Ollie: An Eventful Walk

For the last few days, Ollie has not had much fun on his walks. Many of his regular doggy pals have been notable by their absence, and the few dogs he did encounter didn’t seem to like him that much, including one tiny terrier who attacked him on sight.

The day before yesterday we got a real soaking in unexpected rain, and yesterday we only saw one other dog, in more than two hours of walking around.

Today was sunny to start, with ‘showers’ supposed to arrive after 3 pm. So I set off a bit earlier, and it proved to be a good plan. Ollie soon met up with a couple of friendly Spaniels he knows, and the new arrival of a small white Staffordshire Bull Terrier proved to be a friendly encounter too.

Over on Hoe Rough, there seemed to be no dog-walkers today. But halfway round the right hand path, Ollie spotted a white-tailed deer crossing the path up ahead, and took off in hunting mode. No chance of catching it of course, but until it went to ground in a dense thicket of shrubs, he had a good chase.

Then he decided to track the animals route, nose to the ground, sniffing like a Bloodhound.

He was excited enough to need a long dip in the river before we started on the return journey to Beetley Meadows. Once back over the bridge, Ollie was delighted to see little Lola, the affectionate Shih Tzu. And she was in the company of Zen, the feisty miniature Chihuahua.

The three of them had a good meet, with strokes and cuddles all round, and lots of sniffing and running in small circles.

By the time we got home, Ollie was ready for his dinner, and he is now sleeping soundly next to me, after his eventful walk.

Friendship, And Distance

I read a post earlier today from my blogging friend in Australia, Lloyd Marken. He wrote about attending the wedding of a friend. Since those friends had grown up, got married, and moved around the vast country that is Australia, they don’t get to see that much of each other. But when he was invited to that old friend’s wedding, he did not hesitate to book a hotel, then drive almost 800 miles to Sydney.

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Real friends are like gold dust. Real friends endure, despite distances that might separate you. And they rarely judge you.

Compared to Australia, England is tiny. Yet moving just 140 miles from London means that I rarely see my oldest and best friends. Add to that the sad fact that a few of them have died, and you might be forgiven for thinking that my friends are now few and far between.

Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

Despite lack of physical contact since I moved to Beetley, made worse by travel restrictions during the pandemic lockdowns, my oldest friends are undoubtedly still my best friends, whether I am able to see them, or not.

There is nothing I would not do for those real friends. I would give them my last pound, lie in court for them, and give them my car if they needed to drive anywhere. I would let them stay in my house rent-free, send them food, in fact anything they ever needed or wanted.

The simple fact that I no longer live near any of them is meaningless. For that matter, I could be living in Australia, and never see them again.

But they would be my best friends, until my dying day.

New Arrivals: Rusty

Last December, I mentioned Rusty, a puppy that had arrived on the dog-walking scene. Full of youthful exuberance, he is always excited to see Ollie, and beside himself with the desire to play. Unfortunately, Ollie considers himself above such childish behaviour now, so Rusty has to make do with pretending to play, while Ollie stands still and gives him an occasional warning growl.

Rusty is older now of course, though not that much bigger. He enjoyed himself in the snow when it was here.

He recently had his first trip to the groomer, and his super-soft fur is looking in top condition.

I am hoping that Ollie will soon decide that Rusty is in his gang, and one of his new best friends. But I’m not holding my breath. 🙂

Ollie: Missing His Lost Friends

When I started to take Ollie out in 2012, he had at least nine best friends in the canine world.

Now, few of those are left. We recently heard about Ellie, the Spaniel. She was around ten years old, and had to be put to sleep after a large tumour was discovered inside her.

Some are still around. Toby the Jack Russell for one. Then yesterday, we encountered Rocky, the Black Labrador. We hadn’t seen him that much during the bad weather, so it was nice to discover that he was fit and well, and as lively as ever. Ollie was pleased to see him, after all that time.

There are some new friends arriving, but Ollie is reluctant to admit them to his ‘gang’. Missy the Whippet. She loves Ollie, and runs circles around him, like a tiny whirlwind. Ruby, the Chocolate Labrador, who searches him out with obvious delight, whenever she sees him. He still stands and looks at the entrances to Beetley Meadows and Hoe Rough, and I just know he is searching for his absent friends.

We also met up with Teddy, the young Alsatian. He wants to play all the time, but doesn’t realise just how big he is. After a lot of jumping around Ollie, and barking at him incessantly, Ollie finally allowed a short play. Chasing round in circles, splashing into the river, and trying to avoid Teddy as the big dog swipes him with huge paws. Ollie has soon had enough, and a few growls tell Teddy playtime is over for now.

As I chat to Teddy’s lady owner, Ollie stares into the distance at the entrance to Beetley Meadows from the road we live on. He seems to be waiting for older, more familiar friends. I try to tell him they will not be coming, but of course he doesn’t understand.

And what of Strudel, one of his best-ever friends? We haven’t seen her for so long now, I am wondering if she is okay.

Just as we mourn our friends, dogs do too.

They search for their smells, sniff their familiar owners, and wonder why the dogs are no longer around.

Loss and grief are not just human emotions. I’m certain of that.

My Blog

Despite the pandemic, or maybe because of it, my blog has never been busier, or more widely read. Most of my readers are still from America, followed by Britain, then India. But other countries seem to be catching on fast, and recent views include Ghana, Finland, Indonesia, Guadaloupe, and Bangladesh.

I have now published 3,922 posts, and had 466,000 views of my blog, from 148,000 visitors.

Jennie, you know who you are, and you are currently number one in comments on my blog. Thank you.

Daily views in excess of 600 are no longer unusual. And even one post can generate well over 350 views, for which I thank all my followers and readers.

Follower numbers, including social media and email only, now total 7,485.

More than I ever thought possible, even allowing for the fact that some 80% of those never actually ‘follow’.

Thanks anyway, to those of you who really do follow this blog.

It is my habit to keep plugging away at my favourite hobby. I try to write stuff you might want to read, and so far I seem to be doing okay.

So it is a big “Thank You” to everyone.

You make my blogging enjoyable, worthwhile, and rewarding.

Best wishes, Pete.

Bad Night/Bad Dream

I have written before about my vivid dreams. They are almost always easy to recall, usually interesting, at least to me, and on a few occasions, have managed to fascinate me.

Last night, I went to bed at a reasonable time, and settled down to sleep. It felt unusually warm for January, but I eventually got settled, and went to sleep. When the stormy wind began to increase in speed, I was disturbed by the noise of swirling leaves, and small twigs and branches falling outside. But after turning over a couple of times, I finally got back to sleep.

Some time later, I was aware of a presence in the room, close to my face. I opened my eyes to see a male figure leaning over the bed. Behind him were three others, two men, and a woman. They were illuminated in the pitch black darkness by a strange greenish-glow that seemed to be coming from below them on the floor.

I recognised them all.

The woman in the doorway was my mother. She died in 2012.

The man in front of her was my friend Steve Greenwood. He died in 1988.

Next to him was my dad’s older brother, Uncle Harry. I hadn’t seen him since the 1970s, and he has been dead for over thirty years.

By the bed was his son, my cousin Brian. I hadn’t seen him for over forty years. He was murdered by intruders in his home in Spain, over twenty years ago.

I felt unbearably hot, and threw the duvet off my body.

They all looked as I remembered them when I had last seen them, though their expressions were blank, and very scary. For some time, nobody spoke, including me. And then my mum said “We have come to fetch you”.

Then I woke up, feeling absolutely terrified, and shaking. I pressed the button on my tablet to check the time, and it was 03:17. That time has no significance that I know of.

It took me well over an hour to get back to sleep, as I was actually frightened to close my eyes.

That was one dream I never want to have again.

A Blogging Year

Only a couple of days to go before the end of 2020, a year that most of us will be pleased to see the back of. Let’s hope that vaccination programmes will lead to some major improvements in 2021, and life might start to feel normal again for many of us. Those who have lost loved ones will still find it hard to cope of course, and the businesses forced to close, and those who have lost careers or jobs, will face a complete readjustment of their lives.

In the world of blogging, lockdowns and lack of movement saw an explosion of new bloggers like never before. Many hoped to increase their income, or just start an online business. Whether by offering SEO and other blogging services, online courses, or just selling cosmetics. Thousands of entrepreneurial people took to blogging as a route to make some money. Most found out that it doesn’t work like that. Bloggers do not rush to buy such services, especially blog promotion services, fake reviews, and social media accounts that are built up to 5,000 followers before being offered for sale.

Do people actually buy Twitter Accounts, Instagram Accounts, or someone else’s blog? That was a new one for me, in a strange year.

Like some other bloggers, a little more time on my hands meant that I posted more. As well as fiction serials, I explored some more random stuff, and the popularity of those posts took me by surprise. I hardly posted photos during the past year. I lost the ‘muse’ for photography, along with any desire to read fiction. That surpised me, as I had been doing well with reading up to that point. But lack of concentration seemed to be one side effect of tthe pandemic that tended to overwhelm me at times.

2020 also saw an increase in followers, as new bloggers looked around for blogs to follow, and blogging communities to become part of. The other side of that coin was losing some regular followers that had been around for years. Maybe they stopped blogging, got fed up with following my particular blog, or just found a new hobby to pursue.

Some died during the past year, which was sad to hear. Others took extended breaks from blogging; whether through illness, lack of continued interest, or the pressures associated with dealing with familiy and work during a very difficult time. I hope some of them come back, I really do.

Once again, I would like to thank everyone who has stuck by my blog, during this unprecedented year in our lifetimes. All the followers and friends who have been around since the start, and those new followers who have thrown themselves into blogging, and become great members of our small community.

I thank each and every one of you for your comments, your likes, and your emails. Thanks for reading my very long serials, and my everyday stuff about walking a dog in all weathers.

In your own ways, you have got me through 2020. I doubt I could have done it without you.

Ollie’s Sad/Happy walk

I took Ollie out earlier today, hoping to take advantage of the sunshine while it lasted. With full darkness by around 4 pm now, it makes sense to be out long before that.

It was a crisp and cold day, with bright sunshine that was uncomfortable to look into. It had also stirred up some insects, and four bites on my head later, I was beginning to regret my decision.

Ollie wasn’t too happy either, as there was nobody else around. With no other dogs to greet and sniff, he had to resort to sniffing anything left behind by the early-morning dogs, those taken out before their owners leave for work. It was sad to see him looking decidedly fed up after almost an hour of us being the only two on the usual route.

He was staring along the path that leads to each of the three entrances, his concentration intent, no doubt hoping to spot a canine pal arriving. But to no avail. As we headed home, he plodded along reluctantly behind me, making me feel extra guilty for leaving home forty-five minutes earlier that usual.

Suddenly, his head shot up, and he started into the distance. I looked in that direction, and could see a dog running for a ball a long way off. Ollie wasn’t waiting for permission, and took off like a rocket. When I finally caught up with him, I saw he was wth our next door neighbour, and her dog Henry. She was accompanied by a friend with a small Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and both dogs were chasing balls as if their lives depended on it.

Although Ollie has no interest in the balls, he ran alongside each dog as they chased them, and kept that up for at least fifteen minutes. Then a lady arrived with a large white Retriever that Ollie loves, and he scooted off to see that big dog, yelping with delight.

I felt vindicated. His sad walk had turned into a happy one, and he got some great exercise into the bargain.

A Virtual Funeral

Paul is one of my oldest and dearest friends. I have known him and his family for a long time. On the 28th of September, his father Harry died at the age of 91. I knew him of course, and we always had a great relationship. We exchanged letters, he sent me books, and I visited him in his homes in Devon over the years.

In normal circumstances, I would have attended the funeral today. But in 2020, circumstances are not normal. Reduced numbers allowed, wearing of face masks, and the prospect of a long car journey in excess of six hours each way. So I declined the invitation to attend the service today, and was pleased to hear that it was going to be streamed online for anyone who lived too far away, or was unable to attend for other reasons.

I logged on using a link sent by email, and watched the funeral on the large monitor of my PC. Using the full screen option, I really felt as if I was there, watching from the ‘third row’. Julie watched it using her smartphone, and it was also good to see people we have not met up with for many years now.

This is a very ‘modern’ experience, but I have to say it worked exceptionally well. And during the thirty minute duration, the sound and vision remained first rate.

Henry (Harry) Clement was a former regular soldier in the Grenadier Guards. He went on to become a police officer in London’s Metropolitan Police. His career saw him rise to a very senior rank in the detective branch, during which time he was involved in some of the most high-profile criminal cases in British history. Harry was a relgious man, and a devoted family man too. The service refelected this, with prayers and hymns, a eulogy read by Paul, and a poem read by his sister, Elizabeth.

RIP Harry Clement. A good man, who lived a good life.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Loss Of Contact.

It made a nice change today to wake up thinking about something other than a virus.

I was actually thinking about people I once knew well, and have not seen in half a lifetime. Starting with someone I called my ‘best mate’ for all of nine years, until he got married, and moved away. I last went to see him in 1980. Since then, some Christmas cards, but never a phone call either way. I can remember the times we shared as schoolfriends and into our late teens as if they were yesterday. But when I see his face in my mind, he is still only 18 years old. Forty years have passed since we met, and it is likely the next contact will be made when one of us dies.

Cousins that I used to spend most weekends with, go on summer holidays with. Some not seen now for twenty years, and their children don’t even know who I am. One moved to Canada. Is he still there? What happened in his life? I have no idea, because ‘Merry Christmas’ on a card tells me nothing. Does he ever think about me at all? I was his older cousin who he met at our grandmother’s house. I went to his older sister’s wedding, but the last time I met his younger sister, she asked who I was, and how I was related to her.

Splits in families will do that. You tend to pick a side, like it or not. And because my dad left my mum, we picked her side. By the time we tried to resume contact and build bridges, it was too late. Life had passed by like traffic on a motorway. I was a face on a photo that nobody recognised.

Work colleagues, male and female, can often become great friends. But if the girls get married, what if their husband is jealous of your closeness, suspectng something else? You do the decent thing. Step away. Give them a chance. And what if your male friend marries someone who doesn’t like you, or you can’t stand them. Do you hang around and cause friction? No, you disappear.

I sat up in bed thinking about all the people I had once been very close to, and had not seen since. I stopped counting at fifteen, then added the more distant relatives to arrive at a total. Twenty? Thirty? I am sure it must be more than that, if I think harder.

In an age where communication has never been so widespread, or more instant, it seems no easier to keep in touch.