Monthly Archives: January 2017

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.