Tag Archives: dog

Spring, my mother said.

Let us celebrate the good done by surgeons, in particular eye surgeons. This note from my mother in Yorkshire is the result of her cataract operations giving her new sight.

Spring seems to have the upper hand at the moment.  When I was in the village this afternoon the big beech tree growing on the banks of the river and sending its great branches up, and above the bridge, was sending out its first delicate new leaves.  The sun shines through them and they are as soft as silk.  Standing on the bridge I could reach and touch them and the river below sparkled as it tumbled over stones that had been immersed in almost flood water for so long.    Even the small, brown trout were visible, and a Dipper was busy hunting for food beneath the water……………the village was busy, the traffic was noisy, but no one seemed interested or bothered with the magic on the bridge.

Spring is trying to assert itself in Kent as well. Here are a few observations from being out and about over the last week. I did not miss all the magic …

Friday, cycling along the road through the woods: an orange tip butterfly over a stand of garlic mustard, its food plant.

Saturday: Mrs Tittlemouse was on the yard, hoping to snatch a few crumbs. So were a sparrow and Mr Robin. He was so aggressive to the sparrow that Mrs Tittlemouse hid behind a flowerpot til he’d gone.

Sunday, living up to its name: Mrs Turnstone and daughter No 1 both saw the woodmouse; Mrs Turnstone feels that Spring is here.

Photo0924

Monday, a trip to a cold Hastings to meet daughter No 3 and young Mr Turnstone. Bikers and pagans out in force for May Day. The latter drinking deep; the greenness round the gills not entirely derived from greasepaint. As the Jerwood gallery were inviting visitors to draw a green man on acetate for their window, I obliged.

Tuesday, back on the Brompton through the woods, this time on the track: a whitethroat singing where the path crosses a farm with the remains of a hedge still on one side.

Wednesday: a lizard in the classroom when I was visiting daughter No 2. Most of her pupils had gone home, but the one remaining had his eyes peeled. We caught the reptile in this blanket, put her outdoors – and she straightway came back in again and hid out of reach!

lizard1

Thursday: swifts screaming overhead as I ate breakfast in the garden. And so many more flowers out than I noticed on Tuesday or Saturday. Going slowly uphill means that violets, bluebells, primroses, herb Robert, stitchwort are all on eye level to a slow cyclist (who still gets up the hill!) On my way out of town in the afternoon I spotted my first beetroot-coloured blonde sunbather. She must have fallen asleep in the park.

Friday: Freddie the Norfolk terrier was being led home in disgrace, having rolled in fox manure. He was not the most popular dog in the park, but will the hosing down he was walking home to teach him a lesson?

 

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My Last School Trip 11: Scruffy’s Rescue Rangers

Scruffy’s Rescue Rangers

Ellis knew what he was doing, being one of the local mountain rescue team. He took control, clearing most of the students away, giving Dean his satellite phone to call for an ambulance, cutting the guy’s shoe laces and taking off his trainer to ease the swelling, sending Gemma for a wet towel to wrap the foot and relieve the pain. Once the patient was reasonably comfortable, Ellis and Nerys lifted him into the collapsible stretcher, wrapped him in foil, carried him down to the Land Rover and drove to meet the ambulance at the car park. We followed on foot, in time to see the paramedics closing the ambulance doors.

“Well done, you guys,” said the driver. “Is this the rescue dog? Scruffy is it? Good Boy! You’ve saved a life this afternoon, you have. A night on the mountain would have seen this fellow off, and no mistake. Thank God you people had the dog with you. Well. We’d best get our patient to hospital. We’ll be seeing you.”

After that we sat down to eat our sandwiches. Everyone was tired, muted by the thought of what might have happened. The geeks were too exhausted to film after the ambulance left, Suddenly Gemma got to her feet and stumbled away from the rest of us. We could hear her being very sick.

I was sitting with the other staff a little apart from the students. “I’ll go”, said Mrs Cockle, and she started telling Gemma to pull herself together and stop being a baby. Not the wisest thing to say. Stacey was on her feet and how I wish I’d had this speech on video. Top marks for speaking and listening here! Stacey knows how to insult politely. Mrs Cockle got both barrels: my brother-in-law won’t let me quote her exactly, so I précis: no-one was left in any doubt that the exertions of climbing the mountain and the humiliation of falling in the cold river had really shaken Gemma up, let alone that she’d helped the guy who was nearly dead; and she was away from home for the first time without her mother, having saved her Saturday job money to pay for the trip. Mrs Cockle was complacent, uncaring for either the poor man in the ambulance or for Gemma, but then she only ever had a good word for the girls who did well at sport, according to Stacey’s friends at Mrs Cockle’s school. That said, Stacey burst into tears, to be comforted by Gemma, while Nerys wrapped a foil blanket around the two of them.

Mrs Cockle said nothing. I had nothing to say except, “Stop whistling Darren, do you want it to rain?” At which point we all finished our sandwiches in silence, those of us who could eat. After a few minutes we returned to the minibuses and drove solemnly back to the Mill. It was once again too late to put Darren and Scruffy on the train at Abergavenny, but since neither Mr Cockle nor Mr Kipling mentioned the idea, I was not about to.

Hot showers helped restore aching bones and feelings and appetites, and everyone was ready to settle down in front of the wide screen television to watch the United game, which they lost 3-2. Cheers all round. There followed the BBC Wales News, with a report on how a man with a broken ankle was rescued on Pen-y-fan. There was another big cheer from everyone when the newsreader mentioned that the patient remembered how a dog called Scruffy had found him and brought help. His wife told the nation how grateful she was, and how Scruffy had surely saved a man’s life. “What a wonderful, intelligent dog he must be!” she said.

My Last School Trip 10: The Crossing of the Red Stream

Great Elms School Trip to Wales

Transcript of Scene 15

The Crossing of the Red Stream

Edited by Paul Thompson and Emily Miles

Camera: William Turnstone

Scene: half way down the mountain, by a stream. Mr Kipling on the far side, everyone else on the near side.

Mr K: Right then, listen all of you. You want sandwiches and hot drinks? You’ll have to cross this stream to get back to the car park. Just take a running jump, one at a time. It’s only two metres across, you won’t get your feet wet. You show them, Mr Cockle.

Mr Cockle: runs, jumps, slides down the bank on all fours.

All: Ragged cheers.

Mr K: Darren! Darren jumps, lands well up the bank; Scruffy runs through the stream, then shakes water all over Mr Cockle, who is not amused.

 

Mr Cockle: * bleep *.

 

Mr Turnstone: walks carefully across on boulders. I’d better keep the camera dry.

Mr K: continues calling students until all are over, bar Ollie and Gemma.

Mr K: Gemma, come on now, no holding back. You do want some lunch?

 

Gemma:  I don’t want to jump this stream. I can’t jump to save my life. Oh hell!

Gemma lands with a splash then falls backwards, and is wet to her waist.

Mr K: Up you get, Gemma, just get on with it. If you’d jumped properly, that wouldn’t have happened. Now this time you can pole vault back to the other side! Groans.

 

Gemma: That’s not fair! I could have stayed over here!

Mr K: Not if you want your lunch! Here we go! Dean!

Dean: Yes, Sir.

Mr K. You run up, plant your pole just there, by that red stone, and jump. Got it?

Dean: That red stone Sir, or that one, or that one? There’s more red stones than by the Red Sea, Sir.

Mr K: grabs the pole: Mr Cockle! How do you put up with this idiot? Give me that pole! That red stone, this red stone, any red stone, look, like this! Vaults over, commando style. Ragged applause. Returns same way. Got that Dean?

Dean: Yes sir. You did say that red stone, didn’t you Sir? Jumps quickly, punches air, pirouettes, tosses pole to Darren. Scruffy runs through the stream after Dean, then back to Darren, shakes himself dry over Mr K.

 

Mr K: Will someone control this * bleep * mongrel!

The rest of the students vault over without mishap.  Meanwhile Ellis and Nerys are busy with ropes and poles. They are constructing a zip rope bridge.

Mr K: Ollie! Thought we’d forgotten you? This is how you get across. You’ve got strong arms!  We put you in the harness and you pull yourself across. We’ll let Nerys go first.

 We admired Nerys’s first trip across the stream and back, then watched as Ollie was hoisted into the harness and shown how to haul himself over. We need not have worried.

 

Ellis: Right Ollie, that should be you balanced nicely. Comfortable? I’ve got the safety rope, but you won’t need it. You pull yourself along with this one. Ready?

Ollie: Here goes!  Wahay!

Ollie swung gleefully across the stream, then turned around to come back to us.

How was that, Nerys?

Nerys: Excellent! Trouble is, we need you on the other side now! Ellis has carried your chair over, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Ollie: panting Right, let me get my breath; ready, and off!

We eventually got everyone across by zip wire, and I had action shots from either side of the river, from the boulders in the middle of the river, from the base of the bridge, and facing the oncoming traffic. Whatever the Highway Code may say, this was not the best place to be when Dean was coming across. I was watching the viewfinder, not the view.

Dean: Oh Sir, Sorry. Is the camera all right?

Mr T: Don’t you mean, “Are you all right?”? Well, no broken bones, thankfully Dean, but the lens is pretty muddy.

Mr C: If you’ve messed my camera up, Dean, I’ll send you home with that dog. Come to think of it, where is the darned mongrel, Darren? If he’s chasing sheep!

Darren: I left him asleep by that tree. Scruffy! Scruffy! Come here! Oh, he never runs off like this! Scruffy!

Mr C: I’ll send you both home with him! I mean it.

Stacey: Shut up, Sir. Here he comes now, look!

Scruffy runs up to Darren, runs round, whining, then makes short dashes back the way he came.

 

Mr C: Get that animal on its lead! Now!

Darren: Something’s wrong! Scruffy, what is it? Show me.

Everyone ignores Mr C, as the students follow Scruffy.

 

Mr C: Where are you lot going? Come back here now, all of you!

The students continue to ignore him. Mr T and Ellis look at each other, then follow the students. Scruffy leads them to what looks like a bundle of clothes beside the stream. It is a man with a broken ankle, almost unconscious and very cold.

 

Darren: Well done, Scruffy! Good boy!

My Last School Trip – 8 – Climb Every Mountain

 

Climb Every Mountain by Oliver Cheeseman

Part of me never thought I would get to the top of a real mountain, but I did! It was all down, or up, to team work and modern wheelchair technology.

I was a bit unsure about getting into the ATW, or All Terrain Wheelchair, that Mr Kipling produced at the Mountain Centre. It had fat tyres, a balloon wheel bogey at the front, rear suspension, a low seat and extending push bars. Mr Kipling said it was very stable. I hoped he was right.

It was hard work with those tyres and I needed plenty of help. Mr Cockle pushed me first, but not for long. He went rather fast and I was quite shaken, even with the suspension. I think he was showing off a bit in front of the girls.

Nerys took over, helping me on the rough parts of the track. We passed a lot of sheep and lambs. l’d never seen them so close before. The mothers took great care and called to their babies when we went by. Nerys called them woolly maggots, because they ruined the countryside. She showed me what looked like abandoned gardens or fields, with low walls and thorn bushes scattered among them. ‘Ruined by sheep,’ she said. ‘No hedges left hardly. ‘

Mr Turnstone began reciting poetry again as we came to a closed up cottage:

Once again I see

These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines

Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,

Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke

Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!

Then it began to get steeper and rockier. The ATW had lashing points so people could pull with ropes or hang on to stop me from rolling away downhill.  It got really tough once we got above the trees. I was glad to see that Ellis had big chocks slung round his neck, which he whipped under my wheels, whenever we stopped. Brakes don’t always work so well when wheels get muddy, and some of the slopes were steep; I began to worry about the chair tipping over backwards, even though it had a very low centre of gravity.

The path got narrower and narrower and harder to get along. Sometimes I was pulled up backwards. Sometimes I was carried high on people’s shoulders, using the poles. The views were terrific but the views of my face on Mr Turnstone’s video are terrified!

Then we turned onto a rocky ridge that seemed to go on for ever, with a long drop to either side. The going was not so bad on the grass. I had the Hogbens pushing and pulling and Scruffy taking a rest on my knees. Then, as it got steeper, everyone seemed to be helping to push, pull, or balance the ATW, using ropes, bars and any corner they could lay hands on.  Everyone but Mr Cockle, who was shouting orders and advice from the rear. Stacey got filthy, turning one wheel with her bare hands. I ruined two pairs of gloves.

At the top everyone was exhausted, including me. “Even though you’ve been sitting down for the last few hours,” said Mr Turnstone. But next thing everyone was standing, jumping, dancing, with their arms round each other.

“Come on Dazza, let’s get him up,” said Dean, and the next I knew the two of them  were lifting me out of the chair and I was standing on top of the world with Scruffy round  my neck.

You get a lovely view from the top of Penyfan, or as Mr Turnstone says, at least when it’s not raining or misty. The lake looked tiny, and the people beside it were like ants. The hills and mountains around us were all colours of green and brown.

On the way down we stopped at a granite column to have a drink. Mr Turnstone said he wanted us to look all around and listen. He said it would make sense of the awful homework Miss Treacy had set. “Don’t spoil it, Sir,” said Gemma.

I don’t think he did. This is what he read:

. . .  here I stand, not only with the sense

Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts

That in this moment there is life and food

For future years. And so I dare to hope,

Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first

I came among these hills; when like a roe

I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides

Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,

Wherever nature led: more like a man

Flying from something that he dreads, than one

Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then

(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,

And their glad animal movements all gone by)

To me was all in all. – I cannot paint

What then I was. The sounding cataract

Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,

The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,

Their colours and their forms, were then to me

An appetite; a feeling and a love,

That had no need of a remoter charm,

By thought supplied, nor any interest

Unborrowed from the eye.

Mr T gets carried away sometimes. I’ve known the head slam his classroom door when he was reading Shakespeare to us, along with the rest of the corridor, but there were no doors up here, and no-one to complain, except the PE teachers.

I wasn’t the only one who had an appetite. Gemma said she had one and Mr Turnstone laughed and said she should enjoy the coarser pleasures of her girlish days while she could and Gemma blushed and said he was horrible. We all had chocolate and juice. “Don’t leave your paper about”, shouted Mr Cockle, and at that moment the wind grabbed Mrs Cockle’s empty carrier bag and lifted it over our heads. Nothing to be done about it, but Dean raised a cheer from us all.

Help! On the way down Mr Turnstone said he was tempted to let me roll but he’d best hang on for dear life. “Thanks!” I said. “It’s not your life I’m worried about,” he said, “it’s mine. I promised your dad I’d bring you back in one piece. He might get cross if I don’t. And think of all the paperwork! Anyway, I believe Mr Cockle has a date with a sounding cataract.”

I think the climb was worth it, even if we were all exhausted at the top, except Mr Cockle. He told us he had to do a running risk assessment and scout the best route for the last stretch to the summit, which is why he had plenty of breath to shout at everyone else. Now he dashed off ready to drive the Land Rover up to the stream crossing point.

The Rewards of Apparent Indifference

If you want to catch a playful dog, like our new friend Melba, it’s as well to pretend you are not interested in doing any such thing. The rabbits on Abbot’s Hill can tell when Melba is up for the chase and soon make themselves scarce. Wild birds will disappear if they feel something is watching them, hence the joy of a cold hide on the edge of a winter’s lake.

In the Nineteenth Century Richard Jefferies put it this way:

This is the secret of observation: stillness, silence, and apparent indifference. In some instinctive way these wild creatures learn to distinguish when one is or is not intent upon them in a spirit of enmity; and if very near, it is always the eye they watch. So long as you observe them, as it were, from the corner of the eyeball, sideways, or look over their heads at something beyond, it is well.

(from The Gamekeeper at Home, available at Project Gutenberg)

This evening’s encounter was fleeting. I was walking past the hazel bush on our street (yes, the squirrels did get all the nuts) when I heard a quiet, musical squeaking. Not from my boots, but at ear level; something on the railway? No, a young cock blackbird, his feathers very dark but not quite black, his beak still a muddy chocolate brown. I don’t suppose he was trying his sub-song out on me, but I felt privileged to hear it for a few seconds as I continued walking so as not to disturb him.

Let’s hope he finds a mate to appreciate his full-throated song, come the Spring.

My last school trip – 2

Oh yes, Dean and Darren. Cousins, all-but twins, best of friends. We tried splitting them up in year 8; it was hell for everyone while it lasted: about a fortnight. Having them together is purgatory, but sometimes it’s magic.

I treasure these essay plans and have their permission to include them here. Just so you know what sort of lad they are.


 

English Assignment Plan

Name: Darren Hogben

Form: 8WT

Title: A day with my best friend

Characters: me, Dean, my mum, anty June

Where? When? Home, bus, shops.

What happened first? We went round Dean’s

Who did/said what? Anty June says we would miss the bus but we never. We got off at the bus station and went for lunch at Anselmi’s café. Dean got his rat out on his lap and fed it on chips.

Then what happened? Some stupid woman saw it and began to scream and then the waitress come over and started to shout and she got the manegeress and she got ratty and we got chucked out.

How did it end? Trouble. It weren’t my fault but anty June and my mam both blamed me. I got grounded agen.


 

English Assignment Plan

Name: Dean Hogben

Form: 8WT

Title:A day with my best friend

Characters: Darren, me, my mum, aunty june.

Where? When? Dazzie’s house, bus station, town

What happened first? We went round Aunty May’s because it was our birthdays and they was going to take us up town to get our new Rovers shirts and get a nice lunch.

Who did/said what? Mom said no rats allowed. Dazzie said okay we’ll be good. We had our lunch then the old girls got chatting to some old woman in the café so me and Darren legged it.

Then what happened? We nicked their butter because they was losing weyght and me and Darren plastred it on the handrail of the moving stares. The people got it on their hands and one old lady gets really cross about her white gloves that were not white any more and she called the maniger a blithering idiot because he was blithering at her like nothing. We got found out because the CCTV showed Darren doing it. Really it was Aunty May’s fault because she would not go home when we said.

How did it end? Trouble as usual. The security man and the manager went banananas. We both got grounded.


 

I had been Dean and Darren’s form tutor and English teacher since Year 7. You see how full my hands were! Their writing may lack polish, but I give them high marks for speaking and listening. Once I’d persuaded them to take notice in class they became adept at asking awkward or cheeky questions. I got used to it, but they always play up the student teachers that get wished onto me. They also have a great time when other pupils do their little prepared speeches about anything and nothing, but I have house-trained them enough to allow even shy-boots like Gemma to get through their recitals of poems or passages from Shakespeare.

Their class stayed with me until Christmas of year 9. Then the Deputy Head went on maternity leave and I took over her form and exam groups, and said goodbye to the Hogbens for six months.

Or so I thought.

Then came the cloud no larger than a man’s hand, the fly in the ointment, the stone in my shoe: Year 9 residential trips.

I avoid these like the plague, letting the young and fit, like Ms Trilby, (Deputy Head, Pastoral and inconveniently pregnant) go along to bond with the little blighters. I had done enough bonding with Dean and Darren, thank you very much, but then the call came from the head. My apologies for his rudeness.

“Ah, Will: your application for this new pay rise. Interesting! You must be in with a chance, but one in three to get it, the ministry says, just one in three. I’ll have to write my report to the governors, of course. Contribution to the ethos of the school, blether, blether, blether. By the way … Since Ms Trilby can’t go climbing mountains now, with her belly, I thought maybe you’d like to go to Wales with Mr Cockle.”

I thought, not with my belly, the result of careful attention to Belgian Abbey beers, but I hadn’t done any sort of school trip for years and I did want the next pay rise. One last effort to get out of it: “What about Miss Jackson? She’s young, single, and gets on well with year 8.”

“Gets on well with them?” Three times this week I’ve had those Hogben boys up here, working in my office, because she can’t handle them! She bores them stupid as well with that infantile Jacky Treacy book! What’s it called?  Calling All Cards? Why can’t the English Department lose it?

“Anyway, I can’t ask her to swing at the end of a rope with Dean and Darren at the top. The woman needs a rest before she gives me a nervous breakdown, never mind herself. To cap it all, she tells me she’s already booked into an English lit conference somewhere.”

First I’d heard of that, but Tracey Jackson always did keep herself to herself, off home before 4.30 every day, never lingering in the staff room, hardly the life and soul of the English Department.

Meanwhile I could look forward to a dry week in wet Wales. Not just with Dean and Darren, but Charlie Cockle as well –  failed footballer, fitness freak, diet freak; no smoking, no drinking, no fun; smell of sweat and aftershave – and no doubt his beefy spouse Cecilia,  sometime shotput champion of Salford under-16 girls, and still wearing the vest to prove it, or so my daughter tells me. Jenny goes to Almond Hall School, where Cecilia C is head of PE. Sorry. This was not meant to be a poetry book, so my apologies. It will keep on coming in. I can’t altogether control it.  We had enough trouble with controlling the dog.

But I was coming to that.

I’ll spare you the build-up to the trip. I’ll spare you the ill-concealed glee on my wife’s face at the prospect of getting our bedroom decorated in my absence. I’ll spare you the colour charts and swatches of hideous green cloth, the grins and giggles passing between her and Jenny. I’ll spare you the scene when Dean threw a wobbly because I said he’d have to leave his rat at home. I’ll pick you up at the school gate on Saturday morning, as the bus is being loaded. Dean and Darren rolled up at the last minute, after Charlie had taken his superfluous register. With Dean and Darren, everyone was here!

I forgot to tell you – Charlie C appointed me official video cameraman to the expedition, even if all the students, but not their English teacher, had video cameras in their phones. I guessed Charlie wouldn’t want his precious camera ruined by being dropped off the wrong end of a waterfall, so I could safely stay at the bottom and watch. I seized what looked like my best chance of staying on terra firma for the week even if it meant being best buddies with Paul and Emily from sixth form Media Studies and helping with their project. But they have helped me no end – where would the story be without them?