Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Time Alone.

My wife has gone off with her friend to see Ed Sheeran play live, in Ipswich. They will stop overnight in a hotel, after the open-air concert. So for around thirty hours, I will be home alone. Not strictly alone of course, as Ollie will be here.

He will be watching my every move, and making sure I don’t forget his dinner time, his walks, and his dog-biscuit treat. That also means a longer walk for Ollie in the afternoon, with no need to hurry back for any reason whatsoever.

Monday is a public holiday here, so the weekend is extended. The weather is seasonably hot; too hot to want to do any ‘work’ outside, that’s for sure.

So, what to do with that ‘time alone’?

Well for one thing, I can catch up on my foreign-language TV dramas that are recorded. I might watch a film on Netflix too, if only to justify having it. I could do those things when I am not alone of course, but I like to be considerate enough not to inflict my personal watching preferences on those who do not share them.

Perhaps I will make some of those long-promised phone calls to relatives or friends? Maybe write a real letter to someone, when I have the time to properly think about what to tell them.

Rather than cook a proper meal, I will just slide a pizza into the oven, after first ‘pudging it up’ with extra ingredients like garlic mushrooms, red onion, and black olives. Washing up will be minimal, and it will certainly fill me up.

Then there is blogging of course. I can give full attention to the blogs of those I follow, and perhaps develop some story ideas into drafts.

I could go to bed early, and carry on reading my book on the Kindle Fire. I am more than halfway through the big novel at the moment, and keen to see what happens.

Then there is the default option. One that seems more attractive, the longer I think about it.

None of the above.

My Pets

Many readers will be aware of Ollie, my dog. He is the star of this blog, and my constant companion, since 2012.

But long before Ollie, I had many other pets. I think of them as typical ‘childhood pets’, though one was owned when I was much older.

When I was around 8 years old, I volunteered to take the class hamster home, and to look after it during the summer holidays. It was a lot smellier than I expected it to be, but I enjoyed watching it spin around in its wheel. Of course, my Mum ended up being the one who cleaned it out. I just enjoyed holding it, feeding it, and watching it scuttle around. But I had forgotten about our usual two-week holiday in Cornwall, so we had to enlist the help of my Mum’s sister to feed it and care for it while we were gone. After school started again, I took it back, but it died the following day. I didn’t know how short-lived they were, and was convinced that I had somehow hastened its demise by neglect.

My next pets were some goldfish in a bowl. It didn’t occur to me that it was rather cruel to keep two good-sized fish in a small bowl, and I soon became very bored with watching them constantly swimming in circles. My only interaction with them was to feed them, and so I overfed them, unintentionally. One day, they were both dead, floating on the top of the water, which was not much more than a cloudy soup of nutrition by that time. My Dad flushed them down the toilet.

Dad decided to get a ‘feature tank’ instead. I chose the tank ornaments, including a large clam shell, a pirates’ treasure chest, and an arch that they could swim through. My Dad bought plants to help aerate the water, and we had six fish of different sizes. But they constantly attacked each other, and took chunks out of each other’s tails and fins. Before long, three of them were found dead, and the rest lasted less than a year.

Everyone had a tortoise in those days. They often had their names painted on the shell, and some owners drilled a small hole in the shell too, to tether the poor thing to a long string, so it didn’t escape. I loved to feed our tortoise, and would also stroke its head when it popped out for food. It didn’t die in our care, but we had to move to a place with no garden, so it was given to a relative. It lived for a very long time after that, but once we moved again, I lost touch with it.

When I was 15, we moved to a house with a big garden. My Mum got a dog, and she also acquired two angora rabbits. They lived in hutches outside, and she would brush them carefully, saving the soft hair that came off. She later used this fur to knit things, and produced some incredibly soft knitwear. My job was to feed them, and clean them out. I adored being able to stroke them, as they were unbelievably soft. But the big male was very aggressive, and managed to injure all three of us at one time or another. They lived less than four years, and we never replaced them.

In 1978, I was 26 years old, and had just moved to Wimbledon. I didn’t want to be tied down with a dog, but thought it would be nice to have a pet. I got a long-haired guinea pig, called a ‘Sheltie’. I named him Oskar, and my uncle built me a pine hutch for him to live in, in the garden. During the winter, he came inside, and stayed in a huge old fish-tank, in the dining room. I looked after him really well, fed him all the best things, and brushed him every day. When we went on holiday, my sister-in-law looked after him. He lived for over five years, until one morning I found him dead in his fish-tank. He is buried in that south-London garden.

But there is no doubt that Ollie has been the best pet I have ever had.

Dragonfly Combat

I left early on my walk with Ollie today. The sky was dark and threatening, so I grabbed my umbrella as well. I wasn’t about to even think of taking my camera, in case we got another downpour like the one yesterday afternoon.

Not long after I got to the river, I was beginning to regret that decision. The sun had come out, and the temperature was rising fast.

(This is an old photo, so that new readers can imagine the scene. The photo can be enlarged.)

Ollie was straight in for a drink, and to cool his paws. He likes to stand there until he has chilled down sufficiently, before more trotting around. He was standing in the shallow water pictured above, but to the right, it is a lot deeper. I waited by the bank, and noticed something flying close to the water. It was a small brown dragonfly, moving fast, and enjoying being in the sunlit area, by the look of it. Very soon, another identical insect joined him/her, and began to dive down onto the first one. They did this for some time, changing places and attempting to move the other one away from what they obviously considered to be their ‘territory’.

Two more suddenly appeared, flying in with the sun behind them, like fighter pilots in the war. The first two were obviously startled, and moved closer to Ollie. But it wasn’t long before they returned to claim their patch of sky above the water. A bloodless combat ensued, with individual insects seeking height, before swooping down on the others below. It was every dragonfly for himself/herself, as they flashed around at great speed.

I stood watching this for some time, fascinated. Then a loud whirring noise could be heard, and around the river bend came a huge iridescent blue dragonfly. Compared to the four combatants already there, this was like the appearance of a Jumbo Jet looming over four small single-seat Cessna aircraft. The brown dragonflies realised that discretion was the better part of valour, and didn’t hang around to test the patience of the enormous new arrival. They flew off immediately, in the opposite direction.

And I didn’t have my camera…

Enriching Ollie’s Walks

At this time of year when so many people are on holiday, it is not so easy for Ollie to come across many of his regular doggy pals when we are out walking. So it is up to me to try to do something to make his long walks in the heat more enjoyable.

One word he learned a long time ago is ‘Hiding’. He usually checks out regular spots where he has seen cats or squirrels in the past, and when he is upset that they are not there, I generally say that they are ‘hiding’. I adopt a hushed tone when saying the word, and imply that he might have to find them. This makes him rush around looking for whatever he was expecting to find.

This not only gives him more exercise, it also provides him with some sense of purpose to his walks, besides sniffing and marking.

The recent hot and humid weather has made Ollie reluctant to do much. He has been lagging behind me, and spending too much time just standing in the river. So when we got over onto Hoe Rough today, I took him to the spot where he had last seen a deer, and pointed into the undergrowth. I hissed ‘hiding’, and off he went, understanding completely what I was on about. For a good fifteen minutes, he scanned up and down looking for the non-existent hiding animals.

When he returned looking hot and bothered, I let him go down into the river, to cool off.

The things we do for our pets…

A message from Ollie

A 2014 plea from Ollie. This is for the benefit of new followers, as many of you have seen this before.

beetleypete

DSCF1450My dating profile photo.

OK, just because we can’t talk, does not mean that we cannot learn the basics of how to work a computer, and publish a blog post. After all, I have watched countless hours of Pete doing this, so it can’t be that hard. It is a bit tricky with paws, I will admit, but if you are careful with your nails, it is not impossible. The mouse is a lot easier, as my right paw covers that completely.

You will know a bit about me, if you read this blog. I am Pete and Julie’s dog, Ollie the Shar-Pei. The truth is, I am a bit lonely, and would like to have some female company. I thought that I would use this blog as a platform to advertise myself. If you are regular readers, you already know a lot about my life. It is a comforting routine…

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Seaside and sun

One of my early blog posts, from 2012. The English seaside, and a very young Ollie.

beetleypete

DSCF0241A very young (7 months old) Ollie, in the sea. He still had a collar back then.

The rain stopped the day before yesterday, and the sun came out today. Julie was on a day off from work, so we decided to take Ollie the dog to the seaside for the afternoon.

Wells-next-the Sea is our nearest seaside town, only 30 minutes in a car. There is a large dog friendly section of beach, and a pine forest leading up to the sand dunes. Unfortunately, the sun was not present there, as it was shrouded in coastal cloud. That didn’t matter, as it was warm, and very busy, with both day trippers and holidaymakers there for their annual summer break.

Ollie had great fun in the sea, which was surprisingly warm, and enjoyed meeting up with all the other dogs. Julie and I got a lot of good exercise, and…

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