(A big hello to anyone new to my blog. I’m Ben a young Border Collie on a v.v.v important challenge. You can read all about it by clicking here. My blogs tell the whole story, paw by paw. I do so hope you will like them and want to follow my adventures).
Me and B were tucked up nice and early last night and slept the sleep of the just.
Happy Bedtime Reading, Love Ben xx
What, with a sleepless night on Friday, followed by the gigantic hike across two v. v. v big mountains, we were just about dead on our paws by the time we got back to my van yesterday. So, when the 26th July popped by to introduce itself, through a chink in our blackout arrangement, you couldn’t have found two less inclined Munroists. I was quite disposed to follow the mood of the day and, being a dog, not burdened with this thing called guilt, which you humans seemed to have saddled yourselves with. B, on the other hand, was struggling to overcome her default setting by making strident efforts to embrace the day, instead of snuggling up with someone called lethargy.
She seems to have succeeded, because it wasn’t even 6.30am before we were on the road, heading for Lochearnhead and then, just south of Loch Earn, turning off towards Loch Voil… or so I thought. However, the road off proved exceedingly elusive and, while trying to discover the minor road, we became very well acquainted with a three mile stretch of the A84, driving backwards and forwards several times.
Eventually, after turning off the trunk road into a cul de sac, and giving our map the once over, we were about to resume active service. Sadly, resuming and active were too things our van just couldn’t do. Oh deary me, we had been here before hadn’t we, in our much loved – but not long lamented – old VW Caddy; there was no life in this battery either. At that moment, the road that had disappeared off the face of the earth was the least of our problems, where we might fetch up tonight before I got my dinner was uppermost in my mind.
B looked at me, raised her eyes and, after a bit of scrabbling about, unearthed a couple of spanners that I didn’t even know existed. To be honest, I don’t think B knew about them either. Anyway, with a degree of confidence that impressed even me, she found the latch for the bonnet and… with that great achievement under her belt, stared into the mysterious abyss of my van’s engine. This was followed by something called tinkering after which, challenging my cynicism, she turned the ignition key. Well…, blow me down with a combustion spark, we were up and running.
Good news doesn’t always spell calm to a clever, but nervous, collie like Ben – tinkering success is not far off pure luck, in my book. Now, the mysterious disappearance of the minor road was coupled with uncertainty about my van. Would it ever start again, once turned off? These troubles were only compounded by the precariousness of phone signals in these parts, which is constant source of anxiety for Ben. The butterflies in my tummy were going in for a spot of unsynchronised sky diving and, all-in-all, it was mayhem down in my viscus. I just can’t tell you how v. v. v relieved I was when I heard David’s voice from the other end of that ear phone thing. Reason and reliability were two words that came immediately to my mind. Phrases like, “I can come up”, “collect you if I need to” along side, “just walk along the till you get a signal”, were all music to my ears. With such a certain backup it seemed we were still going to find this mysterious road, park in the middle of nowhere and climb our 99th & 100th Munro. The extravaganza in my tummy was quelled, the butterflies exhausted.
Whatever the fate of the myserterious road I needed sleep.
(For anyone new to my blog a very big welcome; I’m Ben, a young Border Collie. You can find out all about my big adventure here Ben’s Blog but, this particular post is my third record of such v. v. v extraordinary times)
Well Ben isn’t usually lost for words, but this one has me beaten – almost. How can I capture, how is it possible to articulate, the joy, the absolute – unreserved – bliss, of resuming my walks in Maibie Forest, post lockdown.
Never, ever again, can Ben take the freedom of his daily forest walk for granted. As soon as we hit the rumble strips, before turning into the forest, composure went right out of the window. My usual excitement, represented by a little song and dance routine on the back seat, was an unrecognisable relation of today’s elation, when the wolf within escaped in great howls of ecstasy; Ben was back.
All morning the sun embraced the trees with a hue that lit up every track, and a glow that warmed not only my back but, the very cockles of my heart. I glided into our old routines with a fluidity that dispensed with the privations of the last three months. Not in all my six years had my senses been so alive. The symphony of running water changed it’s mood dependant on the particular landscape that orchestrated it, and it’s taste – oh, the purest of all nectar – refreshed my jubilation, as I ran and romped and swam in a myriad of streams. The smell of pine brought Christmas to this party too, which I did think a little odd as it’s the middle of July! Meantime a couple of squirrels scarpered up trees playing – frustrating – way out of my reach, just before a deer darted across our path, leaving only a tantalising scent for my nose to follow, before the whistle called me back.
Above all, in the quiet of the field or the buzz of the car park, meeting and greeting my old friends Oscar, Holly and Molly was the icing on today’s celebration cake; as respective owners allowed our leads to extend for a touching of noses, while maintaining this strange new social distancing thing they are going in for nowadays. I even sat patiently while our people exchanged their v. v. v lengthy lockdown narratives in which, all agreed, our specialism in unconditional love had been the saving grace; we too, had played our part.
At home sleep was sweet and, as I drifted off, I could have sworn someone whispered, “Munros soon”, or was that a dream.
The competition question was, what type of animal lives here?
I told you that the winner would be the first person to get my correct answer.
I’m a bit of a cad really because my correct answer is…
a very dirty animal (hee, hee, hee)
In truth, I’ve no idea what animals live in burrows in peat. My person did try to find out for me but no one has got back to her from the Cairngorms National Park website. However, she found this report on the net and it seems any of your answers could be correct, looking at the type that were found on a large bog in the highlands of Scotland.
Of the two animals mentioned in your answers, that also appear in the report, mountain hares, unlike rabbits, don’t live in burrows and the present of a pine marten is a mystery as they like to build dens in trees and rocks and this tract of land had neither. It could even be that these aren’t burrows at all, just depressions in the peat made by the weather!!!
Anyway, for being such a tease I’m going to send everyone who entered my competition one of my souvenir limited edition pens. There will only ever be 120 of these pens in the whole wide world so…
when I’m famous….
Stephanie, if you would like a pen please e mail my person with your address, I will make sure you get your pen.
Thank you so much for coming to visit a dog poet. My poems for Colleen’s weekly poetry challenge are a take on life from a canine perspective. We poets – and to date I seem to be the only dog poet – write one of the structured poems permitted and have to integrate, as synonyms, the two words given as a prompt.
This week the word are spring and sing; I am doing a Tanka.
You can find out about it all, and have a go yourself, by clicking below:
Last week I had to relinquish my van, which had been our friend, transport and accommodation, as we climbed the first 50 mountains on our quest to conquer the 282 Munros in Scotland; they are the mountains over 3000 feet. While I had grown to love the character of my van it seems that’s it’s unreliability was a bit of a liability. I had very mixed feelings about this transformation and wrote about then in this blog:
Thank you so much for coming to visit a dog poet. My poems for Colleen’s weekly poetry challenge are a take on life from a canine perspective. We poet’s write one of the structured poems permitted and have to integrate, as synonyms, the two words given as a prompt. This week the words are slow and work.
I concluded last year’s review by looking forward to doing more of the self-actualising stuff – through walking on mountains and writing about it all – having established that all my other needs were being met, according to this big cheese called Maslow. So let’s see how it all worked out.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
To make sense of my life in 2018, I have decided to take a tour through the unfolding seasons.
To be quiet honest with you, not much was doing in the New Year and I found myself joining in with that down-in-the-mouth trend that is so catching in January. What, with lots of slouching about, lying in front of the fire and supporting a rather extensive tum, after an over indulgence of Christmas treats, I could hardly muster enough energy – let alone enthusiasm – for even a short walk. I had metamorphosed from self-actualising Munro Buddy into lethargic mass of excess flab, mirroring my people.
Just as I was in danger of succumbing to something called sloth, I was saved from myself by the arrival of two very different events. Firstly, my personal friend, Julia Bradbury (of UK TV fame), sent me a present for allowing her to host my blog on her new website. Spotting the postie with a parcel I made contact – not altogether welcome – with his hand, getting through the packaging in a 1, 1, 2 and, before you could say http://www.theoutdoorguide.co.uk, I was sporting a rather spiffing buff and looking rather dandy, even if I say so myself. Ben’s personality and hiding lights under bushels are two mutually exclusive concepts, if you get my drift.
It’s possible that the bohemian look of this rather rakish neckerchief predisposed me to take advantage of the second happening, in that otherwise uneventful start to the year. While surfing the net on my blog site, as dogs do, I chanced up a weekly poetry challenge. Well I thought, as Border Collies do, why not. With the extra time on my paws and the new debonair look, what was there to lose, aside from a v. v. v temperamental ego. So, in the twinkling of a keyboard’s return button, Munro buddy became budding poet and, oh my dog, with what results. Ping, ping, ping … went the notification alerts on my PC, as readers liked what they saw, necessitating a quick visit to the garden, my tummy getting all excited.
Since that day, most Tuesdays have been a creative frenzy as I put paw to paper turning a two-word prompt into structured poems. Would you believe it, I am the only dog poet among this company of new literary friends. Colleen Cheesebro provides all the rules, the two words and, each week, Colleen selects one author as poet of the week. You could have blown me down with a writer’s quill when I achieved this accolade myself, at only my second attempt, with a little Senryu I wrote.
Folding into warm contours
Dissolving in dreams
This is what Colleen wrote about my poem,
“Other than the fact that I ADORE dogs who write poetry, the simplicity of Ben’s words tells the whole story of this Senryu and the fabulous picture posted with the poem. It just felt like something a dog would write about. Sometimes the simplest things bring the most pleasure.”
Me and Colleen have become great friends over the last year and she has given me such encouragement. You can read all about the challenge here. Colleen’s weekly poetry challenge
By the by, if you need something to help you dissolve into dreams at night you can read all my poems just here All Ben’s poems
Eventually we seemed to be turning from winter into spring, as snow and ice gave way to buds and blossom. By this time and with slightly longer walks, I was beginning to fight the flab, looking towards the Munro year ahead.
Alas, my aspirations became a causality of the Beast from the East, when a late blast of bitterly cold weather swept across the UK from the North Sea, lasting well into April and thwarting my fitness regime.
Then, just like the return of an old friend, the ‘cruellest month’ flipped into May and, with that transition summer asserted itself early, casting spring to the dogs, in a rather questionable manner of speaking.
As the annual cycle of growth accelerated so the old girl began to back peddle faster still. By the time she was 15, Canine Cognitive Dementia had set in and her back legs were, well… let’s just say it – useless. I found out lots about the CCD condition and have written a whole page of advice, in my own inimitable style, to help others Ben’s top tips for doggy dementia
The old girl’s 15th Birthday (not her wine!!)
Suddenly, we all became allied healthcare professionals, our raîson d’etre being two fold:
To keep the old girl going, as long as she was happy.
Not to keep her going a moment after she wasn’t happy anymore.
My main role in this nurturing environment was to help maintain an aura of calm by suppressing my ADHD tendencies (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Doggy), something I have written about before. I did my best but it was v. v. v hard work.
Alas, I had to play second fiddle, which is also quiet hard for a self-confessed egoist who thinks he is conductor material. I kept hearing phrases like ‘his time will come’ and ‘we’ll make it up to him’, but they didn’t mean at lot to me at the time. I did get a lot of long walks during the week away at our caravan and just had to alternate my people, so that one of them could take on carer responsibilities for our old girl. All the walking was getting me match fit for the Munros which were, apparently, just around the corner; something that rather puzzled me as we always seemed to spend hours getting to Munros in my van. I concluded that it was a very long corner.
Just then, nearly half way though my year, our orbit tipped out of kilter, everything went topsy turvy and it is only now, at the beginning of 2019 that we are getting back to normal, if I can ever believe in such a thing again. Firstly, just at the end of that May holiday my female person went away and then she kept coming and going for weeks on end. Being a dog I hadn’t a clue what was going on but boy did I do a good imitation of “I’m your best friend, just try and beat this welcome”, every time she came home. David tried his best too but, to be honest, he just hasn’t got the style or, for that matter, the waggy tail to go with it. Anyway, I just made damn sure I got in first to get all the cuddles.
We did make a Munro trip shortly after and spent three glorious days together, scouring the hills, reaching high peaks with fabulous views and we got to the top of 5 Munros. We even reached the first big landmark, notching up the 50th Munro for our bag. In the evenings we’d soak up the unparalleled beauty of the highlands while listening to our own special song, “You say it best, when you say nothing at all.” As nighttime approached I’d jump in the back of my van and snuggle up for sleep in the little space I had available, falling quickly into zzzs after our energetic day on the mountains.
Summit of Beinn a’Chreachain Looking North
Summit of Beinn Achaladair Looking North across Rannoch Moor
When we are away my person does a lot of talking into those strange things bi-peds are always putting to their ears. I do worry about her… a lot, though it seems to bring her some sort of comfort. Then she puts the horrid thing to my ear and it really freaks me out. I look all over for the voice but I can never find him and it makes me sad. When we went through this ritual on our third night we both ended up sad because the voice machine told us the old girl was going further down the tubes. We vowed we would go home after our next walk, a day early; arriving as a surprise cavalry, bringing reinforcements.
The rest of the summer was sung to the old girls tune, her every wish our command. Ben was never the centre of attention in those tranquil dog days. Not actually neglected you understand but just left to my own devices. I kept tapping away at my device of choice and on 19th August I was award the title ‘Poet of the Week’, for the second time. The dog poet honoured a second time
This brought me such a lot of joy at a sad time for us all. My poetry kept me going because, without the Munros to write about, the soul had gone out of my prose.
There wouldn’t be anymore mountains in our collecting bag until the old girl didn’t need to be looked after anymore. None of us wanted to bring that day forward, not one little bit. Even a self-centred dog poet like me knows intuitively when a bit of the old altruism is required. Thus on those summer evenings, when we came in from the garden, I’d snuggle up to the old girl – forsaking my rightful place on the soft furnishings beside B – and offer a bit of fellow comfort. I think she liked it. Walks were reduced to lots of running after ball – maximum energy from Ben, least effort from my people – but you won’t catch me complaining about that and it was always meant to be just a temporary arrangement.
Feeling a little overwhelmed, must sleep. Part two shortly.
On day two of our 2018 Munroing, after an early night and much needed sleep, we did rise with the dawn chorus and by 6am were travelling north, making our first foray into the astonishing beauty of Glen Coe. Here mountains rose towards the sky like none I had ever seen before. Gone were the grassy curves of the Perthshire hills, and the relentless, undulating tedium of the Cairngorms. Here, a display of might and power soared in sublime rock formations that truly took the breath away. Also, following such a prolonged spell of dry weather, the gullies had been robbed of the fearful spill and a silence, eerily tangible at this early hour, reverberated through the passage of the roadside giants. How on earth was one able to walk in this awesome place, I wondered.
For our walk today this question was answered – as predicted in our guide book – by the National Trust, that preserver of the nation’s treasures. Under it’s auspices the clearest of paths had been laid right from my van up onto the ridge and then, branching north and south, it marched between the two Munros on today’s hit list. This definition gave us such a paw up that, within two hours of parking my van, we were recording our arrival at the big
beside a cairn that said: “Ben, you have arrived”.
Sadly, we had got up too early for the world’s media to capture the moment and, although I was a little disappointed, did I really want to share that moment with anyone else? Me and B, big hug on top of Stob dubh, the first of the two Munros on todays ridge.
The day had started cloudless, with awesome peaks striking the sky in sharp contrasts of black colliding with blue but, as the heat generated by an early sun met cooler shadows in the glens, a surging mist filled the channels and, rising up, threw a protective cape around the shoulders of these majestic hills. The stupendous view down Glen Etive, that had been promised, was exchanged for a mind’s eye image informed by the OS map, of what we were missing.
Meantime, to our west, determined peaks began to puncture the cover, as the effusive mist met a diffusing sun. As we descended to the bealachthe sky began to clear revealing a whole new panorama, where ridges rode the sky, like flocks of migrating birds dipping and soaring with the wind.
The next ascent looked tough and steep but, within 20 minutes, B was chatting personably, at the top, with a very friendly and young (sorry B, but it’s true) two legged thing of the male variety.
In fact, I was witnessing one of those disconcerting conversations, unique to Munroists, where they discuss their conquests. It starts off fine with a straight comparison of the number in the bag. We are also on reasonably firm ground with an exchange of how many years they have been at it. After that things become somewhat more sticky as more specifics of the Munrograpy are required. A few of the Bens are easy to get the tongue around and the bi peds can even have a reasonable stab at one or two Gaelic looking names such as, Schiehallion, or Meall Garbh; sometimes even just a geographical location helps but, after that, we enter a void. Places where so much energy has been spent, where they have found the best and worst of themselves, and where they have gained the most amazing pride in achievements never thought possible, are just visual memories stored in the brain, never to be shared through the medium of words.
Note to B, must learn Gaelic.
Having a little giggle to myself, as the humans grappled with their inadequacies, I maintained that façade of calm I had manufactured since I left home on Wednesday. Just then, the silly man jumped up on a rock, stood at least a metre higher, and frightened the living day lights out of me (whatever that means). I was not happy at all and got all tensed up. However, I didn’t give it wellie until, just then, two other humanoids invaded my space. That was it. All my amazing self-control gone in a mille-second and, in a barking and lunging frenzy, I released all that pent-up and constrained energy I had been trying so hard to contain. It was brilliant 🙂
Luckily B still had a hold of my lead otherwise… well, neither of us want to go there. It’s hard to let the two legged things know that it’s nothing personal because so many of them just want to be my friends. The pair I had just become acquainted with were, in a manner of barking, no different. I was eventually quietened with substantial quantities of Primular but I had lost my equilibrium and was angry with everyone for the rest of the day.
I suppose it’s a bit of a shame because we really should have been soaking up the views but a dog must do… Hats off, B managed a bit of snapping somehow.
Before we left the summit B – despite my noise – had a bit of a confab with the new arrivals. They had only done their first Munro just yesterday, albeit they had climbed “The Ben”, the biggest of them all. By this time B was all puffed up because, for the first time ever, she had done more Munro’s than the combined total of the three people atop Stob Coire Raineach. The latter visitors were very impressed by our project because, I think, of B’s great age. Such flattery gave a spring to her step on the way back and mitigated, to some extent, the venting I gave to my angry mood when anyone passed. Not long after we were back at my van the novices from the top arrived down, telling B they had been talking about her all the way down and what an inspiration she was. Well, I had to muffle a v. v. v big snorting thing. They really needed to see that inspiration in action, or rather in-action, on the pathless slopes of Ben Mhanach. However, I’m jumping the gun here and before that particular walk report I need zzzs.
My earliest memory was playing a bit of ruff and tumble with my siblings in the barn where I was born. Then we did a lot of jostling for position trying to be the closest to our mum, when we collapsed in a heap at the end of our game.
Which way does the toilet paper roll go? Over or under?
I don’t know what toilet paper is.
What makes you feel grounded?
It’s when I have my dinner. Then all is well with the world. I jump up on the soft furnishings, turn around a few times and then settle down with a big sigh for a significant number of zzzzzzzzzzzs – Bliss 🙂
What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?
It was when my person came back after being away for a few days, doing that horrible work thing which I hate, but when she comes back…. oh, what unbridled joy. Then we settle down on the soft furnishings.
Can’t wait to see what you have all been up to and finding out about the up and under of toilet paper, what ever that is.
Being a dog of words, I’m doing my bit to try and save some v. v. v important nature words for the little two legged things to read.
All over the country, there are words disappearing from children’s lives. These are the words of the natural world — Dandelion, Otter, Bramble and Acorn, all gone. The rich landscape of wild imagination and wild play is rapidly fading from our children’s minds.
Please, pleeeeese sign this very, very, very important petition (so important I’ve written it in long paw). After that, you can read this book about it all by a man who is teaching me to write well about the mountains. It’s called Lost Words by Robert McFarlane and it’s half price (£10.00) on Amazon. After that you can have a nice sleep.
The Lost Words stands against the disappearance of wild childhood. It is a joyful celebration of nature words and the natural world they invoke. With acrostic spell-poems by award-winning writer Robert Macfarlane and hand-painted illustration by Jackie Morris, this enchanting book captures the irreplaceable magic of language and nature for all ages. Lost Words on Amazon