The extra bits...(Under construction).

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Remembering Fred...

      I've always had dogs in my life, whether it be the greyhounds my parents trained, whippets that I used to rabbit with or walking companions such as Bear. I cannot think of a time when I was actually not in the company of canine souls, all of them special and welcome in different ways, well apart from the black dog that is.

     In the short time I have worked my allotment I've already found myself looking forward to the peace and the tranquility to my mind that it brings, allowing not just the harrowing parts of recent years that haunt me fade for a short time , but also allowing more pleasant memories the space to resurface for awhile. I was supposed to be attacking the jungle that is trying to strangle the  two cider trees which along came with the plot but the sun was shining and I stopped to listen to a blackbird singing his heart out. As I sat there listening with closed eyes, face upturned to the sun, my mind stopped racing and began to wander of its own accord down paths where distant past memories lie.

     I found myself thinking of Fred, not named after my middle name but after Fred Dibner the steeple jack who made quite an impact on me in my youth. I remembered vividly the day Fred arrived, an eight week old white and tan bundle of attitude that sat in the palm of my hand. The family were in blessed ignorance of the reign of terror that was about to begin. At the time I also had a whippet called Whisp, typical of the breed she would sit with snooty aloofness showing about as much get up and go as a knackered old nag. But beneath her disdain, fragile looks, and apparent inability to move from in front of the coal fire there lurked such a gracefully rapid killing machine that was as tough as well oiled leather. 

      Fred's arrival was looked on by Whisp with total disinterest despite his endless attempts to curry favour and initiate himself into the pack. That was until about a week after his arrival when even I could notice the stench of rotten milk coming from his ears. For Whisp, with much keener senses, this must have been nauseous and finally she could take now more. As he waddled past her lofty station on her favourite chair she reached down as if plucking a tharn rabbit from the grass and as quick as a flash she had him pinned down then she proceeded to spend the next half hour licking all trace of odour from him. It was the beginning of a friendship that only ending with the all to soon visit of the reaper.

      As Fred grew it became obvious he had small dog syndrome and was willing to pit himself against all comers, other dogs, foxes, humans, cars and even the feral cats that lurked around the cement work's company houses we lived in. My brother, all six foot four of him, was absolutely petrified of Fred and didn't Fred just know it. The times that I came in from cycling home from work to find my brother cowering in the kitchen corner with Fred snarling and spitting pure venom at him was wonderful. Yes there was a healthy sibling rivalry between my brother and I and Fred tipped the scales to my advantage. When I was feeling particularly evil or we'd had one of our brotherly spats I would make a brew and even some toast before calling Fred to heal. In his short life Fred managed to draw blood from various neighbours and family members including myself, but he made up for this with fierce loyalty and the flip side of his psychotic nature was as endearing as any dog I've known,  he just happened to have issues that's all.

     Whisp and Fred soon became quite the double act. One of their favourite tricks was to run off together to the cement work's stock pile. An area where mounds of sand, clinker and limestone were piled on high but also where a couple of acres were overgrown with tangled deciduous trees through which a couple of streams ran and the overgrown mounds were dotted with rabbit burrows and a small badger set. This overgrown playground was bordered by fields which also contained a couple of small ponds. They would start by innocently meandering down my parents very long garden towards the permanently open gate which led to the field in front of the stock pile. One they got halfway to the gate without being noticed then they'd pin their ears back and head at break neck speed to the stock pile. No amount of cursing would bring them to heal once they'd made their break. It would always be at least five hours before two knackered, panting, filthy and usually full dogs would stagger through the back door looking very pleased with themselves.

     Their excursions did have a disadvantage upon such occasion as when you wanted to leave the house, perhaps to go greyhound racing or the like. Then if they'd done a runner yours truly would have to go and retrieve them. Once found Whisp would surrender without a fuss and walk upto you as if naught had occurred, Fred on the hand would head for the nearest rabbit burrow and dive straight into it turning around so that all that could be seen were two green glowing orbs and he kept up a steady growling as if saying 'you feeling lucky puck?'. I soon learnt to take a long stick and wear me wellies when retrieval was required. As soon as he'd take up in his chosen hole I'd thrust the stick down it knowing he'd attack it with all he had. As soon as it felt he'd sunk his teeth into it I'd pull the stick out with all my might throwing it and the attached Fred as far as I could. Then I'd smartly step in front of his chosen burrow whilst he hurtled headlong towards it. Blocked by my legs he'd launch a full scale attack on them...hence the wellies. I'd then time my grab and snatch him from the ground and carry him from the stock pile. Damn thing was as soon as I hoisted him up he became as playful as a pup.

      It's funny the memories that some peace and quiet can let slip back to the surface. I have so many stories and memories from before I lost my mind, it's difficult not to smile when I think of Fred and some of the stuff he got up too, but perhaps those tails can await a tad longer before I recount them to you. My dad used to say that Fred was all teeth and balls.....not a bad thing at times. Yep he was definitely a big dog in a small body......I wonder if you know what type of dog Fred was? 

     Till the next time, take care 

John 
      

     

Monday, 28 April 2014

Shout out Monday....

     Greetings fellow bloggers and welcome to the second installment of 'shout out Monday' where I hope to introduce you to blogs that are far more deserving and, to be brutally honest, far more interesting than my meagre offering. Last week twas the turn of Rachel at Eternally 28 and I'm hoping you're enjoying her warm and humorous blog.

    This weeks humble offering is an entirely different kettle of fish, as the author is not what you may think. I first followed this blog in my previous life before the black dog had rendered my mind asunder and I lost my way in the world. I only came across it again the other day and it still holds a certain charm. 



       So without any further ado or girding of the loins this week's shout out is for the blog of William the lurcher whose thoughts and doggy adventures are to found here. Though maybe not everyone's cup of, and no blog is, this is a must for dog lovers as William's adventures are chronicled by his long suffering owner er I mean secretary. So if you're canine companion requires a lift let them take a peek at William's blog and soon their tail will be wagging once more. 

Till the next time, take care. 

John 

     

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Task 3 of 52

      



      I owe you an apology. Spurred on by an idea from Dreamer's blog, Living a slow and simple life , I commenced to endeavour to complete one task every week for a year. Hopefully managing to amass a bucket full of tasks large and small and report an update every Sunday. Now I could say that I've done this on the allotment or walking through peaceful woodland but these would be sort of coping out I feel. The idea, I think,  is to complete something that's needed finishing, start something new or attempt something out of the blue. So I'm going to give it another go and if you, gentle reader, would give me a prod to remind myself of any more lapsing it would be genuinely appreciated. 

      So this week's task of 52 is two fold, firstly part is to start the tasks again, tick, and secondly is to offer you my first attempt at poetry (oh stop sniggering at the back). Inspired by my good friend across the pond Casey I'm attempting Haiku. So here goes, task 3 of 52 my first Haiku...... 


Darkest canine growl
Behind me breathing rancid 
Future peace awaits

                                          J.Wooldridge 2014 

      Till tomorrow's shout out, take damn good care of yourselves. 

John.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Right or wrong? please debate....

     I have a slight dilemma here this morning. For the time I have attended my place of work at the fun factory (notice the use of attended not actually worked), the small areas of grass that border the factory have been left mainly untended and used primarily for a dumping ground for all manner of factory waste. For people who try to look up instead of being downcast when here there has always been an abundance of wildlife to observe. Indeed I've seen rabbit, shrew, fox, bats, crested newt, badger, clouds of swirling starlings, buzzard, kestrel, sparrow hawk and even a green woodpecker for a season. 

     But since last autumn that has changed as we have been taken over by a worldwide company and apparently appearances are all. So now the these areas are rapidly becoming manicured deserts bereft of so much life. Now my dilemma be this.....the picking of wildflowers is illegal in this country but within this managed desert I came across some chewed n stunted cowslips now obviously struggling with the new cutting regime. So do I leave them to their own devices or do I relocate them to somewhere more suitable where they perhaps may flourish once again? 

     Well the law abiding side of me says no, why without rules there will be chaos. If we all went doing just want we wanted to do where would society end up? But the piracy side says hang on a mo, free plants for the wildflower area beneath thy orchard John? Methinks that this would be a goodly thing to do.....



     Well I guess it's down to your own conscious what you would do, to me it's a no brainer and these will be ensconced in their new home this evening on my back from the fun factory. 

     Til next time, take care me hearties ahhh haa 

John 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Allotment ...... Post 4

    


      Firstly let me express my humble gratitude for the advice and ideas offered by your good selves regarding the allotment that I am endeavouring to run, or should that be ruin? Any and all advice or ideas offered are always gratefully accepted.


     As you may have gathered from my previous allotment posts a lack of knowledge has not stopped me, upon occasion, attacking the plot with some gusto..... even if I do say so myself. I now have an idea of where I want to go with this 'Kingdom of John'. So to recap, the basic, but fluid, plan looks something like this.... 


     About two thirds of the plot will be given over to apple orchard, which has now mainly been planted although I'm considering the addition of a row of cordon apple trees which will also define the line of one boundary. The purpose of the orchard, instead of filling the plot with row upon row of manicured vegetables? Well it's quite a simple answer...... Cider! The other third will be given over to vegetables in raised beds. I wish to lesson my impact on nature so I'll be avoiding herbicides, pesticides and other such chemicals where possible. I'll also be trying to incorporate measures to encourage a balance of wildlife within the plot, which may well cause some raised eyebrows with the other allotmenters. I've received some great tips from Countryside Tails on helping to encourage wildlife and her post here is an excellent read regarding plants to incorporate in such a scheme. Which leads nicely to one of my ideas which is to turn the floor area of the orchard into a wildflower meadow hopefully attracting a host of wee pollinating beasties which will benefit not just mine but also the neighbours allotments. A further boundary will be defined by a low mixed fruit hedge and my thanks for this idea to annie b. There will of course be a shed and Cro's idea of one seems most agreeable, with one additional item...... I'm hoping to incorporate a living roof on the shed.  


     I have already started upon the wildflower meadow and bearing in mind that the majority of it will be under the dappled shade of my cider trees I'm incorporating some woodland flowers and then letting mother nature add what she wishes too (obviously she knows best). My aged and rapidly decaying parents cleared one of their flower borders the other week of several clumps of bluebells and just cast them aside into their 'dump anything that doesn't fit into how a garden should be' area. I was supposed to be doing this for them so that the bulbs could be saved, patience is not one of their virtues I have to say. So arriving there t'other day expecting to grab myself some freshly dug bulbs I ended up rummaging in the dump zone trying to find as many bulbs as I could salvage. I ended up with quite a few but unfortunately most, if not all were now in poor condition. Not to be disheartened I have planted them into the strimmed grass of my plot, mainly around the two golden delicious cider trees which will have the wider spread of foliage of the cider trees that I've planted.




     I've painstakingly planted each bulb separately so hopefully if some die and rot they won't affect others. One bonus was a clump of snowdrops found in with the bluebells and these have been planted the same way. Fingers crossed that a reasonable percentage will appear next season. 


     My next task is to free the two original cider trees from the jungle that is strangling them, they are also in dire need of pruning but I believe that will have to wait until late autumn and their sap to drop so that they don't bleed to death.




     At the rear of the plot it is bordered by traditional council insecure fencing which the local youth take great pleasure in climbing and causing mayhem on the allotments (bless em) at the point it passes my Kingdom , as here is one of the few bare spots in the fence. So I've encouraged Bear's name sake, instead of ragging it out as a weed, by threading it's tendrils through the fence, providing a future thorny deterrent and perhaps some 'cultivated' wild fruit... result methinks.





    Finally this week I'm hoping to have one if not two raised beds in position ready for filling with compost.

     I'm hoping that this allotment will give me a place to shelter from the world and to collect my thoughts when the black dog next bites. I have no idea how long I'll be able to tend this ground as my life is still fluid and staying in one place is something that may well still elude me. 


     Till the next time, thanks for taking the time to read thus far and please take bloody good care of your loved ones..they are so special and should be treated as such every waking moment of your lives. 


John 




Monday, 21 April 2014

Shout out Monday

     Now then, I may well be a boring old fart and what I have to blog about may indeed hold absolutely no interest for you folk out there but there are many other interesting, warm, exceptional, educational, humorous and beautifully written blogs around which may well appeal to many of you. 

      So henceforth, on every Monday, I shall be bringing to your attention far better blogs than this here load of twaddle. They may already be known to you but they be gems yet undiscovered by your goodly selves. 

     I have a wide and varied selection from which to make my first humble offering for your delectation, but my first reading recommendation for you to enjoy is written by Rachel. On her blog Rachel will make you smile inwardly and sometimes laugh out loud with her wry and honest outlook on the world around her. From her writing you will find a warmth, that is sometimes tinged with sadness, that will draw you into her world and make you want to settle down and read with a brew and piece of cake not too far away. So go on and take a visit to Rachel's blog here and let her warmth welcome you. 

Till the next time, take care and especially of those whom you love. 

John 

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Allotment ...... Post 3

     At last, pictures..... 



There are two apple trees in here...honestly there is.... 

Pirated compost bin.... 

Let the strimming begin.... 

The beginnin  of the cider orchard...  


Final job as light beginning to fade... Bird feeders 
      Not many I grant you, but gives you a little idea of what's happening. Until the next time, take good care of yourselves and especially your loved ones.

John 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Allotment ...... Post 2


     Just as I bloody well thought, my alloted allotment plot did indeed prove to be an overgrown bleeding mess of abandoned allotment detritus, skutch grass, rioting raspberries, a rotting rabbit carcass and rather large collection of unfortunately empty vodka bottles..... I love it. 

     After careful consideration and seconds of forward planning I have decided what I want to grow, how I'd like to grow it, the general layout of my Kingdom and roughly how to make a start.... all over a brew and piece of toast smothered in proper butter and honey, the toast that is not moi more's the pity!

     Firstly I asked myself what do I wish to receive from this overgrown bomb site and the simple answer was healing and cider. I don't want to be having to burst my balls for scant reward, cultivating masses of vegetables that I probably won't eat, I don't want to grow so many different types just to be able to say I grew this, this and that, especially as I'm going to have to learn how to grow each type from scratch. I want to grow what I know I'll eat and I want to grow it well. But I want to avoid chemicals and lesson my impact on nature.... do I want to much?

     So with these very broad, loose and probably changeable guide lines I have set forth and attacked the plot with some gusto incurring aching muscles, numerous nettle stings and a sun burnt back. I managed to strim about three quarters of the jungle before my strimmer twine came an end. This left me with a mound of strimmed jungle so after some minor piracy I managed to coble together a rough n ready compost bin out of three disintegrating pallets that I think had more than likely been discarded. 

     At the top of the plot (it's on a slope) amidst a un-breachable combination of raspberry canes gone native, rolls of wire fencing, the aforementioned bunny corpse, brambles giaganticaus and a host of sharp pointy things there appear to be two apple trees crying out for rescue. And as it happens these fit into my devious plans superbly for the next day a further six apple trees were planted by my good self, two golden delicious and four proper cider trees who's name escapes me at the moment.. tsk. After a bloody hard day and getting sun burnt I came back to my abode in the village to find my allotment tenant's agreement waiting for me...page eighty nine, paragraph four, line four states that fruit trees shall not be planted without first consultation and then obtaintion of written permission from the allotments association... oh Bollocks! 

     Never  mind, further plans include the rescue of the two strangled apple trees, the installation of a shed and very small greenhouse, four to five raised beds and the implementation of plan "bring wildlife into the plot". So I bid you all welcome to allotment plot 2a...it thickens you know.




Till next time take care all,

John

   

      

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Allotment ...... Post 1

     Yes I know that I have posted dribs and drabs about helping out upon an allotment so why "Post 1" I hear yea exclaim? 

     Well some good news came my way today in that I have been invited down to the allotments on Monday to pick my very own plot. Yes I am expecting an overgrown jungle and this year will be bloody hard work and a massive learning curve....but it's mine I tell you all mine...(cue insane laughing). 

     Right back to the plot, so to speak, so the idea being is that I'll be adding a new page to me blog here dedicated to the ups and downs of my torturous attempts at cultivating a small plot of land . All help and advice will be most humbly accepted and warmly appreciated. Now all I have to do is bloody well figure how to add a new page to me blog .... bugger! 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Short back and sides...

     Being slightly tired of un-twiddling brambles from Bramble's rather long and unkempt ears and other extremities every time she detours off the trail of late t'was high time to have the Bear trimmed. A quick text to Nicky, the lovely woman who bred Bear, and all was arranged. So yesterday we headed for Beaston and a chance for Bear to catch up with her mum, sister and nephew. Always makes me take a step back when pulling up at Nick's as her home nessals right under Beaston Castle which is home to a breeding pair of Peregrine Falcons.




     As usual we were both made to feel welcome with tea for moi and chews for the Bear. Pretty soon, after the initial excitement of meeting her doggy family, things settled down and the family portrait was taken by yours truly... 


Left to right... Sister Alice, Bear, Mother Milly and Nephew Albert. 

     It's a joy to see them together, and also it makes me realise that Bear needs to up her muscle growth and lose some weight to complete with these working relatives. Nicky soon had Bear shaved and she does look rather cute for it. 




I will let you know if Bramble is now Bramble proof, till then take good care of yourselves. 

John 
 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Still turning the corner....

     Tis with some relief that this block of shifts is nearing its end for I must confess that I am absolutely bloody well knackered! I have aches and pains upon my aches and pains and my eyes can barely focus without tears of tiredness stinging them. The drive back to my present abode should be interesting to say the least, me thinks that flat cap man's cars windows will be wide open and the doors will be shaking to AC-DC as I try to keep sleep at bay till I finally hit the hay. Though once there I fear sleep may be slow in coming as my mind is full of thoughts of an impending move and yet another fresh start for me and Bear. Although hopefully this may be the last one for sometime and we'll be able to find a routine and rhythm to our lives which I feel will help in my battle against the black dog. 

     It's not just work and the moving that's taking its toll though, indeed not. As I think I might well have mentioned before the signs have been there that I was slipping back to the abyss, not looking after myself physically, hygienically nor mentally. But I have taken steps to remedy this and the visit to the lakes was the start of what I'm hoping is to looked back upon as a watershed in my life, the point where the scales tip in my favour for a change. I know now that the road I'm walking will never be easy and it's even harder knowing what I've lost, probably never to be regained ever again. But walk it I intend to do and already the signs are there that things are a changing. Outwardly my hair is more kept, I don't smell like a sewer and my weight is actually reducing. Inwardly I'm starting to feel more than just guilt and pain and I'm more positive about things in general. And the secrets to the small yet for me dramatic changes?



The headless trick once again.... 


      Yep Bear, without her I don't believe I'd have lifted myself from the darkness this time around after losing so much. But now we're out on the hills above the village damn near everyday and the knackered feeling in my bones is one that I welcome. 

     We're staying here in the village, hopefully for sometime to come, as it's not a bad place and misfits like me are made most welcome. People here don't know me and the pain that my actions have left in there wake so I don't feel judged here. Also there's a decent pub, some beautiful walks, folk are friendly enough (some more so than others) and it's very Welsh, yes I think we'll stay here awhile and heal some more.

Till the next time, take care 

John