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.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Florian posing Posted by Hello


Another show - one of the last, as the year winds to a close. Another bus. This time I was awarded the toilet seat. No, not literally - it wasn`t a prize, and I didn`t spend six hours on the seat of a mobile Elsan. Just the one facing it. I could log for you the bowel habits of about fifteen elderly exhibitors being bounced along the M6........

Anyway, it was Florian`s debut. His first Big Day Out. I took him round the hall first thing with Demented, who kept on leaping about and tailwagging, assuring him that this was what it was all about, and the best fun you could have with your fur on. It worked at the beginning, but as the hall filled up with dogs, cages, trollies and general noise I tried them out again. This time Florian was not so easily convinced. He kept looking at her sideways........"are we having fun yet?" Eventually he was giving her a look that clearly said, "my friend is not to be trusted and clearly several rosettes short of a Challenge Certificate" I could have told him that D is clearly insane - I had to endure another embarrassing bout of wrestling her into submission on the table, and unsurprisingly she got nothing.

Florian did his little best, but clearly couldn`t make much sense of it all. He looked very serious as great fundamental philosophical questions filled his head. Why was he standing here? Who were these other dog puppies anyway? Why was that man staring at him? Was he ever going to be fed?

He was fourth.

Meanwhile I was to become involved in the strange social doings of the seething underlife of the benching.

More of this anon.

Friday, October 22, 2004


I was out in the gale this morning collecting the last of the walnuts and watching the Clyde rise and rise after all the rain. Already the watermeadows downriver in the bird sanctuary are full and I`ll soon be watching and hearing the arrival of the Whoopers and Bewicks.

It`s good to know the river isn`t just full of water. This year it`s so full of salmon you could reach down and touch one. As one caller said, "There`s so many my brother could catch one"

Years ago the Clyde was a salmon river. When you sold a riverside property you sold the salmon rights as a separate entity. But the pollution years stopped the fish, and soon the rights .were forgotten and abandoned. When the fish came back the rights reverted to the crown.

In practice this means minimal care and protection. There is a weir and little hydro installation at Blantyre where an inadequate salmon ladder has been installed - the queue of frustrated leaping fish is heavily and crudely poached, and any crown bailies showing their faces are asked pointedly how well they can swim.

But the fish keep coming. They seem to like it here. The available stretch of river is a short one, cut by another power installaion upriver, but the spawning beds are good. And the netting rights at the estuary have been taken up and not used with a view to conservation.

I don`t fish. I don`t see the pleasure in killing for fun. The twelve bore in the cabinet by the door is for emergencies.

But I love to know that they`re down there, the annual silver invasion.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Mr Red Posted by Hello


Popping in for a cauliflower and some beans I notice that Tesco is clearing shelves and filling them with Christmas cheer.

It`s October.

It makes me nervous. I feel an impulse to crouch down and sneak round corners........

Two or three years ago, a few short weeks before Christmas, our Tesco acquired its own, real robin. He flew about the store, chirping brightly, a lovely little flash of red, often stoppng to sing cheerfully. His favourite perch was high up on the Christmas crackers - a bird who had really studied his job description. I suppose he kept himself going on the vast variety of festive food on display......and no doubt he made a few contributions to the display as well.

I thought he was delightful, and said so.

"Bloody robin!" snorted the checkout girl. "They won`t let us shoot it, you know. It seems they`re protected or something. But the manager`s on to it."

I was silenced. I had a vision of the delighted temp shelf fillers, late at night, having their sticker clickers taken away and replaced by Kalashnikovs, being allotted names like "Mr Pink" and "Mr Green" , and sent out to get "Mr Red." Sprays of bullets would pulverise the huge stack of Walkers Crisps (Giant Family size) and shred into a drifting snowstorm the display of toilet paper (Tesco Economy). The aisles would be awash with blood and Diet Irn Bru......

But the robin sang on. He was there until the 22nd. Then I found the store silent. I dreaded, but I had to ask.

"We got him," said the checkout girl. "There`s always a way."

I made a hurried exit.

Thank goodness Santa didn`t visit.......

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Dido enchanted with her sons Posted by Hello


Yes, Dido did it. At 12.45am - why always in the middle of the night? - she started, and an hour later had three. Unfortunately the little girl didn`t make it. The placenta was huge and deformed, and that usually indicates stunting and malnourishment in the womb - she just wasn`t strong enough even to feed.

But the boys are thriving, and Dido is enchanted with her sons. One is quiet and one is greedy and demanding - when she goes out he screams and you can hear the anger in the screams. How dare she leave! Her only function is to feed him constantly......yes a typical male. His brother is quieter, and resigned to being bulldozed aside in his brother`s frenzied circling. (Very young puppies crawl in circles. If they crawled in a straight line there is a danger that they would crawl out of the nest altogether, and being blind and deaf wouldn`t realise it.).

They are now five days old. As usual I have great hopes for them.

It has quite made up for a day spent in the innards of the stove, up to my armpit in its back passage searching for an obstruction........fortunately no dead bird this time. I`ve scrubbed the soot off and am off to relax in a warm room with a pot of tea and some chamber music.

Sunday, October 10, 2004


I took myself off to see SKYCAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW and was enchanted by a nice litle homage to thirties "speculative fiction", in tasteful muted colour and sepia.......great efforts to get the atmosphere and visuals right, and a very precise sense of thirties futurism. Gernsback would have loved it. The plot was irrelevant, but it was good to see the Brits credited with the best advances in technology..

I`ve always been fascinated by the thirties. It comes from growing up in the forties. Adults, wrestling with post-war austerity, credited the previous decade with everything that was luxurious and right, and painted a picture of carefree secure lavish life. Nothing would be as good again. "Pre-war" was a universal term for quality.......(.the last time I heard that spoken was in Larbert station in the seventies, when the old stationmaster told me to hurry on into the Ladies`Waiting Room - "I`ve got a nice big pre-war fire going in there".) And the thirties vision of the future was progress without end, science working for humanity`s greater good, no more wars - a precious innocence.

Enough of that. Times change. Optimism decays. Yesterday I went to a guinea pig show in Dunblane. Queen St. Station was hoaching with kilted Scots queueing for the Edinburgh shuttle, heading for the opening of the new parliament building. I met friends heading for this caper, who invited me to come with them.

"No, I`m going to a guinea pig show."

"A guinea pig show instead of the opening of the new parliament building?"

"Spot the difference."

Sunday, October 03, 2004


October now, and really mild. I realise that it has been another year wtihout wasps. Not a single little stripy stinger.

Last year I heard a Rentokil man interviewed - he was lamenting the inexplicable crash in the wasp population in the tones of a man whose job was on the line. I was delighted, and am even more so that the depopulation has carried on.

I don`t care too much about wasp stings, but wasps and small dogs don`t mix. A well-placed sting can kill a puppy. So wasp eradication has always been essential. Most of the wasp nests I get here are underground, and the technique is to wait until dark, pour in a bottle of white spirit, chuck in a match and watch the show. Very efficient, apart from the year I burned down a tree........

Hanging nests are more problematic. Actually there is a simple way of getting rid of these, but it involves finding two men who are macho, have a deathwish or just want to impress women....not so difficult, then. Oh yes, and a dustbin. With a lid. And probably a ladder.

Macho climbs the ladder to within reach of the buzzing nest. He has a large, sharp knife.

Deathwish takes up a position immediately under the nest. He has the dustbin, with the lid off.

At this point fervent and fulsome encouragement and admiration are absolutely essential......that and the preparation for a sudden, very fast evacuation.

Then it all happens. Macho slices the nest free with one lunge. Deathwish catches it deftly in the dustbin as it falls and slams the lid on. It`s a scene worthy of Buster Keaton

Is it infallible?

Who are you kidding? When it goes wrong, though, there is always the traditional country remedy to fall back on.

Run like buggery.

My former neighbour, Old Peter, always had a serious wasp problem, due mainly to running a fruit farm. Frequently packing would be disturbed by the loud screams of women running in all directions. Often the striped vermin, knowing a good thing when they saw it, would build nests in the roof of the packing shed.

One day there were more alarms and excursions than usual, culminating in an enormous bang and a total evacuation. I ran over and asked Peter what had happened.

`Bloody wasps! A whole big nest up in the roof beams.`

`What happened?`

`I`d had enough. So I got the women out and just gave it both barrels of the twelve bore.`

I stood staring at the fleeing workforce, the scattered fruit, and the vast menacing cloud of smoky, apocalyptic wasps, under fire, totally confused and ready to sell their lives dearly.

Wasps are much easier to understand than men.

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