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.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


Getting ready for another big show, I have been preparing the bathroom. For dog beuatification, that is. I have a little table with a great display of bottles - Ring 5 Bright White shampoo, Winners` Circle Ultra Bright, Professional Whitener, Pantene , Wash and Go, Super Conditioner, Ice on Ice, Plush Puppy Swishy Coat, more Wash and Go -

Ah, yes, Wash and Go. Vidal Sassoon`s chief colourist is a delightful dog person, and in the course of his job has to liase with many manufacturers of hair products. Now Wash and Go has long been popular with Afghan exhibitors (although I think the current favourite is Pantene.) I am told that this lad decided to do the firm a favour and pointed out that he had found them a new market. They didn`t have to change the shampoo. All they had to do was aim it at dog people, relabel it "Wash and Win" - and quadruple the price.

They were scandalised. Their precious product on a pooch! They spoke harshly of "insult to the brand" and "degrading the product".

Their loss. There are fortunes to be made in these horrendously expensive dog products.

At the back of the table there is one little blue bottle. The label says "Silvikrin - for sad, flat hair".

That one`s not dog.

That one`s mine.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The distant Pony Club Posted by Hello


After the show excitement, Sunday was spent relaxing with the Pony Club.

When I say "with" - well that`s not quite it. The Pony Club events take place on a large field down at the river, which I can only see clearly from out in the open orchard, away from the house.

But the commentary is always with me. Rain, hail or snow - or as today, in a thunderstorm, the keen kids and the recalcitrant Thelwell-type ponies do their thing, and I hear all about it over the loudspeakers, which echo all over the valley. The lady who does the commentary seems to be a very earnest, motherly soul and probably holds the whole thing together:

"Now Fiona, don`t cry. Your mummy is just over there by the caravans. Would somebody PLEASE catch the pony........"

Generally I`m not for the sort of activity that involves reluctant or overly competitive kids and their pushy parents, be it Highland dancing, junior dog handling or (really scary, this) Little League in America. But they can produce some memorable moments.

I cherish the memory of the little lad sent in to Junior Handling with the Old English Sheepdog puppy. They were supposed to go round sedately and then stand to attention. But they were both new to this, and the enormous shaggy puppy took one horrified look, rolled his eyes and was off.

Give the small boy his due, he remembered one thing his mother had told him (loudly). "Never let go of the lead". He hung on like grim death as the huge puppy galloped round and round the hall, scattering the audience and upsetting the stalls, towing him like a rowing boat in the wake of the Titanic. Eventually the pooch made a sudden right turn and the child didn`t - he shot off at a tangent and crashed to earth on a dogfood stall in an explosion of shattered dog biscuit. He was last seen trailed off in tears by his mother, who was brushing crumbs out of his hair and scolding: 'You let go! You were not in control of your dog!".

Or the memory of a colleague who was struggling under the demands of two pony fixated daughters, explainng the problems to a friend:

"The thing to remember is that ponies have two diets. In summer they eat pound notes. But in winter they eat ten pound notes....."

All jolly fun and very character building, no doubt. I wasn`t put through anything like that as a child, and I`m grateful. My father`s idea of a good activity for me was to take me to see ships or engineering projects - I have a memory of standing as a child in the curve of a huge metal construct and of him saying - "This is a heat exchanger, and don`t let me ever hear you calling it a boiler. That man over there is doing acetyline welding - can you say that?"

The pushy mothers would shudder at my misspent childhood. No competition at all.

But I still find something very soothing about the distant sounds of the Pony Club in full cry.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Florian - the Official Portrait Posted by Hello


Off on the show trail again, this time to the big Scottish Championship one, in my cousin`s new customised dog van, with Florian and Diamond the puppy, euphemistically described as "a bit raw". (At this stage of development he looks as if he had been hastily carved out of a chunk of polystyrene by someone well-intentioned but visually challenged with a heated teaspoon. "Needs to mature" is another polite way of putting it") Oh, yes and Prudence, all quivering and girly, wondering if they eat Papillons where she`s going.

I seem to carry half my worldly goods to these shows. Maybe it`s basic insecurity. Anyway, I made the usual spectacular entrance, staggering under a motley load of stuff and repeating the opening dialogue from 4 WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL all the way to the ringside, ducking in under the tent just as annother downpour started.

And then it all went right.

Diamond behaved impeccably. He saw it as an interesting new social event. Unfortunately there were no girls - not surprising, in a class called Minor Puppy Dog - but he was well entertained and was an amazing fourth. (His brother was third. No, they don`t get on.)

I felt much more relaxed with Florian, who is reliable and by now very blase about all this. He showed himself off to win his age class, and qualified for the Dog challenge. There he stood, my little boy, competing for best of sex. And to my amazement he won the Reserve Challenge Certificate - he was second best male in his breed.

A great moment. Florian has now Arrived. He is really on the scene. He has an Official Portrait, to replace my back-garden efforts - one actually paid for. He has won his Stud Book Number. Several suitable girls have already been offered for his delight. A golden future beckons............

Well, maybe.

I foresee a long contest.

Florian is content with his special show dinner. But he gets that anyway.

The rest of the day was equally satisfying. Prudence decided (at last!) that judges didn`t after all dine on best end of dog, and managed to qualify for Crufts. And most of my friends did well. There was the usual social chat and speculation - would one acquaintance who had made up a champion be:
(a) drunk?
(b) spectacularly drunk and disorderly?
(c) found wandering in the next county several days later with no memory of the show?
Would Matthew (who used to be Martha) make it home on a local bus with a huge black hound and even more paraphenalia than I had?
Was "Gone fishing" an acceptable excuse for missing a committee meeting?
Would our combined collection of arthritic hips and bad backs make it to the next show? (Ours is not a young breed....)
Would the van start?

Of course it did.

Safe home in comfort after a great day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Rush hour at MacPeanuts Posted by Hello
Supersize me! Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Still a bit cold but I feel I can`t delay the bedding plants much longer. I feel starved for colour in all this green.
Apart from keeping the dogs from general garden destruction at this time of year, the big upheaval is the hanging baskets. They hang just outside the window, so that I get the benefit.

The big problem is that they replace two large birdfeeders. That`s the way it is. I need those brackets. The peanuts come down, the petunias go up.

Try telling the birds. For days after the floral efforts go up, they will be visited by an outraged procession of birds. The two small feeders are simply not good enough. The tits often try to dismantle the baskets in the hope that the peanuts are just buried in there. The woodpeckers are very offended and make loud noises of disapproval and walk up and down with heavy feet on the roof.

But there are still two left and the tits in particular bring their broods of fledgelings to them. I suppose I`m encouragng a fast food culture among the young - you can see the harrassed mothers thinking, "Once I`ve taught them to get the peanuts I`ve set them up for life, and to hell with this responsibility nonsense...." No doubt somewhere in the wood a Jamie Oliver tit is raging against the birdfeeder culture and demanding to know why young mothers can`t prepare a decent caterpillar any more

I watched one struggling bluetit mother who had brought six to the windowsill feeder for their Happy Meals. It was uphill work. The little ones were perched unsurely in the honeysuckle and on the sill, mouths gaping, and she bustled about. pecking off bits of peanut and sticking them into the wide open beaks.

But it was a slow business. I watched her as she put a sliver of nut for the third time into one beak and for the third time the baby dropped it and squeaked again for food. Her eyes glazed. You could see that she had lost it. Every mother`s been there. "A few flaps of my wings an I`m outa here!" Then the moment faded and she got back to the task.

Well, the countdown is on. The baskets go up after my coming weekend adventures in the world of Irish shows........

But that`s another story.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


A lovely day out in Edinburgh ended by a blogmeet in a little pub on the Royal Mile called the Jolly Judge, which took some finding - I realise that I haven`t been in the Old Town since I was a student, and I`ve quite forgotten my way about.
I wasn`t at all sure about this idea and was feeling that maybe it was just as well that I would have to leave by 3.15 at the latest - but all the people were charming and welcoming, and I was really sorry that a previous engagement took me away so soon.
I look forward to the next one!

Thursday, May 12, 2005


The new iPOD saw me through a wait at the hospital Xray dept this morning, and behaved impeccably.

The old one had become completely psychotic, wildly obsessed with certain combinations of numbers, and with retitling music. I think .like the migraineur mathematician and the kabalists in the film PI, it was desperately seeking the one perfect number, possibly as a key to becoming sentient.

It was sent off for exchange in a suitable packaging straitjacket.

I`d like to think that Apple has a place where they give disturbed iPods the care they need.

I suspect they do.

It`s called a skip.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Finally back to blogging after some more trouble with my Achilles Wooden Leg and lots of large yellow pills.

So Tony is back with a reduced majority. He has learned a few lessons

He has learned that the British public has mastered tactical voting.

He has learned that we don`t want a President

And he is having to remember that the Labour Party is traditionally a broad church – and all those non-Blairite parishioners will now be teeming out of the woodwork, flexing their muscles.

As for the Nat results, the least said the better. “Save Balamory” just didn`t bring them flocking in, somehow……

But what care I? I`m for a day of sitting in the sun recuperating, eating more pills and listening to my resident thrush, Notpavarotti, doing his little best up in the big spruce, while Mrs Notpavarotti labours to bring up another clutch of fledgelings who can grow up to learn to sing badly, just like Dad.

Lots of birds here. My birdfeeders are clogged with everything from bluetits to woodpeckers, not excluding woodmice. – I seem to keep a whole woodful of small critters going.

I was sort of brought up with birds. My father, a quiet man, was wonderful with animals. As a child he fought a running battle with his mother over this. She took offence at his homing pigeons and told him to get rid of them – “Just give them away!” And so he did. She supervised it. But some how the number of pigeons never seemed to get any smaller. It took her months to realise that they were simply coming back home again as fast as they were given away…..

He wanted a Saturday job for pocket money, and she found him one as a baker`s boy with a very respectable firm. But he soon found one more to his liking. Paisley cross lies on a fairly steep hill, and five roads meet. In winter that hill was treacherous, and horses tended to slip and slide, especially if pulling heavy loads. Teamsters used to wait at the cross with extra yokes of Clydesdales, ready to hire them out for additional traction. But it was a cold wait and they preferred to do it in the nearest pub. So they would pay little boys to hold the huge horses and call the men out when needed..

My gradmother was furious – her little boy mixing with coarse drinking men. But he only cared about the horses.

We didn`t keep caged birds at home. We didn`t need to. My father was one of the few who could literally call wild birds down to his hand. – he would stand still and make a few whistling noises and suddenly there would be a thrush or blackbird on his arm. I don`t know how he did it – I certainly can`t.

Other people fed birds in the garden. We fed them in the kitchen. My mother disapproved of this. I remember that a nesting blackbird used to come and peck at the kitchen door to get in for food. One morning just as the postman arrived my mother shouted ; “That damned blackbird of yours is knocking at the back door again – I`ve had enough of her!”

The postman`s face was a study. Clearly the image conjured up by “black bird” was very different for him. Suddenly he was seeing my father in a new light……..Fortunately he didn`t take his wild imaginings any further.

The nearest I get to that is Jim. Jim is a crow who seems to live on my roof. He is solitary, and lives to steal dogfood. The dogs live to eat Jim. A constant guerilla war goes on. As he frequently drops feathers, and the dogs find them, they feel they have already had a taste and long for the whole dish. As I write I can hear another skirmish, punctuated by screeching dogs and the off-tune warbles of Notpavarotti…….

Lullaby of Birdland indeed..


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Vote for me! Posted by Hello


It`s election week. And like countless others, I`m not excited.

Not much on offer. No bright new horizons. Several tired offers.

Our local MP, in a very safe seat, is a typical local Labour thicko who makes Mr Lentil look like a Nobel laureate. (Mr Lentil is better looking too.)

I feel Blair has to go. It`s obvious that he lied us into war. That`s history. What matters is his willingness to lie us into another whenever Bush requires it. And of course to suspend habeas corpus and take us down the road we tried in Ireland thirty years ago with disastrous results. The silly bugger is too busy imagining his place in the history books to actually go and read some.

But the alternative had better not be the Conservative effort at being Neocon, playing on fear to subdue the people and make them docile.. That American import doesn`t work too well on us anyway. We are brought up to mistrust politicians. And we have long memories. In this area babies in the cradle are taught to fear revivals of Thatcherism, not immigrants or terrorists.

I`m really more interested in releasing the Labour stranglehold on Scotland, particularly in the Scottish parliament, and this election won`t do that. We need to be rid of the people who are proposing that in Scotland any building project deemed “of strategic national importance” will in future be free of any possibility of objections and go though automatically. There`s a beauty! It takes us into the shadowy world of huge expensive projects dripping with bungs and backhanders, (a world familiar to all too many of our MSPs), and also foreshadows probable Labour policy of returning to nuclear power – and where else would you site all the iffy reactors but in Scotland? After all, if there`s a British Chernobyl you don`t want real people in the home counties getting hurt.

I`m old enough to remember the late Jo Grimond commenting in the House on the demise of Battersea Power Station and asking if its generating capacity would have to be replaced.

Indeed it would, he was told.

Then would he be seeing it replaced on that site by a modern (Magnox at that time) nuclear power station?

Embarrassed silence.

Personally I wouldn`t mind seeing the cellars of the Commons used as a repository for toxic waste………

……..But that`s just me.

I suppose I`d better vote. I`ll fit it in between washing dogs for Birmingham at the weekend.

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