You still believe

Last week’s sunshine couldn’t have been more welcome. Hopefully it’s shining today on my friends back in the UK. Thinking of them all.

Bit of Pharrell for you this morning. I don’t think it’s possible to feel sad if you listen to this:

Off out to lunch today with my favourite ladies and very much in need of some human time. I had a fab trip to Poitiers with Ruth as well on Friday, which took me more into the land of the living. When you spend all your time with antisocial dogs, I guess you pick up their habits and it was good to spend a full four hours talking to an actual adult, as opposed to my super-talented students, and also as opposed to talking to dogs, who don’t do much by way of replying. I’m very much looking forward to some more human time today too.

I spent a lot of last week with a hard-eyed shepherd called Lidi, who had more than begun to soften by the end of the week. She is so super-smart that it hurts. She learned touch-targeting in two goes, ‘look at me’ in the same, and blasted through my basic obedience programme in twenty minutes. I’m moving her on through In the Doghouse’s Rookie trick training this week – left paw and right paw, stand, leave it (which we already started), peek-a-boo and leg jumps. She’s a girl who loves to work and she is so focused. Makes a change from the eight months it’s taken Effel to learn to pick stuff up in his mouth to move it. You’d have thought Tobby would have taught him well, but no. Eight months. I cheered so loud when he picked the ball up – he was so pleased with himself, bless him. It was just fabulous to get out into the garden, but very weird not to have Tobby moving any toys that have not been claimed. Amigo and I have been doing a lot of gentle stuff to give him his balance back, but also because that cheeky old giffer has become a bit of a rapscallion since his stroke. He never liked walking on the lead – what happens when you teach with punishment rather than love – so I let him off because his recall is good. But since he is now deaf, his recall is obviously non-existent and that cheeky beggar has been taking advantage and buggering off to do his own thing. He hates being on the lead and obviously doesn’t get the exercise he needs, so it’s good for him to do a little fetch and some chewing – his breathing is very poor though his balance is much better.

Bit of a busy one after that for me – assignment 14 is ready to send off…. a fair few drop-offs on Thursday, and I hope I have the sun for some of them. The sun seems to have given me back a bit of energy – it was well-needed!

Much love to you all this March Monday. The spring equinox means the worst of the winter is over. Here’s to a most blossomy day.

Don’t believe me just watch

Time spring got a move on as I’m tired of waiting around for it. In the meantime, a bit of Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars for you

If you’re a fan of Carpool Karaoke, the Bruno Mars one is particularly good.  I think I’m in need of a week of  sunshine songs – feels like we’ve had a lot of grey misery recently. Nice to get out on Friday and Saturday and enjoy the fresh air for once.

Still, being in the garden without a certain Wobbly Bob is very tough. It’s weird not having to constantly keep an eye out for him and check he’s not toddling off up the hill in search of a new home. Funny too that my Mr. Hyper-Attachment who followed me everywhere should have left me doing the same things, looking for him everywhere and not feeling quite right without him. Talk about separation anxiety. I find myself hankering for Malinois.

Last week was back to school – though to be fair, I’d not really had anything of a break. It just brings a bit more routine. I finished another of my assignments about separation anxiety (hence the rather sobering realisation that it’s now me left with hyperattachment!) and this week’s is rescue dogs. Kind of my bread and butter, you’d think. I raced through photographs on Friday and spent a couple of hours with Lidi and Hagrid. Hagrid’s affable compared to Lidi. She looks at you like she’s just weighing up whether she can tolerate your requests or whether it’d be quicker to take out the middle-man and do as she pleases. Hagrid’s all soft eyes around people and hard-eyed around many dogs. Lidi’s hard eyes, all the time. One day at a time.

This week is just more of the usual. Hopefully sunshine later in the week. Nothing promising today though. I thought last week might bring the river back – it smelled distinctly swampy out there at points. But no. So far, river-free. Mind you, the garden has been flooded in May sometimes in the last seven years – wouldn’t be surprised to see it again. I’m at that point where I’m restless, knowing how much will need to be done in the coming months, yet it’s still fairly under control. Looking back, we seem to be a couple of weeks earlier with everything than we’ve been in the past – it was another incredibly mild winter, if a grey and dull one. I managed to get in a bit of TV and a couple of books last week – will be a while before there is another lull like that. I finished watching The Good Wife, which was quite excellent – and bored of Netflix now. It’s a good time to get active when you run out of stuff you want to watch. I’m long past tolerating things with one or two series – I’d rather come to something late and know it’s worth the time investment.

Anyway, have a lovely Monday. Today is hurricane-free, which is more than I can say about last Monday. Hoorah!


The sparkle in your eyes

Another Monday and another song that reminds me very much of a friend from school.

I’m sure she would be smiling if she heard this song. I know she’d have shared my thoughts back in 1988 that you can’t beat a bit of Billy Duffy of a Monday morning.

Much love for history lesson notes, the time my ‘Ode to Dode’ got intercepted by Miss Ceb (whose response of ‘My lips are sealed’ makes her one of the coolest teachers who ever lived) Much love for art lessons and French with Mrs Ackroyd, her backward cardigans and her chignon, for PE lessons and gymnastic routines to New Order, swimming lessons, hanging out in various adult-free locations in Holcombe Brook, to one February night in 1990 when we went to see Michael Monroe, to reading Just Seventeen and listening to Simple Minds… signing letters ‘Gros bisous, Bunts xx’ and all of the girls in my class who were my inspiration.

This week has been one of much rain and much refuge time – holidays are quieter for me and busier for our usual volunteers. It’s been a muddy, horrible kind of a week, so nothing to be done in the garden. Last March, my garden looked like this:


But then it rained and rained and rained and the river came back, so it didn’t look like this very long.

It’s a bit unwieldy at the moment. It’s been so yucky that I’ve stayed in and finished the body of most of my remaining assignments for my dog behaviour course. Only the dissertation left to do now! Mind you, since the last ones were separation anxiety, rescue dogs, geriatric dogs and canine law in France, they are much more ‘my’ territory than earlier ones which involved a lot more study.

At the end of March (weather not withstanding) I’m running a day about reactive dogs here. Hopefully it will be the first of many days about dog behaviour or working with dogs, and I’m excited to see how it goes.

My own dogs are tolerating the rain. Amigo seems to have some cognitive repurcussions of his stroke in January, but he is only five weeks out of it, bless him. He’s completely deaf too, which also has its own issues. He’s still hanging in though, and that’s what counts. Me and the Tilly particularly like rainy days as it means staying in and sitting on the couch in front of the fire. Nothing better than a cocker squashed up right next to you.

This week, all the ‘can we leave it til next week?’ appointments to be squashed in alongside some stuff in the garden. I have to face it and stop being so mard. A bit of windchill never hurt anyone, did it? March is NOT one of my favourite months when it’s cold and wet.

Oh, and for the first time this year, I got ahead of my 1000 Mile target. I’m walking 1000 miles to raise money for the shelter, and that means 2.70-something miles a day. I’d finally got ahead after spending three afternoons at the refuge this week, but I get the feeling if it looks chilly, I might really rather stay in bed tomorrow. Bleurgh. Wet March weather.

Anyway, gros bisous à toutes et à tous. Have a fantastic week.


Do it till you’re dizzy

A shitty Monday and hard to choose a song that makes me smile. When someone had kind of similar musical tastes to the teenage you, and even signed off letters as “Billy Duffy”,  I hadn’t really realised how much some music reminded me of one of those teenage friends. Even Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ reminds me of one friend… though INXS, Terence Trent d’Arby, Simple Minds, The Cult and Aerosmith remind me more of them. Music, like scent, is one of those things that transports me right back to the moments that I treasure the most.

A song that I hope would make my friend smile as much as it does for me.

I know I spend a lot of time reminiscing about the past. I loved it back there (and I love it here now) but school was good to me. I met a lot of women who inspired me greatly (Miss Dawson and Miss Mullineaux, that’d be two!) with many teachers who genuinely cared about their students – hand-copied poems from my English teacher and an RE teacher who soaked up the sadness on more times than I could count – and teachers who, if not causing you to write missives to the headteacher about how very terrible they were, were casually allowing you to squander your time by doing dictations so very slowly that you could quite easily converse with your friends in copious note-passing sessions. We had crappy teachers and mean teachers, teachers who didn’t understand teenagers and teachers who were so very geeky that it hurt, teachers who treasured us and teachers who inspired us.

But what really made school were the friends that I made there – so many of them have gone on to do such amazing things. Lots of us live in far-flung places, from Canada to the US, to Dubai, to Australia, to New Zealand. There’s a bit of the Class of 89 in many corners of the globe, and every single time I see a photo of a friend’s family, a holiday snap, a wedding, a birth, an achievement, it gives me such a burst of joy. In many ways, these are the people who knew me the best, who knew me when I was becoming who I am, who made me what I am. They’re people who shared my teenage passions for A-ha and Wham, who remember Live Aid and field trips, the bridge and the Interchange, and who can still make you laugh when they remind you of gym lessons or swimming lessons, or sneaking off for a fag on the bridge.

Facebook is a marvellous thing in many ways for me. I get to share a bit of the happy ending for many of the people who meant so much to me when I was young. But there are many people who I lost touch with too – and who seem lost forever. Some of those friends are very much missing in my life and I wish I saw their faces in my daily Facebook feed. I can’t tell you how much I miss Laura and Anna who are very much missing pieces in my friends-of-the-past jigsaw.

I suspect the coming weeks will be full of school memories and remembered joys of teenage life… sometimes those memories are the only way to offset the shittiness of the universe that means some of those endings are not so happy at all. Big, most massive love to all my friends in the UK.

As a matter of fact

Bit of 90s Britpop for you this lovely Monday with the Longpigs and She Said

I’ve been mostly enjoying the sunshine this fine week, and cramming in all the lessons I missed the week before because of the filthy diseases that are doing the rounds. Amigo is wheezy and raspy, but he loves to be outside. We’ve been doing a lot of proprioception exercises to help him get his balance back, and he’s much better now he’s off the medicine. I’ve been teaching him signs too – not so easy to get dogs to do stuff when they can’t hear you.

I also had a very exciting offer last week, which is a little on hold until I finish the course I’m doing, but I was delighted to be asked and I was really happy to be asked. The coursework for the unit I’m doing currently is ‘Emotional Issues’ and I’ve picked up a few dogs with issues. Like I don’t have a house-full to study myself. Still, spending a couple of days talking to people about dogs is never time wasted if you ask me. Modern life is often very hard for a dog, and we ask so much of them. I’m reading the very excellent Behaviour Adjustment Techniques book by Grisha Stewart, and it’s validating everything I’ve done with Heston these past few years. She talks about the triple whammy of reactivity: genetic – picking up those reactive genes from mum or dad, pre-natal – picking up on mum’s stresses during pregnancy, and social – inadequate or inappropriate socialisation from 5 – 13 weeks. I love it when I read some authors of canine books – John Bradshaw, Jean Donaldson, Grisha Stewart, Alexandra Horowitz, Zazie Todd, Linda P Case, Brian Hare, Ian Dunbar… they have me underlining so much on my Kindle that I might as well underline the whole flipping book.

Apart from that, I was trying to make progress with a little fiction, but it’s not happening. I was reading The Echo Maker, but I got halfway through and lost the impetus. I know it won awards and that, but it’s not floating my boat. I’ll try to finish it, because I feel like I should, but I suspect it will only be in the wee hours when Amigo has got me out of bed for a 5am pee and I’m struggling to get back to sleep that I’ll be using it as a soporific.

This week, the schools have broken up, but I’ve picked up more lessons – somehow, and I know not how – as some of my students are off skiing next week. Bit of a busy one. Happily, the evenings are growing longer, the snowdrops are drooping and there’s actual light in the sky around 8am.

This week I’m also picking up some knitting, which I’d put down on account of thumby arthritis, and digging out a super-cute pattern to get some knitting done for a very special birth in June. There is not a single thing that can make me smile more than thinking of a little baby due in the family on the 27th June. That leaves me with some very short months to knit an enormous amount of comical outfits and to come up with a range of inappropriate names to suggest.

Anyway, have a lovely week and may there be a little spring warmth in your heart this week too.

Kick me to the floor

Bit of late 80s pre-grunge indie-pop for you this fine Monday with the Wonder Stuff and Don’t Let Me Down Gently

If you listen carefully, this song will zap you up and dump you in a student union somewhere in some Northern industrial city, I promise.

What kind of week was it after all that? I can’t even tell you. Some of us are in need of a very early night and some extra zeds. It seemed to just disappear, last week. I can’t account for my whereabouts, not one bit!

Sunday was mostly spent coaxing scaredy hounds into my car with cat meat. Cos that’s how I roll these days. In a stinky car with cans of cat meat to lure any unsuspecting hounds back with me. Luckily, her owner appeared by Sunday evening and they were reunited. He didn’t need to tempt her with cat food, let it be known. She’d got out the night before when the owner got in a car accident, and then she’d run off. The high winds last Saturday night can’t have helped.

Monday, I finally got to go for lunch at the Jardin de Kashmir in Angouleme, which does Indian and Pakistani dishes. I can’t tell you how in need of that I was. France’s Indian food is all a bit weak in general, and my sinuses were very thankful of the very lovely vegetable biryani. I didn’t manage to get any Indian food last summer when I was in the UK, so by my reckoning, it’s possibly some two or more years since I last tasted the delights of a good naan bread. The kashmiri naan bread was just…. waah. I’ve missed that so much. I think it reminded me how deprived I’ve been. When you spend 13 years living in Bolton surrounded by great takeaways and restaurants, you get a bit complacent. If that got a bit stale, we’d sometimes go to Curry Mile in Rusholme for a night out. Shere Khan was always a favourite. How I miss you, Curry Mile. How I miss you, St Helen’s Road.

Thursday, I started preparing for my next ISCP canine behaviour diploma…. I got my Intermediate Certificate on Monday, which was also pretty cool. I don’t have to tell you how much I’m enjoying doing it.

Everything else passes in a bit of a blur. I had stuff on my to-do list from Tuesday for five whole days, which I hate, but there you go.

Amigo had his final check up on Friday night – he’s got the all-clear to stop the cortisone, but I’ve got some here in case he has another episode. His ears have cleared up as well – probably the infection that triggered it, bless him. He has noisy lungs, so we have to be extra careful with kennel cough and upper respiratory infections, as it could easily turn to pneumonia. Mauve thinks that his lungs are becoming fibrous in his old age – hence the difficulty breathing, the coughing from time to time, the panting. Thankfully it’s not his heart, and everything else is good. I hope he sticks around for a while yet.

I also spent Saturday afternoon trying to catch up on my 1000 Mile challenge. Between my own hacking, wheezing cough (which is now into its fifth week!!) and the icy wind (which shifted yesterday morning) and Amigo’s illness, we’ve not been racking up the miles like usual. Even so, I’m pleased that I’m only five miles behind.

Heston and I did a lot of miles on Saturday hunting for a golden retriever that had escaped. Unfortunately, the smells he picked up outside the house were obviously neighbouring dogs, since Heston took me on a 3-mile circular trek that ended up with a black cocker and a boxer who came from the neighbouring houses. They were quite astonished to be discovered. I think there are a lot of dogs that just take themselves off for their own walks around here. I’m sure people think it’s a bit crazy to have a dog who can find other dogs, but it’s very useful. Unfortunately, he doesn’t always distinguish between competing smells if dogs share bedding or pee-spots, and I can’t direct him to the right one. There’s also an awful lot of boar activity round us at the moment, and something that all my dogs keep picking up in a cement drainage pipe. God only knows what it is, but something’s tried to dig in from the top. Heston does his Curious George head, so God knows what’s in there. Still, Tilly and Amigo are all very interested in that one drainage pipe. The Feff doesn’t give a stuff. He’s not interested in smelling.

A busy week this week with a few double lessons or catch-ups from last week. Half-term holidays start in France next Friday, but given my client base and the number of students I’ve got this year doing exams, that tends to end up being more hours for me during the holidays, rather than less.

Have a great week, and cross your fingers for a warm south wind for a few more days.

My tongue still misbehaves

Thought you might like a bit of Snow Patrol today

I think we all keep hoping that hearts open, don’t we? I’m sorry to say that I find it hard to see so many closed minds and closed hearts at the moment. Closed boundaries too. Incredibly sad.

The week didn’t start off with people’s hearts open… it’s always tough when you get a distress phonecall about a dog, but when it ends with an ultimatum for the dog if you don’t take the animal yourself, it’s heart-breaking. I can’t understand how anyone could ever say, “if you won’t take my animals, then I’ll…. ”

I understand desperate situations, oh how I do, but cries for help are different from emotional blackmail. Would you believe I got two such phone calls and messages last Sunday? I was trying my best to come to terms with Amigo’s health issues and navigating other people’s dramas. It makes me sick that both the people who threatened me in this way had Facebook pages filled with posts about how important animals are, and how they would never abandon them in their old age.

Tobby in those last months got insecure and bitey. His separation anxiety was such that he was never left alone for one single minute past the first two weeks. When he didn’t want to eat, I coaxed him and tried all kinds of different things. He looked handsome and shiny right up to the day he died because I spent time with him and groomed him, massaged him. I spent every spare penny on supplements and things that might make his pain a little less.

And last Friday, I spent the night with Amigo right next to me, neither of us sleeping much. I couldn’t bear to go to sleep not knowing if he would have an attack whilst I was asleep.

But I understand how hard it is when you are unprepared or over your head. I know how it is to be unable to cope any more. I like to think that a lot of people forget that I am just here, on my own, working as much as I can, trying to squash in all the things people ask me to do, trying to do as much as I can. Sometimes it is beyond me to smile sweetly when people moan about one thing or another in their lives. I wish for one minute they would step back from their self-pity and see how blessed they are. I feel very lucky I’ve got a couple of people who always listen to my moans and make me feel like I can do a bit more again. I love those friends who rally you and make you realise you can keep going when you feel sad. Stepping through the doors of reception on Saturday, the refuge was full as it usually is with people coming and going. So much shit and illness and misery, but there’s not a time when I don’t feel revived by five minutes of chaotic chatter, a piece of brioche, a beaker of coffee and the laughter of people who have had much crappier weeks than I have, who are much more ill than I am, who have also had the “if you don’t take this dog, then I’ll….” phonecalls too. In five minutes, I get fifty stories that uplift me and demoralise me. Adoptions, fosters, dogs who’ve overcome illness, dogs found after a long time on the run, dogs who’ve returned, people reunited with their animals… and the crappiness of the week falls behind me. Those five o’clock coffee breaks are a real revival of the spirits.

Benji, the little scruffy dog who came here on foster two weeks ago, is hopefully going to his forever home this week. I’m sure they’ll be in love with him. He’s such a sweet soul and a chatterbox. Gaven, who went to my dad’s on a short foster, has also got a potential home. For the thirteen oldies who faced a cold two weeks at the shelter, several have gone on foster or gone to their forever homes.

Some weeks, it’s harder to remember that the sun is still up there, doing his stuff, when there are so many big black rainclouds in the way. It makes it all a bit harder to find the sunshine, but it is there. I know it’s there somewhere.

This week, I’m mostly hoping I stop feeling so flipping yuck. I seem to have picked up everyone’s bugs and germs. It’d be nice to be able to talk without a five-minute coughing fit. I’ve been keeping the local beekeepers in cash and draining their reserves trying to self-medicate. France isn’t a good country for self-medication unless you are very rich. Gone are the days of a bottle of Night Nurse and some Benadryl over the counter!

Have a good week wherever you are, and try to open your hearts as much as you can… there’s a lot to be gained by it, and little to lose.


Stop dreaming of the quiet life

Thought we might as well have a bit of the Jam this morning.

Well, why not?

I’ve been suffering with a cold for the last two weeks – not to mention the fact that I can’t seem to get warm. I can’t remember the last time I felt warm – and with this week’s temperatures due to hit -5°C after last week’s -8°C, I’m not looking forwards to it. Thermals out once more. It’s not going to be that lovely blue crisp wintery cold either – just a miserable, grey overcast one.

If last year was the year of photoshop, this year has been the year of monkeying about with dog stuff. By the way, I ended up doing lots of fun stuff on Photoshop, just playing about. Usually, I use Picmonkey for a bit of touching up because it’s so quick and my work process is short, but it does make me giggle with the things you can do on PS.


Anyhow, I’ve moved back from messing around on PS to dog behaviour stuff. I just finished Barbara Handelman’s very excellent Photo Ilustrated Guide of Canine Behaviour, which kind of combined photos of dogs and a dictionary of behaviours. I spent a lot of the week staring at Tilly’s whisker bed. Like I need to see her whisker bed bump up to know she’s pissed off. That dog is very good at making her feelings known to the world, the diva. My last assignment was on aggression – can’t believe I’ve done ten assignments. I’m one away from an intermediate diploma and about half the way through the course. I got a bit sidetracked by a series of lectures from dog guru Ian Dunbar, which have been entertaining to say the least. Yesterday, it was a lecture about canine aggression and he made the very valid point that if cats had the same size range as dogs do, we’d be in a lot of trouble. Can you imagine using punishment or aversion on a 50kg cat? We’re very lucky that dogs are as restrained as they are.

This week, a couple of investigations for the shelter to catch up on, and then a few other work tasks to keep me busy in the freezing weather. Mock exams are all finished and I have a reasonable timetable again… until it gears up for the next round! I think in between times, I will be staying in bed as long as possible and trying to keep warm! Not always possible, I know. I have a little foster here for the winter and I really, really need him to find a home…


He’s a very sweet little dog but doesn’t like being alone. Luckily he has the other dogs to keep him company here, but – to be frank – I’m in need of a break from fostering and constant changes. I’ve not had my own dogs here by themselves since back in July. Most of the time I’ve been at six dogs minimum for the last seven months. It is exhausting.

Plus, Amigo had a stroke on Friday night. He shot out of bed like something had bitten him, then was staggering around. His eyes were flicking left and right and he couldn’t stand up. He had a calm moment, then another one, worse this time, with convulsions. A third happened a couple of hours later, then a fourth in the middle of the night. Luckily, I was here for them all and I never left his side, but it’s horrible not being able to stop it. The vet was really reassuring and he had a full panel of blood work on Saturday, which showed no underlying problem other than age, which is a good thing in itself. But only two months after Tobby died, I’m not ready to go through it again.

Anyway, have the most marvellous of weeks and remember that it is 57 days until spring starts on the 20th March. I’ll be counting down the days, I promise!

A wild nobility

Because we all need a bit more crazy in our lives today … Here’s my favourite nutbag Adam and his famous Ants

When you’re an eight-year-old girl, your passions run deep. My only real passions were ballet, my teacher Mr Parks, Adam Ant and palomino horses. No wonder my life went so wrong. It set an early pattern, that. When you like crazy men in make-up and thigh boots, your life is never going to be normal, is it?

In 1981, it was a choice between Shakin’ Stevens, Bucks Fizz and Adam and the Ants. A little band called Hanoi Rocks might have also been making music, Punk might have had some last gasps with The Exploited and Siouxsie and the Banshees, but a girl only had Top of the Pops to go off. Could have been worse. Joe Dolce’s Shaddap You Face kept Ultravox’s divine Vienna off the number 1 spot. There were some good songs in 1981… Under Pressure, Ghost Town, Stand and Deliver, Prince Charming, Vienna, Happy Birthday. Happy days indeed. 8 was definitely a good age for me.


I had this poster on my wall, and I’m pretty sure there is no love like the love of an 8 year old girl for a pop star. He was followed by George Michael. That’s how it went in those days. From crazy men in thigh boots to big-haired boys in white shorts. The follies of youth.

Anyhow, a bit of a blast from the past will keep me going this week – still catching up with extra classes. Mock exams in France and the UK mean that everyone’s trying to cram as much in as possible. Today it’s a lot of chasing around and hopefully a bit of Hagrid time as I’ve got to drop some paperwork off at the shelter at lunch. Someone else had taken him out already on Friday, and though it pissed me off they only took him for a ten-minute jaunt instead of a proper walk, I felt a bit rubbish taking him again when other dogs hadn’t been out, so Linda and I took out Duchesse and Lucky instead. Both Linda and I are walking 1000 miles this year to raise money for the shelter. Much, much love for Linda and her enthusiasm. Mind you, when she meets you at the gate in a fury, you know something’s afoot in the global zeitgeist. It’s usually me who’s been battered by misunderstandings and miscommunications. I’d reached my fill over Christmas so I had no emotion left for anything else. Old people turning up unannounced wanting puppies barely raised my pulse past mild irritation, or people who want a cheap dog but not an old dog. Much and massive love for the volunteers who helped me get seventeen sets of photos on Friday afternoon. Puppy-sitting had left a massive list of dogs needing photos since I’d not been able to get to the shelter for two weeks. I’ve still got another eight to go, but at least it’s headway. That calm certainly extended to the dogs… not often you can get puppies in one shot!


Other than that, I had a late start to my 1000 miles challenge – managed to catch up a bit. Sunday was fun – went out the door and it was gunshot everywhere. Plus, Effel has taken to trying to get into the food when left alone. Usually he’s okay if I leave him with a Kong, but it’s not always easy when Heston’s super-excited, I’ve left all the leads in the car, Amigo’s barking, there’s rifle fire 50m away and you’re trying to manage your own Sunday morning grrrrrs.


We’re early birds. Well, I say that and Effel likes to be up at 6am, like a flipping Swiss alarm clock. Heston likes a walk as soon as it gets light. Most days, that’s not until 8.30 at the moment, and it’s always hard to negotiate hunters, who seem to be everywhere this year. It’s been so icy that it’s not been worth defrosting the car, so we have to negotiate all the dogs left in yards as well, or the farmer’s dogs who just roam about wherever they like.

This week, it’s all catch-up, catch-up. Oh to be eight again when the only things that mattered were so very simple.

In the hands of these erroneous fools

The first Monday of 2017 and it’s about time we had The Guillemots with Trains to Brazil

Time definitely seems to be going faster than it ever did. I didn’t ever really get used to it being 2016, let alone 2017. I was in bed by 9.30 last night – puppies were all wormed again yesterday and it zapped them a little bit. They have a big burst of energy from about 6.30 til about 8.30, a bit of a sleep and then some more playing til about lunchtime. And yes, it’s the Feff who’s up before any of us, excited to start his day – or, more likely, giddy for breakfast.

It’s back to work for me today, and I’m hoping I can tire the puppies out this afternoon as I’ve got some Skype lessons this evening. Nothing like puppies barking at each other to put you off your Macbeth. Funny to think that this time last year, I just had a little Rocky kitten other than my own dogs – it is still strange not to have kittens in the bathroom. The puppies have been much noisier than the kittens, it must be said. By the time breakfasts are done, my dogs are walked, I’ve cleaned up the puppies and visited the other dogs I’m looking after, it’s usually lunchtime. I’d stupidly thought I’d be able to get some of my assignments done for my canine behaviour practitioner course. I’m at unit 9 out of 16 – and although that might seem good to you, I’ve still a way to go. Trying to get them out of the way before June will be the challenge so that I’m free to do all my marking duties.

2017 will see me back in the UK much more than I ever had to be before. New jobs and contracts mean more visits will be necessary, and probably longer ones too.

Last year, I had no real resolutions as such. I tried to do a 366-day photo challenge, but it proved too much and I got up to about 100. That’s not to say I didn’t take a lot of photos (9,900 to be exact) but that I didn’t spend much time on Photoshop once spring kicked in. You can kind of understand that, I guess. I got to April and it was all kittens.


I got more experimental by the end of the year. This snow process was actually really straightforward. Can’t remember how the hell I did it, but it beat real snow for sure.

If 2016 brought me anything, it was a love of that super-duper 50mm lens. My nifty-fifty didn’t leave my camera.


It is a marvellous lens.


Between Photoshop, Picmonkey and my nifty fifty, I really fell in love with photography all over again.

I did a lot of reading as well in 2016. Alright. A lot of it was dog reading. I even managed to get through a whole 28 books! Mind you, there were endless science reports as well that I read – I don’t suppose they count!


Some of those books were absolute crap that I didn’t finish. That High Pyrenees book needs burning it was so bad, and likewise for I am Pilgrim. Winter in Madrid and All the Light We Cannot See made me weep. Prisoners of Geography and Outliers were great. In fact, I’ve probably got quite a few more I need to add to this list.

I only have one real plan for next year: I’m doing the 1000 miles challenge, which means walking 1000 miles before the end of the year. It’s the equivalent of just over 38 marathons. I’m doing it to raise a bit of cash for the refuge – with budget cuts and vans breaking down for good, all money is needed.

You can contribute here if you’d like to help us. All money goes directly to the refuge.

Although one or two of my responsibilities have ended, I’ve still plenty to keep me busy in 2017, not least the assistant principal examiner post which will see most of my summer spent in dark rooms, carrying right through to re-marks and November marking. I have really, really had a lot of success from a couple of my blogs this year – Madame Anglaise just never fails to surprise me given how little I invested in it. Last year, knowing the syllabus was changing, I decided to aim for a post a week – and saw my great stats triple, which was really, really cool. Woof Like To Meet also went viral, with one post getting over a quarter of a million reads. It’s at that point when you think “I should monetise this!” but I’ve always thought that if you give stuff away free, people are generally pretty grateful and happy to pass you on to someone who will not mind paying for your services.

Losing Tobby was the saddest part of my year – sad that I only got to have nineteen months of him, which was eighteen more than I expected, but even so. Shepherds connect with you in ways other dogs don’t, that’s all I can say. Or maybe I spent so long thinking it would be my last week with him that I truly, truly treasured him. Tilly trotted on, infection after infection, treatment after treatment. I’m sandwiched between Tilly and Amigo as I write – and there is no greater joy than being sandwiched between two old giffers. The Feff is still here – his German adoption fell through. He’s on the market once again and leaving me whether I can really manage with four dogs. We will see.

Here’s to a marvellously successful 2017 for everyone. Who knows what the year will bring in France – we can’t even begin to speculate. This marks my seventh year in France, and wondering whether I’m feeling the seven year itch. Normally I’m so ADHD that I manage three years before deciding it’s time for a change! All I want these days is a bit of stability!

Have a good week, anyway, and remember that Spring is one day closer.