Sep 8

Until our recent trip to the Isle of Kerrera, Beanie & Biggles probably considered themselves to be experts when it comes to ferries. They’d ridden on them twice to Arran and once to Iona, and those trips had taught them everything they needed to know, specifically: (1) ferries have railings that are wide enough apart for you to stick your head through and most importantly (2) they have seats. Seats are great because the resourceful Beagle can forage around underneath them, often finding discarded sandwiches, crumbs from cakes and biscuits, and on a really good day, the occasional chip. You can imagine their surprise then when we told them they were having another ferry ride, but they ended up on this thing..


It was small, open to the water at one end, had no railings for nosey Beagles to stick their heads through and worst of all, no seats. I mean what use is a ferry like that?


I am not impressed Dad. Not impressed at all.

To his credit, Biggles tried to make the best of the situation. With no seats, perhaps there’d still be some foraging opportunities in the captain’s cabin? He strode confidently towards the doorway, but even this meager hope was denied him; apparently there’s some silly rule about cheeky Beagle boys not being allowed to captain passenger ferries (not even boys who’ve recently turned six years old). To make matters worse Beanie noticed a big orange ball thing on a rope giving her the evil eye and had to woof at it. In the end the only good thing about the ferry ride for the Beagle contingent was that it was over quickly.


Finally back on dry(ish) land!

The ferry issue was bad, but there was an even bigger problem with the Isle of Kerrera itself.  While researching it as a location for a day trip we’d considered almost everything about it, except its primary industry: sheep farming. Needless to say it was absolutely overrun with sheep, and it wasn’t long before Beanie & Biggles felt the need to speak out (rather loudly I might add) about this woolly infestation. They were both silenced, albeit briefly, on the approach to an old wreck on the coastline.


It wasn’t the imposing sight of the wreck that shut them up, but rather the noises coming from a nearby house equipped with an aviary and a dog with a booming voice. Susan figured it was the dog that left our pups speechless, but I disagreed; Biggles will happily indulge in name calling with much larger dogs so long as they’re behind a stout fence, which was the case here. No, there was no doubt in my mind that the cause of the short-lived Beagle silence was a particularly gobby parrot. I can’t speak parrot, and I’m pretty sure Beanie & Biggles can’t either, but we didn’t need subtitles to tell us that he (or she) was screeching some very disparaging remarks about us. Our pups didn’t descend to the parrot’s level; instead they quietly continued on their way with their heads held high and their dignity intact, pausing only to snack on a bit of cow poo.

The main attraction on Kerrera was always going to be the beautiful ruins of Gylen Castle. Built in a readily defensible position by the rugged coastline, the remains of the castle are open to all visitors. Unfortunately Beanie & Biggles couldn’t be among those visitors. We struggled through the gauntlet of sheep to an excellent outdoor tea & coffee shop, but the short route from there to the castle was particularly sheep-infested, so Susan & the pups camped out while I went in solo to get a few shots.


The approach to Gylen Castle


Inside, the roof clearly needs work


From a distance it appears that the castle has been built on a rocky cliff-like outcrop


It’s only when you go through one of the passageways beneath it that you realize the truth: the castle’s foundations aren’t rock, but densely packed sheep & cow poo. I know this because I spent a couple of minutes wiping said poo off my shoes and the feet of my tripod once I made it to the grass on the other side.

It wasn’t just the poo castle that Beanie & Biggles missed out on however. On the way to the castle there was a composting toilet, and I paid it a visit. I’d never used a composting toilet before, and without going into the details I can tell you I will never use one again, at least not without a hazmat suit, but it would have been a huge hit with the Beagles.

The journey back to the ferry went more smoothly than expected even though we passed by plenty of sheep. Maybe Beanie & Biggles had become acclimated to the island’s scents; maybe the way we kept rewarding their self restraint with chunks of our sandwiches also helped. Regardless, we made it to the ferry without any further woofy outbursts, and on the way back to the mainland Beanie even nabbed a stray Rolo that a previous passenger had dropped. Would you give someone your last Rolo? Beanie wouldn’t.

The Kerrera debacle was at least partially compensated for by a pleasant return visit to the miniature loch at Coire Ardair. Just as on our previous visit, the area around the loch was overcast and chilly, while elsewhere was sunny and much warmer. Maybe those high cliff walls create their own micro-climate. One thing’s for sure, Beanie & Biggles definitely enjoyed romping through the heather!




And finally, a parting shot from the Falls of Falloch. We’ve driven past the signs for this attraction countless times on our way up north, but this was the first time I’d actually stopped off for a visit. It’s not a good place for a walk – the falls are barely 2 minutes from the car park – but it’s certainly worth stopping there for a look!


Aug 28

What bounces like a soggy tennis ball, smells like a fish and looks like a poo gone wrong? Answer: the “cake” I made for Biggles’ sixth birthday.


I’ve always been a crap cook, but it seems I’m even worse at baking. I don’t even know where I went wrong. I had two world-leading experts in bakery consumption check my preparations at every stage, and they gave their seal of approval every time. In fact they would have been quite happy to have the cake even before I flung it in the microwave and nuked it (and isn’t that how all the best baking is done?)


Sardines, an egg and some flour. How hard can this baking thing be?


Please can I have it now Dad? Please?


Let me have a quick taste Dad. Just one small lick, I promise.

In fact when we had the ritual bowl lick-out while the microwave was running, I had a bit of a struggle preventing the Birthday Boy from running off with it into the garden. And yet, despite all these promising signs, the actual cake ended up looking like a sickly Labrador poo with a cowpat stuck on top. Fortunately that’s exactly the kind of thing Beanie & Biggles love to eat, so it went down rather well.



Another thing that went down well was Biggles’ birthday present. Meet Ally, a two-and-a-half foot long cuddly alligator with an incredible 16 squeakers and – just like a real alligator – a rattler in his head.



Ally is quickly unwrapped..


And after a tentative first examination, play begins!




Is Biggles actually trying to impersonate his new toy?


He must be, because that’s definitely the “death roll” he’s doing there.

So it looks like Ally’s a big hit with my boy, good enough to rival the squeaky monkey he got for his last birthday. The same unfortunately cannot be said for Beanie’s “unbirthday” present. If you’ve seen those crinkly, squeaky “Noah” owl toys in your local supermarket and wondered just how tough they are, wonder no more.


Beanie means business – this owl is in for a testing time


Two minutes into play. Already there’s a rip and the white stuff is being extracted..


Looks like nurse Beanie has lost another patient. But at least she’s harvesting the viable organs for a possible transplant.


That’s the squeaker accounted for; now it’s time to deal with the crinkly stuff – just like the crisp packets that Beanie likes tearing up!


Almost done..


The owl’s toast and Beanie’s just getting warmed up! Never mind Beanie, you can always have another slice of my poo cake


Aug 20
Back in Black(berries)
icon1 Paul | icon4 08 20th, 2014| icon37 Comments »

The blackberries have put in an early appearance this year, and they’re a welcome addition to our walks by the local farms. Beanie & Biggles were the first to spot them this time around; in previous years it was up to me to detect and introduce this tasty mid-walk snack, but I think those ever-active Beagle noses have finally become attuned to the scent of the berries. Certainly the first I knew of the berries was when Beanie got interested in a hedge and went into her surprisingly refined and delicate picking routine.



The berries may be here, but only a few of them have ripened and assumed the dark color that gives them their name. Beanie’s smart enough to hunt down only the ripe ones, but Biggles is less discerning.



I don’t know if he actually likes the taste of the unripe ones, or whether his stomach simply has more say in the matter than his tastebuds, but he’ll happily stand there munching away until I convince him to get on with the walk. And when we finally get back home there’s even more munching to be done, because it’s time for breakfast!


I’m sure other dogs get excited about their breakfasts, but I can’t believe that any of them get quite as excited as The Bigglet. He woofs, he howls, and his rear-end wags so much that he can’t keep his bum still in a sit no matter how hard he tries. I guess he really believes the old adage that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. When he gets it he always, and I do mean always, insists on spilling some of it on the floor. Susan and I have often pondered what’s going through his head when he does that. I’m convinced it’s a celebration, like someone throwing a bundle of cash in the air. Regardless, it’s not a particularly wise thing to do because Beanie eats more efficiently, finishes first and goes after his stray kibble. Even worse, the odd piece of kibble sometimes goes under the hall table and I have to recover it before Beanie digs up the flooring in her bid to get at it. But Biggles never seems to mind, he’s just so happy that it’s breakfast time.


That’s the great thing about my optimistic little boy; he ignores all the little knock-backs in life and rejoices in every single good thing that comes his way, even if it’s a routine event. That’s a good way to be! And on the 28th of the month, when it’s his sixth birthday, he’s going to have seventeen new reasons to rejoice, sixteen of which squeak. I wonder how much his bum will wag then?

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