Thursday, 30 December 2010

Thursday 30 December 2010

I feel sufficiently returned to my normal self after the Christmas shenanigans to recommence a spot of bloggery.  I have been a very busy Jasper indeed.  I shall describe, albeit briefly, my festivities.

My partner had a more entertaining Christmas than I.  We journeyed North, to spend the actual Christmas Day with my partner's brother, sister-in-law and their delightful children - five-year-old nephew Ewan (similar in name only to dimwit canine chum.  Somewhat ironically, human Ewan is remarkably gifted.) and two-year-old Carys.  We spent the day with them, and stayed overnight with the parents of my partner's sister-in-law - the owners of my late wife Isolde, still much mourned.

My partner's brother prepared a delicious traditional Christmas meal, in which I heartily indulged (Ewan having recently recovered from a nasty bug, his appetite had still not returned to normal.  With no thought for my own wellbeing, I happily assisted him with his dinner).  After lunch, my partner and I took some exercise in the field opposite the house.  Hereford had received far more snow than we did down South, and some eight or nine inches still lay on the ground (as opposed to none at home).  Witness my festive frolics:



This picture and the one below were taken at the home (below) of my late wife Isolde


Lovely.  And, after my stroll, there were all my presents to open (a most respectable haul this year).  Alas for his doting aunt, Ewan was given a couple of pop-guns, which fired rubber and foam projectiles, as his main gift from his parents.  In testing it out, he chose to shoot my partner in the eye.  It hurt her.  She was very good-natured about it, and pretended that it was painless.  However, when Ewan looked around for his next target and said (in a MOST sinister way) "Jasper....?", I withdrew to the other room.  Unfortunately, in that room I experienced a most unsettling urinary accident.  It was cleaned up with the minimum of fuss and the pop-guns were quietly put away.

All Christmassed-out, atop my haul o' gifts
At tea-time, we all repaired to my partner's brother's in-law's house.  I missed Isolde most cruelly.  The fireplace, before which we fell in love, stood cold and empty despite the flames that crackled there.  Sweet Carys attempted to cheer me, in her innocent pup-like way, as I sat beside her and her mother:

Bless her - the sweet little cherub

The exhaustion of the day, coupled with the grief of visiting the house for the first time since Isolde's passing, resulted in a further two bladder-based incidents in the servants' passage, which my partner cleaned up.  It was most embarrassing.  To add to my discomfort, it was decided that - in view of my unpredictable waters - I should sleep in the kitchen.

Thus it was that I spent Christmas night crying piteously - separated from my partner, in a kitchen that was unusually cool because the Aga had inexplicably gone out the previous day, lying in the basket that formerly belonged to my dead wife.  I tend to remain upbeat at most times - but I struggled to find anything particularly 'merry' in the circumstances.  Conversely, my partner usually finds Christmas something of a trial - and she enjoyed hers more than in general this year (apart from the traumas surrounding me).

I confess that, for all the gratitude I feel towards our family in Hereford for their splendid hospitality and generosity - and the enjoyment afforded to my partner - I was rather glad to return home to my own bed.  Plus, on unloading the car, I spotted Archie the Jack Russell from three doors down - who tipped me off that Angus the Rottweiler had blundered yet again in his Christmas gift to fellow-Rottweiler and 'gentleman-friend' Eddie (who lives just across the way).  I was thus able to sidestep out of Eddie's way when I saw him exiting his house on Boxing Day and thereby avoid a diatribe on everything that is wrong and inadequate about the unfortunate Angus.

Good night.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Is it me, or is it cold?

No - it's just cold.  Just as much indoors as out.  No matter how high we turn the heating, the cracks in our window-frames mean that the temperature never rises above 13º within doors.  My partner has resorted to candles to supplement the warmth for which we have already paid.  Usually between five and eight candles will suffice.  I enjoy the warmth from those, as well as my blankets (I am more delicate than she is).

And, in common with most of the rest of the country, we have received a thick blanketing of snow, just beginning to recede - though the lanes to work are still very treacherous.  Here are the obligatory "see Jasper frolic" images:




And, finally, the post-frolic "All-Purpose-Jasper-H.-Stafford-Self-Warming-Stratagem".


Just a short one from me tonight - my paws are getting parky.  But tomorrow is our last day at work before the new year:  2011 - we never thought we'd live to see it!; so expect from me, imminently, a thrilling update to my partner's geranium-propagation experiments - and the next instalment of The Evolution of Jasper.  Until then, stay warm and stay safe.

Good night.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Thursday 16 December 2010

Dear, oh dear.  I always thought that the run-up to Christmas-tide was a time for great joy and celebrations?  Not for your humble, put-upon author, it would seem.

The week started well, with a fair amount of jollity.  Two of my partner's colleagues had been kind enough to procure a decorated Christmas tree for her (and I) to enjoy:


Hmmm... "It's the thought that counts", I believe the human saying goes.  I have a thought that can count - but unfortunately it isn't one that I care to repeat on a public-facing blog...

The next item of interest is that the house adjacent to ours now stands dark and empty.  Yes:  our unsociable neighbour has left the building.  He didn't say a word to anyone (although the rumour-mill on my patch is more communicative than he was, so we knew he was probably going) and, today, he was off.  The big white van outside his house in the morning today and yesterday must have been the removers.  We even spoke to the man two days ago and he didn't say goodbye or anything.  As I departed with my partner for work this morning, I noted that Honey, the stripey-ginger cat from opposite, had secured herself a comfortable place, from which to sit and watch the proceedings.  "How nosy."  I thought to myself.  I cannot abide folk who have nothing better to do than watch and pass comment on their neighbours.

We shall not mourn the departure of this neighbour.  The first words he ever spoke to my partner on seeing her (watching, I might add, as she struggled alone to carry a heavy box from our Little Green Corsa RIP (Rust in Pieces) to the house) were "I don't like dogs."  Well, I didn't like him either - but I politely kept that sentiment to myself.  The rude git.  We certainly shall not miss his late-night electric guitar sessions, his foul-mouthed unprovoked rants at small children and pets in the street, his smoke-alarm going off every time he attempted to cook something - or the scary night-time banging and dragging sounds.  My partner says I should not rejoice too much - we may get something worse in exchange.  Time will tell.

And so - inevitably - to Ewan.  The hapless, feeble-brained, cheese-obsessed (but good-natured and relentlessly optimistic) dog.  This week has seen him go a-wooing.  Regular readers of this blog will glean enough from this seemingly innocuous statement to develop a deep sense of foreboding.  And rightly so.

Ewan, Fizzy (petite but feisty black Labrador bitch, Ewan's basket-mate) and I were enjoying a lunchtime game of football, when Fizzy suddenly left the fray during a particularly complex set-piece tackle.  Putting the ball down, Ewan and I stared after her.  She had gone to the edge of the woods and was exchanging friendly preliminaries with a larger (and, dare I bark it, younger and somewhat slimmer) black Labrador bitch.  Her name was Rosie and she was unquestionably in season.
"Look over there, Jazz!" yapped Ewan, indicating towards the bridleway behind us.  I turned and looked - there was nothing there - and when I turned back it was to see Ewan's rapidly-departing rump as he dashed after the new young lady.

Classic distractionary tactic - and I'd fallen for it!  Dammit!!!

I capered hastily after him, but stopped in my tracks at what I witnessed.  Ewan, without so much as a word to the young lady, grasped her around the neck and shoulders, clambered on, and began what can only be respectably described as "love motions".  Fizzy stamped off in disgust.

"Ewan!  No! NOOO!" cried my partner and I, in unison.  My partner apologised profusely to the bitch's owner (who, fortunately, was good-natured.  He shouldn't have been walking with an in-season bitch off the lead, anyway.  Bark about ASKING for trouble...) whilst I shoved the enamoured Ewan into the work-yard for an urgent dog-to-dog 'chat'.

"What, in the name of Cerberus, were you THINKING, mate?!"  I demanded angrily.  Ewan looked puzzled.
"What d'you mean, Jazz?" asked Ewan, in genuine (bless him) ignorance.  "That's how you do it!"
"Yes," I conceded, "But - Ewan - you need to BARK to them first.  At least make friends!  Let them know that they are pretty and special.  You know - erm - prepare the ground before you plant the parsnip... yes?"
Ewan adopted a sulky expression.
"That's not what Fizzy says." he muttered.
"Eh?"
"When we... you know..."
"YES!!!" I interjected, hurriedly, "I get it!  Thank you, Ewan!!"
"Yeah.  She says she doesn't want me to bark ANYTHING.  Actually, she says she prefers it if I don't bark at all."
"Hmmm." I postulated, pretending to sound surprised.  "Well - generally - I would suggest that you at least strike up a conversation  BEFORE... well... you know... the Deed of Darkness."
"Oh.  Right.  Brilliant.  Yes."  The merest moment of silence.  "What should I say?"
"Errr...." I muttered, pawing at straws while Ewan looked expectantly at me.  "Um.... well.  Just be your nice, honest, self Ewan."
"Yeah, but what should I SAY, Jazz?"

Why?  Why me?  I mean - did I do something bad in a former life?  Why do these things ALWAYS fall to ME?

"OK, Ewan." I sighed. "Ladies like a bit of flattery and chat -"  My young protégée interrupted me with scornful snorts of derisive laughter.  I sighed and shook my head.  "Regrettably, it's true.  Trust me on this one, Ewan.  Experience has proved me right."
My simple friend became more serious.
"Oh."  he said, soberly.  "What should I say?  I wouldn't know how to start.  How do I talk before it?"
I thought for a moment.
"Ewan," I replied, "Just be yourself.  You are sweet and endearing enough.  But don't make things difficult for yourself.  Stick to subjects that you, yourself, are comfortable with."
"Like what?"

Oh, hell.

"Um.... well, er, like... cheese!  How about cheese, Ewan?  You're definitely on safe ground there."
"Oh yes." grinned Ewan, wagging his big mad tail.  "I like cheese.  Do you know what my favourite cheese is?"
"You might have mentioned it once or twice." I replied wryly.  "Anyway.  How about saying to a lady 'Hello.  You look pretty.  My name is Ewan.  What's your name?'  Then, after she has replied, you can say something like 'Do you like cheese?  I have a great fondness for cheese, myself.'  Then she will reply and you're away!  A nice, polite conversation, which you can take in any direction you want after that."

Ewan jumped up and down excitedly, his tail swinging from side to side.
"Genius!"  he squealed. "Genius!!!  How do you do it, Jazz?!"
"It's a complete mystery." I replied, modestly.  I then spent the rest of the day helping Ewan to practise his new opening gambit of 'Hello.  My name is Ewan.  What is yours?  I like cheese."  By going-home time, he had just about mastered it.

The following day afforded me an early opportunity for watching my pupil in action.  As we were heading back for afternoon naps following another happy game in the woods, the fair Labrador Rosie appeared once again - still svelte, bewitchingly attractive - and still on heat.  Ewan yelped with delight and flung himself at her.  In a single, rushed, breath he blurted out:
"Hello! My name is cheese! What are you? I like Ewan!" before grabbing and mounting the poor, bemused bitch once again.

With a despairing sigh, I trudged past the couple, biting down on Ewan's tail and pulling him off the unfortunate woman for the second time in as many days.

And yet he wonders why, this afternoon, Fizzy grabbed his football and smacked him across the face with it.

Dear, oh dear.

Good night.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Sunday 12 December 2010

Dear Reader -

Cast your mind back to September (if you can.  If not, here's a reminder: http://jasper-thedogsblog.blogspot.com/2010/09/tuesday-14-september-2010.html).  Do you recall the appearance of some little semi-feral orphans in our work-yard?  Well, hold that thought.  Another FIVE little kittens, fortunately WITH mum this time, have been delivered up into the world from the premises.  I'm not sure if we are appearing in some kind of cats' "Good Maternity Clinic Guide"... It's all most odd.  Witness for yourself:



Five Alive
Uh-oh... Spotted by mother.  Better leg it...
 As you can see, they really are quite endearing little tinkers - and almost identical in colour and markings to the August/September batch.  The mother, however (as you can equally see) is a competent and experienced parent, so is too old to be a kitten from that litter.  My partner thinks that the adult above is the mother of the mother (deceased) of the last kitten-crop.  This would tally with her age and experience, so I am inclined to concur.

Ewan, as may be expected, was more than happy to step into his former role of surrogate kitten-father.  He repeatedly crept around the side of the building to check on the babies and to offer them cheese.  His well-meaning efforts were NOT welcomed by the kittens' mother - especially as his visits often coincided with mealtimes, when the kittens were suckling their milk from their mum.  Quite how has managed to avoid being scratched thus far remains a mystery.

Right then.  The next instalment of my 'Evolution' Series - the aftermath of the peak of my destructive antics.  My belovèd Angie was kind enough to send me a private communication, in which she thoughtfully acknowledged how hard it must be for my partner and I to revisit these difficult early times.  She is right.  I LOVED to recount my days at the home with my dear friends Rex, Pebble, Ghost, Rats, and - of course - the late, great, lamented Kipper - they were happy days.  But my behaviour on coming to live with my partner was nothing short of despicable and the merest memory of it sickens me to my stomach.  When I asked my partner to proof-read the last entry for spelling mistakes, I noted that she had tears in her eyes, and she gave me a big cuddle after the entry had been posted.  But, we agreed, it was important that such dreadful times are recounted, as they help us to appreciate the love and friendship that exists between us today.  My partner says that it is a measure of my strength that we can describe the (entirely true; every word) atrocious creature that I was back then and compare it to the fine, upstanding, loyal and sturdy companion that I am today.  This is more praise than I feel I deserve.  Nevertheless - on we go:




PART THIRTY-THREE


This time, not even the young lady's affable father had a good word to say to me.  He did not express anger at me but, rather, disappointment - which was so much worse.  I was silently given my supper, which I consumed, despite feeling some difficulty in swallowing.  I had transgressed too far - and I knew it.

I didn't attempt to sit on the furniture that evening, but lay alone at the back of the room, feeling as one covered by a veritable blanket of shame.  I suppose I must have dozed-off as, when I ambled into the main body of the withdrawing-room only the father was present, watching the ten o' clock news.  I watched with him for a while, but could make neither head nor tail of it, so decided to retire upstairs to my chamber.

Wandering along the upper landing, I heard the young lady talking to her mother within the parents' bed-chamber, from which light was issuing onto the dark landing.  I stopped outside the door to listen..  They seemed to be discussing a man.  No doubt the young lady's latest "boyfriend" - a series of suitors who, quite frankly, seemed to me to be beneath her.  But that's women for you, I suppose.  I bent my ear so as to better hear the conversation.

"I just can't stand it anymore." cried the young lady.  "I mean, work isn't always that easy - but now, I never know what I'm going to come home to!  I can't bear it."
"I know." replied the girl's mother.  "I'm so sorry.  I feel like it's partly my fault.  I pressured you into having him."
"No," came the reply, "I took the decision to take him.  It's not your fault.  Oh, G*d.  What will Auntie Dot say?!"

Eh?  Miss Smart?  What had she, of all people, to do with this?  I was intrigued.

"She will understand." said the young lady's mother, kindly.
"But how can I send him away?  He's had SUCH a horrid life!  How could I live with myself?!"  The young lady dissolved into heartbreaking sobs.
"But, sweetheart, he's making you SO miserable." sympathised the kindly mother's voice.
"Oh," sobbed the young woman, "I hate him!  I HATE him!  I can't even bring myself to look at him anymore.  I've tried so ha-[sniff]-ha-ard to help him, but he doesn't want me.  I HATE him!  I don't even want him - I despise him!  I don't even like him."

There was a lengthy silence, during which I began to feel increasingly uneasy.  I had a growing sense of dread that I knew to whom they were referring - and 'twas not a human male.

"Well, you HAVE given him a fair chance." concurred the mother.  Then, with a softened voice, she asked "Are you sure it's not because he is a little boy?  The others were girls - you're not prejudiced against him just because he is a boy, are you?"
The young lady began to cry even more bitterly.  As for me - I began to feel sick.
"Well - it might be to do with that..." conceded the girl, "But I honestly don't think so.  I've tried everything, mum, and STILL he behaves the way he does.  I don't know what to do!  I HATE him.  I hate him so much."  She cried harder, beginning even to wail.  "I know its wrong of me - I know it.  But I can't cope with this anymore.  The mess, the destruction and the sheer wickedness.  I can't... I just can't..."  Her tears overcame her ability to speak.

I was both surprised and stunned to find that tears were running down my OWN cheeks.  Why?  Wasn't this the very result I had desired from the outset?

After another silence, I heard the young lady's mother speaking briskly.
"Right." she said, firmly. "Do you want me to ring Auntie Dot in the morning?  I know she will understand.  Your father can take him back to Stokenchurch tomorrow, if it's OK with the Aunties."

Oh.

Oh no.  They WERE talking about ME.

What had I done?!  What had I done?

I felt like - no.  I KNEW I was the most wretched of beasts.  I had been given everything I ever desired - and what had I done?  Thrown it away.  THAT is what I had done.

NOW I realised.  I cannot understand quite why, but it was NOW that it hit me.  Since coming to live with these new humans, not ONCE had I been beaten.  Not ONCE had I been used as an impromptu football and kicked around the garden, my agonised screams piercing the night.  And not ONCE had I been throttled or hung on a peg by my collar - to be revived at the last moment with the sound of mocking, taunting laughter ringing in my ears as I stumbled around, gasping and choking, regaining consciousness.  In fact, I had met with nothing but acceptance, kindness, patience and affection.  And I had responded with cruel scorn and destruction of anything dear to the humans that I could get my fangs on.

I felt ashamed.  Completely and UTTERLY ashamed.  All the more so when a fleeting image of the late Kipper passed before me.  Noble Kipper.  Pack leader.  Hero - and friend.  Kipper who SO longed for a family and who was, eventually, selected - only to die from an appalling heart-attack just three days before he was to achieve all he had ever really desired.  Here was I with that chance - the chance that fate had savagely snatched away from Kipper.  I felt more wretched by the second.  How could I have let myself - and Kipper - down so badly?  But now it was all, all, too late.  I would be sent back to the shelter in disgrace - never again to know the soft touch of a loving embrace from a human - and I could blame no-one but myself.

I heard the young lady sniff again, trying to stem the flow of her heartbroken tears.
"Well," she sighed, hesitantly.  "It's Thursday now, and I've got tomorrow off work.  Let's give it until Monday.  I don't want to disturb Auntie Dot's weekend."

The mother, her voice quivering with tears, then said "I'm just SO sorry, that's all."
"Why should you be sorry?!" asked the young lady.
"Well, dad and I wanted to do something nice for you, after all you've been through." came the response.  Oh, G*d, it gets worse.
"We're just sorry that he turned out like he did.  Auntie Dot recommended him SO highly."
"Oh, please don't blame Auntie Dot!" implored the young lady, "And please don't blame yourself.  You couldn't have known that he would turn out like this."
"Are you SURE you don't want to get rid of him tomorrow?  It's no trouble - honestly."
"No," replied the young lady with a sigh, "I'll give him until Monday.  Then we'll see."

"Until Monday then."

I felt a sudden pain in my chest, which I couldn't identify.  Was it self-pity?  No.  Guilt?  Probably not.  No.  I knew what it was.  It was genuine remorse.

I was sincerely, deeply sorry for what I had done.

But now it was too late.  It was all too, too late.



Good night.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Thursday 9 December 2010

Well - I HAD intended to post an interesting tale of new baby-tails, plus the next instalment of 'The Evolution of Jasper'.  No longer.

My partner and I have just returned from the house of my partner's best friend, the lovely Dolores.  My partner and I don't choose to receive television in our household (actually, it was my partner's choice.  I still miss my lovely cookery programmes), but have been sat with Dolores, glued to the BBC news coverage of the evening's sorry events in London.

It was UTTERLY disgusting.

I disagree with a lot of the government's decisions (particularly as my partner and I work for a local authority and have lately been at the mercy of spending cuts, staff redundancies, etc.) - but the way to protest against them is NOT by vandalising statues (least of all defiling that of one of our greatest-ever leaders, Sir Winston Churchill), damaging aged and important public buildings and breaking windows of shops.

Worse-still was the assaulting of the brave policemen and women, as well as the revolting spectacle of shrieking thugs beating the face of a police-horse with a stick.  I understand that some ten police-officers were injured - several very seriously.

And this is before one comes to the topic of the oiks who assailed and kicked-in the car carrying the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.   It was shaming.   I was embarrassed to be English tonight.

I actually did manage to feel sorry for some of the students who were trying to make a legitimate, peaceful protest - they were stitched-up by the yobs as much as anyone else was by the scuffle-scum that joined the march with the avowed intention of causing mayhem.  I wonder if the rabble-rousers gave a thought to the amount of our taxpayers' money that will now have to go to pay the police's overtime salaries, for the medical treatment of the injured officers, or for the cleaning and repairs to the mess that the 'protesters' left behind them...? Probably not.


For our Winter reading this year, my partner and I have chosen the subject of the French Revolution.  We have already worked our way through some six books and have a few more left to keep us going through to the Spring.  It was hard to watch the news footage this evening and not draw a clear parallel with those horrific and bloody events across the channel which opened with the grisly scenes in Paris on 14 July 1789.  The riotous, seething mob, shrieking obscenities, daubing offensive slogans on public landmarks and buildings, lighting fires in the streets, and - most starkly similar and unsettling - were those who had armed themseves with poles pulled from railings, barriers, road-signs and dismantled placards, and were beating with them on the doors of the Treasury, the Houses of Parliament and the Royal Courts of Justice.  I am not exaggerating when I bark that, for a moment, I was genuinely frightened as to would have happened if the rabble had succeeded in hauling Prince Charles and Camilla out of their vehicle.

For goodness' sake - how did we go from peaceful rights of protest to this type of violent disorder?!  Is this the reason so many fought and died in our wars to preserve our country's freedom?

I am NOT a happy dog for what I have witnessed this evening.

Good night.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Imagine there's no heaven; it's easy if you try.  No hell below us - above us only sky.  Imagine all the people living for today...  Imagine there's no countries; it isn't hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for and no religion too.  Imagine ALL the people living life in peace.  You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the ONLY one.  I hope someday you'll join us and the world will be as one.

Imagine no possessions - I wonder if you can?  No need for greed or hunger; a brotherhood of man.  Imagine ALL the people sharing ALL the world.

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.  I hope someday you'll join us and the world will live as one.

The words of John Lennon, there.  One of those rare geniuses that the human race sometimes produces.  John Lennon was murdered in cold blood by a, sadly less-rare, nut-case Mark Chapman thirty years ago today.

I find it interesting that the current media-circus surrounding the Wikileaks website is going on at the time of this significant and sorrowful anniversary.  I may be only a Staffordshire Bull Terrier - but I firmly believe that Mr. Lennon would have supported and fought for the freedom of Wikileaks.  Both strove (and continue to strive) for a more open, honest - and a fairer - world, wherein misdeeds can be appropriately punished and genuine mistakes learned from for the future benefit of us all.

Rest in peace, wherever you are Mr. Lennon.


Good afternoon.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Friday 3 December 2010 - III

I suppose I ought to bark a 'thank-you' to those good souls who left comments on Tuesday's blog-post.   At least, I WOULD - had not most of them implied some slight upon my virile manliness...  I sought solace, instead, in my canine chum Ewan.

My nice-but-dim friend listened patiently to my plight as we trotted, side-by-side, along the bridleway which led out of the work-yard.  After I finished my tale of woe, Ewan nodding throughout the recital, he thought for a moment.
"When Fizzy came to live with me and mummy she made me have a pink blanket."  he explained.  "And a pink towel for after swimming.  I didn't mind too much because it is easier to see food that might have dropped if it is on a pink blanket.  And it is smell nicer than my old one."
"But why do you put up with it, Ewan?" I queried.  "Don't you mind?"
"Well," explained the gangly, tousle-furred, dog as he lifted high a leg and downloaded a wee-mail. "The think is that I likes Fizzy lots.  And Fizzy likes to have pink.  So I don't likes it much - but I do likes it a-cos Fizzy likes it."
"She's got you exactly where she wants you, Ewan." I sighed.  "Under the dewclaw, my friend.  Well and truly under the dewclaw."

Ewan nodded and laughed, as he darted off to find a stick for us to play with.  He was, at least, a more patient dog than I.  And irrepressibly happy too.  I begin to find that I should follow his example more often.

Well, in some things, at any rate.  His cheese-theories will always remain his own.

*******************************************************

Oh dear.  I suppose I can put it off no longer.  It has been weighing heavily on my conscience for many, MANY, months now.  The next instalment of "The Evolution of Jasper".  The one that will, quite rightly and in all probability, make you despise me - if not forever, then at least for a mere moment.

Procrastination, they say, is the thief of time.  Well..., I have pilfered enough.  It is thus with a heavy heart that I present to you the following.  Judge me with kindness - if you can.





PART THIRTY-TWO


The route of initial forays into my dirty protest having been well and truly de-railed, I decided that it was time to step things up a claw.  Denied access to the kitchen, and therefore also the bin, I went a-hunting for a new mine of mischief.


The first prize upon which my beady eye alighted was a roll of clear adhesive tape.  Within the twitch of a whisker it had been stolen and chewed-up, bringing satisfying results.  The young lady and her parents were excessively irritated.  But irritation was not enough to quench my appetite.  I wanted to inflict upon the young lady nothing short of misery and despair - a punishment, I felt, which befitted the crime of tearing me from all I had thus far learned to cherish in my pitiable, misery-tainted life.


Further exploration of the location which had yielded the clear adhesive tape bore further fruit.  A roll of thicker, wider, white tape.  Now, this wasn't so easy to chew.  In fact, no sooner had I pierced its flesh than the wretched thing became well and truly stuck on one of my main fangs.  I stumbled angrily around the room, knocking over bags as I went, before careering blindly into one of the legs of the coffee-table in the centre of the room.  And here came a most interesting development. 


As I bashed the tape-roll against the table leg, there came a sudden resistance and a cracking sound.  I wondered if I'd broken the table - but no.  A pause in my bashing and a closer examination revealed that a part of the tape had adhered itself to the table-leg.  I moved cautiously backwards.  The end of the tape stayed stuck to the leg and the roll moved in my mouth as a length of tape unwound itself.  The roll popped easily off my fang and dropped onto the floor.  I looked at the wide bit of white tape hanging from the table-leg to the roll on the floor and my way was instantly clear.  Bending down, I carefully took up the roll in my mouth once more and walked fully around the rectangular table, the tape unwinding as I went and sticking to each of the other three table-legs.  Intrigued and amused, I walked around the table again.  The same result.  The third time I ran.  Around I went, again and again, the tape sealing itself around the table.  A few times I dropped the tape, but I stuck to my work (much as the tape stuck to the table, hehehe...) until the roll was completely unwound.


Dropping the cardboard inner-roll, I stood back and admired my work with pride.  The lower half of the expensive-looking rosewood coffee-table was entirely cocooned with the sticky white tape.  I then turned to examine the bags I had overturned in my initial efforts to get the roll of tape off my fang.  One, in particular, caught my attention.  A plastic carrier-bag with two metal sticks protruding from the top.  On further investigation, after pulling the sticks from the bag, it seemed that a small woollen blanket was growing from the sticks, and was being fed by a ball of yellow wool.  The rest of the carrier-bag was full of larger balls of similarly-coloured wool.  I wasted no time in tearing the blanket from the sticks and unravelling as much of the yellow wool as I could.

My energy - and the wool - thus spent, I fell asleep.

I woke to the sound of a guttural scream.  The young lady stood in the rear doorway, wordlessly surveying the scene that met her.  Her mouth opened and closed but no sound came out.  She looked like a fish.

I watched, amused, as she tried but failed to unravel the white tape from the coffee-table.  She went into the kitchen and fetched some scissors and then proceeded to snip and pick at the tape until it lay in pieces on the floor.  She gathered and disposed of the bits - and then she noticed the wool.

My bottom was spanked.  I cared not.  Without a word, I was taken to the garden and the door closed upon me.  This I cared about.  I could bear almost everything - except being ignored.  The young woman's parents returned and I used the opportunity to scamper back into the house, concealing myself behind the settle.  I noted that the girl had attempted - and failed - to put the blanket back onto the metal sticks.  Her voice was fraught with tension as she explained to her mother what I had done.

"Never mind.  I can soon fix that." was the mother's response, backed up swiftly by the father - who went so far as to chide his daughter for punishing me.  I felt angry and impotent, never more so than when the father gave me a rich, meaty dinner.  The daughter still could not bear to even look at me.

Well, this wasn't good enough.  I wanted the wench, at the very least, to be reduced to frenzied swearing at the mere sight of me.

Further tactics were attempted, growing daily worse and worse.  The young woman viewed me with increasing contempt and disgust - but, each time, I was forgiven.  As my deeds grew worse, so the living room grew emptier.  Objects prone to easy destruction were placed frustratingly out of my reach.

One day, I was scratching around for a new source of mischievous amusement.  Perched atop a small occasional table, which stood next to the young lady's chair, I discovered a brightly-coloured stitched workbag with pretty wooden handles.  It contained wool, which the young woman employed in making tapestry pictures for cushions (the canvases were the first things to be removed from my nipping-range).  I joyfully grasped the bag 'twixt my mighty jaws and carried my prize to the floor, where I delighted in crunching up the handles, unpicking the bag's elaborate stitching and throwing about the woollen skeins contained within like so much wedding confetti.  My appetite for destruction thus sated, I dozed off, using the remnants of the workbag as a most agreeable pillow.

A wail, more terrible than any I had previously heard, wrenched me from my slumber.  I slunk away from the immediate vicinity of my crime, preparing, as ever, to laugh at and enjoy the rewards of my efforts from the sidelines.  But I was unprepared for what happened next.

Instead of shouting at me and banishing me to the garden whilst she attempted to tidy up my mess prior to her parents' return, the young lady burst into tears and dropped to her knees in front of the wreckage of the workbag.  Her chest and her voice rose and fell with great, heaving, sobs as she picked up what remained of the wooden handles and held them close to her.  I began to feel a twinge of guilt as I watched her weeping uncontrollably.

Well  -  how was I to know that the bag had been hand-made in 1938 by the young woman's great-aunt?!  Or that the same great-aunt had given the bag to the young woman by way of a letter, discovered in the great-aunt's house, addressed to the young woman by this great-aunt, who had died some two years previously - the first close relative of the young lady's to die, thus teaching her the true nature of grief?  How could I have known that?!

It wasn't MY fault.


Good night.

Friday 3 December 2010 - II

No pictures of me frolicking in the snow from yesterday, alas. My partner did plenty of shopping in our little town and couldn't manage the camera, me, and the shopping-bags all at once. One of the three had to go - I advised ditching the shopping - who needs food when there are pictures of me to be committed to posterity? My partner, however, insisted on having the final bark and the camera was left at home.

Today, I popped out to download a wee-mail and was immediately struck by the cold;

-4º !!!! 

I immediately put my paw down against venturing any further than the boundaries of my estate.  That barked, I am no prophet, but I suspect that the snow will still be around tomorrow, providing us with another chance for artistic excellence.

Back to finishing-off the next "Evolution" instalment.  It might be ready this evening, but I cannot promise anything.  I am NOT enjoying myself.

Good evening.

Friday 3 December 2010 - I

No pictures of me frolicking in the snow from yesterday, alas. My partner did plenty of shopping in our little town and couldn't manage the camera, me, and the shopping-bags all at once. One of the three had to go - I advised ditching the shopping - who needs food when there are pictures of me to be committed to posterity? My partner, however, insisted on having the final bark and the camera was left at home. The snow is around today, however (replete with crispy ice), providing us with another chance for artistic excellence.


Hopefully more later!

Good day.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Thursday 2 December 2010

Eight inches (20.32cm).  A decent length for ANY man; surely?  Not so for my belovèd partner.

She is apprehensive about the depth.  Of the snow.  "Chance of light snow" was the forecast.  I beg pardon?  Excuse me?!?  "Chance of light snow?!" - Why, my friends?  Why did they lie to me?

Witness for yourself:

J.H. Stafford measures depth of snowfall with partner's "Mr. Men" ruler.

Somewhere under all this powder lies my estate.

Proper blog-entry and Part Thirty-Two of "The Evolution of Jasper (Fear the worst.  Oh yes.)"  later today...  Until then - please stay safe and warm.

Good morning.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Only a minimal dusting of snow today.  I am annoyed (for I do enjoy snow-based frolics).  I thought one always got rewarded for being a good boy.  Instead I find only torment - not only from the weather outside; but also from the weather within.

The weekend was most agreeable, for the majority.  Something of a small lie-in on the Sunday (neither of us slept well on Saturday night.  The cold kept my partner alert, whilst I was deprived of slumber by the lively activities of my over-wrought bladder), followed by a gentle morning and most acceptable breakfast.  A delicious roast-chicken dinner, followed by a pleasant walk (blighted only when I failed to heed my partner's advice and took a swim in the icy river.  Hmmm.  I won't be doing that again in a hurry...  My "Little Jasper" has yet to forgive me.) and then a little shopping (£4.50 for a garden broom - can't argue wit' dem apples!).

On arrival back at Chateau Jaspère early in the afternoon, I assisted my partner in a little light gardening.  We used our new broom and other devices to tidy the garden; replanted into a border the impressive Antirrhinum which sprang up in the centre of my estate; and planted ALL of our spring-flowering bulbs (which I dutifully promised not to unearth during any potential future fit of pique).  I may, however, have no option but to reconsider this last statement.  I have been grossly humiliated.  Grossly.

My partner changed our bedding last evening.  A new bedroom set was given to my partner and I as a joint birthday gift from the normally-reliable Dolores (partner's human best friend).  As the last bedroom set was prepared for the washing-machine, this new set was unsheathed from its shiny wrapping as I watched with interest.

Interest rapidly turned to disgust as I saw the abomination being applied to my large, luxurious, berth.

"I am NOT sleeping in that!" I barked, angrily.
"What's wrong with it?!" queried my partner.  "I love it - I think it's gorgeous."
"It's PINK!" I spluttered.
"The bed sheet is." replied my partner, frowning at me, as she unwrapped the duvet-cover and pillow-cast set.  With a mounting sense of humiliation, I found it difficult to wrest my gaze from the roses and general floral design of the duvet-cover.  I felt positively nauseous.
"I REFUSE to sleep in that!" I snarled.
"Jasper - no-one will know unless you tell them.  Your friends can't see you when you are asleep!"
"If the curtains were open they could see THAT bed-sheet on Mars."  I grumbled.
"Fine, then.  Fine." declared my partner crossly.  "Be like that.  You can sleep on the floor if you feel that strongly about it.  Personally, I think it's gorgeous and very pretty.  No-one's saying you have to sleep in the bed.  You're quite welcome to the floor."
"Right, then.  I shall sleep on the floor if you're going to take that tone."
"Right."
"Fine then."
"Yes.  Fine."

When my partner got into her nice clean bed set, I lay defiantly on the floor beside the bed, glaring at her and wishing all manner of nightmares upon her sleeping subconscious.  My stare burned into her, so she turned her back on me and faced the wall, wrapped in her new-covered duvet.

I lasted about six minutes.  It may have been as many as seven, but certainly no more, when I felt the draught - so welcome during the summer yet chillingly icy in winter.  It seemed to get right into my bones.  There was only one solution (much though it grieved me to admit it).

Grrrowl...

Good night.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Thursday 25 November 2010

Monday 22nd November.  For goodness' sake.  That was the day on which the first Christmas lights appeared on the outside of one of the houses that neighbour mine.  22nd November!  That is a full week earlier than last year (although not the same household).  I am disgusted.

Please do not misunderstand me - I love Christmas, the trees, the scents, the decorations (the tasteful ones, at any rate), the carols, the food (inevitably) and - yes - the lovely lights.  But I love all of these things at Christmas.  NOT half-way through November.  Grrrowl...

I did actually growl at one of the twinkling plastic icicles, but it served no purpose.  The wretched illuminations continued to shine, oblivious to my disdain.

I mentioned the arrival of this year's lights to Ewan and Fizzy at work the next day.  Almost as an afterthought (and don't ask me why I decided to pursue this line of enquiry - I ought to have known better from the outset), I thought I'd better make sure that the pea-brained, cheese-obsessed, but ultimately adorable canine Ewan understood what "Christmas" was.  He is almost eight-years-old, but one can never tell with Ewan...
Ewan chuckled affably when I asked him if he knew what Christmas was all about.
"Oh, Jazz, you duffer!" he grinned.  "Of course I know!  Christmas is when we celebrate the arrival in this world of the innocent, simple, saviour of our hearts and souls."
I was most impressed.
"Blimey, Ewan." I exclaimed. "Well done you!"  Ewan nodded and grinned proudly, before he added:

"The baby cheeses."

"What?!"
"The baby cheeses." repeated Ewan, innocently.  At that, Fizzy got up quietly and trotted over to the wood skip in the yard where, as soon as she disappeared from view, I heard her dissolve into hysterical laughter.  Totally oblivious to this, Ewan continued.  "The baby cheeses came into a humble stable to bring purity and cheesy-goodness to all living things."
"Ewan - no.  The Baby Jesus, Ewan, it's The Baby Jesus."
"The baby cheesus?"
"No - Ewan - no -" I began, before deciding that it really wasn't worth the effort.  After all, he seemed to be almost half-way there...
"But yes." persisted Ewan earnestly.  "The baby cheesus came from God to make everything better."
"Well," I began, "I concede that one might associate God with cheese-making - in that (if you are a follower of the Christian faith you believe that) he provided humans with the means and the materials necessary for MAKING cheese.  But I'm not sure what his more direct involvement was - say, in the way that the cheese-producing Oke Valley Creamery, in Devon, is..."
"What do you mean, Jazz?"
"Well, I'm not sure that God Himself is an accredited cheese-maker.  And, whilst Jesus of Galilee, no doubt, enjoyed eating cheese (primarily from the milk of sheep and goats, one suspects) he was in fact a man of mortal flesh and blood, as opposed to an actual cheese."

There was the merest moment of silence.

"So why was he called the baby cheesus, then?"

"Well... - He wasn't.  He - oh, never mind.  Just trust me on this one, Ewan.  And be careful with whom you share this theory.  Not everyone will take kindly your comparison of the Son of God with an unripe cheese."
Ewan looked somewhat deflated.
"But..." he whimpered, "I wanted to get leaflets printed and everything.  Mummy is going to go round where we live putting little books about the true story of Christmas through peoples' letterboxes.  She got them from church.  They've got pictures in and everything."  He began to get quite agitated.  "I MUST help to spread the word about the baby cheesus!"
"Ewan - you concentrate on spreading actual cheese, just for you.  And let the Word shift for itself, OK?"
My permanently-baffled friend looked rather crestfallen.  However, true to his nature, he soon perked up.
"I like spreadie cheese!" he announced loudly.  "I like it when I spread it on my biscuits!"
"Jolly good." I smiled.  Ewan giggled conspiratorially.
"And Fizzy always likes it when I spread it on my -"

"YES! -  Thank you, Ewan!" I interjected, hurriedly, as Fizzy instantly appeared from behind the wood skip with a stricken and mortified look upon her pretty face.  "I believe that is a nugget of information which I can do without."

I will admit to feeling somewhat ashamed as Ewan trailed off, guiltily, "- breakfast biscuit for her to eat.... what?!"
"Never mind, Ewan, never mind.  You worship at the altar of the cheeses.  As long as you're happy."

"Oh, I AM, Jazzy, I AM!"  beamed Ewan, wagging his mad, over-sized, fluffy tail.  "How can I ever be sad when I have, not just the baby cheesus to love but, as well, my mummy, my daddy, my pretty lady Fizzy and my bestest-ever friend in the whole of the world, who is Jasper?!"

How could anyone NOT love Ewan?

"Ewan." I replied. "You are like no other dog I've ever met.  Don't you ever stop being you."

As Ewan beamed his silly smile wider than ever, I realised that I had learned not just to tolerate him.  Oh no.  I had learned to love him.

True, he had the brain of a cold, overcooked, sprout on Boxing Day.  But that just made him all the more loveable.

Baby cheesus, indeed.  For goodness' sake...


Good Night.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Sunday 21 November 2010

I feel you will be proud of my efforts this evening, dear reader.  For I have been in the kitchen, assisting my partner.  Together, we have been making bird-seed 'cakes' for the many feathered visitors which I am pleased to welcome to my garden.  I like to provide sustenance to those less-fortunate than myself during the harsh winter months, and I enjoy watching the activities of birds through the French Windows on a cold weekend afternoon.  The fact that they also act as bait for rashly-inclined local cats is merely an unlooked-for bonus.

I don't believe I will see my squirrel friend from last year.  He stopped calling around some months ago.  One of my spies informs me that my tree-dwelling chum found himself an amiable wife at the end of the spring and, together, they moved to the edge of a field at the other end of the lane (just beyond the ford, which serves as my personal bathing-pool).  There is a small grove of young beech trees and two hazel hedges there, and no houses (ergo no cats) - an ideal location for a young couple to set-up a drey and raise their family.  I felt a stab of pride in having played my part in the saving of this young squirrel's life - and I still smile when I think of the assault he launched on the cruel cat Peaches.

In any event, more birds seem to be around this year than previously.  I don't like to see the poor fellows going beakless and hungry.  My partner bought a second-hand library book earlier this year (we have done an incredible amount of reading since we parted company with the television back in March 2009) - The Patio Garden Month by Month for a mere £2.  It's rather helpful for my partner, though not for me - if you are a regular reader of my barkings then you will be well acquainted with my views on gardens and domestic horticulture.  As well as larger garden designs, suggestions, and monthly tips, the book also offers little projects which one may undertake for the benefit of one's garden and its wildlife.  The mini-project for December is a recipe for the afore-mentioned bird-seed cakes.  Despite it being only November, my partner and I thought we'd have a go.  I believe we have achieved some measure of success - despite the fact that I let my partner do the stirring of the mixture.

We amended the recipe to better suit our budget and have accomplished the production of seven acceptably-sized cakes.  Here's how we did it.  We used:
  • Some empty yoghurt pots.  Any will do, but we found the best size and shape to be a Muller Light individual pot (Any flavour for me, black cherry or mandarin for my partner.  I won't hear a bad word barked about yoghurt).  You could also use any old plastic tub or even half an empty coconut shell.
  • Two normal-sized pats of lard or dripping (you could also use suet).
  • A bag of wild bird seed from the Pound Shop, one of those red-bag thingies with peanuts in (79p from Mr. Sainsbury's emporium), a small packet of sunflower seeds and the crushed-up remnants of a box of dog biscuits I decided I didn't like any more.  With hindsight, we'd either have used a bit more lard or a bit less seed-mix, but our results were quite acceptable for a first attempt - and I very much doubt that the birds will complain if our first batch of cakes should chance to break apart when subject to peckage.
And here's what we did:
  • In a large pan, we melted the lard down to liquid - keep the temperature low though, you don't want that stuff bubbling up and spitting burning goo onto your face and whiskers.
  • We added the nuts, seeds, etc. (we could have put in a few currants as well, actually.  Maybe next time.) and mixed the whole stuff together.
  • When mixed, we transferred the mix to the individual yoghurt pots, ensuring an even mix of seed/lard each, and pat down firmly.
  • Leave the pots to cool completely and solidify.
  • When cold, either place or hang the pot as it is - or turn the cake out of its mould and place or hang it with string as desired for the birdies to feast upon.
I certainly think my partner should have used a greater ratio of lard to seed.  On balance, perhaps I should not have been quite so forward in offering up my old biscuits.  Ah well.  'Tis done, however - and done for the best.  Here is a link to an easier description of how to make a bird-seed cake (my partner cannot use this method - I shall tell you why in a moment):

RSPB - How to make a bird seed cake

This method was unsuitable for my partner because she has a life-threatening nut allergy.  We therefore prepared our mixture in an old wok, which will no longer be used to prepare food (I knew we'd saved it for a reason), with similarly-redundant utensils).

It is a good feeling - to be able to spend time doing good deeds in order to assist one's feathered brethren.

I entreat you to keep that - and my many other charitable works - in mind as you read the following:



PART THIRTY-ONE

Once I had taken my first, faltering steps on the way of wickedness, I had neither the will nor the inclination to turn back.  The bin-emptying was just the beginning of it.

I created a new, fresh, mess every day and even began to take a certain pride in my work.  Each evening, the young lady would clear up the strewn-about rubbish whilst telling me, in no uncertain terms, what she thought of me.  Inevitably, her parents became involved and a solution proposed.  The very next day I trotted into the kitchen to find the bin placed high on a worktop surface, next to the sink.  Muttering a curse, I determined that I would not be thwarted this easily.  I sniffed about, trying to settle upon a fresh channel of cheekiness.

I was toying with the idea of pulling down the curtain, although lamenting that this would not also furnish me with something to eat, when my nostrils alighted on a tempting aroma issuing from the main kitchen worktop.  I was very agile in those days and, using the handle on the oven-door as a half-way leverage point, managed to half jump, half climb onto the worktop.  A delicious pat of butter stood there on its little dish.  Wasting no more time, I stole it, retreating to my beanbag to savour my prize.  That evening, I pretended to be asleep as I enjoyed the sounds of confusion and bewilderment as to the whereabouts of the butter pat.  Suspicious eyes fell upon me, but I maintained an expression of the purest innocence.  The mysterious butter disappearances continued without explanation for several days until, one day, I clambered up to my lofty perch and found that the butter-pat was surrounded by large empty glass bottles.  I laughed disdainfully at the humans' pitiful efforts to thwart the thief.  'Is this really the best they can do?' I wondered to myself as I delicately moved one of the bottles aside, taking the utmost care not to upset it.  Similarly careful nudging of the adjacent bottle created a space large enough to enable me to slide out the buttery booty.  I initially planned on simply jumping down to hasten away with my prize but, on reflection, I decided that it would be far more effective if I repositioned the bottles to their original stations surrounding the butter dish.  The sounds of utter astonishment and surprise which met my ears when the humans discovered the bottle circle intact but the butter missing convinced me that I had done he right thing and, throughout the evening, I found concealment of laughter well-nigh impossible.

Unfortunately, the following day, my butter adventures came to - quite literally - a sticky end.  Shortly after consumption of my latest plunder, most unpleasant sensations began to develop deep within my belly.  Unable to restrain the feelings, the entire pound of butter, now liquefied, gushed forth onto the carpet.  It went everywhere.  Happily, though, I felt much better after the outpouring.  I resolved to have a little recovery nap and then clean up the mess.  Alas!  The young girl returned from work early, emitting a loud shriek as she saw the state of the living room carpet. I leapt up at the sound, tripping over my beanbag in the process, which revealed the collection of butter-wrappers I'd been concealing within it.

Trembling with rage, the girl just glared at me and finally muttered darkly "Get out."  I had to sit in the garden whilst she cleaned up the mess and then told her parents what I had done upon their return.  I was in deep disgrace.

The following morning, a guard-rail was installed between the kitchen and living-room door - preventing all but closely-supervised access for me to the kitchen.

Kicking the wretched guard with a hind-paw as I turned from it, I knew it was time to step up the pressure.  No more b*gg*ring-about with bins and dairy-products.  It was time to get tough.

Next time in "The Evolution of Jasper"- books, parcel tape, wool and the moment when the line of acceptability was finally crossed.  Yes.  It gets worse.


Good night.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Sunday 14 November 2010

To the vets' for my annual health check-up and booster vaccinations this week.  Despite my usual aversion to the surgery, it made a rather pleasant little jaunt for me on an otherwise inclement evening.

I was checked-over with more thoroughness than on former occasions, due to my increasing vintage.  With a smile on the face of my surgeon, I was pronounced to be in excellent health and had suffered no diminishment of my faculties.  My delighted partner found an extra supper-chew to mark this happy achievement, which I hesitated not to snaffle up with great enjoyment.

A mere day or two later, however, and I began to wonder if perhaps there was not something to be barked for the occasional touch of blindness or hearing-loss.  I was taking my exercise with my partner, when I espied two ladies in the far-distance walking towards us.  I was just selecting the most appropriate one from my catalogue of winning smiles, when I noticed that the ladies were accompanied by two black/brown shapes, which were growing ever-larger and clearer as they neared me.
'Oh, bl**dy hell...' I muttered to myself, trying to find an escape-route in the thick scrub alongside the path - but it was too late.  The blobs formed themselves into Eddie and Angus, the Rottweilers.  And they'd clocked me.

They trotted up, both hailing me brightly in unison, as they approached.
"Here he is!" wuffed Angus.
"Jasper, my dear boy!" barked Eddie.
"Ooo - er -- hello, um, lads..." I replied, doubtfully, wondering why they weren't still at each other's throats, following the vicious fight described in my previous Blog entry.  I blinked hard, thinking that I might have been imagining things - but no.  Here they stood before me, side by side, large tails enthusiastically on the wag.  "I thought you chaps weren't barking to each other?"
"Whatever do you mean, old boy?" asked Eddie good-naturedly.

I began to wonder if they were deliberately winding me up.  After all, both Angus and Eddie had used words and expressed sentiments against each other in their late disagreement which I would not have considered using against any other dog - even in jest.  But both Rottweilers were looking at me earnestly, without any hint of sarcasm or mockery in their eyes.

"Erm... the croissant thing the other day...?" I mumbled, and the dogs instantly comprehended.  Angus laughed.
"Ah, that!" he chuckled.  "A mere trifle.  Heh-heh - we're always having our little spats!"
"Don't laugh at him, dear." chided Eddie.  "Jasper isn't used to our odd little ways."  He turned and addressed me.  "Please accept our sincere apologies if you were troubled by our little debate.  You mustn't mind our nonsense."  I mustered a watery smile before they bade their farewells and trotted off in pursuit of their human partners.  As I watched them go, I grinned and shook my head.

Somehow, whenever I encounter Angus and Eddie together, I am always put in mind of those marvellous  doyennes of English television's glory-days, Dr. Evadne Hinge and Dame Hilda Bracket...

(The Dear Ladies)

"Evolution" Part Thirty-One next time!

Good night.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Tuesday 9 November 2010

I had intended to have a whiskery rant about the surfeit of fireworks, which disturbed my peace this past weekend.  However, fireworks of a somewhat different nature have forestalled me...

I was assisting my partner as she did some weeding in our garden on Sunday morning.  The sun was shining, no cats were in evidence - I was almost beginning to enjoy myself.  Across the way, I saw that parked outside my friend Eddie the Rottweiler's house was the car belonging to Angus and his partner.  Angus was also a Rottweiler and Eddie's long-term gentleman 'companion'.  Occasionally, the strains of affable chat wafted across to my ears from the direction of Eddie's high-fenced back garden, so they were enjoying their Sunday morning.

All of a sudden, just as my partner was battling with a particularly stubborn dandelion plant, the peace of the morning was shattered by an outraged snarl and volley of Rottweiler barks.

"You fat b*tch!" - that was Angus.
"What did you call me?!" snarled Edward.
"You heard me."
"Say it again! I dare you!  Say it again!"
"You FAT B*TCH!"
"You spiteful old sow!  If I had to sit in a hot room with you or a bucket of sick, I'd choose the bucket any day!"
"Finally, you get the company you're fit for!"
Eddie howled in fury and there followed the sounds of an agressive fight.  Female human screams and shouts were heard and, a few seconds later, the front door flew open and Angus was dragged unceremoniously out, hauled along the front path and shoved into his car by his partner.  Edward stood triumphantly in the doorway.
"Aye - go on!  Sling yer bl**dy hook, you tubby little titwitch.  And that's the last croissant you share with me, you vicious old queen!  Ah - Jasper! Come here, my dear boy.  Can I tempt you to a croissant?"

Oh poo.  As soon as I saw the two dogs emerge from the house, I had tried to slink away unnoticed - fully aware that I would be drawn into this undignified spectacle by either one of the participants.  It didn't escape me that a couple of cats had appeared and were hiding behind a bush, laughing.

Rolling my eyes heavenwards, I sighed and trudged over to Eddie's front garden.  Angus was still shouting, swearing and spitting out some of the foullest insults I'd heard in a long while.  The car windows misted up with the heat of Angus's rage and his breath.
"Alright, Ed?" I muttered, feeling quite relieved that the car doors were shut firmly on the livid Angus.
"Jasper darling, would you be a poppet, and tell that creature that I am no longer speaking to him?"
I shook my head in resignation.
"Angus, Ed says he's not talking to you." 
Angus's reply was largely muffled by the car windows and upholstery, but I managed to catch something addressed to Eddie about "not turning dearest, darling Jasper into your lickspittle..."
I raised an eyebrow.  There are many and varied roles I am prepared to fulfil in life - but a position as someone's "lickspittle" is not one of them.

"Oh, dry up, you malevolent old trout!" hissed Edward.  He continued.  "I would never inveigle dearest, darling Jasp - urkk!"  Eddie's collar was grasped firmly by his partner and he was pulled back into his house, the door being firmly closed upon him.  The last sounds I heard were Eddie at the receiving end of a lengthy telling-off from his partner.  I took the opportunity to bolt back to the safe haven of my own garden, kicking the gate closed behind me.  I found my own sweet partner digging out the roots of her persistently-rebellious dandelion.

"Blimey, J!" she exclaimed. "What was all that about?!"
"A French breakfast pastry, apparently."  I replied, casting a last glance Eddie's front-door and at the car which held the now-quiet Angus.  "Bl**dy hell."

As I trotted to my water-bowl for some refreshment, and my partner finally met with success in her struggle against the dandelion, I took the opportunity to reflect.  Much as I am loathe to take issue with one such as Kipling, I believe that when he wrote his oft-quoted line concerning the female of the species, Angus and Eddie cannot have been at the forefront of his mind...





PART THIRTY


Having established, despite my efforts at deception, that I was as well-trained in the usual disciplines as I was in matters lavatorial, my only reward was a permanent break with my schooling.  I was still, however, decidedly fed-up to the point of almost constant irritation.
The young lady persisted in refusing to acknowledge my position as pack leader.  I gave her ample peaceable opportunity to submit to my dominance but she refused to accede to the natural order and bow before me.  Even her parents seemed to side with her and assign to me an inferior role in the pack.  I couldn't understand it.



I considered myself then, as now, to be a reasonable dog.  I was perfectly prepared to overlook the fact that I was not fed before the rest of the household, as befitted my status.  I was prepared to comply with instructions (provided I could see the reasoning and logic behind them) and I was  even willing to, on occasion, sit upon the floor.  However, once all peaceful solutions had failed, I was regrettably left with no other option than a recourse to more drastic measures.


It had not escaped my attention that the house was kept meticulously clean.  Each week, a strange creature - entirely mute save for a bizarre, indecipherable, humming sound - was guided around the house.  It seemed to exist solely on a diet of dust and small particles on the floor and lived in the cupboard under the stairs.  Several times I attempted to engage it in conversation as it ambled along on its weekly walk - I even offered it one of my biscuits, thinking it might like a bit of variety in its diet - but all was to no avail.  It never so much as responded to me.  'Ah well,' I mused with resignation, 'Whatever tickles its pickle...' and resolved to ignore it in future.


I digress.  The young lady's parents - her mother in particular - took pride in the cleanliness of their establishment.  My way was immediately clear.


I waited until the young lady had departed for work and her parents likewise.  As soon as the sound of the latter's car had faded away I hopped down from my armchair, yawned, stretched and trotted into the kitchen, where stood my quarry:  the kitchen dustbin.


I had not been unobservant since the formulation of my plan.  I had learned that, to open the bin, one had to apply pressure with one's foot to a pedal, which caused the lid of the receptacle to flip up.  I placed one fore-paw on the pedal and pressed down.  As anticipated, up flew the lid.  I repeated the action a few times, mildly amused at the simplicity of the device.  I was swiftly distracted, however, by the tempting cornucopia of aromas issuing from within the bin.  Here was an unexpected bonus!  Reverting to my original plan, I opened the bin lid once more and then pushed the whole thing over onto the floor - drawing on skills and experience gleaned with Rex and Kipper on "The Night of the Isolated Bitches" (from Part Fifteen of this series).  The bin was - by a fortunate chance - almost full.  Over the kitchen floor spewed the contents: vegetable and fruit peelings deemed inappropriate for the compost heap; skins from some baked fish; all kinds of wrappers; tea-bags; metal foil; waxed cardboard cartons; oh!  I was enraptured.  The bin's contents were within a thin but large white plastic sack - here was another unanticipated advantage:  I had prepared for a morning of heavy labour, but the white sack made my task much simpler.  Grasping the upper edge of the sack gently within my fangs, I pulled it free from the casing of the bin and dragged it into the living-room.


Although some of the sack's contents had disgorged onto the kitchen floor, there was plenty left for the living room.  I dragged the sack around and around the living-room, leaving trails of unpleasant-smelling filth in my wake.  Once the sack was almost empty, I pulled it back to the kitchen and sat for a moment to catch my breath.  That achieved, I wandered around eating the various appealing items before settling back into my armchair well-satisfied with my efforts, occasionally chuckling to myself as I considered the attendant pleasures that sometimes occurred when punishing one's inferiors...


My plan bore delightful fruit.  The cries of shock and displeasure from the young lady when she returned home were balm to my ears.  She hastened to clear away the mess and render everything to its former ordered state - berating me all the while - before her parents got home.  She succeeded by the narrowest of margins.


"Don't you EVER do that again, Jasper!" she hissed, viciously, through gritted teeth as we heard the vehicle belonging to her parents drawing up to the property.


'You're having a laugh, love.' I thought to myself, whilst giving her a doe-eyed and contrite, apologetic look.  'I shall be doing it again tomorrow - and the next day - and the next day after that.  Until you recognise me as pack leader, in fact.'


And that was just the beginning of my campaign.  With a delightful shiver, I realised just how good it felt to be bad...


Good night.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Thursday 4 November 2010

I've seen some mad stuff in my time, believe me - but this honestly takes the Schmacko, it really does.

Is it me?  I mean, seriously.  Is it me?!

Taking cuttings from Geraniums.  Why?

Today was one of those autumn days that I love: sunny during the daylight hours, showing-off the autumnal colours in all their glorious golden splendour; an acceptable afternoon walk; a hearty dinner upon arrival home from the office and luxuriating in the warmth of one of my favourite blankets as the wind howls through the trees outside - my partner has left our French Windows curtains open, as I like to watch the trees as their branches bend and whirl about in the gales.  I was distracted, however, from these joys by the sight of my partner ascending our staircase with an odd assortment of items in her arms.  I felt I had no option but to follow.

I watched, intrigued, as my partner cut several small shoots from one of the geranium plants that hadn't been killed-off by the first frosts (oh, how I was grateful to those frosts - I've been trying for months to annihilate those bl**dy little hangers-on).  Initially, I assumed that my partner was experimenting with a bizarre form of plant-sacrifice to an as-yet un-named garden deity, and was failing miserably.
"Oh, give it here woman." I sighed, stretching out a wearily-resigned paw.  "I'll finish it off for you."
"No, no Jasper!" cried my sweet young partner, gently patting me.  "I'm not killing it; I'm trying to propagate some new plants!"
"Proper-what?!"  Oh, here was a new one...  Images of a Nixon-Watergate-type scandal flashed briefly before my eyes...  I thought I had hidden what I'd recently done in the garden beyond any form of investigative discovery...

"Propagate!  It means that you help to start a new life, in this case a baby geranium, from the flesh of an old one."
"Fine..." I muttered doubtfully.  "Why?"
"Because I would like some geraniums in the garden next year and want to have a go at doing this.  It's exciting!"

I wasn't convinced.  I looked dubiously on as my partner rinsed and soaked her three tiny shootlings in the bathroom sink.  She was following a set of instructions obtained from the BBC website's gardening pages.  Hmmm...  I bark no complaint whatsoever about the BBC's cookery pages (particularly the excellent and always-reliable recipe finder) - but gardening?  Oh no.  Gardens are for basking and relaxing in, not for the encouragement of salads (which can be easily procured from our local greengrocer with only minimal effort) and/or noxious weeds.  To my mind, gardening is like stroking a cat:- relaxing to a human at the time - but ultimately pointless.

As my partner carefully dipped each cutting into a small white tub of brown gloopy stuff, described as "rooting gel", I decided it was time to put my paw down.
"Those geraniums are not being planted out in my garden." I barked.
"Quite right, Jasper." responded my partner, not even turning to look at me.  "These geraniums are being planted out in our garden."

Dammit!

As if the above-described madness wasn't ludicrous enough, once the tiny shoots had been "potted" in a small flower-pot, my partner constructed an elaborate 'tent' for them out of three small twigs and some clear plastic sheeting.  This witlessness accomplished, the shoots in their little bubble-cocoon was placed (markedly out of my reach) on our bedroom window-sill.  I quickly scanned the locality for leg-up points to utilise when my partner's back was turned, but none showed any promise - and the bedroom sill IS particularly high.

I had been thwarted again.  Adopting a thunderous expression, I stalked back downstairs and sought refuge in my armchair.  I endeavoured to find succour in a resumption of watching the winds in the trees outside my French windows - but, alas, the whirling and bending branches now seemed as though they were fingers, pointing at me in derision and making offensive hand-gestures.  The howling winds had taken on the distinct tones of taunting, mocking laughter... and they were laughing at me.

I shoved my head under a couple of cushions and made a mental note to mete out an appropriate punishment to my partner for her disrespectful impudence the very next time my bladder was full.

More "Evolution" next time!

Good night.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Saturday 30 October 2010

And so another payday grinds around for my partner and I.  We allow ourselves a special treat each month, come payday.  She treats herself to a pizza for her dinner (Sainsbury's Thin 'n' crispy Roasted Vegetable this month) and a packet of treats for me.  If there is spare cash, then a nice piece of unusual cheese may be procured for us to taste.

This leads me on to Ewan, the pea-brained dog who shares my office space.  Ewan is a dog who would struggle to comprehend the pricing structure at The Pound Shop.  Most likely due to some unspecified occurrence during his birth or puppyhood, Ewan's head is almost entirely empty.  He is, however, one of the sweetest-natured, most generous and friendly fellows one could ever chance upon.  If you have previously encountered him on these pages you will know of his bizarre and delusional obsession with cheese in all its forms.

As we sat in the yard enjoying some autumnal sunshine, I shared with Ewan a nugget of trivia which I knew would appeal to my friend.
"Ewan, did you know that France alone has over 359 different types of cheese?  Some people think there might be nearer to 1,000!"
"Ooooooo....!" gasped Ewan, wistfully.  He closed his big brown eyes and I could tell that he was imagining himself floating through clouds of all kinds of cheeses - every now and then he stretched out his neck and head and snapped his jaws open and shut; sampling random mouthfuls of the dream-cheeses.  "Ooooo..." he sighed again.  "That's, like, loads...!  Jasper, that's... that's..." Ewan struggled to find a way to verbalise his wonderment.  He leaned in closer to me and whispered "That's... more than six!"
I grinned at him and nodded.  "Is it, Jazz?" he asked, "Is it more than six?"
"Many, many more than six, Ewan." I replied.  Ewan leapt to his paws and scampered off to tell his basket-mate, Fizzy (who was hunting for weasels in the woodpile), of his new-found fact.  He wasn't gone for long, and soon returned to sit down beside me again.
"Jasper," he asked, "If you was a cheese -"
"If I were a cheese, Ewan." I corrected him.
"Oh, right. Brilliant, yes.  If you was were a cheese, what cheese would you be?"

I smiled as I considered my friend's question.
"Probably a nice, strong, mature true English Cheddar." I decided.  Traditional, loyal and flavoursome.
"What about Fizzy?  What cheese is Fizzy?"  giggled Ewan.

I thought about the feisty, sparky little black Labrador bitch.  She was not reknowned for her patience, but she was obviously deeply fond of Ewan and had done a vast deal to calm him and limit the extent of his excitable mania.  One could almost say that she had tamed him.  Back in the pre-Fizzy days, Ewan would bark, whine and yelp to himself constantly.  That stopped within a few short weeks of Fizzy's arrival and Ewan went from a hopeless basket-case to a well-behaved, presentable, dog who did his best with what nature had bestowed on him.  It really was a most remarkable change.

"Parmesan." I announced.  Ewan laughed and squealed in delight.  "Fizzy is Parmesan." I went on. "She is very rough and hard to start with, but she is quick to melt and she adds so much flavour and enjoyment to the simplest of dishes."
"Yes! Yes! Yes!" yipped Ewan, jumping up and down in high glee.

"And me, Jazz?!" barked Ewan, once he had calmed himself a little.  "What cheese is Ewan?!"
I had anticipated the question, but not yet formulated an answer.  How to describe Ewan in cheese-form?  At length, it came to me in a flash of inspiration.
"Ewan, my friend," I said, solemnly.  "You are Emmental - or possibly a nice piece of Jarlsberg.  Full of holes in the most random of places - and so many holes that one wonders how the whole cheese works.  And yet it DOES work, with a warm, mild and entirely comforting texture - a bizarre but ultimately sweet and delicious unique cheese."

Ewan was rendered barkless.  He beamed from ear to ear and looked actually quite moved.  Fizzy ambled up, having abandoned her weasel-hunt.
"Fizzy!" yelped Ewan, as he jumped up to kiss his beloved lady, "Jasper says I'm a holy cheese!  I'm a cheese priest!"

Shaking my head, I grinned and winked at Fizzy, who returned my smile as Ewan slobbered all over her.

Good old Ewan.

But - hey! - It's Saturday night after payday!!  And so you get TWO Ewans for the price of one!  There's an unexpected bargain for you, eh?!  Yes - my partner's brother and sister-in-law and their delightful children, six-year-old Ewan and one-year-old Carys came for an unexpected visit, and my partner and I were thrilled to see them.  Little (human) Ewan is anything BUT dim, and his baby sister is equally charming - she is my particular favourite, I'll admit - but then I always do tend to get along better with lovely ladies...


Possibly the two loveliest human children in existence.

One of young Ewan's current passions is for cars of various types.  Seated alongside my partner the other evening, the lad was extolling the virtues of the new vehicle belonging to one of his school-friend (Adam)'s father.  My partner keenly enquired as to the make and model of this new carriage.  The reply, I'll admit, left me somewhat startled. 

It was, apparently, a "Toyota Enema".

Apparently it has sliding doors.  Well, that would be a useful feature, I daresay.  Not, however, a chariot I shall be looking to ride in anytime soon.

Mind you - consider the humble "Vauxhall Nova".  In Spanish 'no va' means "doesn't go".  And in Japanese 'Coca-Cola' means "bite the wax tadpole".  So think on, my friends.

Think on.



PART TWENTY-NINE 



Only a few short days after the previously-described fight with the Alsatian, I was ushered into the young lady’s car for an outing. I must admit that I DID like this part of my new existence – whilst in the rescue kennels I had missed the regular trips in a vehicle. ‘Twas true that the new carriage was not of my favourite kind – a white work-van – but was a nicely-compact green Vauxhall Corsa.

In actual fact, the young woman who became my partner never DID fully understand why I always used to dash enthusiastically towards white vans. It took several years to get that out of my system. I believe she suspected that it had something to do with my former life – but she had not yet learned to comprehend my language and therefore my explanations that the white work-van rides were the happiest times of my pre-rescue shelter days.

I digress. I enjoyed my rides in the car. Right up until the point that I jumped out at a destination which did not please me.

It was a deeply rural location, in which the scent of horses, donkeys and dogs was rife. We emerged from our vehicle (the young lady and I) into a muddy and sodden field, to be greeted by a somewhat unique lady with whom my partner had made a prior appointment. There followed an hour of utter misery. I was hauled here and there in the lead, whilst being “educated” in concepts and ideals which I had grasped whilst still a puppy.

The odd lady pronounced me to be an acceptable pupil and off we went. I thought I’d seen the last of her – but no. Oh no.

The following Wednesday evening, I was just settling down for the evening when I was unceremoniously hauled off my beanbag and encouraged into the Little Green Corsa. Anticipating some unexpected treat or social occasion, I was keenly compliant. HA! If only I had known…

We proceeded to a local village hall, some three miles away. Entering the hall, I passed a number of young pups and marginally-older canine infants on the way out. This was Dog Training School – and I was enrolled as an “adult beginner”. Oh, the humiliation…

I was registered with the odd lady we’d met the other day, and her equally-odd female compatriot, and invited to take my place in a circle of dogs and owners currently taking form in the hall. One or two of the pups remained with their owners at the edges of the hall, watching. Probably because they had older housemates in the “adult beginners” class and had to wait for them to finish before they could leave. The little pups giggled ceaselessly.

I took a position in front of a placid spaniel and behind a large Alsation bitch, who turned and winked at me with a grin. She seemed to belong to someone who was a friend of my young lady.

“Alright?!” she smiled. “This is my third time repeating this class. I keep getting chucked out for being naughty!”

Now this was MY kind of woman!

“My name’s Tiki.”

“Captain, er… Jasper.” I replied.

“Jasper’s better.” said my new friend. OK then, I thought. Jasper it is, from now on.

The training was a bit of an eye-opener, though not in a tail-wagging way. The setting was totally inappropriate. For a start, there were far too many dogs in the class, so how anyone learned anything was beyond me. Quite apart from that, the heating was on full blast, with no open door or windows – so it wasn’t long before the majority of dogs either started to nod off to sleep or became increasingly irritable. I positively HATED having to walk round and round in stupid circles.

As a diversion, I began to nip and fuss at Tiki’s tail, eventually gripping onto it and being dragged around the circle by her. The little pups at the side hooted with laughter, which spurred us on to greater and cheekier antics. After only a couple of sessions, Tiki and I were forcibly separated and forbidden to stand with each other in the circle.

Eventually, my young lady seemed to tumble to the fact that I was making a mockery of the training. When we moved onto the “lie down” instruction, I would loudly pretend to fall asleep and snore (which my puppy audience really loved) and then not wake up when told and having to be dragged around the once-again-moving circle on my belly. That very night, the young lady glared at me after putting me into my car seat.

“You’re basically just taking the p*ss, aren’t you, Jasper?” she accused. The gleam in my eye betrayed me. “You know how to do all this stuff, don’t you?”

I couldn’t deny it.

The upshot was that that was the last-ever time I had to go to a dog-training class. The regrettable downside was that I was forced to develop new, more inventive, and increasingly-harsher strategies for punishing this evil girl who had stolen me from my happy rescue-shelter security…


Good night.