It’s scooting time

Last week, if you could cast your mind back, you may recall that I bemoaned the lack of watersports in my life. Well, you can rest assured that this was a one off. Because we have a new addition to the family, in the form of a Perception Scooter sit on top kayak. I used to think that sit on tops weren’t ‘real’ kayaks, but were rather aimed at pudgy holidaymakers looking to get sunburned in the surf. But I’m pleased to admit that I was wrong. Very wrong. Because my Scooter is truly awesome. Continue reading

Educating Molly

As part of my never-ending quest to keep the dog entertained, I bought Molly a Kong Treat Wobbler, which dispenses food when she plays with it. It’s like one of those Weebles you probably had as a kid*, in that you can knock it around but it returns to an upright position. And if you fill it with small treats (or bits of kibble), they fall out of a small hole in the side as the thing rolls around. Well instantly, that’s so much better than a Weeble… Continue reading

A combe with a view

Last Saturday, with the weather being remarkably good for this time of this year (i.e. it wasn’t raining that much), Molly (my Labrador) and I decided to take a walk up Goblin Combe (pronounced ‘coom’, meaning ‘valley’), which is an area of woodland on the other side of the valley we live in. We’d wandered along some of the lower tracks before, but I thought it would be fun to explore the upper reaches of the hillside, too. Continue reading

Our little tribe

We had a relatively free day on Saturday, so decided to head out to the beach at Sand Bay near Weston-super-Mare. It was a bit of a grizzly day, but the grey clouds and grey sea made for a very atmospheric view across the Bristol Channel to Wales.

I was feeling quite energetic, so Molly and I did a bit of racing up and down the beach, while Natalie looked on in bemusement. Sand Bay is a very dog-friendly beach and possibly one of Molly’s favourite places. And I’d have to admit a certain fondness for it, too.

As we were wandering back up the beach, I noticed that quite a few other people had had the same idea as us. Stretched out along the mile or so of sand were several small groups of people – and dogs. Little tribes, much like our own, making the most of this grey day by the sea.

The water dog

It turns out that Molly, who woofs manically whenever there’s anything new going on in the garden (or, indeed, anywhere in the broad vicinity of the house) is bizarrely at ease among kayaks and windsurfing boards.

At one point, I’d rolled the kayak onto its side to clean the bottom. I looked around to see where Molly had disappeared to and found her stretched out along the underside of the ‘yak. Fast asleep.

Molly the water dog. Definitely a hound after my own heart.

The Labrador that couldn’t stop

Our Labrador Molly loves playing on the beach. And at this time of year, when the weather is OK-ish and the beaches aren’t yet particularly crowded, we all like to go for a nice walk by the sea. Admittedly, with the Severn estuary having one of the highest tidal ranges in the world, the sea can often be quite a way away. But the beaches are long, sandy and have plenty of room for throwing a ball.

There’s also usually something interesting going on. Here’s Molly the other weekend, surrounded by kitesailors.

Molly on the beach

The best thing about playing on the beach with Molly, though, is her sheer enthusiasm. When I throw the ball, she hares after it like a bat out of hell. And instead of slowing down when she catches up with the ball so that she can pick it up gracefully, she continues full pelt and hurls herself bodily at the ball with unrestrained glee. Sand flies in all directions as she comes to an ungainly, and not very well controlled, stop in a giant, four-pawed skid. She beams a sandy grin, her ball lodged firmly in her mouth.

Here’s what the aftermath looks like. It’s difficult to see the scale in the photo, but this skidmark is about thirty feet long.

The drop zone

Having retrieved her ball, she turns and races back towards me. She picks up speed as her paws find grip in the soft sand. Her eyes gleam as she sees me and she puts her head down, all effort directed to reaching me (purely so that I can throw the ball again) as quickly as her body – and air resistance – will permit. I can see her leg muscles pumping away like furry orange pistons. She continues to accelerate even as she approaches where I’m standing. There’s no way she can stop in time. I close my eyes and brace for impact.

The mudrunner and me

With the Bristol 10k race only two months away (eek), my training is well and truly under way. Living in a small market town in North Somerset, I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to places to run, with a wide range of on- and off-road options on my doorstep. My favourite place to run is the beach, but this is a half-hour drive away so isn’t suitable for everyday running. But my second favourite, thankfully, is just down the road.

It’s called ‘The Drove’ and it’s a farm track that runs alongside the drainage ditches (‘rhynes’) on the moors at the edge of town. It’s nice and flat, which is great. It’s about four miles out and back. And there’s one bit, between two easily recognisable side-tracks, that’s almost exactly a mile long – which is great for speed sessions. Here’s the beginning of the track…

Along the rhyne

The best bit, though, is that the Drove is completely traffic free, so I can take Molly along without worrying too much about what she’s getting up to while I’m trundling along. Short of jumping into one of the ditches (which she’s only done once), there’s not much she can do to get into trouble. Unless it’s been raining, in which case she can get very, very (and I mean VERY) muddy. Which inevitably calls for a bath.

This is what happened a couple of weeks ago, when we had a great run but both got rather mucky. Molly knows the command ‘go get in the bath you mucky hooligan’, so she dutifully raced upstairs and jumped into the bathtub. It was only when I got the shampoo out that she started to look a little dubious…

Bathtime for Molly

But she was soon enjoying the warm water from the shower attachment. (Yes, I really am far to kind to the dog.) You’ll note she even gets a bathmat, to stop her sliding around. To be honest, Molly’s the only one who uses the bath as (a) we have a perfectly decent shower, (b) I’m not entirely sure that it’s plumbed in correctly, and (c) once Molly’s been in the bath, nobody else in their right mind would want to go near it.

Here we are mid-wash…

The shampoo

And here’s the bath. You’ll see what I mean about nobody else wanting to use it.

Muddy bathtub

After the wash comes the dry. This is usually the most exciting part of the process, as Molly insists on jumping around while she’s being dried. The drying stage can take anywhere between two and four towels. (Molly has her own. We don’t share.) On this occasion, it was a full four-towel job. This includes cleaning up the bathroom afterwards.

The dry

Once Molly’s dry, she knows that she gets a ‘well done’ biscuit, so races down to the kitchen where we keep the biscuit tin. She skids on the vinyl in the hall at the bottom of the stairs, spinning out and colliding with the stacked-up shoes like a racing car hitting a pile of tyres on a tight corner. It’s all part of the routine.

Here she is waiting for her biscuit. The word you’re looking for is ‘entitlement’. As in, ‘I am entitled to that biscuit now, so hand it over and nobody needs to get hurt.’

Time for a biscuit

And because it’s still quite cold out, I then wrestle Molly into her extremely embarrassing fleece jacket and make her sit on her cushion by the radiator. (And yes, this is possibly the largest dog cushion known to mankind.) By this enormous radiator is, to be honest, probably the most comfortable place in the house.

Staying warm

Once my little mudrunner is washed and dry, the rest of the house is now dirty and soaking wet. As, inevitably, am I…

And now bathtime for me

Snowtime!

When I woke up this morning, I glanced out of the window and thought for a moment that I’d sleepwalked into the wardrobe and been transported to Narnia. The street lights were glowing and there was a carpet of smooth, velvety snow covering the ground. But then a man in a bobble hat skidded past, towed along by a massively over-enthusiastic border collie, and I realised that I was still at home. But, boy, was it snowing.

Nailsea or Narnia?

By the time I was up properly and listening to my porridge bubble away on the hob, what had been a paltry two inches of snow was a fairly respectable four. And still it was falling, great big flakes tumbling out of the sky like leaves from a tree.

Snow in the garden

We wasted no time in getting dressed in our coats, hats, scarves and mittens (Natalie and me) and outdoor hooligan harness (Molly) and heading out to the nearby fields. It had just about got light by now, though the falling snow made it a bit difficult to see where we were going. The schools were shut, none of the buses were running and it was clear from the absence of tyre tracks that most people had given up on the idea of going to work.

Natalie in the snow

Out on the hills, the snow made everything look so clean and new. If it hadn’t been for the trees, with the snow clinging to their branches like frosting on a wedding cake, it would have been difficult to tell where the ground stopped and the sky started.

Snow-covered tree

Needless to say, Molly loved it. She’s a big fan of the snow and had a great time chasing snowballs and barrelling into the few other dogs that were around. And while I’m a big, grown-up adult kind of person, I must admit that I enjoyed playing in the snow, too. (But only a little bit.)

Playing snowball with Molly

What Molly couldn’t understand, though, was why the snowballs I was throwing for her kept disappearing. She’d leap into the air, catch the snowball in her mouth and then find that all she got was a giant slurp of water. But rather than explain to her the basic laws of physics, I just kept chucking more.

Hunting for snowballs

And she kept racing around like a lunatic.

A high speed hound

With me tagging along behind her. (You can just see me here on the right.)

Molly racing through the countryside

As we headed home, we came across an army of little groups heading the way we’d just come. Each group seemed to contain a very harassed (and very well wrapped) parent, a sledge, a grinning dog and eight (or more) very small, very excited (and also very well wrapped) children. All off out to enjoy the snow.