Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The Season of Goodwill

You know, over the past year, reading though my blog, I do realise that I've spent quite a lot of time complaining about my 'owner' Gail, and not being truly appreciative. 

Well today, as it's the season of goodwill, I want to redress the balance and sign off for the year by telling you about a couple of nice things she's done for me in the past few days. Examples of how sometimes she can be kind and thoughtful.

You've all heard about my sensitive paws. Over the weekend we had a little snow in Aberdeen and it all turned very icy. By Monday, the pavements were all so hard and jagged that it really hurt to walk anywhere. 

So what did Gail do? She consulted the tide tables for Aberdeen harbour and next thing I knew I was being whisked off to the beach for a run on the sand at low tide, the only place with no snow and ice. 
It started off sunny, but then a mist came down and in the low winter light it all looked very atmospheric, I think you'll agree.
Then we got lots more snow , which looked pretty, but was too deep for my little legs. At least it was soft on the paws and so Gail dug a path to the street and took me out. 

A neighbour came round with a Christmas gift, but Gail was busy, so she put it down and then went out. This is what she found when she returned to the house. 

She was VERY cross.

But I was forgiven (as I always am in the end) and even given a proper Christmas treat. 

So, a Very Merry Christmas to all my lovely friends, and, dogs, please be nice to your humans over the holiday season, they really do try their best you know....

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Hamish succumbs to Christmas after all...

OK, I give in. No longer is this blog a Christmas-free zone. 

Now it strikes me that the thing to do at this time of year is to write a Christmas newsletter. Gail never does, saying she "disapproves of the concept", but I have decided to take on the responsibility myself of telling folk what I've been up to in 2009. 

First off, I have to admit that as I'm new to this game I consulted examples of newsletters which Gail has received in the past, to get a feel for what is expected. I learnt that a Christmas newsletter contains certain essential elements, and for this first attempt I have decided to conform to the standard format. 

First off, one has to list all one's major achievements - exams, promotions, sporting trophies etc. etc. 

Er.... Help! Gail! Did I actually achieve anything this year? 

A long silence follows. 

Well I was nominated for a few 'Dogs with Blogs' awards for this blog, but was not allowed to accept them on account of "already being big-headed enough". Does that count? 

And I did gain a mention in the 'acknowledgments' section of  a certain PhD thesis. Look...

Secondly, one is expected to create the impression of a busy, successful, purposeful and exciting life, dividing one's time between high powered employment and glamorous holidays to exotic locations. 

Look, this is really difficult. Basically, my life consists of eating, sleeping on the sofa, being cuddled, and rousing myself twice daily for walks where more time is spent sniffing trees and lampposts than in forward motion. Usually all this takes place at home in Aberdeen, but sometimes I perform the same routine  in our cottage on Loch Torridon and sometimes at Gail's parents in Nottingham. Purposeful enough? 

Thirdly, details of medical problems on a 'more information than strictly necessary' basis are required.

Och this one's easy! Have I already told you about my itchy bottom? It gets really really itchy. So I lick it quite a lot, or sit down and scoot across the carpet to relieve the itchiness. Other areas itch too. Often it's my front paws, sometimes my groin area. Actually I rather enjoy having special anti-itch cream rubbed into my groin, what male dog wouldn't.....

There is usually a section on domestic disasters, related in a way that makes them more amusing than they seemed at the time.

Well let me think here. 

Oh. It is being suggested that I am the domestic disaster. That is SO NOT FUNNY, Gail. Let's move on. 

Finally, social highlights (invitations to garden parties at the Palace,  trips to Glyndebourne, that sort of thing) must be noted.

Well to be honest, these days I really can't be bothered. And at the prospect of company I tend to retreat upstairs and jump up (with the help of a step) onto Gail's bed and remain there until the visitors have departed. That's just how it is when you're fourteen I'm afraid. 

Well I think that's about it for my year. I hope you all had an equally successful and exciting one.....

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Christmas-free zone

By this time of year, I know that many of you, both dogs and humans, will be feeling stressed about Christmas. All those presents to wrap (and unwrap..), cards to deliver, dumb photos to pose for, parties to attend, food to cook/steal, relatives to visit, family tensions to defuse....

So welcome to my blog, a Christmas-free space, where the spirit of intellectual enquiry remains active over the holiday season, and refined contemplation wins out over rampant consumerism. 

Sadly, the Scottish weather has returned to normal. But no matter. It is good to be indoors for we have serious matters to discuss today. A new and highly relevant scientific study no less! Have you seen this week's copy of the New Scientist magazine?

Yes, finally, we have conclusive and objective proof, that, all things considered, DOGS ARE SUPERIOR TO CATS.

I have already shared with article with my dear friend Stella, who occasionally has 'issues' with her resident feline Ali Zophia. We both agree that there is much here to relish. I shall quote directly from one paragraph, on the subject of the relative utility of the two species:

Dogs can hunt, herd and guard. They can sniff out drugs and bombs and even whale faeces; they guide blind and deaf people, race for sport, pull sleds, find someone buried by an avalanche, help children learn and possibly even predict earthquakes. Cats are good if you have an infestation of rodents.

I think you get the drift. 

If you want to read more, click this link: Dogs vs Cats - the Great Pet Showdown

Monday, 14 December 2009


This is me, posing to order by Loch Clair in Wester Ross last Friday. The mountain behind is called Liathach (a Gaelic word which, if you make a sound like you're being sick, you will have the pronunciation nearly right). Yes, the sky and the water really were that blue!

Look, I know I was going on about the lack of snow last week, but, to be frank, if this is climate change, I'm all in favour. 

Would you believe we just had FOUR WHOLE DAYS of sunshine over at the cottage on Loch Torridon?! So we went on lots of lovely walks, and I was allowed  plenty of time to enjoy the spectacular scenery. 

Between you and me though, absolutely the best thing about the weekend, from my perspective, happened inside the cottage and there aren't any photos. Gail's friend Margaret, normally such a capable lady, actually managed to drop a whole steak and kidney pie on the kitchen floor on Thursday night!  Incredibly, the humans didn't seem to want to eat up the scrapings. I am so glad they realised that us dogs aren't that fussy.  You can imagine how much I enjoyed having my normal boring dried food mixed with super yummy pie meat and gravy for the rest of the long weekend. Thank you, Margaret, thank you!

I just can't quite understand why nobody took out their camera to record this exceptionally interesting incident...

Anyway, as I did, all in all, have such a splendid time, I have once again allowed Gail to post her favourite photo, even though it doesn't feature me (or steak and kidney pie). This was taken just outside the cottage at 8:30 am on Sunday morning. 
For some reason I always seem to get excluded from photos of sunrises and sunsets. Something about the camera 'not being up to it'. 

Or would that be the photographer, Gail? 

Monday, 7 December 2009

Where is the snow?

It's December, right? I live in the north of Scotland, latitude 57 degrees 6 minutes N, to be precise. For my geographically challenged readers (and those with a North American perspective), that's almost as far north as Juneau, Alaska.


We went for a walk yesterday in the woods by Crathes Castle and I didn't see a single flake.

I have been checking my friends' blogs. They all live further south than me. I see lovely Stella joyfully rolling around in the soft white stuff. The land around the Rocky Creek Scotties' residence is looking stunning, like a scene on a Christmas card. Hoover now blends in beautifully with his background. Jake and Fergi have decided that the best response to a blizzard is to loll around indoors all day in their jimjams. 

What do we get here in Aberdeen?  Rain, rain and more rain.  It's just not right is it?

I gather that there is a big meeting in Copenhagen this week. Gail explained it all to me. I think I understand. A lot of hot air will be generated, then Barack Obama is going to fly in at the end and fix it so we get snow in Scotland next year. Something like that.

Do you think he'll succeed?

Oh. Gail has put on her scientist hat (metaphorically) and is telling me I'm over-simplifying again.....she's blethering on about the Gulf Stream, and how this young laddie Obama isn't personally responsible for the Scottish climate....

PS from Gail - it seems that on some computers, part of this post appears in Greek, but on other computers, including mine, it all looks normal. There is NOT supposed to be any Greek! (Hamish is not THAT clever!) I am investigating. Has anyone else come across this before?

Thursday, 3 December 2009

I am worth it!

It was very nice that several of you, my dear friends, commented on how smart I looked wearing my red coat in the previous post. 

Well no doubt it looks OK in the photos, from afar, especially as Gail has not yet bothered to work out how to get high definition pictures on the blog... But the truth is, this coat is now over 10 years old, and so worn and frayed that I am almost embarrassed to wear it. 

See what I mean? Just imagine if I had bumped into one of the Queen's corgis at Balmoral last weekend....

I have hinted before that I need a new coat. So far to no avail. I fear that Gail thinks it a waste to invest any money in garments for an elderly dog like me. 

How mean is that??

Sunday, 29 November 2009

In which I attempt to visit the Queen's sauna...

Well it was a really unpleasant morning here in Aberdeen, cold, dark, truly dreich. I was overdue a proper Sunday outing, and the weatherman on the radio said that conditions were better inland. 

So I persuaded Gail to drive us in the Mini all the way up Deeside. What a nice journey that is. You should try it some time. 

We stopped a few miles short of Braemar and parked in the Invercauld car park. Luckily, the machine which demands £2.50 for parking in the middle of nowhere wasn't working (remember, I am an Aberdonian....) Anyway, I ran straight down the path to the river.  After more than an hour in the car, I was ready to lift my leg and fertilize some heather.
That's the River Dee and the old Invercauld Bridge in background. I know some readers of this blog are more into history than me, so I've included a photo of the sign telling you all about the aftermath of the Jacobite rebellion, Fort George and why the bridge was built. Biggify the picture if you're interested.

We crossed the bridge and entered the Balmoral Estate (which belongs to the Queen). I then realized why Gail had made me wear my red coat. 

We wouldn't want a trigger happy Prince Philip to mistake me for a stag, now would we? 

After a mile or so walking through Ballochbuie Forest - a beautiful stretch of native Caledonian woodland at the western end of the huge Estate, well away from Balmoral Castle and all the tourists - we came to a secluded and picturesque spot, and found this wooden lodge. 

Gail says it was a gift to our Queen from the King of Norway, and it contains a sauna. I'm not sure I believe this (people spout all sorts of rubbish at times, don't they?) I tried to locate the entrance, to check it out for myself. I wonder if the Queen wears her crown when sitting in her sauna? Maybe I'd find out! 


But no, it was all locked and boarded up. What a disappointment! So I just had to content myself with admiring the views outside. By then it was snowing a little so we hurried back to the car and I am going to write and complain to that weatherman. 

Friday, 27 November 2009

I find a cap that fits

By now you'll be aware that I'm not into frivolity. These silly costumes that some dogs get dressed up in. All well and good for the less serious minded, but I prefer to retain my dignity. 

But a chap's head and ears can get a bit chilly at this time of year in Aberdeen. So I was quietly rather pleased to find this distinguished looking hat which Gail brought home yesterday.

It suits me doesn't it? The black velvet combines with my white coat to striking effect, I feel. The hat is versatile, and can be worn over or behind the ears. Apparently this style of headgear is called a 'John Knox' cap. It is worn by students at the University of Aberdeen who graduate with a PhD, thus befitting my intellectual status. 

 Gail is trying to argue that she is the only one in this household entitled to wear a John Knox hat. And it has to be worn with a fancy red gown. But look, it suits me much so better than her, don't you think? (And after all, I did help her a lot with that thesis thing....)

Well, you'll probably have realised that I'm now feeling a lot more cheerful than earlier in the week. Partly 'cos my human Granny came all the way up on the train from Nottingham, specially to visit me for a couple of days! (Oh, and something about attending a 'graduation ceremony' too). And, OK, I have to admit I was exaggerating a bit in my last post when I said I had been stuck in a cage for five days. It was more of a run, not a cage, with a comfy bed and a heater, and I did get taken out for walks twice a day, and the nice lady looking after me and the other dogs remembered that I have tender paws and always made sure I could always be walking on nice soft grass. So it wasn't that bad really, I suppose....

Back to the hat. I was hoping it could be mine for keeps. But it was whisked away yesterday afternoon, as it was apparently only on hire for one day, and I have been instructed not to publicize the fact that I was allowed to wear it at all.
PS. Finally, a message to my friend Fiona, who I haven't seen for ages, but I really like. She's getting married tomorrow to someone called Steve (I don't know him but I'm sure he's nice too). I hope that they both have a truly splendid day, and that all goes well for them in the future. Maybe they'll come and visit me sometime, and bring treats (left over wedding cake would be fine.....)

Monday, 23 November 2009

Discovering my inner Victor Meldrew...


You may have noticed I've been quiet this last week. And maybe even wondered why. I'm not normally one to suffer in silence after all.

Well let me tell you, I've been having a perfectly dreadful time recently. You just won't believe how badly things have been going. How can people do this to me?

As if it's not bad enough that I'm getting old, and deaf, and my paws keep itching. And it's cold and dark and wet outside, and I have to do SO much barking before I can persuade anyone to take me for a walk. And Gail is SO selfish because although she's at home most of the time just at the moment, she pretends she has to 'work' on the computer and ignores my needs...

Yes, and as if all that wasn't enough, I then get driven off to some farm place and stuck in a cage for five whole days, abandoned by Gail and surrounded by other dogs who bark even more than I do. A chap just couldn't get a moment's peace. Can you believe it? This has never happened before. WHAT DID I DO WRONG??? Oh. Gail is bringing up that old gripe about me having bitten one of my carers when she went away in September. But that incident was AGES ago. Surely, isn't it time we forgot all about it? Let bygones be bygones? Please?

Well I'm now back home but feeling thoroughly out of sorts. The whole world is against me. Today, I am unapologetically a GRUMPY OLD MAN.

*With apologies to non-British readers who may not be familiar with the old BBC comedy "One Foot in the Grave"

Monday, 16 November 2009

Relaxing Monday, and the pointlessness of ironing...

Gail’s My bed. 

PS Many many thanks for all your excellent tips on coping with deafness. We are going to try sign language, and I expect to reach the same level on this as I did for verbal commands, i.e. I am sure I shall understand the instructions perfectly well, and shall reserve the right to ignore them totally. 

Friday, 13 November 2009

Deafness - no longer just pretending...

What was that you just said?

For years, as long I can remember in fact, I have been practicing what Gail refers to as 'selective deafness', but I would rather call an intelligent and discriminating approach to deciding whether to bother listening to humans (especially bossy or angry ones). 

This tactic has served me well in the past, allowing me time to focus on important things like sniffing lamp posts and investigating piles of leaves. 

The problem is, now I really can't hear very much at all. 

My eyes are fine, my sense of smell and taste superlative, my heart not too bad for a chap of my advanced years and I am in excellent voice (as I demonstrated at about 5:45 am this morning when I decided I wanted to go out into the garden...)

It's taking quite a while to train Gail to deal with my loss of hearing. She thought I was pretending at first (unfair accusations about 'crying wolf', whatever that means, were flying around). She even thought I didn't love her anymore, 'cos I was no longer rushing to the door when she came home of an evening.

But now she knows to come and touch me gently if I'm on sofa sleeping, and look me in the eyes and not startle me by sneaking up from behind. And she doesn't get cross when I ignore her commands, and has accepted that I no longer 'announce' visitors. I know she tries to understand that I feel insecure at times, and like to keep her in my sights, even when she visits the bathroom.... 

So I'm staying positive. Isn't it nice to have the internet! Such a boon for deaf dogs (and humans). Perhaps some of my cyber-pals have suggestions on coping with a silent world? 

Monday, 9 November 2009

Birthday treat (being 14 isn't so bad after all......)

Words cannot express how wonderful this was.....

(Martha and Bailey - note that I am only permitting blurry photos. And I DID get a treat!)

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Haircut / industrial action...

A dilemma!

My intention today had been to highlight the cruel treatment I received earlier this week, when a certain thoughtless and incompetent person arranged for me to visit the hairdresser on the very same day as we had the first frost of the season. To illustrate extent of my suffering, I commissioned a series of 'before' and 'after' pictures from the photographer-in-chief. 

Then I started catching up on my favourite blogs, and my militant tendency came to the surface. I realized that I absolutely had to do something to support comrades Martha and Bailey Basset in their heroic struggle against  oppression in the form of the constant invasion of their privacy by a person wielding a flashy box. 

Yes, Martha and Bailey  are on strike, refusing to pose for the camera unless treats are proffered. No longer are we dogs prepared to be exploited by our 'owners' by providing, free of charge, material purely for their own gratification! 

But then, my 'before and after' photos had already been shot. What to do? 

Well of course, Gail and I locked ourselves in the traditional smoke-filled room, ordered in some beer and sandwiches, and conducted a lengthy negotiation. 

The result - a classic 50% compromise. 

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Advice on taking your human for a walk

Well, after visiting the RAF memorial on Saturday (previous post) I took Gail for a walk along the nearby cliffs, starting at Portsoy. 

As an old dog, with much experience of life, I have come to appreciate the importance of making sure your human enjoys the walk as much as you do. How better to guarantee that outings are frequent and rewarding? 

One key thing to understand, is that humans do have slightly different requirements from us dogs. 

One simply must recognize, for example, that in the homo sapiens species, the sense of smell is sadly very limited. Would you believe,  your owner might just about be able to tell that one of their kind has peed against a wall (it does happen) but they wouldn't have the faintest clue about the identity of the pee-er. Yes, really, pathetic, eh? But anyway, don't expect them to get all excited about sniffing trees and lampposts etc., it just isn't going to happen.

No, what a human likes is a Nice View. This can include historic buildings, such as in the old (17th century) harbour at Portsoy.
Or, with Gail, glimpses of the sea are also important (boring, I know). 
Strangely, she doesn't seem to enjoy romping across a nicy soft boggy patch of ground nearly as much as I do.
And I've NEVER  seen her rolling around in the mud for the sheer joy of it.....
It is probably a good idea, for long term harmony (Martha and Bailey Basset take note), to tolerate some picture taking during the walk, including misguided attempts at 'arty' shots....
I have also noticed - and in this we, Gail and I, are of one mind - that an eating opportunity at some point in the proceedings always goes down well. (I'm afraid that I failed on this score last Saturday).

But all in all, I think I managed to give her a good time. 

I wonder if my fellow canine bloggers have noticed any other odd things that humans like to do on their walks?

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Banff Strike Wing

You know how it is when you get older. You don't always want too much excitement. My human Grandpa (Gail's Dad) is nearly 88 years and these days he likes to stay at home.

Well I'm pleased to say that, despite being no spring chicken myself (14th birthday VERY SOON - 9th November, in case you're wondering) I still enjoy exploring new places. 

Today, I persuaded Gail to drive me 40 miles north, to the old site of Boyndie aerodrome near Portsoy, so we could check out the memorial commemorating those brave airmen from the Banff Strike Wing who died in World War Two. 

You see, Gail's Dad was one of the lucky survivors. He was an RAF pilot from 248 Squadron, flying mosquitos and stationed up here in 1944-5. And I guess he had quite enough excitement during that period to last a lifetime. 

This is what the place looks like now. Quiet fields, woods and a wind farm, glowing in the soft autumn sunshine. 

It was all rather different in 1945. 

The mosquito squadrons based at Boyndie were flying sorties across the North Sea, firing rockets on German shipping around the coast of Norway in the closing stages of the war.

Just imagine flying all those hundreds of miles and facing enemy fire in a tiny little plane made out of plywood. 
You know what - I am so glad it's all peaceful now. I'll tell you about the nice walk we had along the nearby cliffs in my next post.