Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Let them eat cake............

Yesterday we were taken to a local RSPCA dog show. We were bundled into the back of the old Volvo after a wash and brush up. I say wash and brush up, what actually happened is that we were sprayed with some bizarre smelling liquid that came out of a red bottle with a picture of a cartoon dog emblazoned upon it. We were then brushed and told “don’t we look nice.” Lewis smelt like a cross between a dishwashing tablet and a gent’s urinal (you know, them blue cube things). He also scratched continually during the journey making napping difficult. Just as I was nodding off a large paw would strike me repeatedly about 76 times on the back of the head. Shuffling as far as I could from him I curled into a corner of the Volvo boot. Lewis had decided at this point that he would rather sit up and look out of the back window. He seemed to enjoy small children pointing at him from passing cars. Lewis also enjoyed pulling faces at van drivers that came up behind us.

Arriving at the rain sodden field we were hoisted out of the car onto the grass. We marched (I think deliberately) past an open van with cages in the back. Two smug looking Collies gazed out at us from Rosette adorned doors. I actually felt quite embarrassed that the owner’s felt the need to display a myriad of rosettes when it was quite obvious their dogs were simply going to stay in their cells all day. To reinforce our thoughts Lewis and I pissed against their rear tyres. Rosettes………pah.

I am fairly confident that the only reason we were there was that the RSPCA programme suggested that Simon Cowell, ‘had turned up unexpectedly at previous events.’ Yeah right. Elvis Presley drove him there in a space ship. When will you humans learn? Hero worship. The only thing Lewis & I worship is roast chicken in a light ‘jus.’ If he was there I didn’t see him, I feel confident that if he had of been he would have stopped to talk to us. I’ve watched that X-Factor. The animal acts seem to consist of some old bird dancing really badly whilst their Collie dogs shag their leg. All this whilst wearing some sparkly top that was bought at Primark for £3.79. If that’s talent I’m a Dachshund.

Dad kept moaning about ‘having no breakie,’ and made a beeline for the BBQ stand. Lewis and I were keen to follow closely. We rarely get human nosh other than the odd cold pea mixed with the usual dog food. I was sure though that the old man would take pity on us both given the weather and hand down a morsel of ‘banger’ to us both. I could almost taste that local pork sausage cooked ‘en terrace’ with that sweet smoky flavour. Alternatively, a bit or burger, sizzling, yet slightly pink in the middle. I was drooling. Arriving at the stand dad stood motionless and in shock for about 3 hours He said summat about ‘effing veggies,’ and we were unceremoniously dragged away for a ’99.’ There were 979 dogs on that field. All of us being confirmed carnivores. In fact if it has blood in it we’ll it eat. I don’t care if it has a face or not. Chuck it my way and I’ll sort it. Can you imagine wolves tucking into a hunk of Tofu thrown to the starving pack? Have you ever heard of a Husky turning his or hers nose up at a frozen lump of seal blubber and opting for a nice nut crunch instead? Have you bollocks. My brother and me had to make do with some old biscuit dad found stuck to a boiled sweet in his coat pocket. Thanks very much RSPCA, Veggie BBQ stand? You were having a laugh. 

There were some positives though. Dad entered some tombola thing for about 97 quid and won a second hand Teddy that smelt like baby wee. Lewis and I ate it anyway much to the disgust of the small child who handed it over. I suspect that she thought it might have been some night-time bed toy.

We did have a good day despite the set backs meeting all manner of breeds. We met one of them Basset things. Funny looking bugger. It was about 6 inches high and had ears 9 feet long. Who on earth would want one of those?

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Home is where the Basset is…..

The front of the house had a small lawn that covered an area of about 5 metres square. I say ‘had,’ as I have recently removed it to replace it with shingle as part of my low maintenance design.  I had not anticipated that removing the lawn would involve digging up enough turf and soil to create a small island. As the lawn slowly diminished Lewis & Monty would move onto whatever patch of grass was left staring at me like I was involved in deliberate and wilful damage simply to spite them. I also learnt during four days hard labour, that the British are also masters of the bleedin’ obvious. Especially shall I say, our more ‘mature’ gentlemen? The sight of someone clearly not accomplished in manual labour was simply too tempting for them to ignore. Accordingly I had a queue of old gits only too keen to offer advice or pass comment. Some of their helpful little gems included:~

“ Why don’t you take the lawn up and put some shingle down.”

“ Hard work digging turf isn’t it?”

“ Are the dogs helping you?”

“ Bet them dogs aren’t much help!”

“ Those dogs your bosses then?”

My how I laughed (through gritted teeth).

Having removed 3700 tons of earth and turf I moved onto the second part of the operation. This meant rolling out and securing on the now exposed earth the ‘black out sheeting.’ This would hopefully stop weeds growing through the shingle. It also provided Lewis and Monty an excellent opportunity to lie down in the most unhelpful places possible. The sheeting comes on a roll rather like wallpaper. Rolling it out the length of the garden I would weight it at one end with a rock. Monty & Lewis would lie at this end. Flatly refusing to move I would release the role end to shove the hounds off. Sadly forgetting to secure the ‘roll end’ meant that as I released it the entire roll shot off towards Monty & Lewis who were then engulfed in the black sheeting. It was like a giant basset Taco. The first time this happened I found it quite funny. 173 repeats of this later…I did not.

The final stage of the operation involved wheel barrowing the shingle from the road at the front of the house where it had been delivered. I had of course used the most careful mathematics to ensure that I had just the right amount of gravel for the space I had to cover. I worked out the necessary depth multiplied by the area squared. Sadly I was 1700 kilos out. Yes, over a metric ton and a half out. The gravel was delivered in huge plastic woven bags each containing 850 kilos of the rock. After I had barrowed the first bag on it looked like a passer by had just chucked a couple of rocks on the garden for a laugh. I did however have some very helpful comments from the passing old gits:~

“Oh not enough gravel then?”

“ You wanna get some more of that gravel.”

“You will need to cover more of that sheeting mate.”

Both the hounds have their own characters. Lewis rarely leaves my side to the point that a visit to the loo involves gooey eyed Lewis resting his head on me whilst sat on the ‘throne.’ Without going into detail, this is very brave of him. Lewis is not interested in the fresh air and would given the choice, much rather be indoors on the settee as a pose to outside in the front or back garden. He is bone idle and literally has to be pushed out of the back door at night for his final pee of the day. Monty conversely, loves the outdoors. He likes nothing more than watching the world go past the front garden. I know he is safe there as neither he or Lewis are capable of climbing the small 4.5 inch high brick wall that separates the garden from the road. Monty has also taken to getting into dark places that he obviously feels safe. Under beds, settees and in large plants in the garden. So much so, that I am thinking of buying him a small kennel.

Having spread the gravel accordingly I was left with three of the large plastic woven bags that the rocks were delivered in. Apparently these are made in bulk in some third world country (child labour doesn’t mean bad quality eh? ~ sorry shouldn’t joke). Monty climbed into one of these bags and flatly refused to come out. Peering out of a gap in the top he would occasionally poke his nose out to sniff at a passing old git. It was like a hermit crab emerging to grab a passing meal. Even biscuits would not coach him out. Lewis was in the mean while inside watching Sky News from the settee.

Having completed the low maintenance gravel garden I now realise that I have created the world’s largest cat litter tray in the world. Every cat within a 57 mile radius now comes to shit on my shingle. I walked Lewis & Monty for about 2 hours the other day. They very helpfully waited till they got home before shitting on the shingle. I am hoping that passers by do not follow suit……

I am also wondering whether basset in a bag will catch on.   

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Meat and two veg..........

I have recently acquired a bit of an ‘allotment.’ To cut a long story short, I was offered part of an allotment, as it’s current owner was unable to maintain it. This is a rather British thing. Basically, you are allotted a piece of land by your local Council (usually Parish Council), where you plant vegetables, flowers or effectively whatever you like (within reason!). You then place a small shed on your ‘plot.’ What I have discovered recently is that the shed usually also contains, full cooking and tea making facilities, radio, small TV, magazines (ahem!) and a myriad of other home comforts that enable you to carry out all ‘gardening’ duties required. It is amazing how inventive some of the guys are. One shed has a full patio and covered area, another has a four-foot deep carp pond and all seem to have full seating and table areas. Most of which have been fashioned out of old wooden pallets. A small grass ‘path’ that is no more than about eighteen inches wide separates each allotment. Collectively all the allotments cover an area about half the size of a football pitch. It is also well away from houses and accordingly well away from wives and partners!

I introduced the hounds to the allotment recently. I was initially fearful that the buffoons would flatten some bloke’s prize leaks or mooch over some newly sewn flowerbed. Bizarrely they both stick rigidly to the small grass paths that criss-cross the whole area. Lewis is of course completely baffled by this. He wanders off making right angle turns till he finds himself at the perimeter fence of the allotments. He stares at the fence apparently unable to comprehend that he will have to turn around and manoeuvre himself somehow back to where I am.  Conversely, Monty has of course completely ‘sussed’ this and uses it completely to his advantage. He runs around the perimeters deliberately leading Lewis to dead ends. Lewis sits staring at the fence until he once again realises that he has to turn around. The constant right angle turns at speed is like watching a life size Basset Pac-Man. Thankfully neither tries to eat the other, although Lewis does stop occasionally to lick a dead mouse or fox poo.

Lewis and Monty are of course very friendly ‘happy go lucky’ hounds. In my head this makes up for their complete lack of obedience. People wander in and out of the allotments all day long. Lewis and Monty greet them all usually followed by both hounds exploring each new shed as they are opened. They do of course respond immediately when I call them back to me. They respond immediately by completely ignoring me:~

Me ~ “Oi, you two HERE NOW.”

L ~ “ What did he say?

M ~ “ Summat like, oi, you two, have a mooch in this blokes shed.”

L ~ “ That’s all right then…”

Me ~ “HERE ……NOW”

L ~ “ What’s he shouting now?”

M ~ “ He said. Sit in this blokes shed and look gooey eyed at him, make him think we are regularly underfed and mistreated and we will get a biscuit….”

L  ~ “ No problemo for me……”

The hounds have quickly calculated who has what and react accordingly. Two charming old ladies speak to the hounds but do not stroke or otherwise move toward them. I think they are worried about being physically bowled over by them. They never offer the hounds biscuits or indeed any foodstuff.

The only entrance to the allotments is via a metal gate that closes under its own momentum. It makes a distinctive ‘clang.’ Lewis and Monty treat this like a school dinner bell. Every ‘clang’ may mean food and they will immediately turn wherever they are, to see who has come in.

“ Clang.” The two charming old ladies enter…

Lewis ~ “Who is it Monty?”

Monty ~ “ Its them two old birds who never have biscuits…” 

Lewis ~ “Oh yeah I see them now. Shall we run toward them and scare them?”

Monty ~ “ Nah, can’t be bovvered somebody will be in with biscuits soon.”

That somebody is usually ‘Bob.’ Bob is a wonderful man in his late eighties that looks about 65. He is on his allotment everyday and has been there longer than any other allotment holder. I call him “The Don.” Whatever Bob says goes and I for one will not argue with him! Bob has always had dogs and although does not currently have one , he regularly cares for his daughter’s. Bob also always has pockets full of tasty small dog biscuits. The hounds sense Bob approaching from about 17 miles away. Forget the ‘clang,’ they have a sixth sense for Bob. They also become Crufts obedience champions whenever Bob is about. They sit, lie, turn around three times, make tea and effectively do anything at Bob’s bidding. Flippin’ mutts. 

Lewis ~ “ Monty, its Bob….!”

Monty ~ “ Quick walk over there with me and sit at his feet in perfect unison.”

Lewis ~ “ Shall we do that thing where we take a bow at his feet?

Monty ~ “ Yeah deffo… every time.”

Lewis ~ “ What about Dad?”

Monty ~ “ Just do what we normally do….”

Lewis ~  “Ignore him?”

Monty ~ “Yep.”  

I am however, looking forward to fresh vegetables in the Autumn. Lewis and Monty are looking forward to fresh biscuits. I have to go…the Hounds have just finished washing up for Bob….. 

Monday, 4 July 2011

Life in the fast lane.

I am often told that Lewis and Monty are ‘real characters.’ They definitely have minds of their own and like to do their own thing. I try and take them on different walks as they are interested in new scents and are not particularly fussed whether it is the countryside or an ‘urban mooch.’ Invariably they will dictate the direction and any attempt to change that direction results in a Basset sit in. They lie fully prone (usually together) and basically refuse to move. A gentle shove on their rear end with the flat of my foot occasionally prompts a restart, but nine times out of ten I relent and follow meekly their chosen path. Bearing in mind they are four stone each and about 17 feet long, this is the only way I can get home at a reasonable hour.  

I actually like this. I like the fact that they think for themselves and stick stubbornly to their plans. They do their own thing and express themselves in their own way.

I watched a Collie the other day. It continually fetched a tennis ball launched by it’s owner from one of those plastic ball slingers. Running flat out it retrieved the ball returning to it’s master’s feet at exactly the same spot. It would sit looking adorably at her waiting for the next launch. This was roughly at about the same time that Lewis and Monty had mooched off to look at some fox poo, glancing back at me shouting red faced for them to return. Collie’s owner and master was dressed in combat pants (with those big pockets on the thighs), hiking boots, a green fleece and carried a small leather bum bag that probably carried all possible canine related items. Conversely, I was wearing a T shirt that said on the front “ who the F*** is Harry Potter?” (It was the only clean one I could find at the time), shorts and flip-flops. My dog poo collection bags were a variety of old carrier bags that were bulging and flapping from my back pocket and Lewis and Monty’s new collars were emblazoned with skull and crossbones (I loved the irony of this, given how wimpy they both are).

I paused for a moment and thought to myself  ‘what on earth must she think?’ I carried on watching Collie dog. Yes, he or she was impeccably trained. It probably drove it’s owner home, stopping on the way to buy organic eggs for the soufflĂ© it would make for her when they got home. It was a very clever dog. It was also a very BORING dog! I looked at my two completely ignoring me. They were ecstatic they had found the fox poo. Lewis had an extra bonus, he also found an old plastic drinks bottle that he defiantly refused to bring to me.

I thought about all those other breeds that drive cars, fly helicopters and the like. Boring, boring boring. I don’t care that you’re Labrador can swim seventeen miles to retrieve a rubber ball that it delivers to you’re feet after a back flip followed by a triple camel jump, its boring! 

Other boring breeds include:~

Spaniels – yes they can scent a ping pong ball concealed somewhere in a South American rain forest and return to you after finding it’s own way home after a 1500 mile trek. Sadly they are also boring.

Retrievers – their name says it all. Boring.

This takes me nicely onto the latest fad. ‘Marrying’ two breeds to become a wholly new breed, a la:-
Labradoodle, Cairnoodle etc. These are often referred to as ‘Mixed breed’ or ‘Hybrid breeds.’ The correct terminology is in fact MONGREL! Mongrels are NOT boring. They are great dogs full of character and no two look the same. By giving your MONGREL a made up name you have immediately fallen into the boring trap. 

I think we have generally entered a period of world boredom. We actively discourage anything that might be out of the ordinary or different and positively encourage the safe and indifferent. I was forced to watch some of Wimbledon recently. The bits with that Scottish/British bloke (has he decided yet?) played tennis. Murray I think his name is. He is so boring he couldn’t even think of things to say by himself. He basically cut and paste comments made by others from Twitter (yawn), which he glued on his PE bag. Crikey, he is MAD eh?  A regular loony….AND… for two or three days he didn’t even shave. He is the Retriever of the sports world.

In 2010 they made a jockey a ‘Sports’ personality of the year. Horse racing is not a sport. It is just really small blokes hanging onto a horse for as long as they can. All this whilst really fat blokes bet money on which nag will come first. How on earth as a nation did we make one of these really small people a ‘personality?’ He is not. He and the entire ‘sport’ is boring. All jockeys are really small and really boring. They are like Shih Tzus. Small and boring.

We do not like people who are different and outspoken. They might upset the boredom applecart. Lewis Hamilton has won 52 Grand Prix. He drives at about a million miles an hour and he and the other drivers are milliseconds from death at every race. Lewis overtakes everyone and in 2008 he was a world champion. He does an Ali G impression and we as a nation decide he is a nasty man. He is not. He is a character who occasionally says daft things. So what. My Lewis is named after him. 

Lewis is a character and may just be a Basset Hound. He does his own thing but we love him!