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Posted on September 14, 2009 in Life, the Universe and Everything, Oddities by Jay24 Comments »

Here is my contribution for this week’s Macro Monday.  I would love to tell you what it is, but unfortunately I haven’t a clue!  Anyone know?

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I had taken a walk with my little Panasonic Lumix bridge camera – a lovely thing, light and compact, but with more features than the point and shoot – and came across this weird looking seed head near the path.  I have never seen anything like it before.  I can see that it’s a member of the umbelliferae, which is a group of plants with florets arranged in an umberella shape on top of a stem, with many tiny branching stalks and a flat top … but wait! There is no flat top!  Could there be a creature of some kind in there, which has made itself a little nest, or a nursery?  Maybe the plant has a virus which has caused it to turn inward and tangle itself in a knot?  Perhaps the seeds are tiny burrs, and the wind has whipped it and thrashed it until it’s got all stuck to itself?

There were no identifiable leaves left which I could see.  Nothing more than the stalk and this odd-looking head.  Oh well, it makes for an intriguing photo, does it not?

I didn’t have a tripod with me, and it was windy, so I had to hold the stalk in one hand to steady it and shoot one handed.  It’s a little bit fuzzy, but it’s a miracle it turned out as well as it did.

By the way, the picture is clickable, but you’ll need to click again on the next page to see the full-sized version.  I’m still trying to find out how to ‘fix’ this, since updating the blog.

Posted on September 13, 2009 in Hounds, Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay21 Comments »

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No? Oh good, because here’s another one for you!

Despite being up until a totally ridiculous hour last night – I think we hit the sack at about 2.45am – we decided to take Sid to a local greyhound charity fun dog show today. He’s still inclined to be suspicious of small breeds, and it was a great opportunity to let him mingle with a lot of dogs of all breeds, so we piled into the car around lunchtime and set off. And it was very brave of us, let me tell you, because I went to check on the address this morning and the notice about the show had been lost, so all I had was a rough location and the name of the nearest roundabout, but we found it.

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Now, the weather forecast for today was ‘a little cooler, but still fine and warm’. I looked up at the sky and picked up my coat this morning. OH, on the other hand, listened to the forecast and did not. The wind was howling across the field when we arrived in Dog Show Land, reducing the temperature to a chilly 12°C, so I’ll leave you to judge who’s strategy was the winner.  And we hadn’t been there very long before I went back to the car for Sid’s coat, too, because he’d started to shiver.

He had a good time though!  I know this, because it took us about twenty minutes to cross a small field, since he stopped so many times to give a patch of grass his undivided attention for detailed olfactory analysis, occasionally bestowing upon it (with great solemnity) a sample of his body fluids, followed by a ceremonial divot-flinging exhibition.  He did raise some smiles with that, though.  Have you ever seen a three-legged greyhound tearing up the sod?  It’s quite entertaining.

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He behaved himself beautifully today, meeting little pups and small hairy breeds with polite interest and gentle sniffs, even the ones who yapped at him or bounced on his head.  The only dogs who provoked a growl (and a growl under his breath, at that) were the ones who growled at him first.  It took only a touch on his shoulder to reassure, or a gentle tap on the head to remind him to behave.  He even stood and politely ignored a raving lunatic of a greyhound who was barking and lunging at everyone else in a classic display of fear aggression – even chomping his own lead or his collar tassel in his frenzy.  His owner said he was improving, because he had at least stopped chomping on her arm, and I believe her – he’s come a long way, but sadly has a long way yet to go.

So, you want to hear about that rosette, don’t you?

I entered the lovely Sid in the ‘Most Appealing Eyes’ class, and bless him, he came second.   If you think he looks proud, think again.  He’s just saying ‘Hurry up and get this over with – I want my dinner and my bed!’

And yes, he’s pooped!

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It’s not easy being a supermodel with the Second Most Appealing Eyes, you know!

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Son No. 1 invited us out to dinner a couple of days ago.

It’s the first time one of our sons has done that, and the occasion was merely that No. 1’s girlfriend was going home to Italy and they thought it would be nice to see us again before she left. 

We went to an Italian restaurant, which was amusing, because the first thing the lovely T did was to ask if I had a pen so she could correct the menu. She said that there were several mistakes, but one item on the menu supposedly consisted of two whole pigs and she didn’t believe it.  Neither did I, but sadly, a quick rifle through my handbag produced no pen, so the menu was destined to remain unsullied by admonitory notation.  I hope that no-one who ordered that dish was too disappointed.

Anyway, because Sid isn’t quite up to being left alone for a whole evening yet – and we also had a riding lesson booked for the next day – I arranged to take him back to his trainer to stay safely with her while we were out.

I wondered how he’d feel.  I mean, he wasn’t in the kennel block when he lived there before, he was living in his trainer’s house so they’d got rather attached to each other.   You see, he’d needed intensive nursing care when he first lost his leg, and then she felt sorry for him and didn’t ever put him back down in the kennels, so he’d lived as a house dog with half a dozen other greyhounds – a constantly fluid number, by the way, since she takes her rehomed dogs back for holidays as and when needed and they ALL stay in her tiny house with her own dogs.  That tiny house usually seems to contain an ocean of happy dogs.

So.  Would Sid get out of my car in the yard and say: ‘Yay!!  I’m back in the Land of Dogs’?

Or would he say: ‘Oh shit …  I thought I’d escaped!’

I pulled up and parked the car, clipped on Sid’s lead, and I took him in through the gate.  He seemed quite happy and interested in all the old familiar sights and smells, but when the door was opened and the welcoming tide rolled forth and enveloped him with happy yips and yaps, and The Pup ran up to bounce at him and lick his nose, Sid was Not so Happy.

In fact, he growled.

He growled at The Pup. He growled at Old Girl One-Eye.  He growled at the Young Floozy.  He growled at The Holidaymaker.  He growled at everyone except The Grinner, because no-one growls at the matriarch, but his hackles were up in a sharp ridge from head to tail, which reminded me of The Remarkables, only furrier.  But he didn’t lunge at anyone or snap, and his trainer said she thought he was probably warning them not to be too rough.  Perhaps he was also warning them to remember his new status as Doggus Primus in a new home, and needed to be cut down to size a bit.  I didn’t think it would take the Grinner very long to do that, in her quiet, non-aggressive way, and so it turned out. In a little while, when everyone had settled down and stopped bouncing at him (and presumably asking the usual inane questions like ‘Where have you been? and ‘what’s the food like?) he stopped growling and went to get a drink of water.

When I left, he came to the gate with me, and then trotted back into the house before I’d even started the engine, so I knew he’d be OK.  He spent the evening in his old accustomed position on his trainer’s feet while she watched television, and he ate left-over duck for dinner.

You say she spoils her house dogs?  Hmm … well, maybe. Just a tad.

When I fetched him the next day, he was part of the sea pouring out of the house, and once again he fought his way through the other dogs to get to me, where he positioned himself foursquare across my bows in a clear statement of ownership.   Having got over his grumbles, he was obviously happy in the company of his erstwhile shipmates, yet he was just as happy to leave them behind and come home.  You see, he never got the comfy beds in that house, because there were simply too many dogs with seniority – or in the case of The Pup, barefaced cheek.  So he bounced in through his own front door, checked out the kitchen, and then folded himself into his big soft-sided dog bed and snuggled down in the sheepskin with a sigh.

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I really missed that dog.  Just in the 24 hours he was away, a Sid-shaped hole was evident in our household.

Oh, yes – and since you ask, the dinner was lovely!  Despite the non-appearance of the twin piglets on my plate (yes, I chose that meal), despite the fact that the one and only egg-free dessert item was cheesecake, which I hate, and despite the fact that my ‘Fairly weak, please’ cappuchino came strong enough to strip paint, it was a great evening. 

The fragment of pig they bestowed upon me was, in fact, delicious. I couldn’t have eaten a whole one anyway.

Posted on September 8, 2009 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay42 Comments »

When I started thinking about this week’s ABC Wednesday, the word that popped into my head was ‘holiday‘.  I think it’s a word that means different things in different parts of the world, but here in England it usually means packing a suitcase and going away for a week or two to relax, unwind, and maybe experience something different.

Well, back in June 2007, that’s what we did.  We went to the US to visit friends, and once that part of our holiday was over, we got on a plane and headed up to Vancouver, which was one of the zillions of places on this earth that I had never seen.

There were many fun things to do in Canada, and here is just one of them – it’s the most suitable one for today, because it’s all about horses.

Stanley Park in Vancouver is a wonderful place, 400 hectares of forest and lawn and paths and hiking trails, close to the heart of the city.  Now, I’m not much for hiking, or cycling, or in-line skating either – all of which you can do in Stanley Park – but I do love horses.  So when I found out they do horse-drawn tram tours there, I had to go!

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See that lone passenger up there in the front?  That’s OH, that is, in one of his famous hats!

If I remember rightly, this pair of horses was comprised of one percheron (the dapple grey) and one percheron/shire mix.  Handsome, though, aren’t they?

When I got in and sat down beside OH, I couldn’t help noticing I had an excellent view of the horses’ hindquarters.

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I also had an excellent view of the complex harness arrangements.    You will notice that they wear ‘horse nappies‘!  I guess that it’s the law in Vancouver, so I’m wondering if the Mounties have special dispensation?  I can’t see them galloping off to apprehend a villain with the dung bag bouncing around behind, can you?

Oh, and don’t forget to check out those wonderfully decorative hames!  There they are, those antenna-like things, sticking up above the horses’ collars.  Now, if I remember rightly, hames were originally for running the traces – or reins – through.  Perhaps the idea was to take some of the weight off the horses’ mouths, and also to prevent the traces falling to the ground and tripping them.  However that may be, this particular harness is arranged somewhat differently and doesn’t appear to need any support at all.

Here’s a close-up of the percheron’s head.

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The harness in the previous picture is very neat and tidy, but I can’t help thinking that all this stuff on the poor horse’s head is a bit heavy.  He’s wearing a head collar as well as his bridle, presumably for hitching him with, and are those chains really necessary?

Oh, and talking of hitching – here’s where they wait for their next lot of customers.

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It’s kind of cute that their hitching rail is decorated with horse heads, don’t you think?

As we drove out of the park, we passed another tram coming back round.  I wonder if they get bored, pulling trams around all day?  And yet these heavy horses do need to work in order to keep fit, don’t they?  And I do love to see them.

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Happy trails!

Footnote: I’ve just upgraded to the newer WordPress blog, but in the process I’ve lost the ability to post big pictures and have them resize themselves nicely and come out clickable for the full view. Apologies for that, I’m looking into whether I can have that back, and if so, how!