When Himself said he was going on a Freefall Course and that I could come with him, I imagined high jinks at 15,000 feet – like Henry the paragliding Cockapoo in this picture.
Imagine my disappointment when we got to Hawkwood College and I was made to lie silently in front of the fire while a dozen people sat around listening to stories. It turns out that it was a Freefall Writing Course and that the only thing being done without a parachute was putting one word after another. I should have known better than to imagine Himself would ever jump out of an airplane. He seemed to be enjoying himself though. I think he must have a very low excitement threshold.
He asked me on the way home if I recognised his writing when it was read out. Naturally, I wagged affirmatively and gave his chops an encouraging lick even though it all sounds the same to me. Humans respond well to praise and learn new tricks more quickly through positive reinforcement, as the writing teacher herself clearly understood.
Once I realised that my dreams of skydiving were not going to be realised, I decided to enjoy the fire and to make the most of all the cuddling that was on offer. One day though, I shall pull on a parachute harness and plunge joyfully through the wide blue yonder. Until then, greetings from us all on the Freefall Writing Course in the Old Library at Hawkwood.
Try not to overdose on adrenalin as you look at the picture.
Captain Midnight here with greetings for the Birthday Boy.
When Himself says ‘Sit’ I usually give the matter some thought and then, like any self-respecting canine, I make up my own mind. It’s great fun: He stands there, arms crossed, while I decide what I’m going to do, then he shouts a bit and goes red in the face when I slope off into the garden.
Occasionally I do go along with what he likes to call the Voice of Command, just to see the look of surprise on his face. I can generally wheedle a treat out of him when I do this. If I had opposable thumbs, I could open the packet myself and then there’d be no need to feign obedience.
Last week Himself had a ‘big’ birthday so I agreed to sit properly for my portrait to be painted. It was a present from his daughter and it was a secret until the very last moment. He laughed when he unwrapped it, so I gave him a stern look. He apologised and told me he’d been thinking about something else that had tickled his funny bone.
I said that neither of us was getting any younger and that he should be happy to be having a birthday at all. He rather took the wind out of my sails when he replied that he was looking forward to us growing old together, so I jumped on his lap and gave both his ears a birthday lick.
Anyway, this fine portrait of me in dress uniform now occupies pride of place in his study. I’m hoping he’ll eventually bequeath it to my old regiment –The Royal Bark-Shires – so they can hang it in the Officer’s Mess alongside the pictures of my old mates Fearless Freddie Foxhound and Brigadier Bertie (The Bonecruncher) Basset.
‘The Tuck Shop is in trouble,’ declared Bob Cherry, the prematurely bald, dome-headed saviour of the Remove to the assembled members of the Fourth Form Common Room
‘It can’t go on,’ Frank Nugent chimed in.
‘You are quite right,’ said Hurree Jamset Ram Singh. ‘Our traditional post-colonial fare of iced buns and lardy cake is facing unfair competition from massive unrestricted imports of delicious cheap French patisserie.’
‘Oooh. Buns. Cake. Patisserie,’ groaned Billy Bunter in a corner of the room.
‘What shall we do?’ asked Frank.
‘Well,’ said Bob. ‘It’s tricky, because – technically – we don’t actually own the Tuck Shop.’
‘Who does?’ asked Hurree.
‘The whole school,’ said Bob. ‘It belongs to everyone. Everyone has to decide what to do.’
‘That’s ridiculous,’ said Frank. ‘Dayboys and Newbugs are much too stupid to have any idea what to do about something as serious as this.’
‘You’re right of course, old chum,’ said Bob. ‘That’s why we have a thing called Democracy. It means that us members of the Common Room get to interpret the will of the school so that Dayboys and Newbugs don’t actually get their hands on any more of the good stuff than we can help.’
‘Crikey,’ said Hurree. ‘What a beezer arrangement. I’m glad we get to make the real decisions.’
‘Not you, Hurree,’ chorused Bob and Frank. ‘You’re just here because your people are good at sums and to give us a spurious sense of inclusivity. But you are right about one thing: it is a beezer arrangement.’
‘Excellent,’ said the athletically inclined but less than intellectually gifted Frank, ‘and are we for or against delicious cheap French patisserie?’
‘For and against,’ said Bob Cherry. ‘For, in the sense that it’s jolly good to eat and that you and I should be able to have as much of it as we want. Against, in the sense that we’ve been telling the Dayboys and Newbugs for years that iced buns and lardy cake are much better for them.’
‘Oooh. Buns. Cake. Patisserie,’ groaned Bunter again. ‘What’s a chap to do?’
‘What indeed?’ Bob Cherry mused.
‘I can see the problem,’ said Hurree. ‘But can’t Democracy help us find a way through? If we put the matter to a vote of the whole school, it’s bound to be a close run thing and then we can decide what the result means.’
‘Spot on, my perspicacious foreign friend,’ said Bob. ‘Now all we need is someone to be the public face of our campaign. It can’t be me because the school would suspect my motives. I’m more of a backroom boy; the power behind the throne. It can’t be Frank because he has trouble tying his own shoelaces. And it can’t be Hurree because… well it obviously can’t be Hurree…”
‘Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres,’ mumbled Bunter, apropos of nothing.
‘That’s it!’ whooped Bob Cherry. ‘It has to be you Bunter. They’ll have no idea what you’re talking about. They’ll just assume it’s what they want to hear. It’s the ultimate in plausible deniability. I never thought I’d say this: Bunter you’re a genius!’
‘Per ardua ad astra,’ Bunter gurned, delightedly.
‘Are we agreed?’ asked Bob Cherry.
‘Bunter… Bunter… Bunter…’ chanted the whole Common Room, drumming their desks.
‘Hurrah,’ yelled Frank Nugent above the din. ‘We’re all behind you, Bunter.’
When the cacophany died down, Bob Cherry handed the keys of the Tuck Shop to Billy Bunter, the tousle-haired Owl of the Remove ‘Have you anything to say to us, Great Leader?’
Bunter beamed triumphantly and plunged the keys deep into a trouser pocket whilst rubbing his belly through his bulging waistcoat. ‘Veni… Vidi… Vici…’
To be continued…
Next week’s episode: Sic transit gloria mundi or Spaffed up against the wall
Himself is not much of a photographer, is he? I told him to bring the Leica and set it to ISO 200, aperture f/5.6 and shutter speed 1/125sec. But no, he just bangs away with the old iPhone and hopes for the best. No matter, it’s the walk that counts and this is one of my favourites. This time of year, we head off most days at dusk in our reflective jackets, for about an hour’s run in the fields behind Kingscote Church. Just to be clear, I run and Himself plods along behind. It was full moon tonight…
That’s my werewolf impression. Not bad, eh?
the life out of Himself when I crept up behind him and let rip!
Quite often, the foxes leave the remains of pheasants lying around. I don’t like foxes much but I am fond of their leftovers. Crunchy. Chewy. Gamey verging on rancid. Perfect gourmet meal for a canny canine. No such luck tonight, so I had to make do with a stick, as you can see.
here, back in the land of the living.
Not to put too
fine a point on it, I’ve had a bout of the collywobbles. Himself noticed that I
was off my food last weekend and when we took our evening constitutional on
Saturday evening, things took a turn for the worse…
…at both ends.
We had an
emergency visit to the Vet on Sunday afternoon but I couldn’t keep the medicine
down. The next day I was all floppy so Himself took me back and they decided to
keep me in hospital for 24 hours and put me on a drip because I was dehydrated.
If you look carefully at the picture, you’ll see where they shaved my foreleg
to stick the needle in.
I’ve lost a bit
of weight but I’m feeling much better now, although my tummy is still a bit
delicate. I don’t recommend gastro-enteritis to anyone, human or canine.
That said, the
past week has not been entirely without benefits: a staple diet of hand-carved
organic turkey breast from Waitrose; gentle walks twice a day; and much
cuddling on the sofa in front of the fire. Himself said he loved me and he didn’t
know what he’d do without me, so I’d better not get ill again.
He even seemed
pleased when I got up and barked at the postman.
I’m just back
from a delightful few days staying with some new friends in London while
Himself went off to Berlin. He said it was for work but you know what he’s
like, he probably thought he was joining Smiley’s People for some sort of Cold
War spy-swap shenanigans.
real reason for his journey, it gave me the chance to have a jolly of my own.
New sofa to lie on, new garden to run around in, gourmet meals, and walks in
the park. All very satisfactory, especially Acton Park, which had some enticingly
Of course, as a
Cockapoo (half Spaniel, half Poodle) I love the water, though my hosts seemed
rather surprised that I should make a bee-line for the mud. They were even more
surprised when I shook myself clean right next to them.
Share the joy, I
There are many good
health reasons for a chap to take a mud bath, including: flea control; relief
of arthritic aches and pains; and soothing hot spots and skin irritations.
Fortunately, I don’t suffer from any of these ailments. I have another reason
entirely for rolling around in the mud.
here with news of an exciting game I’ve just invented.
I call it Sticks and Stones and it goes like this.
Obviously, nothing beats the fun of making your human throw a ball over and over again. It must be some deep instinct, a hangover from hunter-gatherer days that triggers the reflex action of throwing a ball as soon as you lay it at their feet. It’s so sweet to see them in the wild behaving naturally, isn’t it?
But, I digress.
Here’s how to
play Sticks and Stones.
Stage One: Assuming
that there’s no ball, look for a good-sized stone when you are out walking with
your human, preferably somewhere it’s safe to let them off the lead. Pick up the
stone and run away with it until you hear a cry of “Oi, mutt (or something similar).
You’ll ruin your teeth with that, give it here and I’ll get you a stick
instead.” Easy peasy.
putty in our paws, aren’t they?
Stage Two: Look
pitiful and reluctantly give up the stone (which would actually ruin your teeth
by the way) but only when Himself has produced a decent stick and thrown it. Insist
on one with a bit of heft, not some ancient twig that will disintegrate in
seconds. Sometimes they try to fool you into giving up the stone without swapping
it for a stick. That’s not a problem as there are always plenty of stones to go
around and you just begin the game again.
Stage Three: And
here’s the twist… when he throws the stick, don’t bring it back. I’ll say that
again. Don’t bring it back. I know. It’s devilish isn’t it? Your human will
probably just stand there not knowing what to do while you find somewhere to
lie down and chew the bejesus out of it. Chances are this will unsettle your
human whose chucking instinct you have just thwarted. Don’t feel bad about this;
it’s good for them to learn new tricks.
Stage Four: At
this point Himself will almost certainly pretend that he didn’t want you to
bring it back to him and that what he really wants is for you to carry it home.
At which point you pretend to lose it in the long grass and he’ll tell you to
find it and you can run round sniffing the ground, pretending you’re as blind
as bat. Of course, you do know where it is, but the object of the game is to
make him look for it himself. There’s hours of fun to be had from watching your
human walk up and down a field cursing until he gives up.
Stage Five: You now have two options, either casually locate the stick and pick it up with a superior air and continue the game as before for a further round or, if you are fairly close to home, you can go for broke and pretend you can’t find it either. That way you arrive home without the stick for an outright win.
endgame requires careful timing otherwise there’s the humiliating prospect of
walking through the gate with the blasted thing clamped between your jaws and
Himself patting you on the head and declaring that you are a ‘good boy.’
playing Himself at Sticks and Stones for
a few weeks now.
Midnight here relaxing after a hard day’s fishing.
week, Himself taught me everything he knows about Carp. It didn’t take long, a)
because I’m a fast learner, and b) it turns out that he doesn’t know that much
about our noble quarry. Not enough to catch them anyway.
went in Rosie the Campervan to a secret location for a couple of days: a farm with
a private lake, not far from the River Severn. It looked promising to me, not
least because the lake was so small that there didn’t seem to be anywhere for
the fish to hide.
It was a team effort. His job was to sit on his bottom by the water all day holding a fishing rod and staring at a tiny float; mine was to dig up tree roots, chew sticks and bark at anything that moved.
I did my job rather well
Himself got off to a decent start by landing a fish (which with typical hyperbole, he called a whopper) at the close of play on the first day. He was so pleased with himself that he insisted on photographing said beast before returning it to the water. I’m surprised he didn’t attempt a selfie although it was wriggling somewhat.
sad to say that things went downhill the next day with only a handful of carp,
whose proportions were so modest that one might more accurately call them bashful.
For some reason, this was deemed to be my fault and I was obliged to spend hours
on end tied to various trees to stop me running around on the bank.
My only consolation is that, as you can see from the following clandestine snap on my spy camera, Himself spent nearly as much time tied to a tree as I did.
It ran away but I ran faster and I dispatched the wee creature. I’m not sure who was most surprised but there you are. I may be pretty but never forget that I’m descended from wolves. Besides, the world would be a better place if you humans only consumed what you caught and killed with your own teeth.
Himself was not best pleased and wouldn’t let me eat it, which was a bit rich considering that he’s about to head off to the Masai Mara on safari next week. I bet he won’t complain if he sees a cheetah bring down an antelope.
“Magnificent,” he’ll say. “Nature red in tooth and claw.” Then he’ll gaze through his binoculars at said cheetah as it demolishes the carcass. But I catch a leveret in a Gloucestershire corn field and I get shouted at.
Talk about double standards.
It happened this afternoon and I think Himself has got over it now. We went for a walk in the woods afterwards and he hosed me down in the garden later to cool off. We’re officially friends again, though it was a testing time for both of us.
Captain Midnight here on the final evening of our sojourn in the Emerald Isle.
Himself and I spent a jolly couple of weeks keeping one step ahead of the rain in Rosie the Campervan. It’s been a pretty good trip: lots of beaches to run around on; long walks along country lanes; and cosy sleeping arrangements for the pack. Himself claims to have done “lots of writing” but he always says that.
Best of all was two nights of wild camping by the River Blackwater, so we could meet up with our old friend and guide, Glenda Powell. Himself spent hours thrashing around with a two-handed fly rod, under her watchful eye, chasing non-existent salmon while I got down to the serious business of sniffing out interesting things to roll in.
Otter shit is my new favourite perfume: distinctive, pungent, lasts for days. Astonishingly, not everyone seems to like it. Himself actually swore at me until I got off the bed and settled down to sleep on the front seat. I think his exact words were: “Jesus Christ, Ted. Are you trying to kill me?”
Himself took the picture of me in the Fishing Hut, relaxing after a hard day in and out of the river. He’d drawn a blank on the salmon front, but Glenda and I encouraged him to wait for the evening rise and go after trout instead. He left at dusk, lightweight fly rod in hand, and returned happy and triumphant a couple of hours later at 11.00pm.
When I asked for some evidence of the “half dozen good-sized trout” he claimed to have caught, he pointed out that photographing wriggling fish, in the dark, using only his left hand, whilst up to his waist in water, would have been tricky to say the least.
I suppose we’ll just have to take his word for it.
He said that fly-fishing alone on the river, casting by moonlight, with just a tug on the line to indicate a take, was… now what did he call it… oh yes… “A glimpse of heaven: the most fun you can have with your waders on!”
He had a large whisky to celebrate. I got a bit of leftover bacon.