Mar 17

We’ve had two moments of unbridled terror this last fortnight.

Chairback Biggles [5D4_0865]

The first was prompted – rather surprisingly – by a Kleeneze catalogue. In case you’ve never heard of “Kleeneze” before, I’ll explain a bit about it. As I understand it, Kleeneze entices gullible souls to pay up front to be door-to-door salesmen for unremarkable cleaning products. They buy catalogues, shove them through your letterbox in a ziplock bag, then come back to collect them a few days later hoping that you’ve either:

a) elected to buy something from which they can earn commission (unlikely in the extreme), OR

b) kept the catalogue safe from your Beagles and resisted dumping it in the bin along with all the other junk that’s landed on the doormat including:

  • 37 charity bin bags you’re supposed to fill with old clothes
  • the latest phone directory (seriously does anybody still use them?)
  • some appalling waste of paper and ink from local politicians
  • bank statements that have been arriving twice-weekly ever since you signed up to their paperless scheme
  • a voucher for £1 off your first deep-fried tandoori-and-Mars-bar-flavored pizza from Bob & Jim’s Delhi-Belly TakeAway.

The Kleeneze model dates right back to the 1920’s and frankly it’s astonishing that it’s still going, but unfortunately it is, and we got one of its damned catalogues. I didn’t have the heart to bin it outright, and Beanie would have ripped it to shreds if she’d got her paws on it, so I just dumped it outside the house to be collected at some point in the future, hopefully without any ringing of the doorbell.

As it turned out, collection time came some days later while I was washing the Beaglemobile. A little kid ran up our driveway and intercepted me just as I was opening our front door to go back inside for a coffee.

“I’ve come for the Kleeneze catalogue” he announced.

“OK” I replied, “It’s just down there.. or.. it was.”

I pointed to the spot by the door where I’d left it, but it was already gone. Presumably a recent storm had grabbed it and whisked it away. The kid started to say something to me, but was drowned out by the sound of Biggles huffing and puffing. He’d been fast asleep on the sofa, but the sound of our voices had stirred him to leap to his feet, cast off his favorite orange blankie and sprint right through the open door. I immediately commanded him to stop (well, it’s always worth a try, right?) and reached down to grab his collar as backup.

The command failed, and so did the grab, but it didn’t matter because the kid’s reaction brought Biggles to an abrupt halt. I don’t know whether the kid was just plain afraid of dogs (even ones with big comedy ears and tufty white bottoms) or had misinterpreted my rush to secure The Bigglet as a sign of danger, but regardless, he screamed and raised up his arms as if performing an old-school upright row with an invisible barbell. Then after a slight pause for dramatic effect, and with his arms still raised in that curious and infamously shoulder-unfriendly position, he turned and ran off down the street.

I was left kind of stunned by this, and so was Biggles. Fortunately I came to my senses before he did, so I was able to hook his collar with my fingers and lead him back inside, closing the door firmly behind us. We haven’t had any more Kleeneze catalogues through our letterbox since.

Bored Biggles [5D4_0855]

Our second terror-filled encounter came during the offlead section of an otherwise pleasant beach outing. Needing a day off running, I walked Beanie and Biggles far enough up the beach to avoid unwanted encounters with other dogs and under-age Kleeneze representatives, then unclipped their leads. I had my camera with me – hoping to get some shots of them playing – but as Sods Law dictates, they sprinted away without even looking back; by the time I’d got the lens cap off they were just dots on the horizon. Happily those dots didn’t shrink further and disappear; instead they kept to-ing and fro-ing over the same patch of beach as Beanie chased after birds, and Biggles chased after Beanie.

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It took a while, but eventually they tired themselves out so much that they were happy to hang out near me and get regular servings of chicken. I strolled with them further up the beach for a while, until something ahead caught Beanie’s eye and she and Biggles went to investigate. At first it looked to me like a strange lump of seaweed in a puddle, but as I drew closer I recognised it as a dead fish, beached by the receding tide. Beanie was first to arrive at the fish, and Biggles drew up alongside her, sniffing the corpse tentatively to assess whether it had any potential as food. Within a second Biggles concluded that he wanted no part it; he trotted on past, casting Beanie a backward glance that said “trust me Beanie, no good can come from that, whatever it is.”

Beanie should have trusted him. He is after all the world’s least fussy eater; if anything is remotely edible, he’ll have a piece of it. He’ll even chow down on his worming tablet without me having to coat it in yoghurt, hide it in a treat, or just plain thrust it down his throat like I have to do with her royal haughtiness. So, when Biggles told her to leave it alone, that’s exactly what she should have done. But she didn’t. She inched closer and closer to it, until she could nudge it with her nose. The instant her sniffer made contact, the “dead” fish renanimated and flipped itself over in the puddle.

The movement of the zombie fish was shockingly fast and abrupt, coming without any prior warning. The movement of the Beanster was even faster. Without flexing her legs she instantly leaped back nearly a full yard. On landing she composed herself then trotted back to me deperately trying – but failing – to appear unshaken. Biggles turned to come back to me too, and gave his sister a robust but unhelpful “I told you so!” woofing.

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A mutual “let’s put this behind us” shake followed, after which I got them both back on lead and back to the car.

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Since that unfortunate experience The Pupplet has been spending even more time in our bed than usual. Maybe she believes that zombie fish know and respect that age-old rule: nothing scary can get you if you keep the covers over your head.

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Mar 5

Do you ever have moments when you’ve done something so utterly brilliant that you need to have an immediate show-and-tell moment with your nearest and dearest? Biggles does.

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He was so pleased with his latest project that he just had to show me. He tried scampering past me a few times but I was too buried in work to react, so he did the one thing that’s guaranteed to get my attention: he banged on the kitchen baby gate. Experience has taught me that it’s always easier to respond to this signal than to clean up the floor after ignoring it, so I left my desk and reported to Mr Biggles. On my arrival it was immediately obvious this wasn’t a request for the outside loo; he was looking at me not at the gate, and was wagging furiously.

For a moment I had no idea what it was all about, and then I saw my thermal running gloves, or rather what was left of them. They’d been due for a wash; dried sweat blended with chicken juice from several weeks of beach runs had left them smelling so strongly that even my nose noticed, but instead I’d just hung them up on a peg in the utility room to air a bit. “One more run this week, then I’ll wash ’em” I’d thought. Well, certainly there was no point in washing them now – the thumbs and first two fingers of each glove had gone completely. This was an unusually high degree of modification for The Bigglet, but presumably the rancid whiffs had inspired him to go further than usual, producing what he clearly considered to be his best ever work.

I looked at the gloves, and then looked at him. He was so pleased with himself I couldn’t possibly tell him off, though I may have said “Oh Biggles!!!” a couple of times under my breath. In the end I just did what he’s trained me to do: I picked them up and swapped them for a biccie. Yep, The Biggly Boy chewed the fingers off my best running gloves, and I paid him for his efforts. That’s how it works in our house.

At least Biggles and his smaller big sister Beanie were almost perfectly behaved on our weekend trip to Loch Doon. I say “almost perfectly behaved” because they felt the need to woof at other people when we parked up by the Roundhouse Cafe to go up Glessel Hill. They also woofed when they saw some sheep, and they woofed at me when I ate a sandwich without sharing. And Beanie rolled in some poo, and left a small bum-print on my t-shirt when we were sitting in the van before heading home. But apart from that, they were as well behaved as Beagles can be :)

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Biggles poses heriocally on the Glessel Hill cairn..

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..while Beanie licks up the bird poo

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Of course a Beagle can’t live on bird poo alone..

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Loch Doon from Glessel Hill

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For some reason the hill fort on the Ness Glen walk also caused a bit of woofing

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Loch Doon Castle later in the day

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The castle interior let us get our paws nice and muddy before going back to the van

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Sunset in the castle before the journey home

Feb 19
Oh Biggles!!!
icon1 Paul | icon4 02 19th, 2017| icon34 Comments »

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Prior to my ascent of Beinn Luibhean every single major hill I’d climbed had involved zig-zags; they’d either been part of the path – trading increased distance for a gentler gradient – or had been forced on me by natural obstacles. More than once I’d considered them irritating and unnecessary, and wondered what it would be like simply to set my sights on the top of a hill and head straight for it in an uncompromising straight line. If you’ve ever wondered that too, I can tell you right now exactly what it’s like: awful, especially if you’ve got deep snow to go through.

It’s even worse if you’ve got little boy called “Oh Biggles!!!” tied to your waist. Yes, during the course of our most recent hill climb I did indeed change my boy’s name from plain “Biggles” to “Oh Biggles!!!” with no less than three exclamation marks, but sometimes five or six. He earned this new appellation by constantly – and I do mean constantly – getting himself tied up in his own lead, forcing me to grind to a halt and untangle him. On several occasions he even got himself caught up in Beanie’s lead while I was still trying to free his back legs from his own.

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Munching on cow ears before the final push to the summit, and Oh Biggles!!! has got himself tied up yet again

The supreme irony of this whole venture was that I’d chosen Beinn Luibhean as a nice “warmup” hill for 2017 due to its modest height, easy path-free navigation (set your eyes on the summit and start walking), short length (less than 5km) and safe grassy surface. Thanks to the snow and my little furry numpty on legs it mutated into the freezing cold mother of all workouts. At times I was forced to scramble on all fours to get past the steeper snow-covered sections; Beanie & Biggles were scrambling on all fours too (it is after all their default state) but it wasn’t working for them. There was one particularly rough bit that went something like this:

  • Dig my hands into the snow for extra purchase and take one big step up and forward
  • Discover that Biggles is stuck behind me; pick him up and lift him forward, and in doing so, slip back one foot
  • Extract Biggles from the tangle he created almost immediately on being released
  • Discover that Beanie is stuck behind me; pick her up and lift her forward while sticking my head under Biggles’ bum to stop him slipping back
  • Extract Beanie’s lead from between Biggles’ legs (he’s just re-tangled)
  • Repeat all the above, over and over again

I’d long given up hope of getting any decent photograpy from the summit due to the white-out conditions; now it was just about beating what should have been a pretty trivial hill. Beanie at least was fully behind the “get to the top” plan – she was the first to get moving again after our cow ear-break.

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Onward and upward! Beanie’s never happy until she’s reached the top.

By the time we reached what appeared to be the highest point I was more than ready for my traditional summit treat – chocolate milk – except that by now it had frozen solid. Fortunately other treats – specifically a packet of meat and cheese nibbles with a picture of a happy labrador on the front – were unaffected by the conditions. I saw no point staying up there in the cold with nothing to see, so we started back down even before all the nibbles had been fully nibbled.

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No Dad, one serving is not going to cut it this time!

If going up a steep snow-covered hill is extra hard, going down is extra easy and extra fun. Even if you slip you’re guaranteed a soft landing! The lower we went, the more the white-out cleared, revealing glimpses of neighbouring mountains. And of course it got it warmer too; as our van came into view at the bottom of the hill my chocolate milk had thawed enough to drink, and I gave myself a thumping ice-cream headache with my first gulp.

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Doggy breakfast was served at the van, after which we drove just a couple of miles up the road to visit an old pictoresque stone bridge known as “The Butterbridge“. I’d had the satnav coordinates for the bridge in my phone for over two years, but had always given it a miss, often citing the excuse that the weather was “too good” – it’s one of those sites that looks disappointingly bland under sun and blues skies. On this day, there was no such problem :)

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