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, August 28, 2005

Marcus and Florian - yes, those ears are real! Posted by Picasa


I suppose a day that started badly had to pick up along the way. Florian the backpack and I arrived in the small hours at a dark and gloomy station. No lights. Nothing.

I wandered into the gloom. In the dusk the little man in the ticket office was pacing up and down.

There`s no power! There`s no electricity at all!"

He repeated this several times.

I said patiently that I understood. No power.

"But I can`t give tickets!!" He actually wrung his hands. His whole reason for existence had disappeared.

I left him to his nervous beakdown and prepared to pay full 1st class fare on the London GNER. They don`t take kindly to you buying tickets on the train. I braced myself for a fight to have my railcard recognised.

And I was in the midst of this struggle when the train ground to a halt and quietly died, in a deserted cutting among weeds. Sensing terminal breakdown the young lad immediately became anxious to sell me a really cheap return....

We reached Edinburgh 40 minutes late and I had to rush by taxi, eventually panting up to the ringside...

...Where things began to go better. Marcus won Junior. Florian was in a strange mood. Perhaps it was the rising gale, with the spectators wrapped up in flapping rugs. He didn`t settle and when I made the nonsense noises I make to get his attention on me and his ears up, he gazed at me and howled, right there in the ring. Nevertheless, he was second.

Then I could relax into the general bitching and gossip - oh yes, watching the judging too. A lot going on. The person who had sold to an Irish puppy farmer had a very lonely time. Heard the strange tale of the northern breeder who died suddenly and, having fallen out with his family, left everything, including 14 dogs, to the local football club. Fortunately two other breeders arrived and impressed on the local solicitor and executor of the will (who kept referring to the unfortunate Papillons as "A terrible millstone round the neck of our football club") the necessity of good homes, rather than instant disposal anywhere for hard cash.

And I have Marcus home with me. Like his brother, he has something of a sexual problem. Florian`s problem is that he hasn`t exactly had it - Marcus, alas, having had it is obsessed with it and is losing condition. He needs a holiday where there are no interesting ladies. He has discovered, much to his disgust that all my ladies are indeed very uninteresting and has settled for sitting on my knee. Now I have to fatten him up. Suggestions welcome.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Just coming! Happy summer dogs. Posted by Picasa
A late summer view from my kitchen window Posted by Picasa


Well, I guess it`s autumn. Blustery rain, wet dogs - I think the long dry summer has spoiled me. I hate winter, and any suggestion that it`s coming on. If you have a spell to bring back summer, let me know.

Meanwhile life goes on. Mr Lentil, whose show debut looms alarmingly, is still only disposed to perform under the temptation of the entire contents of a delicatessen waved under his tiny petulant nose. Prudence, under the influence of warm weather, has cast all to the wind and is now virtually naked and unshowable (and looks a bit embarrassed shivering in the wind). And in a week a new girl arrives, a daughter of Marcus.

And it`s off to the big Scottish championship show tomorrow, an event known as a hurricane and deluge magnet - Florian, the big backpack and me off on the dawn GNER to Edinburgh. Pneumonia or glory!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Mr Lentil, relaxing after a training session involving the lead and at least half a pound of smoked ham... Posted by Picasa


It`s a quiet time for me just now. So I`ve alternated soaking up the sun with working with Mr Lentil.

I had wondered if he would be up to showing, but the wee mite has grown steadily and in the past 3 weeks has decided that a growing boy needs a coat, so he just might have a show future...

He was determined not to walk on the lead...well only under severe protest. So I took him over to my friends on the east coast, for evaluation and to see if a little culture shock might work wonders. His pal Florian, en route to a show in Wales, came too.

Well - great new vistas for Mr Lentil. New places, new people - and a seagull. I live inland. My dogs don`t see seagulls. And this huge white monster, bigger than Florian, swooped down to my friend`s hut roof cocked its head on one side and regarded them with a beady eye.

The two intrepid Papillons stared at it and then took a long look at each other. You could just see what they were saying:

Florian:- "Look at the size of it! This is a job for a senior dog!"
Mr Lentil - "Actually, that`s you today....."
Florian - "Omigod! I mean, of course! Well, do you see anything at all on that roof?"
Mr Lentil - "Absolutely not."
Florian - Then let`s both not look at what isn`t standing on the roof"

And the two brave souls wandered on, carefully not looking up.

The outcome of the visit and a lot of subsequent work is that Mr Lentil will now walk on the lead - provided I am flapping a large slice of meat in front of his nose at very regular intervals. He trots on manfully, his eyes glazed and fixated on the moving hunk of ham or whatever. I am desperately trying to reduce the size of meat treat required to stimulate movement before he makes his debut at the club show - I feel instinctively that the treat should not be larger than the puppy.

Not to worry - he`ll get there. And meanwhile I have been asked to judge Papillons at a large Championship show in January...

Let the other exhibitors worry for a change.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


I`m between shows just now, and enjoying a well-earned rest from dogbuses, dog shampoo and dog carrying, so I`ll carry out my threat and tell you about my fifteen minutes of fame on prime time TV.

This was some years ago, and began when the BSFA asked members to respond to a BBC request to find people whose reading, perferably of a specific book, had "changed their life". Well, I don`t think any particular book has changed my life any more than any other but I`m always willing to have a go so I wrote and told them how I came to be a lifelong reader of science fiction.

A s usual with me, it was a tad bizarre. During and after the war, relatives in America used to send my family large and tantalising parcels, stuffed with all the goodies we just couldn`t get over here. Opening one of these was a great event. I loved the tootsie rolls and such, but another excitement was the wrapping. These parcels were very securely packed, and padded out with newspaper and old magazine pages. I used to read the wrapping.

And that`s how as a child I discovered the joys of spaceships and mysterious aliens and strange planets on which twin suns never set, thanks to pages of forties pulp magazines.

Well, I sent in a letter about all this to the Beeb, and the next thing I knew, there was a producer on my doorstep from a programme called :"Bookworm", exclaiming over how quaint the cottage was, and how photogenic the dogs could be. He was actually very taken with the dogs. Could they film me at a show?

I had an instant vision of what a complete BBC film crew following my every move might do for my chances at the next show, and said of course they could, yes certainly.

However, the times didn`t fit, and it was decided that they would spend a day filming me at home and at a local show where I was judging.

They arrived really early, and filmed an interview which for some reason seemed to centre on Phil Dick, and then on to the dogs. They wanted to feature me feeding the dogs.

Now the thing about filming is that the first take is never a wrap. There`s always something not quite right. So we did four takes of the dog feeding. Four times I went out to them with dishes full of food. Four times they scoffed the lot. By the third time my old ladies were eyeing me strangely. Had I lost my marbles? Would the food keep coming for ever? Had they died and gone to heaven?

Leaving a collection of somnolent Papillons stuffed to the eyeballs with food, we went on to the little local show, where the management knew about the filming, but the exhibitors didn`t. I was to be miked for this part, and the dog people watched in amazement as the sound man stuck a hand down my blouse. Was this what it would take to win today?

I judged, with lights, sound, cameras, everything. Never has toy judging had such an avid audience. Those in the know about the mike directed their conversation directly to my cleavage, in ringing tones.

By the time I reached the Poms, the crew had moved on to filming individual dogs. They were looking for the unusual and the bizarre, but the exhibitors weren`t to know that, and had visions of their precious pooch on prime time national news. A muttered chorus on the lines of "gonny film my dog, mister?" began to rise.

I finished, and found the film crew backed into a corner by a very large man with a brace of Staffordshire Bull Terriers. "You must have a Staffie!" he was insisting. "It`ll no be the same without a Staffie!" His two dogs were very.....eager. The crew were English and totally non-dog. What on earth was a Staffie? Was it part of some bizarre Scottish ritual? Would it hurt much? They were pathetically grateful to be rescued and taken off for lunch.

After lunch we recorded some voiceovers, then went off to a planetarium in Edinburgh with Truffle, my youngest hairless Chinese Crested, chosen as looking suitably alien. I must say they were very philosophhical when she threw up repeatedly all over the hired car, due to incredible overfeeding for the sake of art earlier in the day. I wasn`t worried. There isn`t much on a Crested that can`t be put right with a wet sponge. I believe this is something totally untrue of car upholstery.

And after twelve hours it was finished. I had been interviewed, judged a show, heard the life stories of the crew listened to the career angst of the director -"I have to do something really good soon or it`ll be too late! The young ones are snapping at my heels! I`m THIRTY FIVE!!!" - and overfed my dogs in a way they that indicated a day of excessive and unusual diarrhoea to follow

And yes, it did go out on prime time. My relatives saw it and were convionced that I had been abducted by aliens. My doggy friends saw it and greeted me with "Live long and prosper!" and that hand sign for months. The exhibitors saw it and realied that Fido`s intrinsic beauty had not been uppermost in the mind of the director.

Shortly afterwards "Bookworm" sank without trace.

If anyone out there has a video, I am seriously hard to blackmail

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Some like it cool - Xena, Siggy Red Sonja, Celeste and Julian in the shade Posted by Picasa
...and some like to be even cooler. Xena cools off in the bamboo Posted by Picasa


...Well, warm anyway, and how often can we say that here? Frankly I`ll usually settle for dry, and we`ve certainly had that.

In this weather my lot can be out all hours in the good weather, and they certainly appreciate the shade.

Friday, August 12, 2005

John McCririck Posted by Picasa


I never had much time for John McCririck, self-styled racing pundit and eccentric, but he hit the nail on the head at Robin Cook`s funeral, attended not only by friends and family, but by the great and good of New Labour - with one exception.

He said to the assembled congregation: "What an impressive attendance we've all got. All of us have changed our plans to show our respect and affection for Robin and for Gaynor and the boys and the family.

"But there is just one exception to that - and that's the nation's leader, the prime minister.

"Now Margaret Thatcher, of course, she attended Ted Heath's service.

"I believe the prime minister's snub to Robin's family, to millions of New Labour voters, demonstrates a petty vindictiveness and a moral failure, opting to continue snorkelling instead of doing his duty. What a contrast with Lady Thatcher."

Of course there was no love lost between them (though it probably didn`t reach the dizzy height of the legendary hatred of Heath and Thatcher.) But the deliberate snub is so Tony- as is the total inability to realise how badly it would play.

On the whole it would be as well if a man who is incapable of assessing a simple situation like that correctly went sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Worldcon packs them in at the SEC Posted by Picasa
Some people get dresed up.... Posted by Picasa
...some get extremely dressed up.... Posted by Picasa
and some get lit up Posted by Picasa
Jonathan Clement delivers a sparkiling anime presentation Posted by Picasa


Back to Worldcon, bursting with people and full of interest.

And incidentally, full of older people. Anyone looking for the stereotypcal teen fan would have to look hard. I suspect that the majority attending would be over 40. Not sure what that says for the future of the genre....might make some publishers think.

However, I didn`t take my zimmer, and had a good time. I even approved of the Hugos this year.

But the star event for me would have to be the three lectures on the history of anime by Jonathan Clement, a man who could probably make the history of the Japanese water closet hugely entertaining, and who definitely belongs on my "if only I were 30 years younger" list . Obviously the word got round, and by the third day it was packed out. Great stuff.

I enjoyed myself. I like SF and the people who like it. And it once gave me my fifteen minutes of fame. Yes, it led to a TV feature on me! In prime time, too, on the Beeb - none of your 3am programming for insomniacs stuff.

More about this next time.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Robin Cook Posted by Picasa


Sad to bid farewell to Robin Cook. He was an intelligent and responsible politician, and at the time that Smith died and people suddnly realised that Labour might be electable, I had hoped that Cook might succeed him and give us the experience of a leader who was both clever and had a conscience - as it was we got one who was clever....and you know where that took us. Turning points in history - Cook`s resignation over Iraq gave us a glimpse of what might have been.

He was far from good-looking - someone memorably described him as looking like "an enraged and belligerent shrimp" - and at the time that all his infidelities came to light, the general reaction to the trail of eager bimbos he had left in his wake was not so much "how immoral" as "how the hell did he manage that?"

If he had turned to Scottish politics we might have had a responsible First Minster, but his interest did not lie that way.

He will be missed.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Boy, Harry really has lost weight...! Posted by Picasa


Just home from a second busy day at Worldcon. No I don`t go to cons very often. I used to attend the local ones, but haven`t been to one since......dearie me, since the last time there was a Worldcon in Glasgow, ten years ago!

This is much more organised. No more tatty little cubicles divided by screens - function suites, and the Armadillo and lots of staff to help. Quite impressive.

But as with all cons, the main programme is usually SNAFU. And I`m one of those geeks who likes the main programme. I like to hear and talk to writers. I am very, nay seriously, unlikely to stick on plastic pointy ears or go to wild all night parties or sing. To each his own.

So I have been meeting many interesting people, usually searching in many uniform grey corridors for programme items that have somehow dropped off the planet, knowing that in the depths of yet another corridor some poor soul is sitting in an empty room with head in hands moaning: "Nobody came to hear me! Am I so boring or do I have terminal foot odour?"

And sitting through talks and seminars, either thinking: "Gosh, how stimulating!"


"Gee, I never knew that!"


"Boy, Harry really has lost weight! And isn`t this seat hard!"

Well, it has to be worth it, for I`m going back for more tomorow. Watch this space for thrilling tales of anime, time travel and drunken Russians....

Or whatever.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Siggy on the prowl Posted by Picasa
Xena the mighty hunter Posted by Picasa


Still recovering a bit from Ireland, I realise that the one thing I didn`t manage was to find out much more about the little bitch supposed to have gone to a puppy farmer. It now seems that she is living in a travellers` camp in the south of Eire. I`m not sure what her fate will be. The travellers concerned were expected to turn up at the show in Dublin but didn`t, so I couldn`t assess whether they seemed to be puppy farmers or not.

Maybe we all worry too much. Papillons are tough little souls. I only have to think of my Xena and her daughter Siggy, both constantly yearning to walk on the wild side. They are notorious for finding holes iin the fence and going off to hunt their own dinner, coming back chomping proudly on pieces of rabbit. If it was wrong, they did it. And they`re only sorry you caught them, and yes, they`ll do it again.

Since foot and mouth the land here has much less stock on it, and as a result the deer are multiplying. I freuently see them at dawn and dusk, crossing the orchard. One evening I was out with Xena and five hinds came slippping past, down the hill.

Xena`s eyes gleamed. She looked at me.

"Bloody big rabbits!"

"Go on then," I said, "bring one back."

And she was off, a litle streak of black and white eeling through the long grass.

A tired muddy Xena panted up the hill some time later. She grinned up at me, tongue hanging out to her knees.

"Bloody fast rabbits !"

And she swaggered off to boast to the others about the one that got away.

Tomorrow I`m off to Worldcon.... haven`t been to one since the last time it was held in Glasgow. I`ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

My cousin and his partner looking justly proud of Deefor. Julian is in the container bottom left, and the blatantly patriotic seat is mine... Posted by Picasa
Teek struts her stuff Posted by Picasa
A tense moment for Teek Posted by Picasa


Just recovering from two hectic days in Ireland, showing in Belfast on the Saturday then rushing across the border to a Championship Show in Dublin on Sunday - and no bus!

Instead travelling in style in my cousin`s large van customised for dogs. I could get really used to that... Add to that really smooth crossings, and the dogs were very relaxed and rested. And so was I!
And the people were so friendly! (At mainland dog shows only a small proportion of the bitches have four legs.) And a week or two`s dieting should counter the fact that all the food was fried.

It`s different in Ireland. No benching. No wet weather shelter. Instead everyone brings a tent, and that`s your first job at dawn or thereabouts - erecting the tent. I`m not too good with tents, but possibly better when awake.

I had taken Florian and Julian, and they had to co-exist with Deefor and Teek. I think they hadn`t quite realised that dogs came in such a big size. But Papillons are up for anything. By the end of the weekend Julian was confidently stealing Deefor the Afghan`s dinner. He had also adopted the position of Guard Dog for the expedition and insisted on sleeping across the door of my hotel room

Well, Florian won at both shows, and Julian was well placed, and would also have won in Dublin if I hadn`t been showing off and made him break his gait. The classes were different and eveerything was - well, Irish. The judge awarded the Green Star and held out his hand for the Reserve Green Star. It closed on empty air He glared at the steward.
"Where`s the Green Star, so?"
"Have you lost it then, you old goat!"
"Sure, I`m not the one who loses things here!"
Then the two furious old men turned to the lady patiently waiting and the steward beamed and said:
"You have won the Reserve Green Star, Madam, if only we exactly had one of those."

The star of our little caravan was Teek the Deerhound. Like my Grand Old Lady she is devoted to comfort and food. There is a special soft bed made up in the van for her, and she tried to investigate every white van we passed, sure it was full of Deerhound bedding and food. She is a most accomplished food thief and never missees a chance.

We had a lovely picnic and a highlight of it was strawberries with spiced apple puree and cream. As we gathered up the remains, we looked at the dish of strawberries - plenty for tomorrow.

Suddenly a huge grey hairy paw descended into the dish. Teek pulled it out of the mashed remains of the fruit and inspected it sadly. "Not Deerhound food, then." She wandered mournfully off, deftly snatching a kebab in passing, and leaving pink footprints everywhere, as we gazed aat the ruined remains.

But she made up for it by winning well - 2nd in group.

An exccellent weekend.

We just might try Europe next. Watch this space!

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