear the rushing noise as dozens (note the optimism) of you quit the blog at once. Sensible you - we should have done the same on that day. But we were trying a new boat, and sense was not on board.

Suffice it to say we tried a really hairy gybe and capsized. Right over. Keel in the air. Stuck there clinging to the hull, suddenly totally aware that the loch is a glaciated one and almost 700 feet deep in the middle.

Well, we floated in and at last came ashore on one of the larger islands as dusk was falling. I squelched out, very glad of dry land. The boat owner staggered out and sat down suddenly. I noticed that he had stopped shivering.

"How are you?" I asked.

"I can`t hear you," he replied.

Immediately the manual flashed before my eyes. The First Aid manual, that is. In eidetic clarity I saw the page on hypothermia. What was the stage after progressive loss of senses? Ah yes - coma and death. And what was the remedy? Of course - instant immersion in a hot bath.

I gazed around hopefully at the darkening island Under the scrubby bushes no steaming hot baths lurked. I realised that the manual expected you to suffer hypothermia in your own home, or at worst in a really good hotel.

But - I knew there were summer houses on the island. They would all be locked up and probably the power shut down, but they were the only thing on offer. I dragged the patient uphill through the brambles until we found one. It wasn`t too hard to break in.

I was lucky. It was damp and dismal, but I could switch the power on. We had heat and light. But it was going to take some time before anything approaching a hot bath materialised. Were there any other remedies.?

I racked my memory. Warm the patient by total body contact.........there must be another way.

Stimulate the circulation.

This is where it gets a bit like a Hammer film. Not for the faint hearted. Remember, I had to improvise. In a dismal damp room on a deserted island, lit by a 40 watt bulb, I stripped the lad and rubbed him vigorously all over with offcuts of coconut matting. It`s the scene they cut out of Treasure Island, I suppose, but it would fit in well with the old traditional seagoing punishments - the cat, the keelhauling and the coconut matting -" Oh please cap`n, not that! Not the coconut matting......!"

I often wonder how he explained the scars in later life......

Yes we survived, and at dawn righted the boat and got back to the mainland.

I phoned work, it now being Monday. I always remember that call.

"I won`t be in today. I`ve been shipwrecked."

Thursday, August 19, 2004


Kept close to home by a bad chest, I am mesmerised by the Olympics. There`s something about the constant enormous output of energy, usually futile if British, and the hypnotic adulation of the commentators - "a magnificent achievement by Bloggs to finish seventh in the repechage!"

Let`s face it, we Brits don`t do sport. At least when we do, we contrive not to notice it. If you ask any man about his interests he will answer "Sport", and if questioned he will shout "Football!" (Men are given to shouting about sport.)

Now if an African had answered "football", he would mean that he played for a local team and aspired to greater things. If a British male says football is his hobby, his idea of participation involves a sofa with his mates and three crates of lager, in front of the telly.

And we don`t admit to the existence of other forms of sport. Anyone who takes part in a sport not involving a ball is a sad anorak, or, if the sport involves expensive equipment, a posh git, or if it involves horses, a posh girlie git. And the problem is that we are not bad at activities involving equipment and horses.

We are, for instance, quite good at sailing - how amazing for islanders! It gets a grudging coverage on television, resented perhaps because it isn`tseen to be competitive, violent, nasty, fast or involving drink bad language and foul behaviour...........

Well, they haven`t been there.

There`s a rule in racing that if a crew member goes overboard you HAVE to stop and pick him up, or forfeit the race. It has to be a rule. If it wasn`t, race waters would be littered with bobbing heads and echoing with plaintive drowning cries - nothing must get in the way of winning. I was always amazed that there wasn`t a rule about not carrying torpedoes.

As a hard man Vinnie Jones would sink without trace (probably literally) in competitive sailing.

The ways of nobbling your opponent by denying him wind, and therefore forward motion, are many. I rermember crewing for a man with three other women as he employed two of these means and sent the nearest rival scuttering off on a premature and losing tack. He leaned over and shouted graciously to the defeated competitor:

"That`s fixed you, you bastard! Not bad for a crew of bloody women, eh!"

Well, I don`t have to tell you what came next, girls. The crew dropped everything and sat down. The boat came into irons and just wallowed there. Like Bligh he stood there at the tiller, a small man astounded by mutiny, perhaps with visions of floating breadfruit and exile in a small boat........well we could have set him adrift in the rubber dinghy and thrown his lunch in the water after him. It was a slow quiet sail home.

Men who go down to the sea in ships are hard, but the women are made of titanium..

Sometime I`ll tell you about the time I was shipwrecked.

Meanwhile I`m going back to the telly. The Beach Volleyball heats are on......

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Dido posing Posted by Hello


I hate this weather. After three days of thunder lightning and rain in stairrods, and humidity that would make a duck weep, immured with a gang of frustrated little dogs, I know just how Noah felt.

It has caused a problem with Dido`s padded bandage. Yes, she still has it - although the leg is deemed to have healed, no-one is willing to remove the thing until the head of practice comes back from holiday. And these padded dressings absorb water like a sponge - dipped in a puddle and wet for days.

But I have met this problem before. Years ago a little bitch called Jocasta cracked a toe and was similarly wrapped up. And the thing was always soggy, and being dried out with a hairdryer.

I was at my wits end, and studied it. What would waterproof it? I had tried messing about with poly bags and rubber bands to no avail. I stared at the little padded leg. What did it look like? The dimensions suddenly rang a bell. I went straight out to the chemist.

"Packet of three, Durex Extra Strength, please."

I was very gratified to note the look of respect on the face of the young girl at the till. And yes, the condom fitted perfectly. And was waterproof - well you would hope so! Roll it on, let her out. bring her in, roll it off.

Dido has been wearing condoms for weeks now. She wore it to the vet today, no doubt totally shocking Helga, who is German and very strait laced.

And tomorrow Dido goes off on her honeymoon, to meet a very attractive young dog down south. She will probably be the only canine bride on record to take her own condoms with her.....

Sunday, August 08, 2004


Plumbing escapades set me thinking about the other end of the rural water consumption experience - the septic tank. Everyone has them and no-one talks about them. I don`t care - I have no shame: mine is situated a hundred yards down the bottom orchard, tastefully surrounded by hawthorn, and the soakaway runs down to a small burn, and eventually I suppose to the Clyde, which flows one field away from the bottom of my holding.

I have an arrangement with my septic tank. I don`t bother it, and it doesn`t bother me. This has worked for 22 years so far.

Every year the council inform me that they will clean it out, and every year I put a stop to that. I suscribe to the philosophy of "if it aint broke, don`t fix it."

My first experience of septic tanks was as a student - in the little villages surrounding Cambridge there were many of them. The fens are flat and the water table is high.......no, not ideal for septic tanks. It was not unusual to answer the door to a neighbour asking to use the phone urgently - "It`s come up!" he would cry, and you knew it wasn`t a lottery ticket.

But I live on the steep side of a valley and there`s no such problem.

There actually is a sewer within 70 yards of the property. 70 yards uphill. Steeply uphill. Use your imagination. I don`t propose to tap into that. Exploding toilets are quite bad enough......

There`s an esoteric art to installing these things. My friend a few miles further up the valley had a new one installed a few years ago, and after a couple of days labour the builder came to her door and said:

"Right, it`s in. It`s time for the chicken."

She was totally at a loss. Was she expected to provide a celebratory chicken dinner for seven workmen?

They gazed at her expectantly.

At last, seeing her total perplexity, the builder gently explained.

The point of a septic tank is that it is septic. You would never dose it with disinfectant. And in this area it is customary to start it off on it`s bacterial way by standing on top and ceremonially dropping in a dead chicken.

Very reassuring, these old pagan survivals.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004


Yesterday the water pressure went down to a degree where the toilet wouldn`t flush, so I turned it up. This involves going out in front of the house, getting out a lot of tools including a plumber`s key and the really big crowbar, lifting the manhole cover over the toby, putting my arm down and searching in the murk for the right bit, and turning it on with the key. It`s every bit as bad as it sounds.

And why did I have to change it at all? It`a another tale of the seamy side of country living. One of the little gems the estate agent will never mention.

You see, I live at the very end of the water main. The flow stops here.

Now that`s just fine during the day. Everyone up the line is using water. But as the night draws on, less and less is used.........and the pressure mounts steadily. And it builds up here

It`s in the small hours that it happens.

The least of it is that the outside tap at the end garage blows off. I usually find it a few yards away, and the fountain of water isn`t hurting anything.

The worst of it is leaks in the house. And this is an old house with very ancient plumbing, some of it amateur. Something`s gotta give. It`s as creaky and cranky as the Vital Spark`s engine, or the starship Enterprise`s, and I can just hear McPhail or Scotty , faced with my ancient banging pipes, crying "She canna take any mair, captain!"

The ultimate is the Exploding Toilet. This is usually a 3am event. You hear the crack - that`s the ballcock valve giving way - then the thud as the cistern cover attempts to take off for Mars, then a sound very like Niagara Falls. And when you reach the bathroom it looks very like Niagara Falls.

And what do you do then? See paragraph one. Except this time you are doing it in a hurry in the middle of the night, and the tools aren`t where they should be and if it`s frosty you have to thaw the toby manhole with kettles of boiling water before you can lift it, and if you really can`t find the crowbar you are reduced to trying to lift it with a big cold chisel you swore you would never ruin the edge on.

And you break all your nails.

Since I put the pressure up I have discovered that they are working on the pipes down the road. It must have been a temporary glitch.

And now here we are on full pressure.

And night`s coming on.............

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