Ollie The Tracker Dog

Just lately, Ollie’s tracking and hunting instincts seem to have reached a new peak of efficiency. Out walking yesterday, he suddenly picked up the scent of something, and took off, nose to the ground. In torrential rain and slippery mud, I had trouble catching up with him. But when I finally found him almost ten minutes later, he was standing by a thick clump of brambles, one front paw raised. On my arrival, he set off in circles around the brambles, snuffling at every branch. After some circuits had been completed, he stopped and stretched his neck, sniffing the air intently.

Suddenly, two small fallow deer emerged from the brambles, one was close enough for me to touch, had I not been holding an umbrella.They bounced away to the left, with Ollie in hot pursuit. It took me a while to find him again, and he was once again nose-to-the-ground, making zig-zag movements around Hoe Rough. He was so determined in his smell-tracking, he didn’t even notice me appear behind him. But this time, the deer had got themselves close to a fence bordering private land. So when Ollie finally located them and flushed them out, they escaped easily, by jumping the fence in one leap.

The weather was a little kinder today, and we even had some sunshine, despite a strong cold wind. After walking around for some time, Ollie became very interested in a tree, one in a group of six or so, some way from our usual route. He sniffed around the bark with great precision, returning again and again to one small section. Then he got his nose to the ground, and began to trot off ahead. I suspected that the deer may have returned, and anticipated a repeat of the previous day, trying to keep up with him. I kept him in sight, and stayed on the path as he headed north, on the diagonal. He stopped by the gate through to Holt Road, so I caught up with him quickly.

To my surprise, I found him staring at an elderly man by the gate. The man was wearing walking clothes, and carrying a map case and a walking pole. He seemed embarrassed as I approached, perhaps because I noticed that he was fiddling with the front of his trousers. He nodded at me, muttered a “Good afternoon”, and walked through the gate. A few minutes later, it dawned on me what had caused Ollie to track him in that way. He had probably stopped to pee up a tree, the one that Ollie had been so interested in. No doubt he had some on his shoes as he walked away, and Ollie was sharp enough to detect it. His trouser-fiddling was probably because he realised he hadn’t zipped up properly.

Ollie had done well. So the next time someone goes missing around here…

Tangible memories

Do you ever get struck by memories that you are sure you can feel, or even taste? Perhaps it’s an age thing, but I find myself experiencing these a lot more these days. The following examples are all real events or moments from my life and they keep returning to my thoughts, often stopping me in my tracks, as if I am going through them all over again.

The heat of a summer pavement through a pair of shorts. I am seven or eight years old, sitting on a kerb in London, and I feel hot. The warmed stone is like perching on the top of an oven; the heat on the back of my legs is bearable, but I feel the need to stand up.

In a class at school, perhaps twelve years old. I know the answers to the questions the teacher is asking, but I am conscious that many of my classmates do not. I hold back, not wanting to appear smart, or to be a know-all. The teacher gives up, and turns to me. “I know you know” she says, “why don’t you answer?” Some of the other kids look at me. My ruse has failed.

In a Wimpy Bar, in a South London shopping street, aged around fourteen. The smell of onions is almost overwhelming, and the rasp of the machine that froths the coffee drowns out conversation. I take a bite from the burger, and I can taste the unfamiliar meat, and the burnt sections at the ends of the onion. The food leaves my lips greasy, in a good way.

Almost eighteen, and had far too much alcohol to drink. I am staying at the house of a friend, and when I go to bed, the room spins, and I keep sitting up, afraid of what might happen. I feel that I have no control over my mind or body, and it is a very disconcerting thing indeed.

Thirty-three years old. I am in a car, asleep in the passenger seat. We are returning from Scotland, and my ex-wife is driving. Something makes her leave the motorway at speed, and the car hits the bank and overturns. I wake up, upside down, and screaming in fear. The car impacts with the road, and turns over again. The noise of the crash, followed by the scraping sound as it slides along the carriageway. Then silence.

Perhaps a year later. I am in an unfamiliar bedroom, working as part of an emergency ambulance crew. The woman on the bed is naked from the waist down, and about to give birth to a baby. Her husband, mother, sister, and another child are also in the room. I have the equipment laid out around me, and my colleague has gone to collect a midwife, as no spare vehicles are available. She starts to bear down, and the baby’s legs come out first. Everyone in the room looks at me. They are certain I will know what to do, and unconcerned about the fact that anything could go wrong. It all worked out OK, but I can still smell that bedroom.

I am alone in my flat in London, it is March 2012. I have not long returned from visiting my Mum in hospital. The flat is full of boxes, as I am moving to Norfolk soon. Sitting up late, the phone rings. It is a nurse, telling me that Mum has died. He asks me if I want to come back and see her. It is past 1.30 in the morning, so I say no. I had a mixture of feelings, hovering between heartbreak, and relief.

These and many other moments can return at will. Sometimes they are accompanied by tastes or smells, usually just the feeling I experienced at the time. They can hit you with some impact, or just make you feel uneasy. I have only noticed them since living here. Maybe I have too much time to think.

Electronic smoking (3)

Tomorrow will see the completion of my second full week on the Electronic Cigarette. Amazingly, I have not slipped back to tobacco cigarettes, and have not missed them at all. I have spent a total of £25 on the cartridges, and have enough left for another week, at least, so the financial savings are still evident, almost £140 in the bank!
The craving for the nicotine has not diminished though. If anything, I have got used to the extra strength of the cartridges, so find them less satisfying than when I first tried them. Despite this, my tangible success had given me the inspiration to continue, and I have no intention of returning to ‘real’ cigarettes. We are already noticing the absence of smoke smells in the house, even more so, since Julie has started to use the replacement cartridges too. There are still issues with the battery life between charges, but we can remedy this by buying additional batteries from the manufacturer.

So far, it is a success story, and one that I can really recommend to anyone who feels that they can never give up smoking.