Spots and dots and dots and spots

Blogging challenges, London, Spain, Weather, Yorkshire

Spots and dots. That’s the Lens Artists Photo-Challenge this week, as requested by Ann-Christine. What to choose?

I thought immediately of the year we came back from France, 2014. That was the year too when the Tour de France came to Yorkshire. We went Tour de France mad, and some people even decorated their houses in red spots in honour of the King of the Mountains.

I remembered Brian, the dog my elder daughter had. No dog is spottier than a Dalmatian.


I thought of a bubble-producer extraordinaire we met in London once, delighting children of all ages.

There was that extraordinary murmuration of starlings that took place over our house. It’s an annual treat round here. Thousands and thousands of starlings polka-dot the sky. And afterwards, leave the car spotted and dotted.

Or what about Seville orange trees with glowing orange fruits brightening the winter Spanish streets – and then lying discarded as the season ends: until we come along and bag up a kilo or two to transform into marmalade back at home?

But then I thought about spots and dots in the here and now. Spots and dots in England mean rain on the window, rain on the windscreen. So I begin and end my post with weather, English style.

A frequent view from the bedroom window

But … one more thing. No rain = no welly-boots. No welly-boots = no cheery whimsical feature in a garden just down the road.

It’s a dog’s life


Brian explores the woods.

I’ve been in Bolton this week.  It’s week eleven of Ellie’s chemo treatment.  Five more to go.  This type of chemotherapy works in three week cycles, and week one each time is usually particularly tough.  So I went over to do a few in loco parentis duties.

Extracting the boys from their beds in the morning, and re-inserting them there at a reasonable time each night count as challenging tasks. Ben doesn’t do mornings.  All the other household stuff I can take in my stride.

There’s just one task that was never part of my life before this year.  Walking Brian, who’s no longer a puppy, but not exactly a mature and restrained adult dog either. I don’t think I’ll ever be a real dog fan, but I did enjoy being exercised by this particularly amiable and boisterous dalmatian.  Where to go?  Through the woods and round the reservoir?  Yes please! Or across the extensive parkland just over the way there?  Yes please!  And can we go, NOW?  Can’t wait!

Go Brian!

Two hours might mean four or five miles to me, but ten or more to him as he dashes ahead, back and forth.  There are grasses and herbs to nibble; a river to ford; interesting smells to investigate.  There are regular doggie chums to greet, and others whom he’s never met.  Will they want to play?  Brian hopes so.  He surges up the steep paths beside the river bank.  He leaps into muddy pools.  He fords the river – once, twice. He looks for branches to lug about for a while.  And he sprints, zooms, bolts and bounds ahead, back, east and west.  His joie de vivre is infectious.

Once home, he flops gratefully down, pleased to be left alone to doze for a while.  It’s a dog’s life.

Life of Brian


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Meet Brian.

I don’t really do dogs.  There.  I’ve just lost more than half my readership, just like that.

It’s not that I don’t like them though.  I can think of few greater pleasures than a tramp over the hills on a cold and frosty morning with a cheerful dog bounding ahead, truffling around the undergrowth and enjoying all the sights and sounds and experiences of a fresh new day.

It’s just that hell can be not other people, but other people’s dogs.  You know the sort.  The ones that leap up and knock you sideways, muddying your nice clean jumper in the process.  They’re the ones whose owners smile indulgently. ‘He’s just being friendly’, they explain. These are the very dogs that may also try to lick your face.   Then there are the ones that are left alone and bark, bark, bark, as the dog-next-door in France did.  Or the ones that bare their teeth and frighten me half to death.  Or the smelly ones.

I think there’s a pattern here.  It’s not the dogs. It’s the owners.  And I seem to have raised three children who apparently think much the same as I do on the dog question.

And then, the other week, Daughter Number One announced they’d decided to get a dog.  Not just any dog.  But a puppy.  One that would  become a big (ish) dog. An active dog. A feisty dog. A dalmatian.  Ellie’s is a family of two busy working adults and ten-year-old twin sons with the sort of after-school schedule for which you need a very large calendar, and a smart phone that reminds you at frequent intervals who has to be where when, with whom, and wearing what kind of kit.

They did their research.  They chose and visited a breeder and looked at a litter of ten newly-born pups.  And they chose Brian.  He’s been living with them for ten days now.  This week, we went to stay,  and we met him.

We’re converted.  I’ve never in all my life been greeted with such enthusiasm as I was by Brian when I turned up in the kitchen the other morning to get some breakfast.  Look at this wagging tail.  I remind myself he’d probably have greeted a burglar with equal joy …. but still.

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Brian’s so pleased to see everyone in the morning.

He’s charmed us all.  But he’s not going to get away with simply being charming.  Right from day one, training began.  No leaping up on furniture.  No leaping up at people.  No shoe-savaging.  He learned immediately to ‘sit’ on command, and Alex’s first party trick was to teach him to shake a paw.  We’re all busy keeping him entertained in these slightly restrictive weeks when he can’t go out and about because he hasn’t had all his jabs yet.  But everyday pleasures are enough for this young chap.  There’s a garden to explore.  Rotting leaves and springy grass. Rustling dried-up autumn plants.  Tantalising glimpses of birds.  Misty-moisty autumn smells.  And there’s a whole tick-box in the training manual to worry about.  Checklist: he must meet a baby (no), children of various ages (tick), the elderly (tick), someone in glasses (tick), someone bearded (no), someone in uniform (no), and so on, and so on.

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Project Exhaust-a-pup bears fruit.

Dog-training proper starts next week.  And then before long he’ll be a dog-teenager.  And then an adult, prepared to offer many years of companionship and pleasure to Ellie & Co. and who knows?  Maybe to us too.