Featuring Uncle Herbert

Gratuitous post about Uncle Herbert.  It has taken us a while to fully appreciate his many qualities!  We were lucky enough to meet his mother, Lily, and he is just like her.  Sweetest boy ever.

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Still haven’t done any knitting.

L x

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Doggy Saturdays

Every Saturday at 11.00, I fetch Meggie and Badger and take them for a lovely walk.  It is one of the highlights of my week after spending hours sitting in front of a computer.  They don’t care where we go or how long we are out.  They don’t even care about the weather.  They just want a bit of time to run around and express their personalities.

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There’s a fabulous walk we often do, from their house to the park, and then on to the river valley where they can jump in and out of the water to keep cool, and we can all enjoy the shade of the trees.

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Come on!

Dogwalkers are very sociable people and we’ve met lots of regular walkers and made lots of doggy friends over the summer.  Bonbon the chocolate labrador and Stanley the spaniel have a really cool blue toy which they are happy to share.

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Meggie leaping for the blue toy

Sometimes I fancy going somewhere different, just for a bit of variety.  But I’ve avoided taking the dogs further afield because they don’t like the car very much.  Badger won’t settle; he jumps from the back seat to the front and then onto my lap.  Basically he wants to drive the car.  And Meggie, typical neurotic collie, is stressed by Badger not sitting still, and freezes on the back seat.   I have recently solved this by installing a new seat cover on the back seat.  It attaches to the headrests front and back to create a sort of hammock.  There’s now enough of a barrier between front and back to stop Badger jumping forwards, and they can’t fall off the back seat into the footwells.  So they feel much more secure travelling in the car and we’ve had a couple of lovely walks checking out new footpaths on the edge of town.

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Badger in his element up on the moors

On the way back, they are tired and happy and relaxed and they lie down on the back seat for a snooze till we get home.

At home the routine is, treats, fill up water bowls, and chat about our adventures whilst I give them both a lovely brush.  My goodness they are much easier to brush than cats!  They both love it.  Meggie sits still like a princess having her hair done.  She even gives me her paw if she thinks I’m stopping.  Badger rolls over on his back and offers me each side to make sure I don’t miss a bit.

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Meggie in her element on an open field

Then I say goodbye and I miss them like mad until the next Saturday.

Volunteer dogwalking and pet care is arranged for free by The Cinnamon Trust.

 

 

 

Premium service, thank you

They love being outside at night time, the cats.  They’ve dozed all day in the heat, and they come alive in the cool of the evening.  Sometimes they refuse to come in at bedtime, and stay out on patrol all night.  Uncle Herbert howls outside the kitchen when he wants to come in.  Sometimes as early as 5am.  But last night the howling started a lot earlier than that…at 12.15 am!  Yes, I had been asleep for all of 40 minutes.

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Uncle Herbert

I went downstairs to the kitchen and opened the door.  Herbert was sitting on the path, but instead of darting inside, he just stared at me and howled again.

Animals are very intelligent and they do their best to communicate with us.  So what was he trying to tell me?  A shape appeared at the gate.  It was Monty!  Then I understood – Herbert did not want Monty to be left outside on his own.  He would not come in without Monty!

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Monty

Now, there are 2 routes into our garden when the gate is shut.  Over the low wall at the back, or over the high wall via the tree platforms at the front.  But Monty was sitting outside the gate, saying ‘Meeeh!’  Despite his considerable size, he sounds like a little mouse.  After 8 years, I still find it slightly surprising.

‘Meeeeh!’  he said again.  I have learned what this means, when he sits outside the gate.  It means ‘I would like Premium service, human.  I do not wish to navigate the wheelie bin, the high wall, and the tree platforms, in order to get into the garden, on this occasion, thank you’.

So, in pyjamas and bare feet, I went down the steps, opened the gate, picked up all 8kgs of Monty, and carried him into the house, with Uncle Herbert trotting after us.

And where was Larry, when all this was going on?  He was asleep in bed with the OH, being a good boy, for once.

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Larry

 

North and South

A week off between jobs was the ideal opportunity to visit friends in Aberdeenshire.  They have renovated a watermill and created a totally unique gift shop and tea room.  The waterwheels are fully functioning and it’s very special to have your tea and cake with the sound of the water hitting the big wheel as it turns.

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Eden Watermill

If you are ever in the Banff area, call in to Eden Watermill, the scones are the best ever and you will have the warmest welcome.

Eden Watermill is also the home of Needlenose Creative Arts, a stunning range of Harris Tweed handbags and accessories, all designed and handmade by Elaine.  Elaine is also a qualified kiltmaker, which is an extremely difficult thing to achieve, as it demands huge amounts of tartan fabric to be measured, cut and pleated with incredible precision, and stitched by hand.  It takes many, many hours to make a kilt, from taking bespoke measurements to the finished article.  Elaine has used these skills to great effect in her original and bestselling handbag, the ‘Wee Kilty,’ a bag with a hand-pleated kilt panel on the side.

The weather was amazingly good, and although time was short we squeezed in a visit to Fyvie Castle, a fairytale castle with lots of turrets and a fascinating interior.

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Fyvie Castle

The walled kitchen garden is wonderful, the largest, neatest and most elegant veg patch I’ve ever seen!

Less glamorous but not without interest was a visit to Peterhead, the most easterly point of mainland UK, a deep water harbour with a long history of fishing and of servicing the North Sea oil rigs.  I love sea ports as my father was a sailor and I grew up by the sea, so I loved finding out about the hidden tunnels built by smugglers in days gone by, and the 150 year old dry dock.  Even on a fine summer’s day it was bleak and extremely windy, but not without a sense of humour.

Below is the dry dock and some local wisdom from outside the optician’s on the high street.  Totally agree!

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My constant companion during my visit was Belle, the jack russell terrier.  She knows no inhibitions and leapt onto the bed every night and burrowed under the duvet, usually with her ball.  Some dogs have such huge personalities!

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After a couple of days back home in Sheffield, I was off ‘down south’, to Hastings in East Sussex, to start my new job with an induction at the company’s head office.  I am a Sussex girl and used to visit Hastings as a kid on family day trips, but I’d not been there for many years.  As a kid it was all about the beach and the amusements, but now I was charmed by the old town, the medieval streets, the castle and the view from the clifftops.

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There’s a huge amount of history to discover in this area, invasions and battles, the changing shape of the shoreline, and more recently how the place was affected by the Second World War.

Now back home and settling in to the new job. So glad I made the move, it feels really good so far, very happy to be back in the heritage and tourism sector.  That’s what I’m drawn to, even on my days off, so I’m lucky to be able to weave in my interests with my day job.

When being bold pays off

Is it really true that you make your own luck in this life?  Maybe.  I just landed a job by using some initiative and making a bold move.  I have a very niche set of skills and experience which is under-valued in my present workplace, so for some time I’ve not felt as fulfilled as I could be professionally.  I’ve also been coasting on the same income for years, feeling that I should be earning more.  Had I hit some kind of career ceiling?  Was I the victim of prejudice?  No, I don’t think so.  In any case, I don’t believe that claiming victimhood is a good way of explaining a problem or a lack of progress.

I’ve been following Jordan Peterson and we have a copy of his book, 12 Rules for Life.  One thing he said about gender equality really struck a chord with me. To paraphrase, he suggests that women may be less successful in the workplace, or may not advance as far as men professionally, not because of any inherent sexism, but because they are too nice, too accepting, too reluctant to make a fuss. Ladies, could it be that we are just not assertive enough when it counts?

I took this idea on board, parked it, and got on with things. Then an ex-colleague got in touch and we met up for a drink.  He works in the exact niche field that I had to leave last year because my employer was in financial difficulty.  He said they really needed someone with my specific skills to take over some of the management and unite disparate teams.  If I applied to the MD, he said, they would employ me in a flash.  Well, that was overstating the case, but it got me thinking.  The more I considered it, the more I realised he was right.  In fact, my experience is so relevant to the product and the people that no-one would fit the role as well as me.  Sounds arrogant?  Maybe, but this is all about being bold.

The other thing in my favour was that I had actually met the MD before, at a trade show, where he was so impressed with my presentation that he expanded his range into the market as a result.  I also knew that there was a culture clash going on between departments and they needed someone with the calmness and maturity to diffuse it.  So I added ‘peacemaker’ to my CV, wrote an amazing covering letter, and sent it off.  No job was being advertised.  Bold move #1.

Then followed a couple of phone calls and an interview in the pub after work.  Soon after that, the question finally arose, what are your salary expectations?  This was a key moment, my chance to elevate myself after 25 years of continuous full-time employment and a stainless record.  I considered the salary I could reasonably be expected to be on (but wasn’t), and the salary I wanted, without being crazily out of the ball park.  And I asked for the salary I wanted.  Which is a heck of a lot more than the salary I am on now.  It was time to be bold.  I knew they wouldn’t just agree to it, they would negotiate and I’d end up somewhere in between.  Which is exactly what happened.  But it’s still a big step up for me, enough to make a huge difference to our household. And I’m going back to a sector where I’ve spent most of my career, where I have some great connections.

I start in 3 weeks.  Jordan, thank you for the inspiration.

 

A bit of Monty Maintenance

Monty is a black smoke Maine Coon.  He has the appearance and attitude of an entitled aristocrat.  As long as I treat him in the manner to which he is accustomed, we get along just fine.  I feel strongly the privilege that Monty extends to me every day, by allowing me into his inner circle.

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Yes, you may look at me.

Occasionally we clash if I want something to happen which isn’t his idea.  The best way to deal with this, is to make him think it’s his idea in the first place.  Yes he is a cat, but he is 8kgs of toned muscle and sheer determination.

Monty’s long, silver-grey fur is prone to matting in springtime, when the excess winter coat needs to be brushed out.  If I am not clever enough to get around him, his belly fur and back trousers form solid lumps.  If not removed, they will tighten and become very uncomfortable for him.  So the race is on for me to get those lumps out before they get too bad, and to comb his fur like mad before more lumps can form.

Some years the lumpage is worse than others, and sometimes I have to give in and take him for a haircut, under sedation, at the vets.  They will shear him like a sheep and although he looks ridiculous afterwards, he is perfectly happy rocking his summer crew-cut, lump-free.

Well, we are not there yet.  There were lumps in his armpits which I managed to tease out, by taking advantage of a deep sleep and the window of opportunity it presented – about 5 minutes.

Much worse were the lumps in his back trousers.  This is a location to which access is strictly forbidden.  Even when fast asleep, Monty is alert to any rummaging in that area. He has sharp claws and he is very quick.  This is a cat who can catch a squirrel, for goodness sake.

But yesterday – a breakthrough.  Chilled out in his wool basket, drowsy with the heat, I approached with a small pair of scissors.  I was lucky with the angle and – snip!- one lump, then two.  Monty stirred, realised what I was doing, and joined in.  He reached down and removed lump number three himself.  Job done, and not a single scratch.

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Unbelievable!

I am now reasonably hoping to avoid the expensive haircut at the vets…fingers crossed!

A dog walk and a sunset walk

Here in the UK we are basking in a glorious early heatwave.  We can only hope there is more to come, and that this isn’t all the summer we are going to get this year.  British people joke about this all the time, for example, ‘I hope summer falls on a weekend’ and so on.   Well I made the most of it yesterday with two beautiful and very different walks.

I did my usual Saturday dogwalk with Meggie & Badger (or Madge as they are affectionately known).  I was thrilled to be joined by my friend and her 3 month old puppy Bluebell, out mingling with the big dogs for the first time after her vaccinations.  There are lots of regular walkers in the local park so it’s always sociable, but even more so with a new puppy.  We had a great time talking to our dogwalking friends and watching Bluebell interact.   She was so good and just wanted to play.  The other dogs were great with her and it was fascinating to watch her learn.  She was allowed off lead for a short while and she ran around madly with Meggie which was wonderful to see.  She raced after her ball but has yet to learn that she needs to bring it back – I wonder if Meggie can teach her this important rule?

Later on I accompanied the OH on a walk on the moors to catch the sunset.   It’s usually a lot colder up there and almost always windy, but we found it balmy and still.  With hardly a cloud in the sky we watched a beautiful sunset at ‘The Hut’.  This is an abandoned shepherd’s hut by a large pond in the middle of the moor, inaccessible by car.  It’s quite substantial for a hut: stone-built with two rooms and an ancient kitchen range inside.  It has a real air of mystery and makes a great focal point for pictures.

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We have done this walk loads of times in the biting cold and snow, sometimes we are almost blown backwards by the winds, so it felt quite special to be there in the fresh warm air, after such a long winter.