Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Amazing Talking Dog

The Amazing Talking Dog

This is my retelling of a story in our local community magazine. Clicking on the photos will enlarge them - usually.

Walking along a quiet road I passed a house which had a sign tacked to the tree by the path. It said, ‘Talking Dog for Sale.’ I was intrigued so I rang the bell. The man who came to the door told me his dog was called James and he was in the back garden. He invited me to go and see him.

I found a beautiful Dalmatian sitting on the grass. I said, ‘I hear you can talk. Is that right?’

‘Yes,’ said James and wagged his tail.

I was very excited and asked him to tell me his story.

James yawned and scratched his ear then said, ‘Well, I discovered I could talk when I was just a pup. I wanted to help the government so I asked my owner and he approached MI5 for me. They were very interested and in no time at all I was travelling all over the world, sitting in rooms with world leaders, eavesdropping. No-one took any notice of me, other than to give me a few titbits. After all, who would suspect me of being a spy, even though my name was James?’

I could hardly believe my ears but James had more to say.

‘I was MI5’s most valuable spy for eight years but I was getting tired of being on the move all the time and I wanted to settle down so I applied for a job at Heathrow. I did undercover security work there, observing suspicious characters and listening, always listening. I thwarted some major plots and alerted the police and customs to some serious crimes. I was awarded many medals, for bravery, for initiative, for being the best in my sphere of expertise. I was very proud. After I left Heathrow I met my wife and had some puppies and now I simply enjoy my retirement.’

I was amazed and decided I would love to have James. I asked his owner how much he was asking for the dog.

I was astonished when he said, ‘Ten pounds.’
‘Why are you selling him so cheaply? He’s an incredible dog.’

The owner smiled and said, ‘He exaggerates. He’s never even been out of the garden.’

The  story, of course, is not true, but it gave me an excuseto post some photos of  the late, great Frodo the Faller, my velcro dog.

Wokingham Rocks

Wokingham Rocks

Clicking on the photos enlarges them - usually.

While walking in Simons Wood one day last week we noticed a coloured pebble in a tree. Clearly it had been placed there deliberately. We examined it and were curious but thought little more about it. A few days later we saw a few more painted pebbles and then met a fellow dog walker and her little girl. They told us about Wokingham Rocks

On their website they say, This is a 'just for fun' community art activity where you can paint what you like on rocks and hide them around Wokingham.’

It has added a new dimension to our walks! It is fun for children and adults alike to paint and hide their works of ‘art’ and I think it’s something Frankie might like to try. We shall see!

Some have been painted by children, others by adults. On the back they have 'Wokingham Rocks', the date and a link to the Facebook group page. 

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Bright winter days

Bright Winter Days

Clicking on the photos enlarges them - usually

I never complain about the cold weather when the sun shines for surely everything and everyone feels better then? Our weather can and does change very quickly some days and behaves in contrary fashion to the meteorological prediction. We can set out in bright sunshine, believing that because rain has not been forecast there will be none. On many occasions we are caught out. 
On this occasion it threatened but did not deliver
It makes little difference to the dogs. They may not care to venture into the garden when rain is falling but the woods and forests are a different matter.

We regularly walk in Simons Wood. 

It is full of ancient trees, some gnarled and twisted, some ramrod striaght.

Silver birch bark
Which way is North?

The dogs often find a ball., thoughtfully left behind by another dog. Here Bertie is holding it and Gus and Roxy want it . . .
Bertie drops it and Roxy gets it!
Bertie says, 'Which way are we going now?' Jenna waits patiently.
One might be forgiven for feeling one is being watched. Can you see the faces in the following photos?

Fungi are abundant and often very colourful. 

Almost the first thing  Roxy does when we reach the woods is to pick up a stick. Sometimes, as below, she finds a ball. A ball outranks a stick every time . . .

In the following photos she is brandishing a fair-sized branch and her hackles are up though no strange dog is near her.

Back to the car and then home and - eventually - supper!
Bertie, Gus and Roxy - little Jenna is hidden!
Bertie,  Roxy, Gus and Jenna - happy dogs.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018


What shall we have for supper? (1)

I am neither a ‘foodie’ nor a dedicated cook and food programmes on television make me feel quite queasy, though strangely not when they are on the radio. However, I do have to feed my family (anything in number from 2 to 6 at present, but more if others of the clan come to visit) and while I am happy to have soup every day or jacket potatoes with beans and salad, there are mumblings of dissent from others. My family learnt long ago never to praise anything I had prepared because, lacking imagination/interest/time, I would then serve it at every opportunity. Kedgeree three days running does pall quickly, for example. Things have improved, that is to say, I have improved, though not markedly. Occasionally, though, I try something different and the following salad proved to be really quite tasty and filling and we’ve only had it twice since I discovered it on January 23rd. That’s not too bad, really, by my standards.

Grilled halloumi, avocado and papaya salad
Serves 2
Preparation: 15 min
Cook: 10 min
·         2 tbsp olive oil
·         1 papaya
·         2 limes
·         50g wild rocket
·         2 ripe avocados
·         1 tbsp capers
·         250g halloumi cheese

·          Halve the papaya lengthways, scrape out the seeds, remove the skin and slice or dice. Transfer to a bowl. 

·         Halve the avocados lengthways, twist apart, remove stone and skin. Slice chunkily.

·         Pile the avocado over the papaya and squeeze over 1 lime.

·         Add the capers. Pile the rocket on a platter, top with papaya mix.

·         When ready to serve, slice the halloumi quite thickly, smear with remaining oil. Heat a griddle or heavy-based frying pan and cook for a couple of minutes a side until griddle-etched or patched with brown. Transfer to the salad, squeeze over the remaining lime and serve.


Simulation or ‘How to become a Pilot or a Racing/rally driver

Tornado above clouds
RAF  GR4Tornados (image courtesy of RAF)

·         imitation of a situation or process.
·         the action of pretending; deception.
·         the production of a computer model of something, especially for the purpose of study.

Barry’s study is a testament to all things ‘gadgety’. Actually, it’s not just his study. Much of the rest of the house has been given over to electronics. In my dreams I have a beautiful home, with ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’. It’s never going to happen but as we keep telling ourselves, ‘It’s a home, not a show place.’ True, very true.

Of course, the animals don’t help, not that they’re untidy, just that they track in mud and shed fur/hair. They also rearrange the furniture. That is not a conscious thing. I wouldn’t like anyone to run away with the idea that working parties of cats and dogs stand together, paws to lips, musing whether the sofa would look better ‘there’ or ‘there’ and should we be on trend and have some ‘shabby chic’ to give the place a little more character? We have the shabby, all right, just not the chic and I don’t suppose it’s a trend any longer anyway.

However, I have gone off at a tangent and what I really wanted to talk about was simulation, hence the title. One of Barry’s friends, who used to fly Tornados, has a flight simulator and his son learnt to fly on it and is now, at 21, a fully-qualified crack pilot. Perhaps ‘crack’ is not the correct adjective. I shouldn’t imagine the use of ‘crack’ improves a pilot’s performance. Anyway, Barry has a rather sophisticated simulation set-up in his study. Frankie, who is 5 and obsessed with cars, loves to play Formula 1 and is developing useful skills. He and Barry share an enjoyable half hour or so most days travelling the world’s racing circuits.   I can hear the roar of the engines and Barry’s exhortations half a house away. One night, after Frankie had gone to bed, Barry decided to play at ‘driving’ himself and to his astonishment discovered that Frankie’s performance far outweighed his. Callum, 20, also likes spending time polishing his skills.

The flight simulator is a little trickier. I can barely achieve lift-off and my crashes are spectacular. It is fun to ‘see’ the world through the cockpit window and is as close as I will ever get to flying a plane. Apparently, airline pilots use simulators to refresh their memories of landing strips in various parts of the world, or to acquaint themselves with unfamiliar destinations. It is an amazing piece of technology, if slightly dizzying. There is talk of going into space . . .

Tornado. 31 Sqn 
RAF GR4 Tornado (image courtesy of RAF)

The Tornado GR4 is a two-seat, all-weather, day/night attack and reconnaissance aircraft. It has been in service with the RAF for more than 30 years, but a combination of major upgrade programmes and numerous continual enhancements has kept the aircraft amongst the forefront of all attack aircraft.
Still one of the very few aircraft in the world that is able to operate at low level, day or night and in poor weather, the Tornado is now equipped with a modern precision-guided weapons suite and world-class reconnaissance sensors such as the Reconnaissance Airborne Pod for Tornado (RAPTOR). The aircraft also carries the Litening III Advanced Targeting Pod, which is used in both attack and reconnaissance roles.

(From the Royal Air Force website

Sunday, 4 February 2018


(Clicking on the photos enlarges them . . . usually)
Lenny with his 'Arctic fox' brother, Solomon
Lenny, sometimes unkindly referred to as ‘Lenny the Lard’, is a very pretty and quite well-covered Somali. He is the bolder of Susannah’s two Somalis and is very vocal and extremely greedy. He is an extremely companionable cat and enjoys having conversations, treating his Servants almost as equals. He couches his demands, which are many, in gentle pleading tones.

Lenny loves his forays into the garden, so long as it’s not too wet, and is perfectly adept at letting himself in and out through the cat flap. However, if one of the Servants is nearby, Lenny will ask repeatedly for help, knowing that eventually the Servant will give in for some peace, and do his bidding. He is not a gifted hunter, preferring to capture dragonflies and butterflies. He eats butterflies!
He is always to be found in the kitchen if food is being prepared and likes to help by parading along the worktop, waving his plumy tail and commenting on the Servant’s progress. In addition to his usual rations, he likes dog biscuits and vitamin supplements, avocado, butter, cheese, eggs, risotto, pasta, porridge – in fact, most things. When he is particularly hungry, which is not often, given his penchant for feeding at every opportunity, he runs in front of the Servants, weaving back and forth, attempting to trip them up. The other day he danced in front of the Janice Servant and then the Small Servant Frankie, causing them to stumble. He was quick to remove himself from possible harm and the Servants managed to retain their footing whereupon Lenny resumed his pleas.
In common with the other cats, Lenny dislikes solid objects blocking free access and jumps up to open doors. For no apparent reason, though I suppose it is where tasty food is often to be found conveniently placed on plates, all the cats like the dining room. Lenny is no exception. He cannot seem to let himself out of the dining room, though, even when the door is ajar, or perhaps he wants some human assistance. Whatever the reason, leaving the warmth and comfort of bed to release him from the dining room at 2.30 a.m. is not conducive to good relations and so the Janice Servant prevailed upon the Barry Servant to remove the door handles and replace them upside down. ‘That’ll settle your hash,’ she remarked grimly. Lenny just miaoued.

A lap is a comfortable place to relax but first has to be kneaded vigorously, likewise heads at bedtime. The dogs are not keen on being kneaded and Lenny has learnt to desist. ‘Laid-back Lenny’ does his utmost to remain on good terms with everyone, though he is afraid of Zula, Susannah’s tiny Abyssinian. Doubtless he will overcome his fear in time. No matter what he does, the human response is always the same – ‘He’s very sweet’ – and he really is.