Blogathon 07/20: Bad doggy parents

Dog-ownership is a lot like parenting.

No, it is, really!

Dogs need to be taught what is acceptable and not acceptable behaviour, just like children.

Dogs need to be rewarded for their good behaviour, just like children.

And dogs need some form of punishment/chastisement when they have behaved badly (just like children – although I would suggest that sending your dog to bed without Netflix might not have quite the impact that you should be considering for your errant offspring).

But the serious point is that without rules, and without a set of parameters that define good and bad, dogs – like children – will grow up not knowing right from wrong.

Did I say dogs are like children?

Well, add in the obvious: dog owners are like parents.

If the dog-owner (or the parent) doesn’t consistently apply the rules of wrong with the rewards of right, then sooner or later everyone who comes in to contact with the dog (or the child) is going to have a tough time.

So, these are basic rules and we can all agree them and that they are sensible, yes?

Good, and now to the point.

A near-neighbour has a dog that barks at anything it sees outside the front window of their house.

The logical, sensible solution to the problem would be to restrict the dog from the front of the house, yes?

It’s a smallish dog, the size of a large terrier or similar, so it’s not going to bound, kangaroo-like, over a stairgate-type thing.

But what the owners did last summer was to install sub-sonic cat-scaring devices in their front garden.

The theory is that these devices, triggered by motion, emit a sound only cats can hear. This sound will keep cats from the front of their house, their dog will not bark, and they will be (actual quote) ‘responsible neighbours’.

Except (at the risk of repeating myself), their dog barks at anything it sees outside the front window of their house. Anything.

This includes people walking to and fro on the pavement, because the dog has a grand view of all that stuff.

Needless to say, the sub-sonic cat-scaring devices turned out to be a waste of money because the dog continues to bark at everything it sees.

And it’s not a playful little bark either. It’s threatening.

On walks through the local fields we (our dogs and I) have encountered the near-neighbour and their dog.

None of these encounters have ever ended well.

Their dog has gone for ours. Every. Single. Time.

‘He’s only playing,’ the near-neighbours said on several occasions, as their hyper-aggressive, snarling, barking, teeth-barred dog pulled at his lead in a serious attempt to dismember either or both of our spaniels.

So we took a course of avoiding action.

Whenever we spotted them on the grassy horizon, we would change course keeping the best part of a quarter mile between their dog and ours.

Unfortunately on Monday evening I couldn’t take avoiding action.

We were halfway down the local jitty when I saw the near-neighbour and their dog approaching.

I stopped, shortened their leads so our dogs were effectively on four-inch hobbles, positioned the dogs between the fence and me and shielded them behind my legs.

The near-neighbour approached, slowed, and allowed his dog to sniff forward towards Chewie’s nose a few inches away. Robyn cowered behind my legs, Chewie has the recklessness of youth on his side.

The near-neighbour’s dog began its hyper-aggressive, snarling, teeth-barring, growling as usual.

I was about to ask him to get better control of his dog and to walk on, when his dog lunged forward and bit me.

I was shocked.

The anger set in much later, but right then I was shocked.

I told him I could have his dog destroyed under the Dangerous Dogs Act (fact).

I said his dog needed serious help (fact).

He said they had taken him places for behavioural help/training.

I had no words left.

I limped around the corner with our two dogs, sat down on a bench, rolled my trousers up and inspected the damage: a small hole in my trouser leg, and a bleeding hole in my shin.

I don’t think I could ever report anyone’s animal, or have it put down, but what’s left for their aggressive dog?

Certainly it needs to be protectively muzzled whenever it leaves their house.

There are schoolchildren who walk dogs in our little village.

Do I owe them a duty of care by reporting this incident?

I think I do, but where do things go once I start that ball rolling?

Similarly, how would I feel if the near-neighbour’s dog attacked a child – or attacked anybody?

I don’t doubt that my injury was caused because by accident; caused just because their dog was going for one of my dogs, but my legs were in the way, but that’s not the point.

What if someone else does get injured?

It’s a moral minefield, and I’m uncomfortable sitting in the middle of it.

Blogathon 06/20: A true doggy story

On Sunday afternoon I took these two herberts out for a round-village trundle.


There’s a field with a public footbath footpath that we haven’t been in before that I thought we’d give a go.

Our usual fields are waterlogged, and we haven’t been down through any of them for a couple of months because they’re under deep water.

But this one – this previously unwalked-by-us field – looked like it had good verges, so I consulted the Herberts and they agreed to give it a go.

We got about three-quarters down the length of the first verge, before it got too boggy to carry on, so I turned round and the dogs followed me back.

About halfway back to the gate Chewie legged it off the verge and bolted across the field.

He still has a puppy brain, you see?

I called him back and he ignored me. I called him back louder and he ignored me. I shouted him back and he ignored me; he just carried on at warp speed heading for the far hedge.

Behind the hedge on the far side of the field is the Melton Mowbray to Nottingham main road.

It’s a very busy road!

By now Chewie was about 150m away and still going strong.

I looked at Robyn who was sat at my feet, she looked at me, and then something clicked in her head and she took off after him at full speed.

She caught him up, ran him down (he splatted into the field when she ran right over him), and then she ran straight back to me.

And Chewie picked himself up and followed her.

Robyn got lots of pats and love; Chewie, when he arrived, looked a bit sheepish but I had to give him some love too.

It was an amazing act of shepherding from Robyn. She knew precisely what she was doing, and knew what to do to get Chewie’s puppy brain attention back on track.

When we got back home they had tea and later they had a much-needed shower.

The mud that came off the pair of them made the water look disgusting.

But we had two clean, fresh-smelling dogs.

And a very relieved doggydaddy.

Damp dogs drying disarmingly

Blogathon 05/20: Radio waving

The world of radio communications has changed a great deal since I last dabbled in it.

The heavily modified, rack-mounted Racal RA1772s that I played with have been superseded many times over.

A few days ago I was surfing a particularly nerdy corner of t’Internet when an aircraft blipped on to my radar (literally).

The application I was using gave me a significant amount of information about the aircraft, even that it was communicating on 1435Hz.

If only I knew a radio amateur who had more up-to-date knowledge of receiving hardware than I, I thought. I would then be able to ask him what piece of kit would be good for receiving 1435Hz (and other frequencies of interest).

Hmm. Now where do you suppose I might find such an individual?

Blogathon 04/20: Coaldogs

There are a number of sub-breeds that come under the Spaniel heading.

Cocker, Springer, Cavalier King Charles (I have no idea what they are so cavalier about), Bonking Boykin, American, Russian, German and even a Toy Trawler Spaniel (WTF?).

Then there are the subdivisions (look, I’m making most of this up, OK?): Sprocker, for example, which is a result of mating a Springer with, you’ve guessed it, a Cocker.

We have two Sprockers.

The older of the pair is very much drawn from the Springer line, whilst the younger Sprocker is definitely of the Cocker breed.

But they also belong to a sub-sub breed of Spaniel, known as Coaldogs.

They love coal.

They’ll roll about in it, they’ll sneak it out of the coal bin, bring it in to the house and eat it.

They’ll remove it from the coal hod by the fireplace and chow down on it with great enthusiasm.

And if you should happen to leave a couple of bags of coal just lying about outside…

She’s so proud!
Got any coal you want eaten, guv?

Blogathon 03/20: Almost nostalgic

About a million years ago, way before Pontius even went to flying school, I was a fresh-faced. naive, and very innocent young airman about to get sent out into the big wide world to defend Queen and Country.

I’m the good-looking lad on the left (sorry Trev!)

The photo above was taken at RAF Swinderby.

Well, after a brief-ish stop at RAF Cosford, then SCCRAF Hendon, then DCC Whitehall, then a few weeks at the Royal Tournament, I found myself in the deepest, darkest depths of the Dutch/German border.

I was stationed at RAF Bruggen where I learned to spend almost all of my time between the Combat Operations Centre and 14 Squadron Ops.

Although I have forgotten none of this (for better or for worse), my memories were recently refreshed when I discovered an old MOD public information film.

As a means of documenting what routine life was like at RAF Bruggen, the film is pretty accurate.

As a description of what the sharp end of The Cold War was like, it’s very good.

Anyway, here it is. I’m not in it because, as you’ll hear, 14 Squadron were on detachment to RAF Decimomannu in Sardinia, where life was exactly as you’d imagine 🙂

Blogathon 02/20: It’s Groundhog Day. Again

I could write a detailed academic essay on the film Groundhog Day, but I will make every effort to avoid that level of analysis here.

I have a copy of Danny Rubin’s original shooting script (which I treasure, both as an example of how to write and format a film script, and how to write impassioned phrases in to ordinary scenes and, thus, how to turn a moment on celluloid in to a magical place).

The script tells a slightly different story to the one you may have seen in the film Groundhog Day.

The character Stephanie Decastro doesn’t exist in the film, yet in the script Stephanie is a pivotal character.

She places a curse on Phil, which is the spell that makes him live his recurring day.

How long is Phil trapped in the Punxsatawney bubble before he breaks the spell?

There are several scripted clues to Phil’s passage of time, and there is a direct answer to the question on page 89.

Neither of the clues, nor the direct answer make it in to the film.

The clues?

There’s a reference on page 56 of the script to Phil having already lived his Punxsatawney Groundhog Day 211 times. But that’s a red herring, and a far from accurate answer.

On page 89 Phil says to Rita: ‘After I got over the shock, it was kind of fun for the first year or two. I had anything I wanted. Except you, of course’.

And the real answer? Well, it’s considerably greater than a year or two and way beyond 211 times. You’ll have to read it. It’s in a paragraph below.

It was the excess of every lifetime that Phil chose to live in his recurring day, the highly concentrated, back-to-back excesses, that eventually brought him to realise that before he arrived in Punxsatawney, he had been living a life of selfishness.

That was the reason Stephanie Decastro cast the spell.

And yet, despite the scenes of selfish excess and levity, there are words of magical poetry:

Phil recounting what he’s learned from previous cycles, to Rita:

‘You like boats but not the ocean. There’s a lake you go to in the summer with your family, up in the mountains, with an old wooden dock and a boathouse with boards missing in the roof, and a place you used to crawl underneath to be alone, and at night you’d look up and see the stars. You’re a sucker for Rocky Road, Marlon Brando and French poetry. You’re wonderfully generous; you’re kind to strangers, and children; and when you stand in the snow, you look like an angel’.

And later, Phil to camera, for what will be his final Groundhog Day report (final, for at least a year):

‘When Chekhov saw the long winter, it was a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope; and yet, we know winter is only one more step in the cycle. And standing among the people of Punxsutawney, basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter’.

At that point of the film, the casual viewer may begin to wonder how long Phil has been in Punxsatawney?

Long enough to live his selfish lives of excess?

Long enough to dive deep in to a dark place of madness?

Long enough to climb out again?

The answer to all of these is ‘Yes’.

It is on page 115 of the script that Phil gives us the final answer when he says to Rita:

‘I’ve been waiting for you every day for ten thousand years. I dream of you every night of my life. You’ve been my constant weapon against total despair, and just knowing that you exist has kept me alive’.

Now that, my friend, is classy writing, and it’s a shame that scene didn’t make it into the film.

The final – and, one might argue, the most significant – departure between script and film is that the script has Phil making a final VO as he and Rita walk through Punxsatawney, and the camera pans to a high-level shot of them:

‘And so began my final lifetime, and ended the longest winter on record. I would find myself no longer able to affect the chain of events in this town, but I did learn something about time. You can waste time, you can kill time, you can do time, but if you use it wisely, there’s never enough of it. So you’d better make the most of the time you’ve got’.

Let’s make the most of the time we’ve got, eh?

Blogathon 01/20: Feelin’ the lurve

Once again, in the spirit of the shameless freeloader, I am hitching a ride on the coat-tails of Young Masher’s Annual Blogathon ™.

At this time last year I waxed and wayned wained waned about various traditions, before landing on the enduring tradition that YMAB ™ has become in all corners of t’interent.

Young Masher (for it is he) has mentioned that he is plagued with doubt this year, and even, in some dark moment or other, considered giving YMAB ™ a pass.

Well no! (I cry).

Do not go gentle into that good night (I shout).

Though wise men at their end know dark is right (I holler).

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright (I sob).

For I shall keep you company, Young Masher, on your enduring YMAB ™ quest.

For this is (pause) our Independence Day!

(I have no idea where all the Dylan Thomas came from, but buckle up for the ride, kiddos, I have things to explore and questions to ask.)

Blogathon 28/19: The patter of little feet

Today there will be an addition to the family.

We’re all very excited about the arrival. Except for the cats, who haven’t quite grasped the concept of extending the family – despite having it explained to them all on several occasions.

Robyn (for that is her name) is a 9-week, 2-day old Sprocker Spaniel. She will be arriving about 4.30pm.

There will be some disruption to the household routines, a lot of ‘stuff’ will have to be moved from chewing range, and other ‘stuff’ will have to be moved around.

And there probably won’t be much sleep for the first few nights. This will be a heartbreaking time during which Robyn will be crying for her mummy and siblings. It’ll be equally heartbreaking for us humans too.

But we aim to give Robyn the very best home, full of doggy fun and walks and laughter and other things.

It’ll be interesting to see how the cats take to the new arrival…

Blogathon 27/19: Death and Taxes

(and the lies of politicians, obv)

Like it or not we all have to pay taxes. Unless we are millionaires who live in Belize, or the Isle of Man, or somewhere else that isn’t the United Kingdom.

Yesterday I reeived a Notification of Tax Rate from HMRC.

Hang on a minute, let me say that again.

Yesterday, exactly one month after the previous one landed on the mat, I received a new Notification of Tax Rate from HMRC.

What’s changed in my personal circumstances in the last month (I hear you cry)?

Well. Nothing.

Nothing has changed in my personal circumstances.

And yet the A5-sized envelope arrived automagically, one month after the last one.

Two months after the Notification of Tax Rate before last.

Three months after the one before the one before last.

What changed in my personal circumstances over the last two, three, and even four months?

Absolutely. Nothing. At. All.

And yet each one is different.

Oh, not big differences, just a couple of hundred quid different in my personal allowance section.

I realise the generation and posting of the A5-sized envelopes, and the inclusion of the three double-sided pieces of A4 inside it, are system events but this is ridiculous.

Note I didn’t say ‘this is starting to get ridiculous’ and the reason I didn’t say ‘starting’ is because in 2018 I received 15 Notification of Tax Rate letters from HMRC.

Now that’s ridiculous!

Blogathon 26/19: Death By Pot Noodle

Last night I needed to put something on top of the Welsh Dresser (Boyo) and something got in the way.

I had a rummage around and found, on its side, an unopened pot of Pot Noodle. King Sized.

When I was single I used to eat a lot of regularly eat Pot Noodleses.

The expiry date for this King Amongst Snacks is April 2018.

I’m tempted to eat it now, but a part of my brain says I should wait two ore months, so I can eat it exactly two years past its expiry date.

It’ll be an interesting biological experiment. I mean it’s only freeze-dried food so it isn’t going to have any latent germs. I’m only going to add boiling water to it and, when it has cooled, inhale it.

Nothing could go wrong, right?