The dog has gone to the pub

It does sound like the start of one of these jokes ‘a horse walks into a pub, and orders a beer etc.’ but it does appear to be a true story.

We went to look at a new house to buy today and as we had run out of polite things to say to the owner, we shifted the conversation to dogs as she had mentioned they had previously owned one (we presume now gone to doggy heaven, or part of a divorce settlement and gone to live with her ex husband along with it seems also half a grand piano, the ties she had cut the bottoms off and the mid life crisis sports car that may have been the start of the the bad times that had ensued.

Anyway, back to the dog. The dog it seems was a Patterdale Terrier called Zoom. Quite why you would name a dog after an on-line conference calling application flummoxed me.

To be fair the dog had perhaps pre-dated the technology age, but it still seemed strange. Nevertheless, calling a dog Skype or Microsoft Teams would have been equally surprising!

As a previous owner of a Patterdale Border terrier cross, I know Patterdales have some endearing qualities to hopefully offset their not so endearing ones of chasing cats and terrorising other dogs who might dare to greet them. Patterdales do like to be liked by people and it seems Zoom was no exception. Being an intelligent dog he had worked out that when he was taken to the local pub, the kindly drinkers of the Fleece would make a fuss of him, let him sleep by the fire and feed him with some very tasty pub grub. In Yorkshire we not only give our pubs sensible no nonsense names like the Fleece, the Rams Head or the Shepherds boy; we also serve decent size pub food portions meaning there is often a bit going spare for a hungry terrier!

The downside of this great local hospitality was it seems that every time they returned home from a walk, particularly in wild and wet wintry weather when the only prospect for the dog was perhaps a bit of a cold hose down to remove mud, and then some not very appealing supermarket dog food, the lure of the pub was too much and he would run off there at the first chance.

So the moral of the story to us was…if you decide to live here and your dog goes missing…check the pub first!

Brian – a very intelligent squirrel

We have a resident squirrel or two in our garden. One of them in particular is remarkably intelligent.

I can’t really give too much provenance to his early education although I am told he played on 2012 University Challenge Cambridge University team some years ago (but possibly as mascot) and more recently has been a successful contestant in some TV quizzes. His skills are however not confined to the subjects of biochemistry, early English literature and nano physics, but also to how to open a bird feeder that has a spring clip and then to be able to remove nuts out of reach of his legs by swinging said feeder vigorously.

We have actually become very fond of Brian, and although the natural next step might be to just leave the peanuts in a more accessible place, there are downsides to this. Firstly the mental challenges are probably good for him – current restrictions will be limiting his social interaction and there are of course no pub quizzes for him to enter at the moment and a local gymnastics competition that I know he has been considering training for and participating in has just been deferred for some months. The other reason of course is that Brian has a wide circle of friends and providing dinner party facilities for such a group would probably require stocks of peanuts that we just don’t have readily to hand at the moment.

Squirrels are relatively new to our garden….our resident garden guardian Geoffrey also felt it his duty to ‘see them off the premises’ but alas Geoffrey is not with us anymore, but probably looking down from doggy heaven with slight bemusement at the new residents.

Our kindly vet who looked after Geoffrey in his later years would often comment, ‘if Geoffrey could talk, I am sure he would be a very polite dog’ , I think based on the dogs stoicism and acceptance of prods, examinations and the odd injection. Praise indeed , and proof that we always have had only the best in our garden.

New dogs required?

Driving along one of our local motorways a few days ago, I was a bit perturbed to see numerous overhead gantry signs with the message ‘ The UK leaves the EU on 31 December, new dogs required’ . I knew things were changing but not that every pet owner had to replace their four legged friends. With the average price for any pedigree puppy being around GBP£2000, it could be an expensive business.

Who wouldn’t like a new dog?

The displays certainly aren’t clear……as my mother in law,  on a separate journey actually read it as New Docks required and was left wondering why Dover, Southampton, Hull etc. were all being consigned to the history books.

It took an eagle eyed family member in the car who could focus on the signs and not the road ahead …..to note that the message is actually all about ‘docs’ as in documents ..not dogs or seaports.

Another sign I spotted a junction or so later helpfully asked the question ‘Travelling to France? Covid Test required’.  Very helpful info you may say, but this road junction in Yorkshire, Northern England and is some 4 hours drive (about 250 miles) from the nearest seaport from where you can take the ferry to France! In reality the majority of cars who use this particular exit are either travelling to the local Ikea or Lidl and really not much further!

As a nation, in the UK we are actually quite used to unusual signage..in the early 1990’s we had the Traffic Cones hotline promoted all along our motorways  complete with a freephone 0800 number. The only problem being nobody had a clue why it was there?

Some people thought it was to report stray or lost traffic cones, others a counselling service for those to report and get advice on an unhealthy romantic attraction to these plastic hat impersonators, some assumed it was to complain about there being too many of them and so on. In fact it was actually an information line you could ring to find out where there were roadworks on the country’s motorway network, presumably to avoid them…or if you had a strange interest in them, so that you could plan a Happy weekend of contra-flow driving complete with other features including those family favourites…’raised man hole covers’ and ‘temporary road service’.

Anyway, such signs are now just history.

But despair not, visit Scotland’s motorways and you will still find signage to delight. In Scotland, people just generally say it as it is and this is the tone of the signage there too. My favourites are the signs displayed on many stretches of motorway with helpful motoring advice…’Watch your speed’. Yes for sure many a driver will be prodded by this reminder and ease off the accelerator pedal a bit; another is , ‘Check your fuel’..likewise a quick glance at the fuel gauge makes sense….but the ‘icing on the cake’ goes to ‘Check your tyres’….really??? At 70 miles per hour in the fast lane!!!

Britain’s most connected dog

Like many people, I have more than one e-mail address for practical reasons.

One of these secondary ones I use when I have to give a valid e mail address for identification but I am somewhat reluctant to do so.

This address was chosen to differentiate from my normal one that uses my full name, and this alternate sounds like it should be the name of my dog….

Anyway it seems this address may have ended up in the loving hands of a spammer.

This week alone, the dog has been advised it is due a tax rebate of £286 from Her Majesty’s Customs and Revenue. This is the somewhat quaint  sounding governmental organisation that we in the UK pay our taxes to.

It appears also that the dog has not bought a TV licence ( yes, another uniquely British thing) and a fine is imminent unless action is taken by giving persons unknown all your personal and bank data. And finally in a thoroughly bad week for the dog, it’s been told its Internet is going to be disconnected due to misuse of the system and Netflix just wants to ‘check’ it has the correct banking details!



Finally it’s not all gloom and doom though…last week there was an offer of a Russian bride, and an earlier mail that same week offering some plastic surgery  from a clinic in Romania.

All of these interruptions just end up tossed in the virtual bin….


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Who said life was dull?

Happy days…

Enjoying this blog…subscribe and don’t expect any of the above!

A very polite dog

A few weeks ago I was helping a younger  family member in a house move. As we all know, the more moves you do, the more stuff you accumulate each time.

I recall my early house moves where it literally all could be done with a few suitcases, some boxes and a hired taxi or minicab for one trip across town.

Then as time progressed this process morphed in to needing somebody with an estate car (that’s station wagon for my North American readers), then fast forward a few years and houses more  and then  it’s small vans, then larger vans and so on!



Anyway this move was at the large van stage…… plus some car loads.  So we did our first trip of about an estimated four more  for the day and soon discovered that parking  at the new house destination was best achieved by unloading at the adjacent leisure centre car park rather than squeezing in to a small parking space immediately outside the property.

So after a tiring day with  four trips done it was time for a quick meal break in the evening  with some  pizza before Ikea furniture re-building! We had soon discovered that Billy the bookcase was not keen on this concept of moving …anyway that’s a tale for another day.

Boxing day

So we just relaxed for this quick meal break and I used the opportunity to look at my phone and check for messages.

I was a little surprised that Google had become aware I was right next to a gym and wanted to know how I rated my visit!!

Thorough and efficient as ever,  she  asked me the same question, three  more times. Did I enjoy my visit and can I write a review? Dare I say it , a bit abrupt in its tone and approach with me…especially as this is just my phone in dialogue with me!

It reminded me though of the opposite situation…our dog in his letter years was becoming a regular visitor to the vet particularly in his latter years for various boosters, dental issues and so on. We had a very kindly, softly spoken a Scottish vet in our Yorkshire veterinary surgery thst we had attended (No, it wasn’t James Herriot, but it was that kind of place).

Tool kit ready

On lifting Geoffrey our dog onto the bench and sticking yet another needle in him and just getting compliance and tolerance from the dog…the vet was heard to comment ” you know, I am sure if Geoffrey could speak, he would be a very polite dog”. So Google….please do take note of how to behave and learn some manners!

Sleeping dog is a happy dog

A house, a car, a holiday and a very large bar of chocolate

Ask many people and it appears that quite surprisingly, well surprisingly to me anyway, is they have a ready prepared list of what they would buy if they had a substantial lottery or premium bond win.

For readers outside of the UK, I probably need to explain Premium bonds. Quite simply it’s state sponsored gambling where you might be a winner (and that’s a very, big extremely unlikely kind of might) or you will at least not be a loser. Why? You always get your money back when you exit. Even years later. Great Auntie Flo would buy you a one pound (and that’s money, not weight) Premium bond for your Christening and each month it goes in a draw for prizes ranging from 1 million pounds down to 50 pounds. Thirty years later, having not won a million pounds , or even more than 50 pounds very occasionally , you can then “cash in your chips” and get your original pound back. What’s not to like about that?

Unlike poker, you always keep your ‘stake’ with premium bonds

Anyway, people have these lists and often they start with something practical and fiscally prudent such as a house, then an item that is somewhat frivolous and is often a totally impractical car.

And then final item is usually disproportionately small, such as a bar of Cadburys Milk Chocolate or a multi pack of Tunnocks caramel wafers but hey, why not!!

I don’t have such a list, but if I did, my number one item would be a Beach Hut. It sort of gets itself in all three categories of being sort of practical, a bit frivolous and also rather small.

Beach huts are not completely unique to the UK, but they are a very British institution and often found in the more genteel seaside resorts of Aldeburgh, Southwold and Frinton-on-Sea. Beach Huts are in some ways very impractical.

You can’t sleep in them, they have no electricity, no toilet or washing facilities are very hard to insure and stand a high chance of being wasted out to sea, and turned into matchwood to be washed up at Blankenberg, Belgium one stormy January day. Oh , and did I mention they are hard to buy with long waiting lists and are very expensive, a bit like any true love!

And then having finally bought one, you then need a clever name for it. Sea view or Ocean gaze just don’t meet the standard. Creativity with names such as the Dog House, Cat Nap or Vitamin Sea is how you get yourself noticed!

I haven’t quite thought of a name yet for mine , but Late Again does appeal for obvious reasons. 😁

The best of people

I am not the world’s biggest Instagramer (if that is the correct collective term?) and have probably only 50 or so followers and likewise I follow only 50 or so people. However the more I grow to use it, the more I have concluded that generally you either get polite and positive feedback of what you publish, if it pleases the eye or entertains…and if it is the converse, then you are just politely ignored. At least that is my experience or maybe I have just been lucky?

I understand more now why Instagram has so much more appeal now compared to other social media such as Facebook, Twitter and even Linked In . These sites will produce frenzied reaction if what is presented goes against the view of the reader.

I like sunsets, I would like sunrises too if they could be more aligned with when I have woken up!

Admittedly my Instagram publications are not controversial. Mostly photos of my local area when I am walking, overseas locations when I am traveling for work and animals at any opportunity! The occasional funny message or sign also gets in from time to time.

One thing to point out though…..I am no longer a teenager…that ship sailed decades ago. Had Instagram been around then, perhaps boredom, frustration or incredulity at the numerous photos I would have presented back then as a 14 year old train spotter would have provoked a response from even the most mild mannered reader.

On reflection I really do now ask myself why I spent so many hours, duly adorned in an anorak writing down train numbers. Thankfully it was a short lived hobby and at age 15 I turned my attention to girls.

Again let’s be thankful Instagram didn’t exist then too. My ‘beaus’ of those days may not have been happy for their 1970’s fashion and hairstyles to be preserved forever in the public eye!

To preserve anonymity..just a photo of their jeans

So back to today. Instagram let’s us share our world in images. A picture speaks a 1000 words. Let’s keep them as nice ones.

Geoffrey..the nicest dog in the world

Bookshops, log fires and trains

A few weeks ago, we had a quick visit to Northumberland for the weekend. From where we live in Yorkshire, it’s only a couple of hours drive away and to use that well used cliche, it is a hidden gem!

Castles, deserted beaches with seals , lighthouses and unspoilt towns all just a couple of hours away.

Our first stop was at the town of Alnwick…in summer very popular with visitors to it’s castle (the location of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies) and also the renowned Alnwick Gardens.

But our winter visit was focused on a warm and cosy tea shop for lunch, then some Christmas shopping in the town centre which has a great array of independent shops rather than the ubiquitous array of vape shops, tattooists and charity shops that seem to abound on many UK High streets. Alnwick also has the most wonderful second hand bookshop, Barton Books in the towns old railway station. It is huge and has a stock of over 200,000 books…that’s a lot of books!

It is wonderfully eclectic in style with a model railway above the bookshelves, several eating places in former waiting rooms complete with log fires and is very dog friendly.

What’s not to like?

A short post I know, and no earth shattering revelations of science, politics or general knowledge , nothing of great amusement to be repeated to your friends…but sometimes in life, its the simple things that are the best and this was one of those weekends!

I hope you enjoy these posts ….please do comment and share. Meantime I wish you a good weekend…..

New tricks for old dog….

You cannot teach an old dog new tricks is a well used idiom in the English language.

I am not sure if it exists in other languages but it probably translates quite well as compared with more confusing expressions such as ‘this is the exception that proves the rule’ , or even more confusingly ‘pardon my French’ uttered when people are indeed not speaking French, but speaking English, but with words you wouldn’t want your mother to hear!

The etymological origins of this are quite interesting in that way, way back some French was used in England and occasionally in error people would intersperse English with some random French phrases and then realise their error and apologise for it.

It is true that it takes longer for an old dog to learn new things, but it is not impossible, and the same for us humans. At one time there was almost an acceptance of once beyond a certain age, you really don’t do new things or make changes other than really radical things such as changing the day you go to Aldi from a Monday to a Tuesday!

If you think I am joking, I am aware of elderly couple who recently took this dramatic move and it was such a big thing they felt it merited being broadcast to all interested parties via a Whats App group message and then the services of a family member who happens to be trained counselor to assist them through their trauma!

But it seems we are as a nation and a generation getting better at doing new stuff.

Running clubs have new members joining in there 50’s, 60’s and 70’s in part helped by the popularity of Parkrun – if you are not familiar with the concept of Parkrun….Google it.

TV cookery programmes such as Masterchef and Bake off have inspired countless thousand to be more adventurous in (or even just find…) the kitchen.

And then there are the thousands or indeed tens of thousands of people writing – whether they are novelists or just simple bloggers…more than ever thoughts and ideas are being translated into the written word.

The opportunities to do new things are endless…ok, some of them are very expensive and costs and time exclude these for many people.

For me I would love to learn to fly and really hope that one day circumstance will allow this but that certainly is on the ‘one day, but not now list’, but meantime for all of us the chances to learn and enjoy unmeasurable new things are boundless and very accessible.

So, Carpe diem !

….and one day you will remember this blog as your starting point for learning Latin !

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A few of my favourite things…?

A subjective question and of course answered in song by Maria in the classic movie, The Sound of Music.

There was no Google back then to answer this question (assuming she had been asked such a question, or had just decided to tell people her favourite things anyway!)

If there had been such electronic guidance, the answers might have been more noble or momentous… like the wheel, the internal combustion engine, the internet, penicillin rather than Brown paper parcels tied up with string etc.

Meanwhile back in the more materialistic non Von Trapp family world………….

for me white chocolate magnums have to be right up there at the top of the list, beating anything with marzipan by a mere whisker and pushing smart phone taxi apps which have been a game changer for me, just into 3rd place.

Yes, I know a big focus on food here but the said ice creams are totally a perfect blend of two loves in my life…vanilla ice cream and white chocolate (with all due respect to my human and doggie loves) and marzipan has always played a big part in my life (ditto with due respect to my wife, children, friends and dogs).

And what even took me down this alley of thoughts? On the subject of dogs, it seems that they too can now enter this world of ice cream admiration!

So why taxi apps such as Uber or Lyft…?

I travel a lot internationally in my job and have had my fair few moments of challenging taxi journeys (especially one lost taxi in Athens…yes it really was, click to read the story!) so anything to ease that is good!

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