Ollie’s Poorly Friends

As any dog-walker will tell you, regular haunts mean meeting lots of other dogs, and their owners. At one time, Ollie enjoyed the company of the same afternoon gang. We could have up to eight dogs in a very happy pack, and they would play together as we chatted walking around Beetley Meadows, or Hoe Rough.

Sadly, some of those dogs have since died, or owners have moved away. Each year, the old canine faces become fewer, and new ones arrive to replace them. But the boisterous new arrivals rarely interest Ollie, and he still scans the paths and fields for a sight of some of his ‘best mates’.

Just lately, we have been hearing some bad news about some of Ollie’s oldest friends and companions. Winston is fifteen now, and has recently suffered a stroke. He can still come out, but only for around ten minutes a day. Big Rocky the Newfoundland has suffered a complete collapse of his back legs. His owners bought a special cart to wheel him around in, as once in the river, he can still swim to his heart’s content. But he can no longer walk without assistance, and wears a harness with handles so that he can be lifted in and out of his cart.

Yesterday, I heard some sad news about Spike, the Rhodesian Ridgeback. He was born in February 2012, the same time as Ollie. For many years, they were firm friends, and used to enjoy the rough and tumble of dominant play. But for some time now, I haven’t seen him around. I spoke to his owner yesterday who informed me that he has a complete deterioration of his spine, and can hardly walk. If he stands still, he falls over. The prognosis is not good, and they are just ‘keeping him comfortable’.

Earlier this year, Buster the Lhasa Apso died unexpectedly from kidney failure. Paddy, the Collie who lives next door, is over fifteen years old. His back legs have crossed-over, and although he can still manage to walk, it is upsetting to see him struggling.

Some of the old gang are still the same. Toby the Jack Russell, as mad for his ball as ever. Poppy the Lakeland Terrier, still lively at ten years old. And a few of the new arrivals are slowly being accepted by Ollie too. Marley the black Labradoodle, and his terrier partner, Duke. Buddy and Walter, the frantic yellow Labradors, and Flossie the young Whippet, who trembles with delight every time she sees him.

Ollie is one of the ‘old guys’ now. Respected, sometimes avoided, but still in charge of his walking grounds.

At least as far as he is concerned.

The Cows Have Gone

A couple of months ago, a herd of cattle was placed on Hoe Rough by a local farmer. This is done in conjunction with the Wildlife Trust, who like the natural way the cattle eat lots of the unwanted scrub grasses. They also churn up the ground, allowing some other plants to seed, presumably.

But for my walks with Ollie, this is bad news. Once the cattle are there, it is not a good idea to wander around with a dog. Not that Ollie would take any notice of them, but they might well be alarmed by his presence. Cows can run at up to 28 m.p.h., and for a long distance. They can outpace almost any human runner, and certainly beat me in a race. If alarmed, they might also trample Ollie, causing him grievous injury.

As cows kill more people than any other animal here in Britain, I keep away from them at all times.

I heard today that the cows had gone. They have presumably been removed to provide succulent joins of beef for the coming Christmas season.

For the first time in weeks, I could take Ollie over to his second-favourite stomping ground. Once through the gate, he was visibly excited, spinning in circles as I took his lead off. And then he was off, ready to sniff anything and everything he hadn’t been able to sniff for so long.

Unfortunately, the recent heavy rains and the presence of the cows had left the side paths deep in sticky mud, some eight inches deep. Even in my new boots, it was hard going, and made the walk more difficult than usual. But Ollie was so happy, I slogged on for a few circuits of the area.

By the time we got back, the sun was setting, and I had a tired dog ready for a nap.

Low-Flying Aircraft

Out on the walk with Ollie yesterday, we were deafened by the sound of low-flying military aircraft.

We are not very far from RAF Marham, and they were obviously practicing ‘war’ with their new F-35 jets.

The sky was very grey on a gloomy day, and although I couldn’t see them, it felt as if the jets were incredibly low.

As we walked into the woodland, they made another pass, engines roaring. Their passage through the air made the tall thin trees quiver, with a sound like rice being shaken in a metal container. Seconds later, we were stood in a massive fall of small leaves, fluttering down around us like multi-coloured snowflakes.

Ollie headed off on a side track, and I followed him, having to bend low to get past branches that he could easily trot under. Moments later, with a sound like an approaching freight train, the jets returned for yet another swoop over Beetley Meadows. Noisier than before, that set all the birds squawking, and squirrels barking too. Seconds later, a Muntjac deer appeared from some bushes. He was only a few feet from us, and seemed to be trying to escape the jets.

When he spotted Ollie, he turned in his own length, and crashed into a thicket of Holly, ignoring the sharp leaves. Ollie yelped, and took off after him.

Ollie’s pursuit flushed out two more, and they ran straight past me, one so close I felt its rump brush my leg. They were followed by my excited dog, who had obviously decided that chasing two at once was more fun that trying to find one that had gone to ground. Those small deer are not much bigger than Ollie, but they are chunky enough to run through the toughest brambles and undergrowth.

Ollie was gone for almost ten minutes, and I stayed where I was, waiting for him to return. Once the three deer had all managed to evade him, he came running up to me, still looking excited. Maybe he thought I was going to find him some more?

But the low-flying aircraft had concluded their mission, so he had to be content with running into the river for a drink.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

A Heavy Cold

All I could think about today was the fact that I have had a bloody awful heavy head cold since Wednesday.

I presume that having to sit with no heating on and windows open when the living room was being painted made me susceptible.
A niggly sore throat on Wednesday morning soon turned into hot watery eyes, sneezing, and occasional fits of coughing.

That night, it was hard to sleep, so I started taking regular doses of tablets to reduce the effect of the symptoms.

Three days later, and it shows no sign of improving, or going away. At least it isn’t Flu, as I don’t have any aches and pains.

What I was actually thinking about was how quickly we forget what it was like before the cold overwhelmed us.

It seems as if I have always had this, and it is impossible to remember when I felt perfectly fine on Tuesday.

I know, it’s just a cold. No big deal. It will pass soon, hopefully.

But it got me thinking.

Product Recommendations

***I get nothing for recommending the following items, and they were all bought with my own money.***

As a diversion from writing fiction, and moaning about the weather, I thought I would mention some products that I use, and recommend.
Not something I do very often here, I know.
In fact, You are more likely to find me complaining about things that don’t work, I appreciate that.

(I have mentioned the weed puller and steam generator iron before, but decided to include them as that was a long time ago.)

With apologies to my readers outside the UK, as I don’t know if these things are available where you live.

Santoku knife.
You can pay anything from £10 to £400 for one of these knives. Mine was about £25 I think, and has lasted me for eight years now. I do use a knife sharpener to keep the edge sharp, but it is such a versatile kitchen tool. The flat heavy blade crushes garlic cloves, and then you can chop them into tiny pieces with the same knife. It cuts through fresh pizza with no need for a wheel, and of course it slices onions, and any other vegetables you want to prepare. It also glides through thick joints of meat, and will cut a chicken in half with no effort. If you like fish, it will take the skin off a salmon fillet, and open up a larger fish with ease.
Almost a ‘one-knife’ cook’s dream. The only thing I don’t use it for is slicing bread.

G-Tech K-9 Vacuum.
Most of you know that I have a dog. His fur gets everywhere, even though he is a short-haired breed. Normal vacuum cleaners struggle with dog hair, even those that claim to be able to cope with it. This model from G-Tech just powers it up. The re-chargeable battery means no annoying lead, and the lightweight construction makes it easy to carry around anywhere. The collected dust and fur is stored in a cylinder, so no need for disposable bags. Just open the end of the cylinder, and slide the contents into any bin.
This device is so powerful, it ‘drives itself’ along, so requires no push/pull effort. It also has a system of headlights, to show up all the dirt, fluff, or fur.
Not cheap, but incredibly effective.

Fiskars weed puller.
I am an unenthusiastic gardener, and the lawn is home to legions of dandelions. Not wanting to use chemicals with a pet dog around, I got one of these. Simple to use, with little or no effort, and the weed is pulled right out, including the root. Tough construction, and nothing to go wrong, this could last a lifetime.
It really is as easy as it looks on the video.

Steam Generator Iron.
I have written about these before. Since buying one over 15 years ago, I could never go back to a normal iron again. The lightweight handset attached to a huge boiler and large water tank makes such easy work of the most difficult ironing, you will wonder how you ever used a conventional iron. I have tried various brands, but recently returned to Tefal again. They seem to have it sorted, and offer the most powerful devices too.

Skechers Memory Foam casual shoes.
These are the lightest and most comfortable shoes I have ever owned. They feel like you have nothing on your feet, and I can walk all day in them without any pain in my legs and feet. Sometimes, bold claims are actually true. This is definitely the case with this great footwear.

Tefal griddle pan.
A good solid non-stick griddle pan is a must-have in any kitchen. Whether searing meat before oven cooking, browning sausages, cooking bacon and burgers, or getting a steak ‘just right’, this type of pan is simply indispensable. I currently use a Tefal model, but many others are available. Get the best you can afford, and you won’t regret it.

So, six recommendations for everyday items that will make your life easier, or more comfortable.

A Domestic Update

After my recent post about being disrupted by the arrival of the painter today, it seems that the disruption was not as bad as I anticipated.

With everything piled into the middle of the living room and covered in dustsheets, I have been exiled into the office since 8:30. That meant an early trip to the supermarket, to get out of the way, and a slightly longer dog walk for Ollie after that.

Julie went into the bedroom to listen to music on her phone, and I was unable to sit and watch the midday news whilst eating my sandwich, as is my habit.

Otherwise, we have no curtains at the windows until later this week, and will probably be spending more time in the kitchen. Whether or not I will be able to get anything on the TV later, after having to disconnect the aerial, that remains to be seen. I had forgotten just how many wires sit unseen behind the unit that the TV stands on. Moving it right out this morning, I was actually surprised by the amount of cabling required to be able to watch stuff. There is the TV of course, then the Blu-Ray player. Add to that the streaming box, the PVR cabling, and lots of extra bits for a device that boost the signals, and there is enough electronic gadgetry there to facilitate the 1969 Moon landing, I’m sure.

One family member was very disrupted though. Poor Ollie the dog had his world turned upside down. His toy box had to be stored in another room, and he was unable to lie against the wall until we went out, as he usually does. Having to go out of the front door, along the side of the garage, then back in through the kitchen door confused him completely. Every time he followed me outside, he thought we were going out for our walk.

His frequent disappointment had to be seen to be believed.

This evening, I have to get at least one sofa out of its covers to sit on, and try to get something working on the TV. I suspect a very early night is in the offing.

But the main job will be trying to keep Ollie away from the walls, without shutting him in the kitchen. If we did that, he would think he was being punished for something, and wouldn’t understand.

The painter tells me he might have to give the woodwork a second coat on Thursday, so only three more days to go…

The Noodle Dream

I was reading a post about dreams on Maggie’s blog the other day.

That was a coincidence, as I had woken up from a vivid dream that morning. It is not unusual for me to have dreams, and for those dreams to often be unusual in themselves. But on this occasion, I could find no explanation whatsoever.

The Noodle Dream.

I was living here in Norfolk, and I was the same age. I wanted to buy some noodles to add to a Chinese meal I was planning to cook that night. I wanted fresh ones for preference, but dried would do. I set off in the car, and headed for Tesco, the largest supermarket in the nearby town of Dereham. I know it well, so went straight to the area where they sell Chinese, Indian, and other foreign food products. Not only were there no noodles displayed, there was no empty space where they should have been.

I managed to find a member of staff wandering past, and asked her if they had any noodles in the store-room. She looked at me quizzically, and repeated “Noodles?” I nodded. “Sorry, never heard of anything like that”. Was her reply. I left that shop and walked across to another supermarket situated on the same shopping complex. The same thing happened in there, with a young man shouting across to his supervisor, “This customer wants noodles, do you know what they are?” She shook her head.

There are three other supermarkets in Dereham, so I drove to them all, with the same events played out in each one. Becoming exasperated, I drove out of the town to two villages where I knew I would find smaller grocery stores. One of them is run by an Indian lady. She shook her head at my request for noodles. “What are they like?” She asked me. “Spaghetti”, was my suggestion. “Oh we have that, it is with the rice and cooking sauces”. In the second, much smaller shop, I not only confounded the person serving at the counter, but she got a group of other customers involved too. “This man wants to buy noodles. Does anyone know what he’s talking about?” They shook their heads in turn.

By now, it was getting dark, and my only other shopping options were over twelve miles away, in Swaffham.

So I returned home, with no noodles.

If anyone thinks they know what that was about, I would love to hear it.