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:
My best, waggiest, tail for a happy, peaceful and healthy New Year.
Where does time go? Another year older, another year wis???? Here is my first poem of 2019, a simple Haiku, a bit like myself!
For the first poem of each month we poets choose our own words of inspiration. Mine are resolution and effort. I’m keeping with the tradition of using the words synonymously. Details of our poetry challenge are here: colleenchesebro.com
My poem is about my ambition to climb all the Munros in Scotland (the mountains over 3,000 feet), before I am 10 and my person is 70!! You can read all about my venture here… Ben’s blog
Pledges old and new Forging ahead, onward call Mountains still to climb
My mate Ani, ‘the small dog’, has v. v. v kindly used one of the days of her advent calendar to post my Christmas poem. Thank you very much Ani.
Ani’s advent calendar is a rich eclectic mixture of stories, poems and fables about the festive season. There are posts about Christmas in the war, a children’s Christmas and even saving abandoned Christmas trees and giving them new life. I know all about that being abandoned once. There are lots of fascinating links to other information too. Did you know mistletoe has a history linked with the Druids. I can’t say for sure if they did some of that kissing stuff under it or not. Anyway, check out my poem here. Then you can navigate to all the older days on the calendar and watch out for the ones to come.
Ani’s person has a lot to say too. She is a writer, poet and photographer and fills her blog with so many interesting articles. She also publishes loads of work by other bi peds you really need to check her out https://scvincent.com/
The phone calls that had been exchanged, between the spot 400 metres from my parking place (just off the road at Bridge of Orchy, where we had a faint signal), and our caravan in Ullswater, were sorrowful and full of pathos. The old girl was giving out, her back legs no longer working at all, or reviving just a little. Caring duties had become wearing duties and our absence had added an additional strain to the small domestic unit. After last nights call me and B had a long chin wag, reaching a decision to go home a day early, after our walk the next day.
Thus it was, thinking of the old girl, that we set off to Beinn Mhanach with our hearts in our boots making for v. v. v heavy feet, causing the inspirational celebratory of yesterday to metamorphose into Mrs Plod. It was a long, long walk in of nearly two hours duration, through the beautiful Auch Gleann, with not many metres of ascent along the way. Thankfully, on a day forecast to be v. v. v hot, an early start had given us a head start and shade thrown down by the hills kept us cool.
As we came to the hydro works, and our route took off north up the steep-sided, pathless flank of ‘The Mountain of the Monks’, the sun in splendour announced itself in blazing shades of gold, at just the wrong time. Thus, the usual huffing and puffing serenade was today punctuated with much panting and pausing, which even I was joining in. The quick steep hop up for speedy Gonzales, who had written one of our guide books, was given quite a different description in which the words: shattered, sprawling and, bitten off more than I can chew, decorated the page. However, and with good grace, Mr Sun put his hat back on and this little gesture gave us a bit of respite. We fought our way up hill by way of meandering Zig Zaggs that eventually got us to an easier gradient, just below the top.
On our way up the focus had largely been taken up with the lack of progress made by B’s plodding feet. Then, at the summit, all was transformed. A 360o vista displayed the Southern Highlands in a panorama that spoke straight to the soul. This contrast refreshed mind and spirit so that, thoughts of ditching the whole project were miraculously vanished from the radar, no more than 45 minutes after being planted there. Drama and Queen are a two words that passed through my mind at this time, for some reason.
Soaking up the views, and the inevitably bit with the camera, delayed our departure but, finally, the long drive home penetrated our thoughts and we turned to face the slog down the big hill and long walk back to my van.
If zig, zagging was a means of easing the gradient on the way up, all it served to achieve on the way down was dizziness and total confusion. One minute we were heading west in the direction of the fence we had crossed on our way up and the next we were going a long way east in exactly the opposite direction from where my van was parked. I became more than a bit disturbed by this loss of direction, thinking that perhaps my person’s brain had been pickled by the sun and the effort, or perhaps the bottles that make her very happy, which populate my van. Then, thankfully, just in the nick of time, some fellow hikers sitting by the fence called over, in a hail fellow well met sort of greeting. Happily, B waved and trooped over, back on a westward trajectory. More of that incomprehensible Munro dialect that I had witnessed yesterday took place over the next ten minutes or so but, I was so pleased with these humans I remembered my manners and even got praise and treats from them, for my good behaviour, much to the disgust of the canine in their pack.
This diversion seemed to have cleared B’s brain because, after this, we set off straight down hill and were soon back on the track, starting the long walk back to my van. With the object of today’s adventure achieved and the 52nd Munro firmly in the bag, we began to visualise the lovely surprise that David would get when he saw me; I would brighten up his day.
Not too far from the end of our walk, while crossing a cattle grid, we encountered the strangest thing. A chubby little lamb had fallen through the grid and couldn’t work out an escape route, a thing that was beyond our combined grey matter too, even though I’m a big-brained Border Collie. We set our hopes on finding someone at home – a farmer type – in the cottages that were now in sight. Before then though we were able to flag down a passing vehicle and a shepherd was at the wheel. Twenty minutes later the truck passed again and a big thumbs up signalled success. We were so happy that we had rescued little Larry from his frightening ordeal.
I had meant, during the journey home, to keep a wary eye on B ensuring she didn’t go in for any of that dozing thing she often does when in the car with David. However, with the best will in the world, I did a bit of that dozing thing myself. Well, to be absolutely truthful, it was more of an out for the count, REM sleep, sort of dozing. I only came too when I was woken because it was everyone’s bedtime and I was in my garden at home. I’m sure I must have had some open eye time, to get a bit of dinner down me but, imagine this, I don’t remember; I was robbed.
Now there are no more Munros for Ben, until the old girl is the pot of gold where rainbow bridge ends 😦
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.
Morning broke over the mountains with a choral symphony of birds serenading the new day.
Or so we presumed!
Me, and the person breathing next to me, were deep into zzzs, making up for the long hours of twisting and turning during our first night away in my van this year. Though the hour of 5.30am had been witnessed, through a clink in an eyelid, it was quickly obliterated by just one flicker. Thoughts of an early start to beat the pulsating sun, took a back seat in favour of – in my case – more dog dreams.
Finally, an hour later, we prised ourselves from slumber and, at 7am, were confidently able to predict a return of no earlier than 3pm; my person always being at the upper limit of the estimated walking times for any route. Of course, I could have done a quick run around the circuit in much less that half the time but… what sort of buddy would that have made me? So instead, I trundled along, taking in the views and musing over the fate of my cousins on the continent, as Brexit negotiations nudged toward something not very conclusive at all.
The early part of our walk followed the Allt Ur, a flat walk in, as we Munroists say. Therefore, a steep climb was a near certainty when we made for the hill. Along the way we past the ruins of Tom na Grobh farm, broadcasting the story of how difficult it was to sustain a living from farming in these parts. While B was waxing lyrical about the families who would have made their home within the sturdy walls, my grey matter was elsewhere, pondering on the nutritional make up of the pets diets, if there would have been a comfortable mat in front of the lovely roaring fire and, what about the soft furnishings. We’d only left my van an hour ago and already our conversation (for we do converse) had covered: geography, history, economics, architecture and internal design. Next came a more technical discussion about how to cross a river when the bridge is down. There was much exchanged about the rocks: how flat, how big, how much above/below the water line, how covered (with moss, with lichen), how near was the next one, how big/flat… Honestly, I don’t know why we bother. I wade across anyway and B always gets a dunking half way across. Today was no different.
Next we ventured south on pathless terrain looking for an underpass crossing the West Highland railway line, the sight of which, my person says, makes the heart beat faster. Once on the other side we picked up one of those paths that goes up, up, up, in this case beside the Allt Coire an Lochain. Meantime, the sun had taken it’s hat off and things were warming up considerably. Walking up hill with my person and warming up goes alongside a musical accompaniment comprised of two notes. Those of you who have followed my Munro adventure will know them all too well, the inevitable huffing and puffing. As a new departure this year, and in response to scare stories on social media, I seemed to be subject to the liquid form of force feeding, water being thrust upon me every few seconds. As I spluttered up hill v. v. v big hills were manifesting their presence.
On reaching the ridge a welcome breeze gathered strength, ruffling my fur and making the remainder of the climb more comfortable. Glistening in the sun were stubborn pockets of snow that remained in crevices on east facing slopes, sparkling with memories of the hard winter just past.
The going was easier now and, before you could say Vogue magazine, there I was – the centre of attention – beside one of those piles of old stones that mark the summit and our achievement that I remember so well from our past Munro frolics.
The view across Rannoch Moor, that flat expanse of hinterland, always bleak, always shrouded in fog – swamp like and pitted with pools of dank water the size of lochans – was, in the summer of 2018, transformed. The moor simmered in the heat, with water an unrecognisable shade of blue and outstanding visibility stretching north, picking out the magnificent hulk of the highest mountain of them all, just topped by cloud, – my namesake “The Ben”, alias Ben Nevis, boasting an ascent of 4,413 feet from sea level.
Looking west our path dipped down and then slunk along the flank of Meall Buidhe, arriving at the foot of Beinn Achaladair at the start of – those most formidable of descriptions – a “very steep climb”. Such geographical challenges changed the musical intonation from the bi-ped crawling beside me and the rhythm became fast and furious. Eventually, six hours into our walk, we flopped down next to another pile of old stones, notching the number 49 on our Munro bag.
Summit of Beinn Achaladair Looking North across Rannoch Moor
A little rest on the way down
I had been looking forward to a bit more peace on the descent so I could truly absorb the blessing of being among these magnificent hills; no such luck for The Ben. If huffing and puffing were the order of the day when walking up hill then oohing and aahing notated the score on the way down. Climbing, age and joints, it appears, are words that don’t hang easily together. The jolt given to B’s Knees, on the descent, made for a discordant orchestration owing more to Schoenberg than Mozart. Nevertheless, the beauty of the scenery descending Coire Daingean won out. How could we be anything but smug, winding our way down, with the conquests for our first day completed, and that first milestone of our Munro bagging – number 50 – beckoning tomorrow.
First I need to get my beauty sleep to prepare for the paparazzi 🙂
Friends, collies, all Canine Parners (but especially Bumble),
What a big day I had at the training team meeting, outlined in my last post. Now, oh boy now, at last, 3 years down the line, I was actually going to meet the love of my life – the wonderful Bumble, who does all these cleaver tasks for her person, to help her out.
To be honest, and I’m all for honesty, it didn’t go brilliantly. There was me and Bumble and three, yes three, of the two legged things. I thought the surveillance was a bit OTT and it rather cramped my style (possibly that could be a good thing). Actually, I was exhausted, what with the heat, and having to be on my best behaviour the whole day (see my last post), and Bumble was rather forward, I thought. I don’t like to admit it but I slunk away under a garden bench. Perhaps next time we could have a run in the park, , where my amorous attentions might be given a little more freedom to roam.
Also, I was v. v. v worried about my van. It had done us proud on the motorway but, when we got to Bumble’s house, the electronic window broke and it was half open. How could I go Munroing when someone could put their hand in and steal all my treats, while we were out on the hills. I wasn’t so worried about the windscreen wiper that stopped working because there hadn’t been any wet, wet, wet for ages.
The long and the short of it was that, with much technical support and even more elbow crease, my window was prised shut and we set off North on a wing, a prayer, and an RAC membership card. It was late by the time we rolled up at a place to rest our heads, just north of the Bridge of Orchy but, wasn’t it just worth the journey.