Two Sure Signs Of Spring

The sun is out, and it is already 12C. But I saw two other signs that confirm Spring has undeniably sprung.

Ollie is moulting. When I let him out this morning, the kitchen floor looked like that of a barber’s shop, after the barber had just completed a haircut.

Then as I waited for the kettle to boil, I saw a colourful fluttering around the bird box that is fixed to the oak tree in the back garden.

The Blue Tits are back, and taking nest materials into the wooden box through the small hole at the front.

This is an old photo that I took a couple of years ago, but it’s the same nest box.

I wonder if it could be the same pair of birds?

I hope so.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Fever Dream.

Whatever was ailing me yesterday seems to have gone away overnight. Though it was uncomfortably warm here last night for February. I woke up late, in the middle of a dream that had disturbed me so much, I thought it was still ‘happening’.

I had lost Ollie, and I was looking for him everywhere. But everything in the dream was wrong.

We were living on a busy main road, in an unfamiliar city. The cars outside were all 1970s American cars, and Yellow Cabs like I have seen in films. People were helping me try to find my dog, but none of them were familiar, and none were American either. The shops, banks, and other buildings all looked like they would in an English city, but the traffic, buses, and even police cars, were American types from fifty years ago.

After what seemed like hours passing in my dream, it was getting dark, and I still couldn’t find Ollie. I was becoming incredibly agitated, and worried about my dog.

Then the yapping of a neighbour’s tiny dog woke me up, leaving me thinking about yet another strange dream, and why I had experienced it.

At least Ollie was alive and well, sitting on his bed in the kitchen when I went to check on him.

Ollie Treads Carefully

The snow we had earlier this week has not melted. It is still here, despite strong sunshine in the mornings, and the weatherman’s promise of a thaw.

Now the constant sub-zero temperatures have done their job, and it is frozen. This is a serious issue on pavements, and the well-trodden paths on the dog-walking route. There is solid ice on those, two to three inches deep, and difficult to walk on. Bad enough for me in my rubber-soled walking boots, but for Ollie it is incredibly hard for him to keep his footing on his small pads.

His legs splay apart, like Bambi in the Disney film, and he hesitates as he tries to find dry spots to place his feet into. Where it is really bad, he stands still and looks at me, only continuing when I walk away from him.

Over on Hoe Rough earlier, the snow had combined with the mud, freezing into what looks like a miniature mountain range. Walking on that presents new problems, as there is the danger of sinking deep into the areas that have not completely frozen. And the small solid ‘peaks’ are slippery enough to sprain an ankle, if you are not careful.

Ollie chose to avoid the paths completely, and walk in the deep snow instead. I was reluctant to follow him through that. It makes walking harder as I sink into the softer snow with every step, and it also conceals the deep pools that are full of water that could easily go over the top of my boots and soak the inside of them.

This all meant that our ninety-minute walk felt more like it had taken over three hours, especially in the bitingly cold wind that was blowing at me, seemingly from every angle.

We were both glad to get back home into the warm today.

Birthday Boy!

On this day in 2012, Ollie was born in the house next door. Today is his ninth birthday, quite old for his breed.

But as you will have seen from his recent video appearances, he is still lively, and enjoying his walks.

2020 saw the loss of his mother, Molly. Then later in the year, his sister Milly died. He didn’t know of course, so was spared any sense of loss.

Today he received two new soft toys as birthday presents. A Crocodile, and a Sheep. With his dinner later, he will get an extra bonus of a large smoked sausage.

I hope my best friend and constant companion will be around for a long time to come.

Video: More Heavy Snow, and Hoe Rough

Overnight last night, we had another very heavy fall of snow. This despite the BBC weatherman saying that “The East has seen the last of the snow for now”. It was bad enough for us to cancel the dog groomer appointment and reschedule for next week. No point risking a five-mile drive involving untreated roads, just to get a dog shampooed.

The morning was very sunny and bright, so I took the phone on Ollie’s walk, and headed over to Hoe Rough. Unfortunately, it was still so bright at the start of the walk, that I couldn’t see a thing on the screen, other than my own face reflected in it. So the results are rather hit and miss, but I will post them all anyway.

Ollie in some quite deep snow. Not many people had been over there, and in parts it was as deep as my boots.

A shorter clip of Ollie. He had heard something, so stopped to listen carefully.

At the time, I couldn’t see what was in the frame here, but I managed to get Ollie’s head in at the end. 🙂

Ollie ‘marking’ some snow. The pool of water is left over from the recent floods, and I walked in to show how deep it is.

Where Hoe Rough opens out, you can see the extent of the virgin snow to the south.
At this point the sun went in, and didn’t appear again.

The river bend from the Hoe side, looking across to Beetley Meadows.
Walking there was heavy going, as nobody had been down there before us, and the path was covered over.

Next to the gate of the path that leads up to Holt Road. I am calling Ollie a ‘good boy’ to make him wag his tail for you. 🙂
The pools of water you can see are left over from the recent flooding.

This is ‘The Dell’, where I like to sit and rest on very hot days.
What looks like a pond is in fact a deep pool of rainwater that has been there for months.

Looking north from the southern end of Hoe Rough.
Behind the wire fence is a large private woodland, part of the huge garden of a relatively small house in Hoe.

I hope you have all enjoyed my two days of snow videos. Hopefully, that will be the last of the snow this year!

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Waking up late, and writing.

I woke up late today, nine fifty-six, to be precise. Unlike last week, I didn’t lie in bed thinking random thoughts, but got up with something specific on my mind.

I was busy doing stuff yesterday, so didn’t write an episode of the latest serial. And that also meant that I didn’t write today’s episode in advance, something I generally do, especially at weekends.

Later this afternoon, I also didn’t write tomorrow’s episode, let alone writing and posting the one that should have gone out today. So by tomorrow, I will techically be two episodes behind. Hopefully, this is just a blip, and not a case of writer’s block.

We will all find out tomorrow.

( On the plus side, Ollie met new friends on his walk today. Bambi, a dog rescued from a life on the streets in Croatia, having to stay on her lead in case she runs away. At least until she is used to the area, and her new home. Then Misty, a Collie pup with pale grey and white fur. Twenty weeks old, and excitable. Both of those new arrivals were a little bit ‘in your face’ for Ollie’s liking. But he will get used to them in time. )

Thinking Aloud on A Sunday

Random Thoughts.

Usually when I wake up on a Sunday, I am thinking about something specific. That wasn’t the case today, so I decided to present my collection of random thoughts instead.

It was very cold this morning. Cold enough to make me want to stay in the warmth of the bed for a while. That made me think about how much colder it used to be when I was a boy. No central heating, no double-glazed windows, and the whole house heated by one coal-fire in the living room. I often wore extra clothes to go to bed in, rather than getting undressed. The risk of waking up to frozen water pipes meant that my mum would fill saucepans and a kettle the night before. Then at least she had water to make tea, and to heat up so we could wash.

How soon we become accustomed to the luxuries of progress.

I thought I should get up, to let Ollie out into the garden. Then I started to think about how Ollie would feel if I died of Covid-19. (Or anything else for that matter.) He is so dependent on always being close to me, I feel sure he would pine badly, and be inconsolable. I concluded that it would be best if I outlived him. But then I would be the one grieving. It’s a tough call, either way.

Writing my new serial was on my mind. I am sure I am making errors in trying to write it from the perspective of a young woman who has just had a baby. I have never been a woman, had a baby, or even fathered a child. More so than anything else I have written, it feels like a challenge to get through each episode. Then I reminded myself that I have never been a serial killer either, yet I have written stories about them. Perhaps real serial kilers languishing in jail somewhere are reading my stories online, and noticing errors?

Then I couldn’t stay in bed any longer, so got up.

Ollie And The Mud

I have written before about the amount of mud we have to endure on our dog walks. Following the frequent heavy rain we get in Beetley, the mud persists until it is either frozen by a long period of extreme cold, or finally dries out sometime in late May or June.

I have become an expert on mud. I used to think there was just ‘Mud’, but there are a great many varieties.

There is the obvious churned-up ‘surface’ mud. You look ahead of you, and can see a muddy area. If it cannot be avoided, you squelch through it with a depth of just a couple of inches appearing on your boots.

Then there is the ‘slick’ mud. It looks black and oily at first glance, and is rarely deep. That’s because it is sitting on firmer ground, and hasn’t sunk in. Close to the riverbank, this type of mud can often be left behind after local flooding. Walk on that at your peril, as it is as slippery as an ice-skating rink.

The other one best avoided is the ‘boggy’ mud. What might just seem like very wet grass can conceal mud up to three feet deep. That can not only get over the top of your boots and inside them, but also deliver enough suction to pull the boot off completely as you try to extricate it from the quicksand-like grip.

Despite all this, Ollie returns from our walks relatively clean. I have to wipe his paws on one of his dog towels, and clean off some splashes under his belly. Given that we have just spent almost two hours trudging through all the types of mud listed above, you would imagine that my dog would be caked in it up to his hips.

There are two reasons why Ollie can avoid the worst. For one thing, his relatively low weight stops him sinking in too deep. At 28 kilogrammes, (Just over 60 pounds) he is able to distribute that weight over all four legs instead of two.

And there is the way he walks. Best described as ‘prancing’, he does the whole dog walk on the eqivalent of his tiptoes, adding a bounce effect from his strong leg muscles that prevents him from sinking in too deep.

Unlike me, Ollie seems to have been perfectly designed for mud.

It’s A Pet’s Christmas Too

Ollie was very interested once we started to pile up the presents we had to open this morning. He came to sniff each parcel, checking whether or not they contained something edible. As we took turns opening gifts, revealing items like new slippers for me, a new purse for Julie, and bottles of wine and other assorted items, Ollie seemed to lose interest, and walked away holding his Grumpy Cat soft toy in his mouth.

At that stage, Julie produced one of his wrapped presents. “Is this for you? Is this Ollie’s?”

The cat toy fell from his mouth, and he rushed around to sit close. As she started to tear the wrapping paper, Ollie moved his snout forward, trying to help by nudging the paper open with his nose. When the first of four toys was revealed, a stuffed Christmas Turkey, fresh from the oven, he grabbed it and rushed off, shaking it furiously from side to side.

Five minutes later, he got a toy that had been sent in the post by my cousin. It was a a small sheep with a squeaker inside,and he rushed off to get that when it was thrown for him.

We continued opening our gifts, and soon after he was shown another present. This time it was a giant happy-face carrot, and he went hysterical when that was thrown.

Last but not least, one of his favourites. A stuffed lion toy, with a very shaggy mane. That was grabbed and taken away to be immediately chewed, the lion losing a chunk of its mane within seconds.

Now the toys are scattered around the living room. They are all soaking wet from being carried around in his frothy mouth, and he has well and truly marked them with his own distinctive scent.

Worn out by the excitement, he is fast asleeep behind me, snoring loudly.

A Semi-Aquatic Dog Walk

I waited until the rain I wrote about yesterday had finally stopped, then set out with Ollie in bright sunshine. I was aiming for Beetley Meadows as usual, but soon discovered that around 40% of our usual walking area was under water.

This is definitely the worst I have seen it since moving here, a legacy of the rain that almost drove me insane over the previous 28 hours.

The seats of the picnic benches were submerged, and the water had not just burst the banks, the river was actually flowing at some speed in areas where we walk every single day. In the livestock field beyond, it was spreading almost as far as the busy Holt Road in the distance. Fortunately, there were no grazing animals there.

Ollie splashed happily through the freezing muddy water, but as I followed him I realised that it might well come over the top of my boots, and I was forced to retrace my steps. I decided to head across to Hoe Rough, which is slightly higher ground. Our arrival there coincided with a sudden hailstorm, which turned Ollie’s back white in seconds, and was hammering against the canopy of my umbrella.

It turned out that not only was Hoe Rough just as badly off for flooding on the north side next to the river, but some of the larger ‘puddles’ along the main path were also too deep for my knee-length boots. Some old trees had fallen too, the roots washed away by the flood waters. I may have to invest in some fisherman’s waders!

The second hailstorm that arrived was more than I could take, so we headed home. I had to take Ollie along the path beside Fakenham Road to avoid more standing water.

And even after using all four of his special dog-towels to dry him off, he is still damp to the touch.

We have an Atlantic storm arriving on the 26th. They say we will have ‘heavy downpours’ along with winds up to 80 mph.

At least tomorrow is forecast to be dry.