Friends, Collies and my greatly esteemed friends and followers,
And, for anyone new to my dog blog, find out what it is all about here Ben’s big adventure
So, 2020 has arrived and I’m now living in a new decade, which sounds awfully exciting; I’ve not done that one before. Apparently the chips are down on the chances of my seeing another one, but I don’t want to think about that just now. Instead, let me take you on the grand tour of Ben’s life in 2019.
Right at the end of last year’s review David had just got back into a little bit of walking. That was after the horrid, awful, terrible (do I make myself clear?) three months, following the big fall and broken pelvis which, in itself, came fast on the heels of saying goodbye to the old girl. The worst part of being on a mountain, with an incapacitated David, was the whirligig thing that hurt my ears and stole my person from the mountain.
However, I’m so happy to report that right from the beginning of 2019 it has been back to business as usual, by which I mean the rightful reinstatement of my morning routine, consisting of: a lovely early morning drive to Mabie Forest; meeting up with the gang to discuss the weighty issues of the day and then – oh, what unconfined joy – playing ball and lots of it, my absolute – incontrovertible – favourite thing, apart from a spot of dinner, of course. In celebration of this return to normality, I’ve developed an ebullient little song and dance piece, that I perform on the back seat of the car, as soon as we hit the drive that takes us deep into the forest.
During the winter afternoons that follow this morning ritual, I’d while away the time with vivid dog dreams about “… gold lama baskets and choice cuts of meat …” 1 until woken from my slumbers by the sound of Wainwright biscuits hitting porcelain bowl. Reality tore me from luxurious fantasies but, the familiarity of home wasn’t half bad. About this time of day, B’s smell – round and about the house – has faded to the level at which I knew she was about to arrive home (oh dear, I’m so sorry my fellow canines. I’ve just given away the mystery of how we know when our people are coming back. Incase anyone didn’t know, dogs do it with noses ). So, after tucking into a nutritionally balanced – fat free – meal, I’m up at the window waiting for B to drive in. In my excitement I throw myself into her arms, the same v. v. v big welcome home every night. I’m not altogether sure that my exuberance is fully appreciated. Bags seem to go everywhere and sometimes we find ourselves in a confused heap on the floor. She particularly doesn’t like it when one of my paws slides down her face, leaving a big red scar for days on end. I like to think of it as a term of endearment.
Leaving the worst of the winter behind us heralds the start of the caravan season, when we return to our mobile home (that doesn’t move), in The Lake District. I’ve done it every year of my life, the same pattern, with gleeful anticipation of the spring, summer and autumn that lie ahead. This year I was robbed of such happiness. As soon as I crossed the threshold I could smell her. It hit me like an incense bomb and was everywhere – the unforgettable scent of our old girl, Maisie. I curled up in my cushion and got all depressed. Eventually, a little bit of dinner brought me out of myself and, a game of ball on Moor Divock the next day wonders but… every time I got back to the caravan the black dog, instead of our old girl, was my companion.
It took a lot of hard work but I had to pull myself together, because me and B had work to do and helping others is always such a tonic. We needed to get David confident on the hills again, after the big fall, and – even though I say so myself – we done good. Thus, on 30th March 2019 – exactly six months after the accident – me, B and David, did a return to Place Fell and, on this occassion, actually got to the top.
March also held another red letter day and gosh, all fiddlesticks – my tummy still gets excited remembering. It was a case of out with the old, in with the new. Though in this case it was just a bit newer. On 11th March 2019 we crossed a line. No more sleeping cramped on the floor of an unreliable VW Caddy van. Now me and B were going up in the world. The future heralded not only a more dependable car but also, one we were going to convert with a micro camper kit.
Nevertheless, despite the excess of comfort, it was with a tear in my eye that I said goodbye to my faithful – if unpredictable – friend of three years. The ally that had got me and B going on the Munros and witnessed my first 47 climbs, and 52 of B’s.
Perhaps you can imagine how eager I was to go Munro bagging again and try out the soft furnishings in our new Munro mobile. Sadly, I had to exercise something called patience, which is soOOO hard for me to do.
April of 2019 brought in yet another big, BIG event, in our small lives, and it had to be marked. David had one of those birthdays with an 0 at the end of it. I’m not meant to tell you which one, so I’ll put it in v. v. v small numerals and you can pretend you never saw it. (70, hee, hee). For Dog’s sake, HOW MANY DECADES IS THAT? It seems we were heading east to celebrate and I had to test out a whole new suite of soft furnishings. Home comforts aside, I’m not a great fan of sudden change and definitely at my best when running on well oiled lines, with a bouncing spherical object to cement my happiness. Therefore, when we set out on roads I had never, ever been on before, the lava from last year’s butterflies started to hatch in my tummy, giving me a very strange sensation indeed and, not at all to my liking. Of course, all’s well that ends well, and the very first thing to happen, when we arrived, was that I had a lovely big dinner. After that, secure in the knowledge that my food had travelled with us, I set about testing out the buoyancy of the soft furnishings, in this home from home.
For the next week we ranged far and wide across somewhere called The North York Moors. The landscape was gynormous, with vistas stretching into space across bracken and heather hillsides, broken only by deep sided valleys that had – in the geological mists of time – been scooped out of the very earth we might have stood on. These vales took some considerable effort to tumble down and then climb back up so that, by the end of our walk, we needed to stop for refreshment. I would have my dinner beside the car and then B and David would warm their paws, and the cockles of their hearts, in a pub called The Lion Inn, at Blakey Rigg. Unfortunately, I couldn’t join them because of my propensity to take objection to the frightening smell, accompanying the odd human, which brings on a defensive nipping of ankles and makes me canine non grata. Instead, I was left to ponder on the whereabouts of this lion, how fail-safe the locks on our car were, and just why the windows had been left so open. On their return, D & B’s happy disposition met my relief and made for lovely companionable evenings.
Once home, from the birthday celebration, my enthusiasm to get Munroing became a bone of contention, so to bark. First of all the weather was against us but, even when it wasn’t, I was excluded. Apparently, B just happened to be working in Glasgow and it made sense for her (and not me ), to take off north from there. Unbelievably, inexcusably, it was July before I put paw to Munro. However, over that weekend, and another in August, we put another 10 summits in v. v. v heavy bag, which stamped it with the impressive number of 84; me and B had done 57 of these together. The fiery sun played hide and seek behind Cumulonimbus clouds, and then danced on the shimmering waters of high mountain lochans which – in sequestered corries – were protected by cliffs that rose in awe-inspiring towers that beguiled and terrified, These were blissful times together and, on the highest Caledonian hills, we soaked up panoramas that brought the heart, and soul, of a young dog alive. Gasps for breath, from the bi-ped beside me, suggested the heart wasn’t quite up to the job; as for the soul – well, that’s anyone’s guess.
Lots of photos on my special slide show. It’s a bit on the slow side but you can use the arrows to move forward
Of course, as mentioned in so many of my blogs before, being away with B is never a totally easy experience and nothing had changed in the last year, unfortunately. On the first day of our July weekend – luckily after we had bagged Bynack More – I was brought down to earth, literally, by the exploding tyre beneath me.
And then, the very next day, I was met with a compromising situation in the safety department as our navigational aids – that provide my security – were made redundant, in a catalogue of neglect. The straw that broke the collies back was when our map – the very foundation of our whereabouts – blow off in the wind. Somehow, I survived to tell the tale.
B went bagging again briefly, in both September and October but, by this time, I was having something they call divided loyalties, which is a very nasty condition. With the old girl gone back to ashes, I couldn’t bare to think of David – home alone, when I was away with B. On the other paw, when I kept David company, the thought of B on the mountains, without the protection of her Munro buddy, sent me into a tumult of guilt and anxiety. This unconditional love business isn’t always easy. I felt like I was becoming a tug of love dog.
After October, it was better – lovelier – we were all together, all the time. We had such companionable walks in the Lake District, me with my ball, B & David with that incessant chatter thing that humans do. Then alas, it was the interregnum (from the caravan site) and we were banned from the Lake District till March. The season of mellow fruitfulness had given way to winter and I took to the indoor life, disporting myself around the soft furnishings, while catching up on a spot of reading.
It has to be said that, my absolute best read of 2019 is a little tomb called, ‘The Enlightened Spaniel’. I need to qualify that sentence in a couple of ways. The book is in no way little. In fact, IT IS MEGA. It has changed my whole outlook on life. And then, of course, there is the issue with the breed (not my favourite, since an unfortunate little altercation, regarding the property rights of a certain spherical object, a couple of years ago). Clearly, the book should have been pawed by a noble Border Collie but, it seems, the floppy ears got in first. That said, I think this way of being may have something to offer.
For instance, you are – apparently – meant to live in the moment. Well, let’s face it, that’s easy peasy for me. That moment could be blissful, with one of my bestest humans throwing my ball over an arch of sky, or it might be some scary instance requiring the nipping of ankles; either way, when it’s done it’s done – nothing of the past remains and, as for the future, it’s a foreign county; anything could happen. Another facet of this world view is about unconditional love and – say no more – that’s what we go in for, big style. I might even have to let the Spaniels in on that one – reluctantly.
According to Buddhist philosophy, which is big on this enlightenment stuff, we get born and born again – ever improving – on a path to somewhere called Navana, which is the bees knees. Did you know that bees have knees? Nivana is the best place imaginable and you have to be v. v. v well behaved, caring lots about other creatures, to get there. Honestly, I really was doing my best but then along comes Christmas and well, let’s face it, we all indulge ourselves a bit – or a big bit. All those presents, eating too much, loafing about and, of course, the excess of dog beer – it may have set Nivana back a bit.
Nevertheless, just a few more incarnations and I fully expect to be there. The first Border Collie ball dog at Wimbledon… perhaps next year.
In the meantime, more dog dreams.