Saturday, 29 April 2017

A lovely morning surprise!

  Herschel snoozes
   It was early Saturday morning and we were enjoying a leisurely lie-in, idly watching rugby and occasionally dozing off. Susannah had taken Frankie to his swimming lesson and then carried on to her gym class.
Bertie  and Jellicoe share a bed. He couldn't be a hunter, could he?
Bertie and Roxy were stretched out on our bed, joined from time to time by Herschel and Jellicoe. Isambard was lying on my legs so naturally I couldn’t get up – it’s very bad manners to disturb a cat. Jenna and Gus were snoozing in their beds.

We could hear sounds of cats playing. At least Solomon and Lenny weren’t screaming at each other so all was peaceful and there was no urgency for us to get up and proceed with the day. Susannah returned and there was an exclamation of disbelief and horror as she realised she had trodden on a dead but still pliant wood pigeon.

‘You’ve got to see this,’ she said so we duly arose. The hall was a mass of feathers surrounding a defunct avian. The scene in the garden of the capture and possibly the execution  was clearly demarcated by a sufficient number of feathers to make us believe there might have been more than one casualty. How can one bird have so many feathers? Still, as the old tongue twister has it, 'There are forty thousand feathers on a thrush' so there must be at least that number on a wood pigeon. I can understand why Labradors dislike picking up pigeons – all those feathers coming loose.
Not quite the remains of the day  . . .
After clearing up (We now have a clear idea of the colour of a pigeon blood ruby) we set about using our deductive skills to determine the culprit. We thought about Susannah’s cats. Solomon is little and likes catching dragonflies. 
Could it have been Lenny? Possibly. He may have lain on the poor bird. Lenny is ‘plump’ and lazy and limits his hunting exploits to moths.
It could not have been Isambard as he was pinning down my legs and in any case is not keen on leaving the company either of us or the dogs. 
Isambard watching the fish
Herschel caught a squirrel not long after he was given the freedom of the garden but is not given to excessive hunting. We concluded it was probably Jellicoe. He watches the birds more than the others and so far this year he has killed a rat, a field mouse, a dunnock and a wood pigeon. He also caught a blackbird but it escaped. So, he’s not the most prolific of killers but he does his best, sadly.
What is this?'
Our garden used to be busy with birds, particularly at this time of year when adults are feeding their young, but word seems to have got around in the bird fraternity that it is a no-go area. While we miss seeing them we are glad they no longer frequent our feeders. It is a small price to pay for the joy of seeing our elegant felines prowling through the shrubs, watching the fish in the pond or sunning themselves.

Fish shall safely swim . . .

. . . and so the year rolls on . . .

. . . and so the year rolls on . . .

The UK is about to celebrate the Early May Bank Holiday on Monday 1st May. This means that families may get together for a barbecue, likely to take place under lowering skies and/or driving rain. Others may choose to take a long weekend break, clogging the motorways in a bid to escape the humdrum of daily life. Those who choose to stay at home often decide to use the extra leisure time to catch up on (or start) some gardening, decorating or d-i-y projects. This results in logjams of cars streaming to garden centres and d-i-y stores and then attempting to find parking spaces. 

Customers impatient to begin their appointed tasks shoulder their way through crowds of other like-minded souls, locate their items and then queue to pay for them. By the time they reach home again, some two or three hours later, the will to achieve anything is dissipating. Of course, there are some organized folks who have already laid in their supplies but these are the people who work steadily at keeping everything in their houses and gardens tickety-boo, surely the most sensible way to proceed in life.

UK citizens enjoy – or endure – just eight Bank Holidays a year and for only two of them, Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, are the large shops shut (though not in Scotland on Easter Sunday) Small shops are free to open as they please on these days. Nonetheless, particularly if visitors are to be hosted, a siege mentality takes hold and huge amounts of provisions are amassed, with every conceivable potential taste being accommodated. It’s no good reminding anyone that the shops will be open again in twenty-four hours’ time.

The next surge in bulk buying, that is, the next Bank Holiday, will be at the end of May. Perhaps Summer will have arrived by then. If not, surely the August Bank Holiday will come up trumps – and speaking of Trump, who knows what he may have set in motion by then.

Anyway, whatever you are planning, even if it’s nothing, enjoy your weekend J

Thursday, 29 December 2016


It’s a beautiful cold clear day. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, there’s no wind and the dogs have enjoyed a walk and a swim in Crowthorne Forest. Roxy has just finished a small snack of coal – that makes a change from one of Frankie’s toy cars or a piece of Lego.  Now she, like her friends and relations, is damply snoozing.

It is unnaturally quiet here, after a very busy and enjoyable Christmas Day with Bethan and Robert in London. 
Bethan's family and Robert’s family enjoyed the day together.
Some of the sixteen . . .
 Sadly the Dorset contingent of our family was missing. Having had a very difficult twelve months they did not want to be far from home. Hopefully 2017 will be a much happier time for them.
Susannah in pensive mood
Now, though, Barry and I are sitting in splendid isolation, if it is possible to be isolated with so many faithful furry companions. On Boxing Day Susannah travelled to Antigua where she will be distracted from missing and worrying about Frankie, who is in Cornwall, visiting his paternal grandparents.  

Tomorrow we shall pack the dogs into the car and visit Gillian and her family in Dorset. Bertie will enjoy seeing his brother, Buster, and Roxy will be highly delighted to romp with her siblings again.

New Year’s Eve, or Old Year’s Night as my Norfolk brother-in-law calls it, beckons but we shall ignore its lure and remain by our own warm fireside. We shall probably watch the fireworks televised from London – they are usually spectacular. Doubtless there will be many local fireworks, which are a trial for poor Gus.

Frankie will be home again in the afternoon. Then, on New Year’s Day, he and I are driving to Heathrow to meet Susannah. (Barry will be dog-sitting.) I suspect she will spend much of the following day pushing out the zeds.

 . . . and then it will be back to business as usual . . . (sigh)

Happy New Year, one and all, and may 2017 be Healthy, Happy and Prosperous.

Key words

Key words
 Our dogs understand a great deal of English. As well as the more usual, ‘Breakfast, supper, biscuits, coming out?’ they also know ‘trousers’. Barry comes downstairs in his pyjamas in the morning for his first pot of tea. When he says, prior to us going out, ‘I’ll just go and get my trousers on,’ the three younger dogs rise from their resting places (sofa, chair, rug) and race upstairs after, or more often ahead of, him. Now that Barry has two new knees I don’t worry so much about the dogs barging him.
When we say, ‘We’d better put their collars on’, they get very excited and when it’s followed by, ‘I’ll just get the car on the drive’ their joyous anticipation accelerates. After that it’s, ‘boots on’ that convinces them that we are really all going out (not the cats, obviously!)
 ‘Who did that?’ causes consternation and a downturn of the tail and ‘Behave’ elicits grins from Gus and Bertie. Jenna and Roxy do not grin. ‘Bed now’, means it’s time to retire for the night and then all the animals trot up to our bed. Gus, Bertie and Roxy leap onto it, followed by Herschel, Isambard and Jellicoe. (Jenna is an older lady now and prefers the peace and solitude of her own bed.) Solomon is often already there and has to be persuaded to vacate his place and allow them access. Very often I go upstairs first so that I can claim my bed space.
Gus is really too big to be a lap dog . . .
. . . but when you're tired after a good walk and swim . . .
. . . the Master's lap is the only place to be, though it's jolly difficult to get comfortable.

They also recognise their canine friends’ names in conversation.

However, the prize must go to Barry’s cousin Sylvia’s late Jack Russell. Jack was an enormous help, collecting items for her and picking up things she had dropped. He was a very alert little dog, always prepared to help, particularly if it meant he would receive a treat, but even Sylvia was astonished on one occasion. She is an expert knitter but one day she said, ‘Oh, I’ve dropped a stitch,’ and Jack busily hunted for it. I suspect he had a treat even though he couldn’t find the dropped stitch.

After a lifetime of living with dogs (and cats) we are still learning about and from them. They are fantastic companions and ask so little of us. Increasingly we realise their understanding is so much greater than we ever thought. I’m sure they will soon master spelling as we frequently spell out words in order to avoid over-excitement.

Saturday, 17 December 2016



We have had a number of cats throughout the years, even, for a brief period, breeding them. Our Burmese were recommended  by our vets, to people seeking kittens, for their friendly dispositions and apparent immunity to alarm. We had four children and they and their friends were instrumental in ensuring that our kittens grew up used to the hustle and bustle of a busy home and loving the attention they were given.

Recently I read Eleanor Farjeon’s poem ‘Cats Sleep Anywhere’ to Frankie. It’s a poem many of us will have learnt at school (and then forgotten apart from the first couple of lines!)

Cats Sleep Anywhere

Cats sleep anywhere, any table, any chair.
Top of piano, window-ledge, in the middle, on the edge.
Open drawer, empty shoe, anybody’s lap will do.
Fitted in a cardboard box, in the cupboard with your frocks.
Anywhere! They don’t care! Cats sleep anywhere.

Eleanor Farjeon 1881-1965
Image result for eleanor farjeon Cats
This was the cover of my copy of the poem.

Here is a small selection from the thousands of photos we have of our many cats. Many of them are pictured with our dogs. All our cats have loved our dogs. Some of them enjoyed blogging. Some were quite literary. Some enjoyed watching educational programmes on the television . . . or rugby.

Jellicoe,  our 4-year-old  Classic Ocicat . Classics are now known as Aztecs!
Susannah's  one-year-old Somali, Solomon
Marnie with the late Pansy, one of our blue Burmese, about fourteen years ago.
Jellicoe pretending to be a lap cushion!
The late Monty Ocicat with a young Jenna. Monty died when he was three of congestive heart failure
Susannah's Abyssinian, Pats, as a kitten. She is now ten years old.
Jenna with Winston Ocicat, who died unexpectedly when he was six years old.
Susannah providing a perch for Winston
Monty with the late, great Frodo, my velcro dog
Monty loved watching television . . .
. . . and he would not move to allow a dog into a dog bed.  Here it's Jenna trying to get comfortable.
Young Frodo with elderly blue Burmese, Pansy (top) and Singleton.  
If the cats have a squabble, as cats frequently will, they sometimes seek solace. Here it is  Cariadd, our first Dalmatian, doing the honours. There are six Burmese cats sitting on her. To her right are the hindquarters of Biddy, our first Jack Russell.
Christmas Winston!
Winston appreciating my Kindle
Clown, Magic and Angus, all Burmese. Clown and Angus were brothers.
Alicat, our first Burmese, with Bethan, thirty-three years ago
The cats liked sitting and sleeping on the aquarium cover. It was warm and there was always a slight chance that they might catch a snack! Here are, from left to right, Magic, Angus, Pansy, Alicat(behind Pansy), Sweet Pea, Clown and Singleton
Monty studying a spotted cousin . . .
 . . . and here listening to Jim Al-Khalili
Monty and Winston
Winston the blogger
Jellicoe and Isambard sharing Bertie's bed
Herschel and Bertie


Saturday, 10 December 2016

The Twenty-Third Blog of Augustus Lazarus Cooke (Gus)

The Twenty-Third Blog of Augustus Lazarus Cooke (Gus)
Hello everyone!

It’s very busy in our house. There are so many rings at the door that us dogs have given up barking. Mrs H says that’s just as well or we would be ho(a)rse. I don’t understand that – we’re dogs and we couldn’t be horses if we tried.

Roxy saw her first horse the other day. She followed him, trying to sniff his bottom. Mrs H was worried about his hooves but they looked all right to me.

Roxy’s mum and dad had a new litter of puppies. Mr and Mrs H thought about having one of Roxy’s sisters but decided against it as they say they’ve got enough on their hands. I’ve just looked at their hands and I don’t know what they’re talking about. Mr H hasn’t got anything on his hands and there are only a couple of rings on Mrs H’s. Humans do say some funny things sometimes.
Bruno (left) and Bella 
Anyway, Gillian and Marnie have got a sister and brother of Roxy’s. They’re called Bella and Bruno. The first time we saw them they were really small and we couldn’t have a good look at them. 
Left to right: Foxy, Jenna, Bertie, Bella, Isla (human),Bruno, Gus
The next time they came we all went into Simons Wood together – it was fun. Since then Foxy died very suddenly. We were all very sad about that. She was Bertie and Buster’s aunt and lived with Gillian and Buster (Bertie’s brother) in Dorset. It’s a good thing Gillian has Bella otherwise Buster would be very lonely. I loved Foxy. I used to lie next to her and lick her for hours. Mrs H says she was the prettiest little puppy she’s ever seen. Course, I didn’t know her then. I’m only seven and she was eleven, the same age as Jenna.
Dominie with Foxy 
Roxy loves seeing the puppies. Last time, we all played in the garden ‘cos we didn’t have time to go to the woods. Mrs H took us out in the morning before Gillian and Marnie came and then all the humans went to Frankie’s birthday party. He was only little when he and Susannah came to live with us. He’s four now and quite grown up. 

He likes taking photos with Mrs H’s iPad and the other day he used her camera. 
He needs some more practice, I think.

The cats had their fourth birthday, too, but they didn’t have a party. They were terrified of us dogs when they first came here but now they love to snuggle up with us.

Left to right: Jellicoe, Isambard, Bertie
Top to bottom: Herschel, Bertie, Jellicoe, Isambard, Jenna
Christmas is coming. I’m still not sure what that is but the house is filling up with strange parcels and Frankie is getting very excited. He had to dress up as a sheep the other day for something called 'The Nurtivitee'. 

The cats liked his costume!

I don’t think there’s anything else to report. 

Be good.

Hwyl fawr am nawr! (That’s Welsh for ‘Goodbye for now!’)