Monthly Archives: September 2012


Hello darlings

I arrived home about an hour ago, greeted by a wine-bearing Sage who went to run me a bath.  I’m now wet-haired and dressing-gowned, about to go and sit in front of the fire with my feet up while he cooks my dinner.  Which I’ll eat sitting by the fire with my feet up.  And then I’ll have an early night, I should think.  I’ve had a fabulous few days, seen Ziggi, Mig, Barney (and most of their family) and Tim, Dodo, Wink, the Bod and his mum and met quite a few delightful cats and dogs, all of which received a cuddle or at least a stroke.  I’ve eaten a lot of delicious meals and a fair few cakes, as a result of which I hardly fit in my clothes any more (but it was worth it). And I’ve driven at least 600 miles and been driven quite a few more and now I need a bit of a rest.

See you tomorrow


Z xxx

Z is in Wiltshire

I say, the M25 has come on a bit in the last couple of years. There were great swathes of speed limits for ages, but now we all sweep along at the national speed limit and not an mph more, of course, natch, hem hem, for miles and miles. Anyhoo, I managed 230 miles in less than 4 hours which, considering the total buggerdom of actually getting out of Norfolk is quite an achievement.

And I arrived at Wink’s – ooh, the weather really turned nasty after Stonehenge and driving wasn’t at all nice for a bit – and picked up the key from a neighbour and then changed shoes and went to the shop for lemon and ice – I’d brought gin and tonic – and since then we’ve had a very jolly and slightly drunken evening.

The Sage is fine, and do bear in mind that he was invited to come along, and actually I asked him to and made it clear that I really would like him to. So if he implies that he is little boy lost at home, that’s not down to me but to him. But, to balance the books, he was so sweet this morning. As you know, it was Elle’s birthday yesterday, but her sister’s present hadn’t arrived yet. So the Sage went down on the bike to the Post Office this morning to pick up the mail before she went to school. Her sister’s package hadn’t arrived but another one had, so that was good, and … ooh, I slept in rather badly. I was awake, as so often I am, for hours in the night and the alarm went off – the radio, that is – at 7.15 and I listened to the news and then I thought I’d just sleep for a few more minutes.  Yeah right, as the young people say. An hour later…

And I’ve been rushing round like a grizzly bear on heat, if you’ll excuse the expression, and it is honestly better than sitting around because that makes me miserable. But it’s good to switch off and do other things. So that’s what I’m doing. 

Z clears the to-do list

Dear oh dear, I’ve only just finished the things I droned on about yesterday.  And there were various others I didn’t remember to mention, as well as an unscheduled visit to Norwich – well, it involved Pugsley’s birthday presents (bought and wrapped) and Elle’s birthday present (bought, wrapped, given and unwrapped).

If I have a few minutes, I’ll put up a few pictures in the morning, but I’ve got a meeting first thing and am off to visit Wink around lunchtime.  I’m hoping to visit Zig, Mig and Tim (no, darlings, not Tig) while I’m away, as well as Dodo, the centenarian, on her birthday.

One of the photos is of me wearing my wedding dress.  Not on the day itself, I’m not sure where those pictures are and haven’t seen them for years.  But I carried on wearing it for some years afterwards.  You can’t see all of it, I’m sitting with a baby on my lap.

Posting will probably be intermittent for the rest of the week.


I have been thinking I’ve been doing quite well, but now I have remembered several things that have to be done before I go away. The two most important are to find someone to do my Meals on Wheels on Thursday and to phone the letting agent to find out who to send a copy of the gas check document to, because otherwise they’ll get it done again and bill me for it.

Otherwise, I have to send some receipts, email two guests coming to a meeting, send an agenda to the clerk (I’ve written the agenda, yay), buy birthday presents for Pugsley who will be 6 this weekend – he’s having a brilliant party and I’m devastated that I won’t be here for it. Someone is coming with a snake and bugs and a tarantula and so on and will show them to the children and let them handle them.  Isn’t that the best party?  And make a birthday cake for Elle, whose Happy Day is tomorrow.

Apart from the birthday-related things, that’s all a bit boring, isn’t it?  Sorry.

Right. What can I say that’s interesting?

Oh, I’ve remembered something. Not interesting, just peculiar. I mean … well, let me tell you and you decide. I went into the card shop to buy birthday cards for Elle, Pugsley and Dora, all of whom have their special days within the next week and, as I came out, the mother of the girl Elle is going to stay with while I will be away was coming in. That is, Elle is staying with the whole family, of course. So we had a chat, agreed on dates and so on, and I said how much we love having her with us. I added that we hope she’s enjoying it too and that there were a dozen of us to supper the other night – Saturday, it must have been – and it was fun because I didn’t know about it until 2 o’clock and I had to get the meal on the table by 6 because of the five children. And I chattered on and I said Elle probably finds us a bit odd.  Well, the Sage anyway, I added cheerily, but by that time she (the mum) had already agreed.  A bit too quickly really, I thought.  I mean, I’m not odd. Not even a bit. I’m quite remarkably sensible and entirely conventional in every way. Except for the … Well, you know. We don’t talk about that any more.

Chester – 5 – ticking off

Our friend Sally (Simon W’s sister, Mike) used to have a small flock of sheep.  She had been brought up on a farm and it was her link to a life she’d enjoyed.  We had a field going spare and, for a few summers, the two (flock and field) were put together.

Chester’s first surprise was the electric fence.  He was so shocked – though not at all hurt – that, after a couple of attempts he kept well away.  However, one day we went on to the field – I think it was to group the sheep into a smaller area ready for the shearers – and I took him with me so that he would have a chance to be with the sheep and get used to them.

He thought it was great fun when they ran away when he moved towards them and started to chase some lambs.  Before I could call him back, one of the ewes moved in, stopped in front of him and looked at him.  He halted.  And, within a minute, that ewe had, by the power of her look, literally backed him into the corner of the field.  He’d glanced at me for support, but saw it wasn’t forthcoming and he went into the corner and sat down.  She looked again.  He lay down.  A few minutes later, I called him towards me and he got up – and the sheep shot a look and he lay right back down again.  When I finally went over to fetch him he came with me, but kept close to me for protection.

They were feisty sheep, full of character.  The most characterful of them all was called Longlegs, because – well, work it out.  She was the only one there with a long tail, too.  Usually, a rubber band is put on a lamb’s tail and, as it grows up, the blood supply is cut off and it withers and falls off.  Yes, I know, sorry.  But sheep are inclined to get any sort of ailment under the sun, including fly strike, and a tail hanging down is more likely to have crevices where the flies can lay … okay, that’s enough of that.   Anyway, Longlegs, even as a lamb, had managed to avoid the rubber band.  She was too independent to be a leader – egregious, you might call her (outside the flock, if the faint remains of my Latin don’t play me false).  They were not afraid of dogs and Chester learned manners from that particular sheep (which didn’t have a name, only Longlegs did).

At the end of the summer, Sally took the sheep off to her own paddock and the electric fence was taken down, and Chester had the run of the field again.  Unfortunately, sheep don’t only get footrot, black udder and fly strike.  They also attract ticks, and there were thousands of them in the grass, all waiting to climb on to Chester.

I can dispel a few myths.  There’s no point in using a burning cigarette or a hot match to kill them.  Apart from it scaring the dog and leaving little holes in his fur, the tick is still there, clinging to the skin.  It doesn’t let go.  Meths doesn’t make it let go.  I bought a spray of tickicide from the vet.  The sudden puff of icy vapour from the aerosol scared Chester and I couldn’t make him stay still.  The only thing that worked was picking them off individually with tweezers.

It takes quite some while – overnight, in fact – for a tick to latch on firmly enough that it breaks through the skin, and in that time you can simply pick it off, making sure you get the head so that the mouth isn’t left in the skin, risking infection, and kill it.  But Chester had dozens of them on him and I had to run my fingers through his coat to find each one and then make him be still while I picked it off.  And when I’d done, he went outside again and picked up another batch.  Honestly, it was a bugger and it went on for – I don’t know, it seems in my memory to have been weeks, and I suppose it was at least two of them.  Once, I remember he came in with tiny ticks fringing his ears.  He got them between his toes, everywhere.  The trickiest to get off, because he disliked the tweezers near his eyes, were on his face.  The most disconcerting for both him and me to remove were, I’m sorry to say, on his scrotum.

It was a bonding experience, I will say that.  He learned to stay still and stand or lie in the position I told him.  But it was one of the more unusual situations of my dog-owning life.

The sheep came to us for two or three years, but the first year was the worst, as far as ticks were concerned.  In due course, Sally got a job in Norwich and didn’t have time for all the care the sheep needed, so she sold most of them.  Longlegs had a home with her for life, of course, and she kept a couple of others so that they would be company for her.  Sheep are flock animals (the exception would be a bottle-fed lamb brought up by humans without other sheep) and she’d have been miserable on her own.

Chester – 4 – pack leader

I’ve so many stories of Chester, they’re tumbling about in my mind, wanting to be told.  And I’m going to be away for a few days from Wednesday, so there will probably be a hiatus.  Still, here’s one about Chester testing me to find out who was boss.

You’re not wondering, are you?  Come on, who do you think?

Once he had learned the boundaries, he generally stuck to them and rarely ventured near the road.  Of course, like all dogs, he loved to be taken for a walk and if he saw one of us going out on foot he ran along, hoping to be taken too.  And if it was convenient, I’d pick up his lead in the porch and, when he appeared, take him with me.  However, if it wasn’t then he was expected to go back home.  He found this quite hard to accept.  But he did learn to stay to my command and, although sometimes he’d give up and go back to the house, quite often I’d return to find him lying at the fork in the drive, waiting for me.

My mother walked to the village shop every day with her dog, and of course Chester wanted to go too. But he was crafty.  If he appeared when she was still in the drive, she would bring him back (my mother lived in the granny annexe next door to us) and shut him in our house.  So he waited until she had gone with Bruce, her black labrador cross, round the corner and he judged that she wouldn’t want to turn back, and then appear at her side.  She often used to complain about this, but it was only if she came and told me that she was going out that I could call Chester in to the house.  And he didn’t get away with it with me, anyway.

Even so, once in a while he had a go.  He’d suddenly appear, bouncing up to me with tail wagging, joy in his face.  But I’m hard, darlings, damn hard.  I’d take him back to the garden gate (the drive is some 100 yards long) and tell him to go home.  His ears would drop, his tail droop and he’d trail along, looking back every few yards, and I’d just point.  When he got to the fork, I’d tell him to stay and start walking again.  Then I’d nip back to see if he was still there (I made sure he didn’t see me) and, if he was sneaking down the drive again I’d reappear to point sternly.

The thing was, if I’d once relented then my job would have become way harder, so I never did.  If I was going to take him, I’d say at once, otherwise I’d not give in.  And so, though he did keep testing me for some years, he did accept that I was the leader of the pack.

Tomorrow, Chester and the sheep.  

Chester – 3

My children tell me now that Chester was quite naughty.  I never noticed that.  He was just right as far as I  was concerned, although he was a determined rabbiter and I had to search for him daily, usually having to haul him out of a rabbit hole, where he was digging enthusiastically for bunnies that had long vanished through their boltholes.

I remember an autumn when he was a couple of years old and the farmer was cutting the maize crop behind the house.  He started from the outside and worked in,  so rabbits got trapped in the centre until finally they couldn’t stand the suspense any longer and made a run for it.  Chester ran too, caught and killed a rabbit and then chased another.  I still remember the look of bewilderment on his face when he caught up and realised that he couldn’t hold two rabbits in his mouth.  He let go of the first, caught the second, and then was quite disgusted when I’d not only laid claim to the original rabbit but insisted he gave me the second one too.  We cooked them both for him to eat, mind you.

Towards the end of his life he became much more indulgent, by the way.  He used to sit watching a family of baby bunnies play in the sun.  And he never went for the chickens, he understood that no bird was fair game to him.

It was my friend Jackie who trained him more than I did, however.  She used to walk her dogs on the field behind ours and Chester went to greet them.  He tagged along on their walk and, when they got back to the road, Jackie produced some dog biscuits.  All dogs sat and received their biscuits.  Then she told Chester to go home.  He was quite reluctant, but she persisted.  And, finally, off home he trotted.

Chester – 2

We brought Chester home a week before Christmas.  That is, we brought the puppy home.  I can’t remember the exact point at which he received his name.  I suggested Zebedee, after the springy “time for bed” character from The Magic Roundabout.  That went down well except that Weeza wanted it shortened to Zeb and I only liked Zebedee.  So, unable to agree, we looked elsewhere.  I can’t remember the alternatives we came up with, but it was Weeza who suggested Chester and we all liked that.

We made up a bed near the Aga and set up barriers so that, whilst he had plenty of space to move, he didn’t have the run of the kitchen.  And the first night, he cried.  So I went downstairs, cleaned up, cuddled and comforted him and went back to bed.  Several times.  The second and third nights, the same.  And then we dismantled the barriers and let him have the run of the kitchen and there was no more crying.  He was quite happy.

Christmas was quite special that year.  We devoted our time to the puppy.  We wrapped presents for him, probably a few toys, a few biscuits, a couple of hide chews and so on.  He loved unwrapping his presents.  He adored seeing us unwrap our presents.  He loved the excitement.  He wasn’t too bothered about the contents of the parcels and we soon realised that all we needed to do was wrap one of his presents in another piece of paper (as soon as something was unwrapped from it) and give it to him again for it to be received with total joy.  He was excited about Christmas every year, he loved it all his life and enjoyed opening the same presents over and over again.

We used to weigh him every week, in a shopping basket.  The weights are still on the tall scales in the porch, written down by the Sage.  He was duly registered at the vets and received his vaccinations and was eventually cleared to be taken out for walks in public.

Ro was at the village school and we walked there every day.  Chester loved children, right from the start.  My friend Bobbie (whom Mike, Ann and Tim stayed with over the time of the blog party) also had her children at the school and she took Figgy, a few months older than Chester.  We often took the two dogs for a run across the fields.

Our garden is surrounded by fields and Chester had to learn where our boundaries finished and, in particular, that he mustn’t go on the road.  It wasn’t possible to fence the whole place off so, if he was not to be only walked on the lead, he had to be taught good enough behaviour.  Good enough is the key.  It rather sums me up. Here are the boundaries, do what you like within them.  It’s not that I don’t have limits and it’s known when they’ve been crossed.  But I’m very relaxed up to that point.

Chester – 1

It took the best part of four years to get the Sage to agree to have another dog.  Mind you, there’s an 8 year gap between Al and Ro, so it can be seen that patience (mine) pays off.  And then I relaxed, feeling that the right puppy would find us.

I put the word out among friends.  I wanted a mongrel puppy, wasn’t too fussy about the parentage, though it had to be good with children.  And one day I was invited to a coffee morning by my friend Denise.  It was a charity thing – one person invited 8 people, each of them invited 4, they invited 2 and they invited 1, each host paying something, can’t remember what, to the designated charity.  Bridget and I were the 2 – I simply paid my amount to the charity, I wasn’t going to invite a single friend round and ask her to pay for it.  Anyway, I told them about my puppy-hunt and Bridget said that the delivery driver who brought their horse feed had said that their bitch had three week old puppies.  She was a Bearded Collie, the father was an Irish (Red) Setter.  It sounded ideal.  Bridget and her husband were interested too, and I asked her to give the driver my number.  And the next day, his wife Zoë phoned.

She invited us to see the puppies and we were off within minutes.  On the way, I said to the Sage that, if there was a blond boy, that’s what I’d like best, but I thought we’d know the one.  And he agreed.  And Zoë took us in to her back room and there was the mother – crumbs, I can’t think of her name … Finty?  No, but I’m not miles out, I’ll come back to you on that.  Rusty was the father, that I do remember.

There were 8 puppies, 3 blond (all boys) and 5 black (some male, some female).  They wanted to keep the biggest blond boy but we had the pick of the rest.  I picked him instantly but didn’t say and the Sage said the same one.  He and his brother were exactly the same except that ours had a faint almost heart-shaped white mark on his head.

Zoë was very welcoming and didn’t mind us bringing the children to visit the pups at the weekend.  She and her husband had two sons, the elder Ro’s age and the other (who was, tragically, killed in a car accident three or four years ago) a couple of years younger.  Have you ever handled young puppies?  That puppy smell?  Oh, it’s marvellous.  Milk-fed puppies, warm and cuddly, with puppy-breath and soft paws, wriggling in your arms and squirming round to lick your hands.

I had to stop and go away for a few minutes then, too much longing.  Pulled together again.

Anyway, they had been born on 17th October, so they’d be old enough to leave their mother in mid-December … a puppy is for life not just for Christmas?  We wanted this puppy too much, we agreed with the children that we’d have a quiet Christmas and give plenty of time to the dog.

It was so tempting to go round every day, but we resisted and visited once a week.  They were so adorable.  Bridget had a black boy, by the way, who grew up looking like his mother, shaggy.  They called him Harvey.  Chester had long hair but it was straight and sleek, like a golden retriever or a red setter – in colour, as he grew up, it was mid-way between the two.  Sort of orange, actually.