Ahoy There

Here I am, Readers, doing my best Pirate or Sheik impression on the garden sofa in the sunshine. It was another beautiful day and She had put the cushions and blanket on the sofa so we could all sit down – however I soon kicked the blanket out the way and put muddy paws all over the clean cushions underneath. I preferred the blanket being over my head rather than under my filthy feet, as I made clear. Needless to say there were snorts of laughter when the blanket became stuck at this rather jaunty angle on me, but I just ignored them.

Friends, it has been a trying few weeks. I have occupied myself at times by distributing the recycling round the garden and by adding to the collection of cat bowls that are in the bushes. (There are many, many cat bowls in the flower beds – it’s quite amazing that we had that many in the first place. Gingercat is the only cat, after all.) Since the lawn has had its first cut of the year, the garden is looking slightly better and I find it quite pleasant to sit on the garden sofa and look around my domain. The fly in the ointment to this peaceful scenario, however, is the ridiculous fat pigeon that lands on the fence very heavily and clumsily with a dreadful crashing sound each time, making me jump. It is nigh on impossible to sleep with this stupid bird making a loud entrance every few minutes. I would dearly love to eat the bldy thing.

Talking of pigeons, I presume it is something to do with the time of year but I am rather put out by the amount of amorous activity in my back garden at the moment. The Clueless Collared Doves are forever strutting up and down the fence and leaping on each other – it looks most uncomfortable for the one underneath that is pinned against the wood – and really I feel this is too much. There must be more private places in which they could engage their love-making and I certainly don’t wish to see it every time I pop out for a comfort break. Honestly.

So, back to the trying few weeks. Ever since the incident a few weeks ago where I may have made an error of judgement and bit my Pack Leader when She tried to put my muzzle on me, I have been labelled as a Bad Dog whose Behaviour and Attitude need sorting out. Last week She took me to the Evil Vet for ‘a little chat’ which turned into twenty minutes of telling the Evil Vet that I Can’t Be Trusted and what should we do? The Evil Vet has known me a long time, Readers, and said that I am a complex dog, who tends to overthink things. I know! I was dead chuffed by this! It turns out that the Evil Vet is not so bad after all and knows a thing or two. Then the Evil Vet said she would take me inside and check me over to make sure there was no physiological cause for my bad temper, – Friends, I let her put a muzzle on me without a murmur, and then let her prod me all over without so much as a grumble. This included looking in my ears and Regular Readers know how much I hate that!

I was taken back out to Pack Leader with a smug look on my face, and Pack Leader was told that I had been totally compliant and no problem at all. The Evil Vet suggested there was probably a psychological reason behind my behaviour what with lockdown, life changing and the shifts in my daily universe, so recommended a Dog Behaviourist for advice. Pack Leader is thinking about this and checking whether the Pet Insurance covers it. If it doesn’t, Friends, you and I know quite well that I won’t be going to the Dog Behaviourist.

In the meantime, my New Buddy has been to visit me loads and he has been reading up on Beagles and their issues. Thus I am under some sort of training regime, about which I’m pretty happy as it means I get treats, so long as I let him think he’s winning occasionally. I can do all sorts of things now, Friends! I can sit and wait when food is put on the floor and only grab it when someone says ‘good boy’. Sometimes it takes a few attempts but a little persistence is all that’s needed. At the weekend, I even lay down when told to – we’re still working on this one, together with ‘roll over’ but it’s tremendous fun and does pass the time. AND – you simply won’t believe this one – I am now bringing the tennis ball BACK when someone throws it for me!! I know!! For years I have happily run in the opposite direction and dropped the ball in long grass so that it takes half an hour and a lot of moaning to find it again, but no more!! So long as my New Buddy or Pack Leader have a treat or two, I will willingly gallop towards them with the ball rather than a mile in the wrong direction. I am a New Dog, Friends. How long will it last, I hear you ask.…. I will keep you posted.

Last weekend we had a splendid if rather long walk, which took us first into town to support the local coffee shop industry in these difficult times, and then all the way out to PETSrVETSrTOYSruS or whatever it’s called. I haven’t been in there for a very long time, and although it was quite annoying having to queue outside for ages due to Covid restrictions, I stood nicely waiting my turn. Once inside I was very excited – we wandered through the cat food section first and I was rather taken by some of the packets – but then we ended up in Bones, where my New Buddy bought me a large roasted knuckle bone. She said, rather snippily, that She only ever buys me the mini ones and actually the last one I had was probably a year ago, but She was over-ruled and a Large Roasted Knuckle Bone was all mine.

Back at home I spent the rest of the afternoon chewing/gnawing/grating at the bone. Then I spent the next few evenings making atrocious smells as this is what happens when you take in a lot of air gnawing a bone for hours. It was fun.

I had also been bought some charcoal biscuits at PetsRVetsRToysRus or whatever it’s called, which are meant to help with bad wind. They don’t. My New Buddy also bought me breath freshening chews as he said my breath stinks. This is the sign of a true friend, Readers, and I feel very loved.

In other news, Young Lad has had a terrible shock to the system. Yes indeed, Young Lad has been in school for two whole days! School pupils all over the country returned to school yesterday, and while we remain doubtful that Year 10 will stay in for more than three days, so far so good. Young Lad needed new school trousers as he has grown in the many months since he last wore them, and probably needed a map to find his way round the school site again as it so long since he last had to navigate the Science block and so on.

In an ironic and repetitive twist of bad organisation, Young Lad’s school bag was dusted off on Sunday night, only to find that I had once again chewed through the straps. This has happened on more than one previous occasion, as Regular Readers will know, and it beggars belief that my family still fail to check the state of his bag earlier than the night before school returns. So it was that She had to get the poxy sewing kit out late on Sunday evening and try to sew the bldy straps back on – but Friends I had made such a good job of the chewing that there wasn’t enough material left to sew effectively and although She thought She had done a good job, Young Lad said the bag broke by the end of Tutor Time on the first morning.

Young Lad has now been bought a new school rucksack, which will be the seventy fifth black Nike rucksack he has had in the four years he has been at secondary school.

Friends I hear your concern about Lad – we hear so little of him, I hear you cry. Worry not. Lad has just phoned for a chat (he had been ordered to) and as well as discussing how cheap Aldi steaks are, Lad has given She some important dates for the summer. These include two festivals and a holiday to a Greek island, which I think will be akin to his holidays in Benidorm and Zante over the last couple of years. Lad is under the illusion that Life will be Back To Normal in the summer and such things as sunny holidays with fellow Lads will be possible.

I know, Friends. Words failed my Pack Leader too.

Goodness look at the time – Masterchef is on soon and I do love listening in to all that talk of Hasselback potatoes and chocolate fondant.

Stay safe, Friends, and watch out for those frisky pigeons.

See you soon,
Russell

Birthday Boy

Here I am, Readers, looking very handsome and distinguished this week. The eagle-eyed amongst you might recognise the blanket as it is the one that covers the garden sofa – yes indeed, the weather turned a little more clement recently and Pack Leader put the sofa cushions back on, ready to sit down with a cup of tea and a good book for ten minutes. As She dashed back to the kitchen to fetch her mug, I took over the garden sofa as I felt sure the cushions and blanket had been put on for my benefit. Apparently this wasn’t the case and I was shouted at for putting mud all over the clean blanket and spoiling the first garden sit down of the year.

You can see by my regal expression that I was actually waiting for some sort of table service but of course that never happened.

Friends, it has been a very busy couple of weeks and I am quite worn out by all the goings on. There have been a ridiculous number of walks as the last week has been ‘half term’ and it was felt that stamping through miles of muddy countryside would be a good antidote to the weeks of sitting in front of a laptop day in, day out. I beg to differ on this. Last weekend I was dragged out for walks into town, stopping for coffee of course, and then a ‘scenic’ route back home again to make the walk as long as possible. Now I don’t like to complain, but the scenic route back involved walking uphill a little, and this was hard-going.

Undaunted, the following day She arranged with her good friend Madame to meet for exercise (collecting coffee on the way, naturally) and we set off for another walk. Now Madame is known for her epic walks, and I knew this was likely to be gruelling, but even I wasn’t expecting nigh on 8km through fields, woods and deep mud. Readers, I could barely stagger back up the road. What I find very intriguing is that Madame and She manage to talk incessantly and giggle throughout these fast-paced marches, hardly pausing for breath. It beggars belief.

That was Monday, Friends, and the following morning She decided to look up my paperwork to see how old I was. Call me old-fashioned but wouldn’t a responsible dog owner know how old their pet is? Such is the level of care here. Anyway, you could have knocked me down with a feather as it turned out that Tuesday was in fact my birthday! Yes! What a stroke of luck! Readers, I was nine years old last Tuesday – which in human terms is 63 – and that puts into perspective the 8km hike through the fields the day before. Cruel, heartless and unnecessary. At least you would think it would put things into perspective.

As it happened, I was in for a treat on my birthday – a sleepover at my New Buddy’s house! She didn’t want to take me and grumbled that I would be a pain in the backside, run round looking in all the rooms, keep wanting to go out in the garden and insist on sleeping on the bed with She. It’s good to know your loved ones hold you in such high esteem. Anyway after some persuasion I was allowed to go to New Buddy’s house, taking my bed, clean sheets and towels and food supplies with me. And poo bags.

Friends, I was impeccably behaved. I only sniffed around the kitchen briefly looking for crumbs ( New Buddy had been cleaning so that was disappointing), but other than that I was the Model Guest. I climbed straight onto the sofa allocated to me, put my head awkwardly behind a sheet and went to sleep. I was SO well -behaved. I didn’t even need a comfort break for most of the day – though I did cock my leg against an interesting stick in the garden a few times – but no other motions were needed until the following morning. I did very well.

And as for being a pain at night and wanting to sleep on the bed – well, how wrong can a cynical Pack Leader be. I slept in my bed on the landing all night long without the slightest fuss. The nerve of some people.

I had a simply lovely time at my birthday sleepover, and was treated with far more kindness and respect than I get at home. And far more treats. I would love to go back again at some point as I really did form quite an attachment with the stick in the garden. So much so, that my New Buddy has thoughtfully placed a stick in the middle of my lawn at home here, so that I can cock my leg against it.

We went for a walk on a big field that contains evidence of a Roman settlement – it seems there was once a large amphitheatre and temple where we dared to tread – but frankly this all bored me rigid and I was just glad it was less than 8km all the way round the field. The next day, Friends, as if things couldn’t get any more exciting, I had my first ever ride in a camper van to go for a walk at a nearby coastal area. This was so much fun, and much more up my street as I could lay across the bench/bed thing in the camper van and snooze. Plus the walk took us past a coffee shop that made huge and outstanding sausage rolls, and the smell was divine. Obviously I wasn’t allowed to eat one but a dog can dream.

What a week! Add to that the fact that I have rolled in fox poo, got very muddy AND rolled in something decaying in the garden, so in the space of a week I have had two baths and a shower. I know my dear friend Pippa has rolled in fox poo this week too, and she is a long-haired golden retriever so I’ll let you do the visualising of that, and Loadsakids’ spaniel has also rolled in some fresh stuff, this very morning.

Pack Leader has been cross about all the baths and showering, as there has to be a deep disinfecting clean of the bathroom after each one of these. She says She has better things to do than be endlessly scrubbing with the Viakal, but if I’m honest I don’t know what these better things are.

So that was my week. Young Lad has been on half term so there has been some respite from Year 10 Home Learning (hooray scream millions of anguished parents). Instead, Young Lad has had a nice lie-in each day, wandering around in his pyjamas until lunchtime and doing very little other than going on the Xbox. She did insist he made a proper loaf of bread for GCSE Food Technology, as She felt the naan breads Young Lad had made the previous week were a bit of a cop out and didn’t involve much skill. So poor Young Lad had to come off the Xbox to mix and knead dough by hand – in this day and age, for goodness sake? – as it is Important To Know The Basic Skills. Young Lad found kneading the dough very tiring and there was an argument over whether he had done the full ten minutes of kneading or, in fact, three. Poor Young Lad, too much is expected of him. Anyway, the bread was like a brick and totally solid so really that settled the was it a full ten minutes of kneading? argument. Young Lad has now learned the hard way that no pain, no gain. I don’t think Young Lad cared very much as he was busy downloading a new game on the Xbox.

Young Lad is really looking forward to Year 10 Online Learning starting again on Monday morning – at least I think that’s what Young Lad said.

Lad – and I know some of you have been worrying about him – is back at university so that he can concentrate on his studies and finally get to grips with the crappy campus tumble dryers. It seems that University Laundry Facilities are still not up to Lad’s high standards and he finds this vexing. As the gyms and sporting amenities on site are closed due to coronavirus, Lad has had no choice but to set up all his weights and gym stuff in the shared kitchen area. I should imagine this has made Lad very popular, particularly at meal cooking times. There is no pain like catching your ankle on a large dumbell – other than treading barefoot on Lego.

She moaned at Lad a bit today and said he needs to make more effort to join in the weekly family Zoom quiz (more shouting and swearing last week), but Lad says he is too busy. She snorts derisively at this idea and says she does remember university life and it’s hardly a ten hour day at the office, but Lad is not to be moved on this and says he simply doesn’t have time between studying, sleeping, using the Crap Laundry Facilities, working out in the kitchen and cooking his dinners. Today for example, he was also having to fit in a trip to Aldi! Poor Lad. I miss Lad and feel he is very misunderstood, much like myself.

Well, Friends, Young Lad’s dinner is nearly ready – Young’s Cod in batter and oven chips, haute cuisine as ever in my house – so I will have to finish here. We are, of course, all eagerly waiting the announcement on Monday afternoon from Boris Johnson to see when schools might re-open and then, importantly, hairdressers. She says if Year 10 don’t go back to school on March 8th, things could get ugly round here. There is some doubt as to whether Young Lad’s uniform still fits as it is nearly four months since he last wore it.

Stay safe Readers – enjoy the sun when it comes out, notice the bulbs peeping through and just imagine that life might be a bit more exciting before too long. There’s only so much excitement I can take, frankly.

Golly I’m tired.

See you soon,

Russell

Once Bitten….

Cartoon Illustration of Cute Sad Dog or Puppy

It’s been quite a week, Readers. Various things have happened and they weren’t all my fault. Some of them might have been a brief error of judgement on my part but then don’t we all have those? I will come on to this later.

I was originally going to call this blog entry “Savoy There” due to the amount of fuss that was made when I chewed up a savoy cabbage over the lounge floor. Regular Readers will know that I’ve had trouble with my anal glands lately and I thought some roughage would be a very good idea – in fact I was expecting praise for this healthy and sensible decision. But no. I couldn’t quite consume the whole savoy cabbage – try eating one raw and you’ll see what I mean – so the extra tough bits I had to spit out over the carpet. When She came in from work I was shouted at and told to get in my bed, as I had made such a ‘mess’ – for heaven’s sake it was one small pile of leaves – and it’s not my fault that She had borrowed the Carpet Washer Thing from work the previous weekend and shampooed the carpets. The thing is, Friends, that nobody in my house eats savoy cabbage and it had been purchased on a pure whim, so really I did them a favour by not letting it go to waste. This was totally unappreciated as usual.

Last weekend, Readers, was unusual. I have been dragged for an awful lot of extra walks during Lockdown as you know, including several into town so that we can combine exercise with supporting local takeaway coffee shops. This is important for the economy. Then I am dragged up through the flooded fields as well and it really is too much. Last Sunday we started off on our usual walk into town, which was quite pleasant as it was a beautiful day, stopped for coffee and then a rash decision was made to walk home a ‘more scenic’ way. Two hours later, Friends, I crawled over the doorstep barely able to walk – there hadn’t been a flooded field in sight (I’m now appreciating the soft terrain these provide) and instead the entire two hours had been walked on pavement or paths. No amount of telling me that I’d had a good pedicure and how nice my claws now looked made up for the sheer exhaustion of pounding pavements for so long. Quite how this counted as an essential journey I have no idea, but what I do know is that I slept solidly in my chair all afternoon and hardly even looked up when roast chicken Sunday lunch was served.

And so we come to Tuesday last week. She came in from a long day at work in a foul mood as the car had failed its MOT, whatever that is , and was going to cost a ‘lot of bldy money’ to put right. The garage had given She a courtesy car so that She didn’t have to spend the night at work, but the way things turned out She might wish that She had. Anyway, the courtesy car was a ‘bldy nightmare’ to drive as first gear was nowhere to be found or some such drama, and the mood was tense. Add to this the fact that the washing machine has started leaking due to the seal coming off the metal circle (I suspect this has been caused by Lad’s huge designer trainers going round on spin cycle ) and you can see how things were. Regular Readers will know the never-ending trauma of White Goods malfunctioning in this house.

So the evening didn’t start well. Things did cheer up considerably thanks to dinner and my New Buddy coming to visit, but then events took a Serious Turn For The Worse. My ears have been sore and itchy again lately, as I have yet another ear infection – it’s either that or my backside every week, they take it in turns – and I sat on the sofa clawing at them violently. She found this irritating as it interfered with peaceful TV watching after a VERY vexing day, but thankfully my New Buddy is far more sympathetic and said ‘poor Russell.

Now, Readers, you know that I simply will not tolerate anyone putting drops in my ears, eyes or anywhere else. Having learned from experience, She gave my ears a half-hearted wipe with the ear drops on a cotton pad, but this is simply not sufficient to reach a deep-rooted infection. And so She made an ill-judged move to fetch my muzzle and force it over my head. Look, my ears were hurting. She gave me a chewy treat to try and placate me first, which simply over-excited me. Then a Hannibal Lecter type huge black rubber muzzle was dragged over my face and poked me in the eye. I did what any self-respecting dog would have done, Readers – I made my feelings clear. With my teeth.

It was a very short snap and I didn’t hang on or anything, but I managed to sink my teeth in very deeply to a fleshy part of She’s hand. I knew immediately that I had done a bad thing and ran to my armchair where I looked ashamed of myself for the next two days. But dear Lord, Readers, the drama that ensued.

You know how we do like a medical crisis in my house. Well, blood poured from the puncture wounds (all over the lounge carpet which as we all know has been recently shampooed) and She made a dash for the kitchen sink to bleed into. Once there shock took over and without being ably propped up by my New Buddy, She would have ended up on the kitchen floor which was as filthy as ever and not a good surface for Open Wounds. Readers, I stayed in my chair and listened to all the fussing and snivelling; thank God for my New Buddy who stays calm in a crisis and is also an excellent first aider – really my New Buddy is a dab hand with a steri strip or ten – and to be fair I think that being bitten by me has highlighted the fact that we don’t have a first aid kit in this house. What sort of parenting is that?

In all honesty, once the bleeding had stopped I think the crying could have ceased as well but no, that kept up all evening. She and my New Buddy gave me lots of very stern looks and nobody spoke to me for the rest of the evening – neither was I allowed to sleep on She’s bed for the next two nights. I was relegated to Young Lad’s room.

It’s not easy for me to admit any imperfections in my nature or behaviour, but I will hold my paws up to this one. It was a nasty bite and my Pack Leader didn’t really deserve it as She was trying to help me.

Obviously now there have been several days of milking this injury for all it’s worth and needing lots of ‘help’ with things. I am hoping that She and my New Buddy will have forgiven me before too long as I can’t really remember what I did wrong now. There is some talk of ‘training’ but I will ignore this.

Young Lad had Food Tech last week Readers, but of course he is doing Home Learning due to Lockdown so the Food Tech Practical had to be done at home again. Imagine She’s joy when it turned out to be home-made pasta. Thus it was that after a long day at work, eggs and special expensive flour were beaten together and rolled out as thinly as possible to make tagliatelle. In fact they weren’t rolled out anywhere near thinly enough and ended up slow-worm thickness rather than ribbons. It wasn’t the best in all honesty.

Lad continues to study hard and send irrelevant text messages to She at work. This is rather endearing I would think. There is now the excitement of a family quiz over Zoom once a week which involves quite a lot of shrieking and arguing over whether fig rolls count as biscuits. Don’t ask.

There is also now the bi-weekly entertainment of She taking a Covid test at home – Young Lad and I are a little fed up with all the gagging noises and retching and are wondering if swabbing can be done with less exhibitionism.

Friends, snow is forecast for tomorrow. A lot. This will give us all something to talk about other than coronavirus and Lockdown and should cheer everyone up immensely.

Take care, Friends,

Russell

Stranded

Now Readers, you may well be thinking that this is a beautiful, nay idyllic, scene in our wondrous countryside but shortly after this photo was taken, a Terrible Event occurred. You can easily see that the river has burst its banks yet again and the path and fields where I usually have my walk were submerged. The bridge over the river was completely under water too. It’s not the first time it’s happened and it won’t be the last.

It also wasn’t the first time that my Pack Leader decided to ‘risk it’ and try to walk over the bridge thus making me walk over the submerged bridge too. You may remember that we tried this over Christmas when it flooded, and when we turned back someone shouted “chicken” at us which wasn’t really a gesture of goodwill. Undaunted, Pack Leader decided this week that it didn’t look “too deep” and was quite set on going up into Top Field, Top Top Field and maybe even the woods and so we had to cross the bridge.

I went first, Friends, as I am gallant and adventurous. I waded through the water on the first part of the bridge, with She just behind me. She was busy checking how far up her wellington boots the water came, and trying to gauge whether it was going to get much deeper in the middle of the bridge (it was). So wrapped up in her own safety was She that She failed to notice I was stuck. Readers I had reached a depth of water with which I was not comfortable – let’s say it was halfway up my side and I’m not a very tall dog. It was perfectly obvious to me that if I took one more step towards the deep part, I would drown. And so I did the only sensible thing, which was to climb onto the bank at the side of the bridge and stand there shivering.

Of course, my Pack Leader took no notice of me as She was still estimating how much further up her welly boots she could afford the water to go.

Although I was now safely on dry land, Friends, I was stranded. The only choice was to go back through the deep water the way I’d come, or to carry on into the even deeper part and certain death. I didn’t know what to do, so stood there trembling with cold and a bit of fear, weighing up my options. Neither of them appealed. You would think at this point that any loving Pack Leader would forget about their wellington boots and rush to my rescue, but all She did was screech “Russell, COME BACK HERE YOU STUPID DOG” which wasn’t the nurturing I needed. I refused to respond to this rudeness, so after much more shouting and huffing, She took a few more steps through the deep water – precariously close to the top of the wellington boots now – towards me. I still couldn’t move, so frozen with fear and indecision was I, so simply stood there whimpering and looking as sad as I possibly could.

She had to reach her arm as far as possible towards me, and just managed to grab my collar whilst hissing ‘for God’s sake, Russell.” Readers, I was then virtually lifted into the air by my collar and dragged back along the bridge, half in the deep water.

I can tell you that I was very glad to be back on terra firma, and was mighty glad to get home and into my armchair for the rest of the day. The trauma!

Of course, the trauma hasn’t stopped there this week. You will remember from my last blog that my anal glands have been playing up a little, and that some DIY anal gland expressing had been tried at home, using a rubber glove, towel, kitchen paper and my muzzle. Readers it was unlikely that this was going to be a long-term solution and so I was dragged off to the Evil Vet the other night – 7pm if you will! This is far too late at night for such things. Due to Covid restrictions nobody is allowed in the building at the Evil Vet’s and so there I was in the dark and cold, standing outside the Evil Vet’s in the drizzle, shivering. After what seemed an eternity, an extremely young lady in a white coat who I’m quite sure wasn’t old enough to be a proper Evil Vet, came and tried to lead me into the surgery – well! I wasn’t having that. I pulled in the opposite direction, trying desperately to get back to the safety of my beloved Pack Leader – who was busy looking at her phone – but with one mighty tug, the young Evil Vet had me inside the building. What happened next doesn’t bear thinking about and would make your eyes water, so I won’t go into details, but just know that it hurt. A lot. I cried.

I know it’s for my own good. I know my anal glands will feel (and smell) better the next day. But I don’t like it!

In other news, Young Lad is continuing his quest to never set foot in a school again in his entire life and has been doing his online learning each day. The thing is, Young Lad is here on his own all day with just myself and Gingercat, so we are the only ones who know what Young Lad does or doesn’t do all day. Readers there is a saying. What goes on tour stays on tour. Gingercat and I are saying nuffing.

That said, Young Lad DID eventually make his meringues and lemon curd, and they were jolly good. The meringues were just the right amount of crispy yet chewy and the lemon curd was delicious. We didn’t have a bain marie to use, so Young Lad had to make do with a small saucepan and a bowl balanced on top of it. I’m sure this is not how Jamie Oliver started and it might be nice if Young Lad was provided with the proper equipment. To Young Lad’s disgust, he then had to answer lots of questions about the uses of eggs in cooking which, I quite agree, is boring and pointless and rather takes the joy out of the exercise.

Because of Lockdown Young Lad has not seen any of his friends for several months now, so She allows him on the Xbox in the evenings so that he can play games online with his chums, shout, argue, fall out over Fifa 21 and the such like. It also means She gets Netflix all to herself. This benefits me too as there is more room on the sofa for me, and I do like to spread out.

And what of Lad, I hear you cry – well fear not, Lad is yet again working very hard for exams. Actually his exams were last week so this week he is working very hard trying to recover from exams. Life is very vexing at times for Lad, and She has received several text messages while at work this week such as “what’s our BT Sport login” and “how do you handwash a designer t shirt.” Poor Lad, he has an awful lot on his mind.

Readers it is nearly Friday -oh thank God!! someone not a million miles away from me is shouting – and the weekend will soon be upon us. I know for a fact that I will be dragged down to the river to see how much worse the flooding is – yes really – and there will be long, muddy walks. I had a very muddy one today with my dear friend Ebony and even had to be hosed down in the garden when we returned – I ‘m not really used to being treated like this, but Ebony’s Pack Leader is very kind and it would have been churlish of me to say anything. Tomorrow I’m seeing dear, dear Pippa so who knows what might happen. What I do know is that Gordon will be popping round tomorrow night with a clink ad a fizz, as Gordon is needed more than ever these days.

Stay safe in Lockdown Friends, and look after yourselves.

See you soon,

Russell

Home Learning

I know, I know – it’s been a very long time since my last blog and I do apologise. If I’m right, I last wrote just after Christmas and that was weeks ago. This isn’t my fault, Readers – none of my family has spared me the time to help with the blog and this is very disappointing as we’re in yet another Lockdown so it’s not like there is a lot else to do. Anyway, sit back with a nice drink and I will try to bring you up to date.

New Year came and went in a fairly underwhelming sort of way due to Lockdown and I’m sure it was the same for you. She and I shared the sofa on New Year’s Eve with Netflix and something nice to eat, and of course She’s good friend Gordon popped round too. Clink clink. We were in bed well before anyone let off any fireworks and I think there was a general reluctance to do any celebrating. That suited me just fine. Although a plate of Tempura Prawns wouldn’t have gone amiss to be honest.

The Christmas decorations were torn down as early as possible this year and the tree – which definitely looked better than the Lidl one from last year – has been plonked out in the back garden where I imagine it will stay until the summer. Or possibly next Christmas. Young Lad and Lad were ordered to put all the decorations back up in the roof as a team-building, bonding type of exercise. Lad climbed up into the roof and reached down for the boxes which Young Lad was meant to stand on a lower rung and pass up to him. You would think this was straightforward.

It wasn’t. Lids weren’t properly on boxes, and some boxes had no lids at all so there were many escaping baubles and rolls of gold ribbon. I ask you- it is not that difficult, is it, just to take a little time and care. What’s the saying, Friends – a stitch in time? But no, everything had been crammed into boxes any old way with a strong whiff of, “thank God that’s over” and so it was carnage . Lad became cross with Young Lad and Young Lad became cross with everyone and so it went on. The final straw was when Young Lad couldn’t lift a particularly heavy box and lots of shouting ensued – eventually She pointed out very, very snippily that She had got ALL the decorations out of the roof BY HERSELF WITH NO HELP WHATSOEVER.

When everything was finally away there was some bad-tempered hoovering but then the house was relatively tidy and not a sign of bldy Christmas remained.

Since then, Readers, it has been very quiet most of the time. This is because Lad has been studying very hard for his exams – yes, I thought we’d left all that behind when he finished school, too – and whilst it’s commendable that Lad works so hard, I do wish he wouldn’t keep reading his work aloud and muttering when I’m trying to sleep in my chair. I don’t understand a word of what he’s talking about – it’s degree level Psychology – and as none of it is about food I couldn’t care less. And yet still he mumbles and says key words to himself. Boring as.

And then, Friends, there is the Utter Joy that is Home Learning. Hurrah! cried absolutely no parent, when the schools were closed once again (even though they are ‘very safe’ places, apparently. I know!) and all pupils from the age of five upwards are once again enjoying Home Learning. Now, this wasn’t too much of a shock for Young Lad as you may remember that Young Lad has barely set foot in his school for what seems like a year or two. As soon as Year 10 were allowed in, somebody always tested positive for coronavirus and they were all sent home again. It was like the Okey Cokey for Young Lad and Year 10. So they were quite used to the idea of taking part in Zoom lessons in their pyjamas and playing on their phones out of sight of the camera.

I try to liven up the days for Lad and Young Lad by whining to go out in the garden in the middle of Maths or Science, and then as soon as Young Lad has let me out and run back to his lesson (ok maybe not actually run, more wandered back via the cupboard where the Pringles are kept) I stand and bark to be let back in. Personally I would have thought this counts as PE for Young Lad but allegedly it is very irritating and Young Lad has to say sorry to his teachers, that he is having to let the dog out/in. So for the rest of this week I am going to daycare with my dear friends Pippa and Ebony as I am never a pain at their houses and behave impeccably.

Readers, I don’t know what your experience of Home Learning has been like but I find the quality of Young Lad’s questionable at times. Today, for example, he had Media Studies for which the instruction was, “Watch the film Spectre.” That’s it. Then for English the instruction was, “Watch Macbeth.” Hmmmm. Young Lad is yawning and saying he feels he’s worked very hard today but She said he wouldn’t know hard work if it bit him on the nose, which is a little harsh. Young Lad didn’t set these tasks, after all.

She worked from home today. This is unheard of and I don’t remember it ever happening before. I tried to liven things up for her, too, during all the Zoom calls by wanting to go out in the garden a lot – look, if you put a load of stale bread out on the bird table, of COURSE I will want to go in and out of the garden ALL BLDY DAY to see if any has fallen on the lawn. Boy was I moaned at. She is going back to work tomorrow as working from home whilst keeping an eye on Year 10 Home Learning is not the fun it sounds. We did have a lovely long walk this afternoon over the bridge and up into Pheasant Field – I could hear some pheasants but none showed themselves near me, which is just as well for them as I am a hunting dog, after all. It was quite muddy in Pheasant Field but nowhere near as muddy as up in the woods where we went yesterday – under the ill-thought-through notion that it wouldn’t be as muddy in the woods as the trees stop some of the rain getting through. It’s winter and there aren’t any leaves. So the rain does get through, the ground turns to a bog and teenagers ride their BMX bikes up and down in the woods. It wasn’t the best decision, Readers.

I’ve seen so many people recently out my walks as this is now what passes as a social life for everyone. Waving at someone across a field counts as intimate social contact in these strange days of Lockdown. Several people have had dog treats with them – indeed I bumped into dear, dear Ebony and her Pack Leader last week, and of course they had treats for me. Alas, in my excitement I forgot to be gentle and nearly took off Ebony’s Pack Leader’s arm as I grabbed it. I was scolded. But I can be gentle when taking tasty snacks from the hands of nice people with food – you just have to remind me. Several times.

Returning to the subject of Home Learning, I’m sure many of you and your offpsring have resorted to Youtube videos to help with expanding brackets in Maths or learning how to re-boot your laptop. It seems there is a Youtube video for everything these days. Readers, I don’t know how to tell you this. At the weekend, a Youtube video called, “How to express your dog’s anal glands” was found and pored over with interest. True, I was having a few problems with blockage in that area and the stench of old oily fish was everywhere, but normally this either sorts itself out when I pass a good hard motion, or I go to see the Evil Vet who drains them for me. Never before have we ‘had a go’ at home.

Well. All I will say is that I was forced into my muzzle – upside down initially as She has no clue how to put it on – and squashed up against the kitchen cupboards. Rubber gloves and kitchen paper were required, as was someone to hold up my tail and stand well back. A lot of prodding and squeezing later, a small amount of clear yet foul-smelling liquid was released and I was set free. I was FURIOUS!!! I will not be treated like this, even if it does save the vet bill. It hurt, both my backside and my dignity. Whoever made a Youtube video instructing Pack Leaders on how to express their dog’s anal glands needs shooting. This takes Home Learning to a whole new level. Really, I was aghast.

Because we are in Lockdown again and only allowed out for essential reasons or exercise, there have been lots of times we have combined the two and exercised ourselves by walking through the Rec and into town, where one can buy a take away coffee to support local businesses and then exercise all the way back home again. I do quite enjoy these outings but it would be nice if anyone thought about providing me with some light refreshment halfway through our exercising, too. It’s all very self-centred. Young Lad’s exercise is normally restricted to emptying the airing cupboard or other domestic chores, poor Young Lad, so imagine his excitement today when his PE task was to walk down the road and round the corner to Lovelydor’s house with some lemon drizzle cake. This gave Young Lad fresh air and exercise at the same time!

Alas, Young Lad is meant to have done his Food Tech practical work today and everyone has forgotten. Young Lad is meant to have made meringues and lemon curd from scratch – the ingredients are all here and ready, but there was so much Online Learning and Zooming going on that the Food Tech practical work has only just been remembered and ‘hell can freeze over’ before She embarks on supervising Food Tech practical work at 8pm. This isn’t the right attitude and is yet another example – amongst so many – of shoddy parenting. Anyway, Young Lad is on the Xbox after a tough day of Home Learning, so it’s doubtful he would be thrilled at the prospect either. I’m not sure when Young Lad’s Food tech practical will now be done, Readers. Poor Young Lad.

Perhaps if a little more effort had been put into parenting at the weekend, Friends, things wouldn’t have gone so awry. Apart from the lovely muddy walks, the weekend was spent ‘relaxing’ – watching Netflix and Sky Atlantic – after a tricky week at work. Yes the house was calm, relaxed and everyone was very happy. Yes this is very unusual here. But really – a little thought about the educational needs of one’s offspring wouldn’t have taken much out of the weekend, would it? Poor Young Lad and his meringues. I will let you know when he finally gets round to making them, and I will also give you some feedback regarding their quality.

Stay safe and well in these strange times, Readers, and check out that Youtube video.

See you soon,

Russell

Boxing Day Blues

Well, Readers, what a strange Christmas that was for so many of us. I do hope you managed to eat, drink and be merry even if you weren’t able to be with the people you wanted to see. I certainly managed to eat and drink, and made my own fun as you can see by trashing the Boxing Day game of Monopoly. Gingercat had already walked across the board and knocked the dog and car off their squares, and then he sat down by the Bank, while I lay on the board and waggled my ears and paws around to knock everything else off. It was hilarious in all honesty, and served them right for not sitting up at the table.

Young Lad won, in case you were wondering, by having houses on Park Lane and Mayfair. Lad had embarked on a strange strategy of staying in jail as long as possible so that he wasn’t landing on people’s property and thus paying rent. She was very cross and said this is against the rules but when they looked it up, it wasn’t. Well done, Lad.

But let’s go back a little. Christmas Eve is always one of my favourite days as people are busy rushing around and let down their guard on the hiding food front. Regular Readers will know that on previous Christmas Eves, I have eaten an entire large bag of McCain frozen chips, a whole pack of Tesco finest mini mince pies, and various chocolates. None of these have ever killed me. So I was looking forward to December 24th this year, to see what foodstuffs were left within my reach. Nothing was. This was very disappointing Friends, and is yet another dark legacy of coronavirus as we are in Tier 4 and nobody is allowed out, and therefore leaving- a- turkey- on -the- kitchen- worksurface -while- we- pop -to -the= neighbours- for- drinks scenarios are unlikely.

However all was not lost as I was given some wonderful dog snacks and I really did enjoy those. My dear friend Delilah the Basset Hound had also sent me some of her home-made dog biscuits which are divine. Later in the afternoon on Christmas Eve a cheeseboard and crackers was produced – again, no social niceties such as sitting at the table, but these were consumed on the sofa slumped in front of Netflix and so by making my brown eyes go extra large and appealing, I was able to successfully beg for bits of cracker. This Christmas Eve wasn’t quite up there in the food stakes with the McCain oven chips/mince pies ones, but I did get a lot of cuddles and love, so you just have to take what you can get these days.

Sadly there was a lack of Tempura prawns on Christmas Eve this year. This was because She had opened the Tempura prawns two days prior to Christmas Eve, which shows an appalling lack of self-discipline and blatant disregard for yuletide convention. By the time Christmas Eve came round, the Tempura prawns had been finished, there wasn’t much smoked salmon left and as for the tree chocolates…Readers I know this has been a year like no other, but I don’t feel such a cavalier ‘sod it’ attitude is a good example to others. Thus a late Christmas Eve afternoon dash to M&S food was needed to stock up on Tempura prawns and smoked salmon. I ask you.

Christmas Eve evening was unusual but rather lovely as we all sat together on the sofa under cuddly blankets and watched a film. Thankfully there were bowls of snacks to keep us going through this and I enjoyed myself very much. In many ways it was a wonderful evening, as due to the lack of visitors for Christmas lunch the following day, She did not need to spend the evening running round polishing cutlery, making bread sauce, wrapping presents, drinking and snapping at everyone. This was possibly the most peaceful Christmas Eve we’ve ever had. Every cloud and all that.

Oh the smells as Christmas lunch was cooked , Friends – I’m sure your homes were similarly fragrant. I’m never quite sure whether it’s the turkey, or stuffing, or roast potatoes that give off that wonderful smell – and I don’t really care. The kitchen smelled heavenly. I would happily have stayed there for the entire morning but no, of course, I was dragged out on a Long Christmas Day walk. There were hundreds of other dogs being dragged out too, – some of them had been made to wear ridiculous Santa coats – and all the Pack Leaders were very jolly and wished each other Happy Christmas. This isn’t everyone’s idea of fun and I have to agree – it bores me rigid stopping to say hello to everyone. She had every intention of taking me for a very long walk up across the fields beyond the river – however, due to some spectacular rainfall, the river had burst its banks again and we couldn’t get across the bridge. She did try, as knee-high wellington boots might just have been enough (please note, no thought whatsoever as to how I would stay above the water level), but the middle of the bridge was too deep even for this and She had to turn back. A man called out, “chicken!” at her in a jolly festive way and everyone laughed. Thankfully we then went home for Christmas Dinner – I had had quite enough of that.

Blow me down with an hors d’oeuvre – after Christmas lunch I was dragged out again! To be fair so were Lad and Young Lad, as they Needed Some Fresh Air, apparently, and so we walked to Lovelydor’s house down the road to say thank you for our presents. Lovelydor didn’t hear us knocking on the door, despite Young Lad giving it some welly, so Readers you can make your own mind up as to whether Lovelydor had started on the sherry a little early, or was having a nap.

Lad and Young Lad have been stuck at home for quite a while now, due to Tier 4, and it is very frustrating for everyone. They have been very good, Readers, and not moaned when forced into manual labour – Young Lad has to empty the airing cupboard and sort out the washing on a regular basis, and hoover, and do the dishwasher. I know, I feel this is unreasonable too. Poor Young Lad. Lad hasn’t done quite so much to help, but then Lad has been studying very hard and in fact only had Christmas Day and Boxing Day away from his studies. This shows great determination and work ethic. Well done, Lad. I’m sure it is not just because “there is xxxx all else to do,” as Lad muttered the other day. In fact Lad has been improving his mind by watching documentaries about the Vietnam War on Netflix, which whilst not terribly uplifting, have been informative. Young Lad has mostly stuck to Family Guy and Top Gear. She and her friends all whatsapp each other with suggestions of what to watch next on Netflix, and occasionally a subsequent message pings through saying, “not with the boys, lots of sex.” I have no idea what this is all about and just sleep soundly in my chair.

Readers, the reason I need so much sleep at the moment is the ludicrous amount of walking I am forced to do. For the past week or so there have been at least two walks a day – one into town to buy a takeaway coffee, and the other as my proper exercise in the fields. One would be ample. On the coffee walk, we usually stand and talk Loadsakids or some such friends, and they marvel at how exciting it is to go upstairs in Tesco – yes, it’s still open! – where the decidedly non-essentail items are. During these difficult days in Tier 4, it is apparently a wonderful experience to still be able to browse through highlighter pens, saucepans or scented candles.

Friends you won’t believe this, but on one of our coffee walks, we did not ‘bump into’ a friend. Thus we arrived at Costalotta and there was nowhere to tie me up outside – I could have been stolen, Readers! – and She became very agitated at not being able to go in to buy an Americano. She smiled through the glass door a lot in the hope that one of the baristas would come to the door and take our order – for goodness’ sake – but this didn’t happen. In the end I was left with a COMPLETE STRANGER while She went in to buy her coffee! Honestly, anything could have happened to me. This very Good Samaritan said they would hold my lead as they could see She was about to cry, but they could have been any Tom, Dick or Harry. I was furious!

Then yesterday, Friends, we agreed to meet our friend Madame for coffee in the Public Gardens (dogs aren’t allowed in there but She said who is going to care at the moment?) and the idea was a coffee and dog walk. TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATER, Readers, I crawled back up our road to my home. We had trekked through knee-high mud for miles and miles and miles. I had seen parts of the county that I didn’t know existed and I was EXHAUSTED. The funny thing was that the conversation between Madame and She didn’t dry up once, throughout this epic walk – I really don’t know how they do it.

Would you believe it – this morning we have met another friend for a ‘dog walk’. At least this time there was another dog to keep me company, but again it was two hours of non-stop walking and talking….there will be nothing left of me by New Year.

Well, Friends, I hope you are safe and well and have survivied Christmas. I know that many of you will be googling Monopoly rules now to see if Lad was right about being able to earn rent on his properties whilst sitting in jail – well, there isn’t much else to do I suppose.

See you soon,

Russell

Tier 4

Here is Gingercat, Readers, being very immature and climbing into a carrier bag this afternoon. This is very dangerous and extremely silly. I looked on disdainfully as Gingercat did this, and even more disdainfully when he started knocking a wind-up pigs in blanket toy around the lounge floor. Gingercat is at least 12 years old which is very elderly for a cat and he should be well past the point of such juvenile behaviour. Honestly.

To be fair the sight of Gingercat climbing into a plastic bag provided some light relief in a tricky weekend. Yesterday there was sharp intake of breath round here at just after 4pm, when it was announced that our area is now in Tier 4. I have no idea what this means and couldn’t care less. So long as it doesn’t affect my food supply or involve me leaving my armchair, life is tickety boo for me. Not so for everyone else, it seems. The atmosphere here moved from tense, to irritable to emotional and then back to irritable, which is where it has stayed. It appears that due to a new strain of coronavirus, nobody is allowed to leave home again, other than for essential visits to the supermarket or dentist – which is good news for Young Lad as he has a dentist appointment in a couple of days’ time. Young Lad is pleased this hasn’t been disrupted by Tier 4.

There was much huffing and sighing last night and it was all a little over-dramatic if you ask me. She immediately messaged her good friend Loadsakids so that they could wail together over Whatsapp, and of course one of their main worries was whether coffee shops were still open for takeaways. This hardly seems important in light of what’s going on but She snapped something about “our bldy mental health” and it would not have been wise to argue at this point. She and Loadsakids and thousands of other people now face being stuck indoors with their teenagers and dogs for weeks, including the whole of the Christmas period, and it seems takeaway coffee is akin to Valium in being able to survive this.

As it turned out, coffee shops are still open for takeaway only and whilst nobody is supposed to be meeting anyone else, if one happens to walk one’s dog into town and buy a takeaway coffee at the same time as one’s friend walks their dog into town and coincidentally buys a takeaway coffee from the same coffee shop, what can one do? And so it was this morning, that I was walked briskly and purposefully into town – I wasn’t allowed to stop and sniff much on the way – and blow me down with a feather! There was Loadsakids with her dog. Well I never. So Loadsakids’ dog and I sniffed each other’s backsides as this doesn’t spread coronavirus, not even the new strain, whilst She and Loadsakids stood apart outside the betting shop, drinking their coffee and saying “dear me how vexing this all is,” quite a lot. I think that’s what they said, anyway. I was bored out of my mind, to be honest, and mightily relieved when they decided to move away from the betting shop as there were a few strange people hanging around, and instead chose to go and look at the queue for Tesco as this now counts as entertainment in Tier 4.

I nearly had a Lovely Moment, actually, Readers, while She was inside the coffee shop buying her coffee – dogs aren’t allowed in so there was no choice but for Loadsakids to hold my lead outside, with her own dog. A very nice man walked up to us and asked Loadsakids if he could stroke me – I was looking particularly beguiling this morning – but Loadsakids noticed he was holding a croissant and said, “I wouldn’t if I was you.” I was annoyed by this.

Then while we were standing looking at the queue for Tesco, Loadsakids’ dog and I noticed a large golden retriever coming round the corner. However, this retriever had on some sort of harness and a high vis thing – I can tell you, I found this very alarming and sinister. We barked and growled ferociously at the dog in the harness and high vis thing, just to make it clear that we were not to be messed with, but She shouted at us and it turns out that the retriever was a guide dog, and actually belonged to someone She knew who was rather tentatively trying to walk past us while Loadsakids’ dog and I tried to kill his helpful canine friend. Apparently I am “an embarrassment.”

Then this afternoon I was dragged out on another walk, down to the river and up to the fields and lake, because it will be important for our ‘mental well-being’ to get out of the house as much as possible over the next few weeks. I don’t think my well-being is being considered at all in this. Young Lad was forced to come on this walk. Young Lad was not happy about this at all, and whined quite a bit, but She said that if he ever wanted to see the bldy Xbox again in his entire life, he would quit the whingeing and put his trainers on. I ask you. Poor Young Lad. As if this wasn’t bad enough, when we returned home he was made to empty the airing cupboard. It’s Christmas for goodness’ sake!

And what of Lad, I hear you ask? Lad has a lot of studying to do, Friends, and as usual he is working hard. Lad was not let off the chores though, Readers – oh no. Lad was told to put away the bags of Tesco shopping while we were out on our walk – this was an arduous task as there were several bags of shopping and rather a lot to fit into the fridge. Poor Lad. I wonder how Lad and Young Lad are feeling about being stuck indoors with She for the foreseeable future.

Regular Readers will remember that in my last blog, all hell had broken loose as Young Lad had lost his electric toothbrush. Nobody knew how this could have happened as electric toothbrushes are quite large and easy to spot, but there you go. Friends, you will be overwhelmed with relief to know that Young Lad’s electric toothbrush has been found!! It was in the other bathroom. Yes, there are just the two bathrooms and you would have thought somebody might have thought of looking there, but such is life in my house. Instead of this find being celebrated, Young Lad was admonished further for being so useless at looking for things.

You’ll also be pleased to know, Regular Readers, that She finally found the time to read Lad’s essay on which he’d worked so hard. She left a note outside Lad’s bedroom door before going to work which read, ” v good, well done, changed grammar a bit, love you.” Really – would it have been too much trouble to write a full sentence?

I was taken to the Evil Vet on Friday night, Friends. I wasn’t happy about this but as usual nobody consulted me. I have had itchy ears for a while and everyone was fed up with me shaking my head and scratching, so off we went. Due to coronavirus, we weren’t allowed in but had to stand out in the rain, until the Evil Vet was ready for me. The the Evil Vet took me inside and looked down my ears – of course, he’d been warned he would need to muzzle me, which wasn’t difficult as he gave me a biscuit before producing the muzzle. My ears need to have drops applied twice a day and so far I have tried to chew off the hand of anyone who comes near me with the bottle. It hasn’t gone well. I will not be treated like this.

Lad is trying to tell She all about an idea he has for a business enterprise he has thought of, with the benefit of studying degree-level Psychology. She is nodding and saying “mmm” quite a lot but I can tell She isn’t really listening. This is so rude. Poor Lad.

I suspect She is thinking about the clink of ice and the swoosh of the tonic water, as the afternoon has been spent trying to hang up the bldy Christmas cards. These will have all fallen down by tomorrow morning and we go through the same pantomime every single year. I know for a fact a drawing pin dropped on the wooden floor in the hall and hasn’t been found, so I imagine someone will step on that soon, too.

Readers, I am rather worried about how often I’m going to be dragged out for walks over the next week or two in Tier 4. I will be fading away to nothing if they are not careful. It’s all very well She being happy to find that one friend can still be visited as they count as a support bubble, but Readers I have no support bubble. I, too would be overjoyed if this was the case, but alas, there is no support bubble in any tier whatsoever for me. I will have no choice but to carry on ripping up the recycling and dragging it round the garden over the next few days as this is the only fun I have.

Stay safe, Readers, wash those hands and if you’re in Tier 4 like us, get yourself a takeaway coffee now and again.

See you soon,

Russell

Michael Bauble

Well, Friends, as you can see the Michael Buble CD finally made it out of storage and the Christmas decorations were put up. I wouldn’t go so far as to say there was a festive atmosphere here but at least there are some twinkly lights and the odd angel around in my house now. It was a nice Christmas tree this year – a much better shape than the one from Lidl last year – and lessons have been learned about false economy. The fact that it was a nicer, more expensive tree however meant nothing to me and I pulled it over, as you can see, as soon as I was able to.

It wasn’t my fault. Lad is back from university – more of that later – and it was Lad’s fault entirely for leaving the lounge door open when he went to the gym. She had hung Cadbury’s chocolate tree decorations on the tree only the previous night – I had watched carefully to see where they had been put – and of course they were all up quite high so I had to pull the entire tree down to get at them. I ate all the chocolate tree decorations (there were 12 in the packet originally but She had eaten 3 before they even made it onto the tree due to STRESS) so in all that was 9 chocolate tree decorations, including their foil wrappers and gold string. Still hungry, though, I wandered round the lounge and dining room to see what else was around and as luck would have it, just managed to reach Young Lad’s Lindt chocolate advent calendar that was pushed not quite far back enough on the table. So I had that, too. It was December 8th, so you do the Maths and work out how many days left of Lindt chocolate there were.

Before you all start worrying about chocolate being poisonous for dogs, you know very well that I have eaten many, many bad things over the years and suffered no lasting ill effects. The triple-layer 10- inch chocolate birthday cake with lashings of rich chocolate buttercream that had been lovingly made for Lad’s 16th birthday was probably the most poisonous of them all, but even that only ended with a lot of unpleasant comfort breaks in the garden that were difficult to clear up. And a lot of wind. Then there was the infamous Christmas Eve two years ago when I ate a packet of mini mince pies (Tesco Finest with Courvoisier brandy) while my family were next door at the neighbour’s house, which resulted in the late night visit to the emergency vet to make me sick it all up again. The fun I always have at Christmas! So don’t worry Friends, the chocolates from the tree and advent calendar have passed through and so has the foil and gold string. She had such a nice time in the wet garden this morning clearing everything up. “Living the bldy dream,” She said.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, considering we’ve only just come out of another Lockdown and nobody can do anything much. Lad came home from university last weekend and I was SO pleased to see him – I have been trying to sleep on his bed for a while now, as it had all been made up nicely with a brushed cotton duvet set for the Prodigal Son’s return but I was constantly being pulled off and shouted at for crumpling the bed covers. For heavens’ sake! As if Lad would care!! He’s a student. Anyway, it’s great having Lad back (not least because he leaves the lounge door open) and within what seemed like minutes the bathroom floor was covered in wet towels, there were mugs and plates everywhere and an interesting line up of beer bottles on the windowsill by the Xbox. Lad has made our home look just like his student accommodation which must be very comforting for him – well done, Lad.

She of course has moaned non-stop and told him to clear up.

Lad has been working very hard, Readers, with online lectures and lots of essays to write. Lad has asked She to read his essays this weekend to check them for him, and to be honest it’s disappointing that this was met with a sigh and less than enthusiastic “oh all right then.” Most parents would be delighted to read their offspring’s essays about Milgram’s psychology experiments. Yes, it’s a busy time of year but what’s more important? The Christmas Amazon order or improving one’s mind and supporting one’s son? I shake my head in disbelief at times, Friends.

Poor Lad has a lot of work to do, and barely has time to drink beer or go on the Xbox. Young Lad, on the other hand, seems to have lots of spare time – even more now, as Young Lad’s school have lots of positive Covid cases again and have sent Year 10, 11 and 13 home. Yes, Readers, AGAIN. This is Young Lad’s third lot of being sent home from school in a few weeks, but in all fairness he had just completed one week of being in the school building before the doors shut again. There was a lot of swearing and stomping around when She received the text message to say that Year 10 were not required in school yet again, and don’t need to go back until January. So this coming week, Readers, I have both Lad and Young Lad at home with me while She goes to work. We’ll have such a nice time!

However, as Lad is very busy with his online lectures and essays, it would be very unfair to expect him to take me for walks as well and so I have been out with dear, dear Pippa and dear, dear Ebony this week. One morning, whilst out with Pippa, I rolled in loads of fox cack and Pippa’s Pack Leader Male had to bathe me when we got home. He was much more gentle than my own Pack Leader is when bathing me.

As it is only two weeks until Christmas, and due to Covid and not knowing which Tier we will be in by this time next week, there is a certain amount of tension and bad mood round here. There is A Lot To Do apparently, and yet because we don’t really know what we’re doing when, it’s Difficult To Plan. This causes Stress. Give me strength. Due to the Stress, there is a lot less tolerance when things go wrong – for example, Young Lad lost his electric toothbrush this week and you would have thought the world had ended. Young Lad had his electric toothbrush on Monday, but then it disappeared. How one can lose a large electric toothbrush is a puzzle, but there was no need to shout and accuse Lad of taking it, or pulling everything out of the laundry basket to see if it had fallen in, or empty the box of Action Men in the bathroom in case they had taken it. Poor Young Lad has been moaned at non-stop for managing to lose his electric toothbrush somewhere in the house. Young Lad doesn’t seem all that bothered.

Then this afternoon, She thought it would be a nice festive family thing to go shopping together. It wasn’t. Neither Lad nor Young Lad really wanted to go but knew better than to protest, and had been promised a trip to Costalotta, so they set off. It was raining and dull, and there were queues everywhere. In the end they just went to Tesco but even this was traumatic as half way round She realised the shopping bags weren’t on the trolley. Young Lad and Lad were asked crossly what they had done with the shopping bags, and neither of them had the faintest idea, so everyone had to re-trace their steps round Tesco in search of shopping bags lying on the floor. There weren’t any. What there was, however, was the original trolley with the shopping bags on it back at the beginning, so it seems Lad and Young Lad had been pushing the wrong trolley round after all. They were chastised for this.

Readers it is barely 6pm and I can hear a clink of ice and the hiss from the tonic bottle – this does seem to get earlier and earlier every week.

I hope you are all staying safe and I’m sure you are waiting on tenterhooks just like us to find out which Tier we are in from next week, and therefore be able to Plan Christmas properly at long last. Or not, as the case may be.

Take care,

Russell

Yumy

Readers, please don’t worry – there is not a rare mis-spelling or typo in my title today. This is indeed the interesting spelling of a particular cafe in my town which I visited recently. The more traditional spelling of the word would have double ‘m’, granted, but I will forgive the cafe owners this mistake as they were VERY kind to me.

Why was I visiting a cafe in town during Lockdown, I hear you ask? Well, it was a Sunday morning and She and her good friend Loadsakids often meet up for a coffee and to put the world to rights on Sundays – usually after the Andrew Marr show so they can discuss highbrow things – but because we are in National Lockdown yet again, they could not meet in Costalotta. Instead they came up with a brilliant idea – of walking their respective dogs into town and standing outside a cafe that was open for takeaway coffee. There is an awning, luckily, so one can stand there drinking takeaway coffee and not get wet if the weather is inclement. I’m not convinced that this counts as an ‘essential journey’ or even ‘exercise’ but doubtless She would argue otherwise and mutter something about mental health.

Anyway, the other dog and I were extremely well-behaved and patient whilst 45 minutes of dull conversation took place over a cappucino and Americano. I felt we did very well as in all honesty there was nothing to do and not much to look at, once we’d sniffed each other’s backsides.

The thing is, even though our Pack Leaders were taking no notice of us, Friends, the cafe owner was far more observant and could see how dreary this was for a pedigree Spaniel and Beagle. Imagine our surprise when he came outside with two foil dishes of roast beef trimmings and bacon pieces!! The cafe owner asked our Pack Leaders if we were allowed to have them – She of course snapped ‘no, he’s too fat already’ (pot, kettle) – but then in a moment of conscience realised how rude this looked when a nice man had gone to the trouble of providing food for us. So with a sigh and reluctant “oh all right then,” the foil containers of meat were put on the ground. Loadsakids’ dog gently chewed and licked her portion as she has very genteel manners , whereas I snarled and grabbed mine, gulping the whole lot down in three mouthfuls like a demented wolf. Passers-by laughed and found this entertaining. She told me off for showing her up and marched me straight home.

I have not been taken back to Yumy since, even though I know for a fact that She has met Loadsakids there again. Loadsakids took her dog because of course her dog doesn’t show her up. I was left at home. I feel this is unfair.

Lockdown is very wearing, Friends, as I’m sure you will agree. Everyone is a little fed up of having nowhere to go, so even though it is still November for several more days yet many people have put up their Christmas decorations in an attempt to cheer everyone up. Not in my household, of course. The decorations will be staying in the loft until well into December as we don’t do festive cheer very well here. That said, last year’s Christmas tree from Lidl has been mentioned by several people lately, as they remember it with great affection. Our tree from Lidl became something of a cause celebre locally last year, as Regular Readers might remember, and I doubt very much we will find one quite like it this year. Here it is.

Unique, wasn’t it. That’s the middle of Lidl for you.

Anyway, She says it’s far too early for bldy Christmas decorations and there will be no pine needles left on the tree if we put one up now. Far be it from me to mention all the neighbours out in their front gardens today, cheerily hanging lights from guttering and waving at each other. To be fair though, Pack Leader did get the screwdrivers out and I thought for a moment She had given in to the early Yuletisde spirit and that Michael Buble would be playing any minute, but no. The good thing is that She decided to fix the light cord pull in the bathroom at long last – Regular Readers will know this broke several months ago and has been tentatively repaired with some thin string – so it looked like the afternoon would be productive after all. Alas no, Friends, as it took so long to unscrew the light fitting due to the awkward angle and not being able to see whether a Phillips or flathead screwdriver was needed, that it was nearly dark by the time it had been successfully unscrewed and then She realised She had no clue what to do next. So, with some bad language the unit was screwed back to the ceiling again and we are no further forward.

Young Lad has been at home all week – how often I seem to write these words – as his school had to close due to the number of positive coronavirus cases. Young Lad has been doing online lessons for the last ten days. This appears to consist of signing into the lesson and saying hello to the tutor so they think he is paying attention, then the entire class messaging each other on their phones and playing games for the rest of the lesson. Young Lad will be sad when school re-opens next Wednesday but I’m sure there will be some more positive cases in Year 10 before long and they’ll all be sent home again.

It’s been a busy week in some ways – I have had lovely walks every day thanks to dear, dear Ebony and dear, dear Pippa and other than that I’ve needed an awful lot of sleep. She has been working of course, but somehow managed to fit in the various medical appointments that are part and parcel of my family’s life. Young Lad had to have some vaccinations on Thursday night – these were called ‘School Leaver vaccinations’ and Young Lad missed them earlier in the year as he was having a small operation and therefore more medical goings on at the time. Readers I do find it ironic that Young Lad has had School Leaver vaccinations. In order to leave school, you would think one would actually have to attend occasionally. Anyway, Young Lad had injections in both arms and didn’t turn a hair – afterwards he asked if he could have a treat and She snarled “you’re 14 not 6” so that was that. Poor Young Lad. He had been very brave – if the Evil Vet comes near me with a needle I have to be muzzled and held down by eight veterinary nurses. And I ALWAYS get a treat afterwards. (From the Evil Vet, not She).

Then there was a phone consultation with Young Lad’s specialist at the hospital – Regular Readers will know that Lad and Young Lad have about ten specialists between them – and that was quite tricky as it’s not always easy to understand what Dr Mohammed is saying when face to face with him, let alone over the phone with no chance of lip reading. Anyway, I think we got the gist of it.

Friday night saw the sighing and tutting of the regular trip to the pharmacy to collect everyone’s prescriptions – of course in these golden times this means queuing outside in the cold as only one person at a time is allowed in. The mood was not improved on arriving home and unpacking the huge bag of medication, as they have only given Young Lad one month’s supply of his to last until the New Year, whereas Lad got two months’ supply – so now there will have to be ANOTHER email for a repeat prescription and ANOTHER night of standing in the queue at the pharmacy in the dark after work. I know Readers. There are far worse things happening in the world.

I felt that last weekend held a more positive note here, though, as someone actually got round to tidying up the back patio a bit, and cutting the grass. This was a very difficult job indeed as it was like a bog, and turned into thick mud the minute the mower got near it. It took a very long time to do as someone had to keep emptying and scraping mud off the mower, but by the end of the afternoon the garden did look a little better. The good thing is that all the bldy leaves have now fallen off the bldy fruit trees so there are no more to come down and cover the grass – this makes picking up my comfort breaks much easier as they can be spotted against the green grass, whereas it was hard to find them amongst the leaves and a bit of a gamble to be honest.

I needed a comfort break at 2.23am the other morning and boy was I moaned at.

Young Lad has almost caught up with his Food Technology practicals – I think he is only a couple of weeks behind now. He has written up his samosa evaluation, you’ll be glad to know, and last week had to make arancini balls. This, I gather, is basically risotto rolled into balls and coated with flour, egg and breadcrumbs then fried. It sounded nice but She said we’re not frying anything else as we did the samosas last week and we Don’t Have Frying in this house, so the arancini balls were baked in the oven instead. You are right, Readers. Dry as. They weren’t exactly balls either, as this would imply a sphere, and rolling wet soggy risotto into round shapes isn’t as easy as it sounds, so they were lumps. Dry lumps. I had one, though, and they tasted nice.

This week Young Lad needs to make puff pastry. Enough said.

Lad is still busy at university and is looking forward to coming home when the authorities finally release hundreds of thousands of young people back into the general community which won’t affect the coronavirus rate at all. He was supposed to register with the university GP back in September and has been ‘reminded’ every week to bldy hurry up and do it, but Lad has been very busy and just hasn’t had time. Lad will try to fit it in this coming week but don’t hold your breath, Readers. There is a surprise in store for Lad on Monday as he will be receiving a parcel in the post from us – we have sent him a Lindt chocolate advent calendar and a Cadbury’s selection box to cheer him up. Lad is 19, Friends, but you are never too old for a Cadbury’s selection box or an advent calendar. At least She’s stopped buying them religious ones now.

You see? There IS some Christmas spirit here, after all. Not much, but let’s take what we can.

Golly, that was quite an epic blog tonight and as a wise man once said, I really am quite the wordsmith. I do hope I have managed to bring you all some cheer and taken your mind off things as it really is a strange old world at the moment, but chin up everyone – Costalotta is open again from Wednesday as we’re in Tier 2, but you just can’t meet any friends there.

I‘ll let you know if there is a change of heart tomorrow and the Michael Buble CD is dusted off. I wouldn’t put money on it.

Keep safe everyone,

Russell

Mothers In Need

Look at the beautiful Autumn colours I saw on my walk today, Readers – the stunning golds, reds and bronzes of the leaves on the dew-covered grass. And look at all the cack on my back where I rolled in something. Nobody shouted at me though, as I was out with dear, dear Ebony and her Pack Leader so they just laughed whimsically and told me I’m a little rascal. Obviously if I had been with my Pack Leader things would have been different and I would have been screamed at and dragged home with non-stop scolding all the way.

Today, Readers, it is something called “Children in Need” which is an annual national fundraising event that brings the country together in the spirit of goodwill and charity. Correction, most of the country. Regular Readers will know that in previous years She and her good friend Loadsakids always go out for a few drinks on Children In Need night as they feel that Mothers In Need is sadly overlooked and frankly just as important. Loadsakids and She discuss things like their bldy teenagers and bldy dogs over a glass or two of lemonade and then sit in a dark cinema for the rest of the evening, not having to be sociable or indeed charitable. I know, Friends. What an attitude.

However, due to coronavirus we are in another National Lockdown which means that She and Loadsakids cannot go out to celebrate Mothers In Need in their usual style. This has vexed them both greatly and they are having to come up with a plan B. I suspect this will involve drinking glasses of lemonade at home in their pyjamas and discussing their bldy teenagers and bldy dogs over Whatsapp. I ask you.

I’ve had scant attention at home this week, Friends, due to an Extended Working Schedule which has involved Extra Long Days and A Heavy Workload. Thankfully dear, dear Ebony and Pippa’s Pack Leaders have picked up the slack so I’ve had some company of a day, but really it’s not good enough. Then at night I sprawl across the bed hoping for a small crumb of comfort but no, I am shoved and moaned at and I have to fight back quite aggressively to stand my ground in the middle of the bed. I will NOT be moved on this, Readers, and refuse to surrender to the foot or side of the bed or even, God forbid, my own dog bed. One has to make a stance at times.

There has been the usual palaver of Year 10 schoolwork all week as Young Lad is still just a smidgeon behind with some tasks. The chicken madras that he made for Food Tech quite a while ago still hadn’t been given a written evaluation, plus he was now a week late in making vegetable samosas. And so it was that one evening there was an emergency trip to Tesco Express at the top of the road to buy garlic (if you remember, Young Lad was a little heavy-handed with this in the chicken madras) and vegetable oil – we never fry in this house, Readers, and so vegetable oil is never in our pantry – and Young Lad was told to get on with the bldy samosas. She acted as sous chef doing lots of chopping and prepping, to speed up the whole bldy process, while Young Lad did the more interesting aspects of the task such as making the pastry. This had to be rolled out very, very thinly and there followed a very amusing half hour Friends, as they tried to work out how to make triangles from a semi-circle. The recipe said “cut a 20cm circle of thinly-rolled pastry in half, and then roll it round your finger to make a cone, add the samosa filling, and close into a triangle shape.” Neither of them had the faintest idea what they were doing and I did think, Readers, that perhaps if She had been the sort of Mother to do lots of art and craft with Young Lad at home when he was little, they would know how to turn a cone into a triangle. Unfortunately the attitude used to be “that’s what I pay nursery fees for,” and so not much cutting and sticking ever happened here in the halcyon days of childhood.

By the end of Young Lad’s Food Tech practical, there was thinly rolled pastry hanging off the working surface and washing machine, and samosa filling everywhere. I have never seen so much mess from a simple task that a fourteen-year old was meant to be doing unaided.

The samosas were oblong.

They tasted nice, though, to be fair to Young Lad. Young Lad has watched Masterchef The Professionals AND the Great British Bake Off over the last couple of nights as he knows he needs to up his game.

I am missing Lad, Friends, as he is busy at university doing his laundry. The last we heard from Lad was that the university tumble dryers are still shxt and still don’t dry his brushed cotton duvet cover so he has damp bedding hanging everywhere. Obviously this causes me great concern about Lad’s health and I do hope he is eating properly. Steak and the such like. Lad is facing Lockdown at university just like the rest of us and is most upset that the gym is closed, so has to workout in his very small room. Poor Lad. These really are challenging times for everyone.

I saw on the news that universities will send students back home in the first week of December so I haven’t got long to wait now until Lad is back, and not taking me for walks as usual.

She was feeling quite chipper this morning, Friends, as it was the end of a long week and was laughing gaily with her colleagues at work, when the mood was changed quite dramatically by Young Lad phoning to say that Year 10 had another positive case and were being sent home immediately. Yes indeed, Young Lad now has another ten days off school but he must be due for a rest as has just managed seven whole days in school without much of a break.

And so, Friends, Gingercat and I face another week of Young Lad not doing his home schooling whilst home alone, choosing instead to look at more interesting websites, and the row that will ensue when She gets home from work. Every night. Sometimes Gingercat and I think about moving out.

It’s meant to be wet and windy this weekend – no doubt I will be dragged out for long walks through the sodden countryside but I hope the rest of you batten down the hatches and enjoy Lockdown once again.

Someone here is already enjoying Lockdown as I can hear that tell-tale clink of ice.

Stay safe,

See you soon,

Russell

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