You may remember that I was too tired to post an episode of my serial the other night.

Then I woke up feeling much perkier yesterday.

But by 9 pm, I felt completely exhausted, and could hardly keep my eyes open.
I was in bed and asleep not that long after 10 pm.

I slept for over 12 hours, without stirring. When I got up late this morning, I felt as if I hadn’t even been asleep. As the day went on, I did my usual stuff on the blogs, feeling sleepier than ever.

But Ollie has to go out. So I had a bath, got dressed, and took him over to his usual favourite places. After 30 minutes, I had to sit down on a fallen tree, and could easily have stretched out and slept on it. But I had to press on, for Ollie’s sake.

After 90 minutes, I was so tired, I had to come home.

I don’t have a cough.
I don’t have a high temperature.
I don’t feel unell.

But I found this online.

‘According to the WHO, the most common symptoms of Covid-19 are fever, tiredness and a dry cough.’

Oh dear…

I will let you know what happens. Meanwhile, there may not be any more blog posts from me today.

Beetley, and The Virus

Whatever happens, 2020 will always be remembered as the ‘Year of The Coronavirus’. Life in Beetley was always pretty quiet, but this year it is even quieter.

The population of Beetley, including the hamlet of Old Beetley, is just 1,390. On a busy day, I might see perhaps ten or twelve of those people, and they will mostly be walking dogs. Almost every home here has a pet, and the majority of those are dogs.

On large dog-friendly areas like Beetley Meadows or Hoe Rough, we might be joined by prople from the next village of Gressenhall, or from the nearby market town of Dereham, four miles south. But since returning from a short trip on Tuesday, I have hardly seen anyone.

People here are taking self-isolation quite seriously. Like me, many are only venturing out to walk dogs, or to buy groceries. Even though the schools are not closed until Friday, lots of children have already been kept away from school.

My daily dog walk has become quite strange. Other walkers are keeping a distance, in some cases turning round and walking away from me and Ollie. Over on Hoe Rough today, the sight of us approaching sent one family into an apparent frenzy to avoid walking past us. I felt as if I should have a bell around my neck.

I wonder how long it will be until we have to start painting black crosses on our front doors?

Rainfall Nostalgia

As I was woken up during the night by yet another downpour, and that rain is still falling as I sit at my computer, I got to thinking about rain.

No surprise there, as anyone who has ever read this blog will tell you, I write a lot about rain. A lot. Having to walk a dog in all weathers, and with outbuildings liable to flood when ground water gets to too high a level, I can assure you that rain matters a great deal to me.

But what about before? Before I retired, and had time to resent the rain spoiling my free time, restricting my movements, and making my daily dog walks miserable.

I didn’t even own an umbrella until 2001.

That was the year I started working for the Metropolitan Police in London, and could no longer drive to work.

I had to either get a bus, or walk for almost thirty minutes to my new place of employment.

That meant being out in the weather dressed quite smartly, and then having to work a long shift with no facility to change wet clothes. I suddenly realised that you could get very wet in just thirty minutes.

I started by buying a weatherproof coat. That offered some protection, but my trousers and shoes still got soaked of course. I wasn’t too bothered about my head, as I had little hair to worry about, and what was there was cropped very short.

But by December of that year, I decided I definitely needed an umbrella, if I wasn’t going to spend the first period of my shift trying to dry out, sitting in damp clothes.

Remembering the old adage ‘You get what you pay for’, the John Lewis department store was my umbrella shop of choice. Not for me one of those over-sized and ubiquitous golfing umbrellas, which are totally impractical on the crowded streets of Central London. No, I had need of a classic ‘brolly’, a Gentleman’s Umbrella. Black of course, with a wooden handle, and a traditional slide and catch. The ‘automatic’ variety did not appeal at all.

I paid extra for one that was ‘guaranteed windproof’. The wind can be fierce along the streets of that city, especially in between high-sided buildings.

It was just what I needed, and kept me dry for the next eleven years, never letting me down, and never once blowing inside out in high winds.

I still have it now, and it is as good as it always was, exactly eighteen years later.

I think I am going to need it today.

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.

A Random Memory

Wandering around on a cold bright afternoon with Ollie, it often surprises me what pops into my mind.

Once my Mum was in her eighties, and could hardly see, she often spilled things down her clothes as she was eating. On occasion, I would visit her to find her sitting in a top or dress that was obviously quite badly stained. I would point this out, and offer to find her something to change into from her wardrobe. But every time she was adamant that there was nothing there, that her clothing was not stained, and she was fine as she was.

She didn’t have any loss of mental faculties at that time, so I suspect her reluctance to believe me came from a mixture of embarrassment, and natural stubbornness. One evening, I was due to take her to a restaurant to celebrate some occasion. I arrived to find her wearing a rather fancy black outfit that was quite obviously spattered with stains from what she had been eating the last time she had worn it. I mentioned that she might want to change, as many other people would be there, and might wonder why her top had so many marks on it. She became unreasonably angry, and told me that if I was that bothered, she would stay at home.

I took her as she was, feeling sad that a once elegant and immaculate lady was perfectly happy to be seen in food-stained clothes by an assortment of family and friends.

Not long after this twenty year-old memory had been in my head, I saw a fellow dog walker, with her two dogs. One of them jumped up to me a few times, leaving muddy paw prints on my trousers, and then on the sleeve of my coat. She apologised, and told her dog off for jumping up. I assured her it wasn’t a problem. “They are only my dog-walking clothes, don’t worry”.

Maybe it runs in the family?