So long, and thanks for all the dogs*

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Relax. I’m not actually going anywhere. It’s where I’m no longer going to go that’s important.

Almost six years after I made what friends and old colleagues probably regarded as a quixotic (ie barmy) decision to become a dog walker, next week I shall hang up my poo bags for the last time.

Not only that but I will be returning – sort of – to the conventional office life I had thought I’d left behind forever.

What’s prompted my about-turn is the rather grim news that I need an operation on both of my feet, thanks to a particularly unpleasant orthopaedic condition known as Haglund’s heel.

Essentially I have bony spurs growing out of both of my heels and into the Achilles tendon, causing severe inflammation and pretty much constant pain. Only an op offers a long-term solution, but the recovery can take up to nine months. The first op, on my left foot, is down for March (NHS crisis notwithstanding) with the second one to be done at some point next year.

Dog walking didn’t cause this problem. The design of my stupid feet did. Daily walking on hard, uneven ground for the last half decade simply exarcebated things.

I’ve already been stupid enough to try walking half a dozen dogs while leaning heavily on a pair of crutches, having torn cartilage in my knee a couple of years ago.

The prospect of trying to herd a bunch of recalcitrant pooches in a downpour while limping furiously and risking further damage to my feet is not something I can contemplate.

I’m too young – yes, really! – to be thinking of walking with a stick or, worse, browsing Gumtree to buy a second-hand mobility scooter.

So it’s all over. Lead On Dog Walkers will be no more by the end of the month. My lovely pack will be led by a new dog walker and I’ll have to start thinking of buying corporate workwear again…

I’m sad that it’s ended this way, but I’m determined to look on whatever bright side I can find in this post-Brexit, post-Trump world.

The one constant in life is change. But change also brings opportunities. So I’m embracing both the change and the opportunity to do something else with my life. Let’s face it, we’ll all be in harness til we’re 80 at this rate anyway so I may as well make a start on the third stage of my working life right now.

I’ll miss my doggies, some of whom have been with me since that very first summer. Alfie will miss his canine chums and his four walks every day. I will miss beautiful sunny days on a hill watching the sun glint off the sea.

I won’t miss horizontal rain, my fingers going through a poo bag, getting accidentally nipped while handing out treats or slathering ketchup on to the neck of a dog that’s rolled in fox shit or worse.

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I’ll miss fighting for my spot on the couch and being the constant centre of furry attention as top dog.

I won’t miss fighting for my spot on the couch and being the constant centre of furry attention as top dog.

Anyway, that’s my tail of woe (pardon the pun). Now, onwards and upwards. I might even find some time now to finish the damn book…

*with apologies to Douglas Adams

Paws for thought

Dogs are uncomplicated creatures (usually). They like to be fed regularly. They need regular exercise. They thrive (usually) on company, either human or canine.

They love to play – usually with a ball but frequently with a pair of your best shoes or, God forbid, a dirty pair of knickers snaffled from the washing basket. And they love to sleep.

Now that I’m a dog walker and spend my day with dogs, I find myself sighing and smiling frequently at the simple joy they take from life.

That joy can come from racing round a field at top speed just because they can. Or sitting patiently for what must seem like hours until a treat is tossed their way.

Like butter wouldn't melt ... don't be fooled

Take Alfie. He’s the now seven-month-old cocker spaniel we inherited from a Lead On client who found him all a bit too much.

Alfie is – in the words of my missus, Debbie – a total geezer.

In the Glasgow parlance, he’s as gallus as all get out.

He’s been living with us now for just over a month and is a constant source of amusement and irritation in equal measure.

Alfie has boundless energy. To paraphrase the description of The Terminator from the classic sci-fi movie, he cannot be reasoned with. And he absolutely Will. Not. Stop.

Which, in my line of work, is pretty handy. He’s out with me for hours every day walking with dogs of every age, breed, size and temperament. It’s fantastic socialisation and wonderful exercise and ideal for a breed that thrives on company and exercise.

He doesn’t stop following me either – I really do have a little black shadow at my heels all day, every day. I can’t even get to the lavvy without Alfie nosing open the door or whining outside until I’m done!

Currently Debbie and I find ourselves in fits of laughter at his Pavlovian response to my laptop. My habit is to sit on the couch with a cuppa to have a wee surf of t’internet after we’ve returned from the daily grind on the local hills or beaches. Alfie curls up at my feet and falls into a deep sleep.

But the sound of the laptop closing has become the signal that I’m about to head for the kitchen to start dinner and he bounds to his feet and trots off in that direction, whether I move or not. Of course, he does it every single time I am on the laptop so now I do it for badness and cheap laughs. Don’t judge me, I don’t get out much.

The reason that Alfie is so keen on me heading for the kitchen is because eating is another area of life in which Alfie absolutely. Will. Not. Stop.

Dudley - banged up for crimes against picnickers

He is one greedy greedy bandit of a dog. We’ve already had an embarrassing incident in the park where he and Dudley, another greedy but charming bandit, raided an unsuspecting family’s picnic as I shouted in vain for them to ‘come here!’.

I then had to endure a humiliating dressing-down from the irate mother who’d seen her kid’s sarnies scoffed by two marauding mutts while the mutts in question sauntered off in search of their next piece.

Alfie’s so greedy that he has taken to sitting virtually on my feet whenever I potter around the kitchen. His theory – and it’s not a bad one as I am a tad slapdash at food prep – is that eventually something will fall his way. And he’s such a wee glutton that he doesn’t care whether it’s a scabby piece of potato peel or a choice morsel of meat – all is grist to his digestive mill.

Just as well for Alfie’s waistline that we’re out walking for miles every day – and for mine too.

Thankfully I’m finally starting to see some benefits from all the exercise I’m now getting. Of course, I’d see more of a weight loss if I actually ate less, but hey-ho, one step at a time!

In short, Alfie is growing into a very happy, well-exercised, friendly wee dog. And I’m having more fun than I ever thought possible watching him have the time of his life with new chums.

His latest pal is Ruby, an eight-month old German shepherd who towers over him and seems to think he’s her own personal chew toy.

But that’s ok cos Alfie is convinced Ruby is actually his own personal chew toy …

No dogs were harmed in the making of this blog

Business is, thankfully, starting to pick up after a lean summer. We’re now at that time of year where the nights are fair drawin’ in and dog owners who have enjoyed evening sojourns with their pets on the long, light summer nights are now realising that walk won’t be half as much fun in the dark.

And that’s where I come in. Well, where me and my little black shadow come in.

Bletherin’ on

Tober v: to put someone in their place; to cut someone down to size; to chastise. Eg: Alfie is such a little geezer that I have to tober him every now and then by sticking him in his crate to calm down

Kick the can: In this game of chases, the can was the den into which the chaser put everyone who’d been caught. Anyone still free could run into the den and kick the can to set everyone free

Ma bit: This expression, probably in more use in Glasgow and the West, refers to where one lives. Eg: Ye comin’ roon to ma bit? I’ve got a kerry-oot*

Goony n: nightdress (f). Eg: I put the bins out last night in my goony and was black affrontit when a gust of wind blew it up over my heid

Footer v: to fiddle with something, to act in an aimless fashion. n: a task that’s fiddly or seemingly pointless. adj: footery. Eg: Putting together flatpack furniture is a right footer of a job

Wheech v: to move at speed, to do something quickly (may also be a noun). Eg: I’m in a hurry so I’ll have to wheech round the shops this afternoon

Geegaw n: a garish ornament or bauble. Eg: What is it wi’ auld wifies? Their hoose is aye stowed wi’ geegaws

Kerby: Two participants stood on opposite pavements with a football. The object was to throw the ball at the opposite kerb (or curb as the Yanks say) and have it bounce straight back at you. If it bounced, your opponent took a shot. The game was frequently interrupted by shouts of “car!”

Hands: A clapping game played by girls, this was a playground favourite: Under a bramble bush, under a tree, boom boom boom boom! True love for you my darling, true love for me!

Randan n: a wild night out. Eg: Debbie went on the randan with the Anderson-Manley-Thomsons, despite it being a school night

Hough n: shank of meat. Eg: There’s nothing better than a ham hough for making lentil soup

Hunker v: crouch, squat. Eg: Think we’ll just hunker doon behind this tree until the rain passes

Coal-carry n: piggyback. Eg: My big brother gied me a coal-carry up the hill cos I was puggled

Snipes: A twist on the card game pontoons (or 21), in this the loser was whoever went bust. They had to make a fist and present their hand to their competitors who would whack the deck of cards against their knuckles as many times as the loser went bust by, usually ending with bleeding knuckles. This was a vicious game that parents severely frowned upon.

Scabby Touch: In this game of chases, a minging piece of orange peel or something similarly foul was picked up from the playground. A process of elimination (perhaps eeny-meeny-myni-mo) selected whoever was ‘het’ – this was the Scabby Touch. The object of the game was to pass the Scabby Touch on by throwing said peel at others and scoring a direct hit. This game suited fast runners and those dextrous in twisting their torsos to avoid flying objects

Chinese ropes: Elastic bands were tied together and two participants (they were usually girls) took a hold of each end and held the rope at differing heights – ankles, kneesy, hips, waisty, shoulders and head high. The object was to jump over by whatever means necessary – at head high, it was only the most athletic who could handstands! The 2 ends were sometimes tied together for a jump game: ‘England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales!’

Boke/boak v: to vomit, be sick, retch (know as the ‘dry boke’). Eg: I had the dry boke when Alfie caught a bloody big moth and played with it before wolfing it down

Pawkies n: sheepskin mittens. Eg: She couldnae get her bus fare oot cos she had her pawkies on so the bus driver just drove away

High heid yins n: bosses, management, the usually unaccountable people at the head of an organisation. Eg: Look busy, the high heid yins are coming down any minute now

Brae n: hill. Eg: Debbie was peching big time after we had to climb a steep brae with the dug

British bulldog: Probably the most violent of all playground games, at my primary the entire school used to be involved in the game. One person (the bulldog) stood in the middle of the playground with everyone lined up facing him/her. The bulldog chose someone to run from one side to the other. If they caught them, they stayed to become a bulldog. If they got past, everyone else then raced from one side to the other shouting ‘British bulldog!”

Balls: Usually played by girls, this game involved two tennis balls and a wall. The participants bounced the balls against the wall while singing a rhyme and having to turn around or bounce the ball through her legs.

Hares and hunts: This was a simple game of chases with two teams. The hares did the running, the hunts did the chasing. When caught, each hare had to return to ‘the den’ and await the rest but any uncaught hare could free every caught one by running into the den. They usually had to shout something too but my memory aint what it used to be so over to you!

Feartie n: scaredy-cat [feart is also a verb, meaning to be scared of]. Eg: Don’t be such a big feartie and away oot and see what’s making aw that noise in the garage

*Kerry-oot: n: carryout; drink purchased from an off-licence for consumption at “ma bit”

 

Two nations – divided by a common language

A stookie

Wiki can’t agree on who actually said the UK and the USA were two nations divided by a common language (take yer pick from George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde or Winston Churchill), but the phrase is entirely apt when applied to Scotland and England.

I didn’t realise until I pitched up on the shores of the south coast just how Scottish I actually am.

And by that, of course, I mean just how Scottish I sound (the hankerings for square slice have abated but thank the lord they sell Bru down here).

Like Rab C Nesbitt after 14 pints is how one newly-found Sassenach* friend described it. But she said it so charmingly that all I could say in return was “braw!” (Note to self: stop wearing a bandage round napper and suit jacket with simmit when dining out in Brighton)

That, of course, is just the accent. And no-one has ever better described the effect of that accent on southern ears than the Proclaimers in the genius that is Throw The ‘R’ Away.

Tho Stanley Baxter’s sublime Parliamo Glasgow is timelessly funny.

And Chewin’ The Fat’s Taysiders In Space makes me cry with laughter.

Of course, according to surveys, the Scots accent is one of the most pleasing on the ears but which Scots accent? Cos there are hunnerza them from the gallus Glesga wan to the fit-like Aberdonian to the soft tones of the Islands to the mid-Atlantic twangs of exiles such as Sir Sean and Lulu. Och, dinnae get me startit.

But even more bamboozling to southern ears are the endless supply of Scots words I fling into everyday conversations in an unconscious manner.

And it is unconscious – most of the time.

I do try to tease Debbie by dropping in random Caledonian expressions but her years sharing a flat with another Scot have armed her against such machinations. Not only that, she gets her own back by speaking in broad Peterborough at me. And we think our accent is bad …

Irn-Bru – the greatest cure for a drouth … and a hangover

If Debbie can learn, I thought, why not teach the rest of them so they can understand when I converse with some of the Scots most beautifully onomatopoeiac words and phrases. And so began my Scots word of the day on Facebook (it was only 3 weeks ago – I’m making it sound this is a life’s mission).

And now I’m going to share them with everyone else on the blogosphere and beyond … aye right.

What I hoped for when I posted them on Facebook was that non-Scots would comment, perhaps even adopt the language themselves or share their own dialects and local quirks.

The reality is that only my Scottish friends post and argue with each other (and me) over spelling, definitions and usage. It’s great fun.

I’m no font of all (or any) knowledge on the spelling, definitions and usage of the words and phrases I’m posting – they are just those I know best, the ones I use and where I use them. So sicken you!

Here are the words I’ve chosen so far. I’ll add them to each new blog as I post it. It will be a Jockumentary, if you will …

Scots way-hay

Gallus adj: self-confident, daring, cheeky., stylish, impressive. Eg: I feel dead gallus driving about in my new van

NB: to non-Scots, the use of dead here is also as an adjective, to mean ‘very’ or ‘extremely’. We use it a lot. A lot. In fact, we’re dead keen on using it all the time.

Glaikit adj: stupid, foolish, daft. Eg: She’s awfy proud of her son but there’s no denying he’s a right glaikit-looking bugger

Sleekit adj: sly, sneaky, crafty, cunning. Eg: David Cameron comes across as right sleekit, so he does

Clype n: a telltale, informant, grass. v: to tell on, to inform. Eg: The class clype dobbed us all in when we hid the teacher’s belt

Today word is not a word at all but instead a phrase, frequently uttered by my Nana Traynor: 12 o’clock and no’ a bed made

Translation: Where on earth has the time gone?

Variations include: 12 o’clock and no’ a wean washed

Dwam n: a daydream. Eg: I was in such a dwam I missed my bus stop

Guddle n: a mess, untidiness, a state of confusion. Eg: This house is a total guddle this morning

Pruch n: a perk (usually associated with a job), booty, plunder. Eg: The pay in this job is pants but the pruch is great

NB: I think this is an Ayrshire-only expression but one my mother picked up and evangelised among Glasgow folk

Scunnered n: a strong dislike, an aversion, disgust, boredom. Eg: I am completely scunnered by the shocking treatment of Neil Lennon by not just morons with scarfs but by the allegedly educated ones with laptops and microphones

Bumfult n: a ruck or fold in clothing, making it appear bunched up. Eg: I couldn’t get out of bed this morning cos the quilt was aw bumfult

NB: this word has caused the most debate on Facebook, mainly cos it’s all in the pronunciation. The jury is still out on the spelling and I’m still trawling t’interweb to find someone saying it on Youtube.

Baffies n: slippers, house shoes. Eg: Not for the first time, I left the house this morning still in ma baffies

Braw Adj: good, splendid, delightful. Eg: It’s braw to be back in Glasgow, even if it is for just one day

Blether n: someone who chats or gossips a lot; a long chat or gossip. v: to chat or gossip. Eg: It was great to catch up with Linda and Chander on Friday and have a right good blether

Drouth n: a thirst, usually a raging one. Eg: Whit a drouth I’ve got on me this morning. Where’s my can of Bru?

Skelpt v: (past tense) to strike a blow, to smack. Eg: Scottish Labour fair got their arses skelpt last night

Dreich adj: miserable, cold and wet (pertaining to weather). Eg: I can’t believe how dreich the south coast is this morning after weeks of sunshine and dry days

Sclaffed v: to strike the ground when making a shot, usually in golf, but regularly in SPL football. Eg: Och he’s sclaffed that when he should have scored

Oose n: fluff or dust. Eg: I need to Hoover under the bed, it’s covered in oose

Pech v: to puff or pant, be out of breath. Eg: Nils was fair peching after that run along the beach

Shoogly adj: wobbly, shaky, unstable. Eg: This table is awfy shoogly, fold up a beer mat and stick it under one leg

Stravaigin v: to wander, stroll. Eg: We’ve got lots of time, let’s have a stravaigin along Sauchiehall Street

Stookie n: plaster cast for a broken limb. Eg: The wean’s been up the infirmary and got a stookie on his broken arm

*Sassenach n: an Englishman or woman

Va-van voom

It’s official. I have a van. It’s white. So henceforth I am white van woman – discourteous driver, opinionated twat and objectionably racist, sexist and bigoted. Probably. Or not, really (the opinionated twat bit might stick in a court of law).

Lead On Dog Walkers are on the road at last after I bust my car auction cherry this morning and confidently outbid lots of other white van men to buy a Citroen Berlingo, one formerly owned by the RSPCA and so ideal for my new gig.

A van like what I bought

Truth be told, I was actually kacking my pants as the bidding began but all those mornings watching Homes Under The Hammer (I’ll try not to let this become a recurring theme) paid off – well, that and having a crash course in car auctions in the company of my old friend Lorraine during a brief visit to Glasgow yesterday.

We were both a little aghast at how fast the whole process is and how we were the only folks there who clearly didn’t have a clue what was going on.

But thankfully at least one of us had her wits about her as Lo continually had to remind me to stop lifting my arm to point at stuff while the bidding was going on – or I’d be ferrying Lead On’s mutts around in a 1996 Skoda …

So it’s all systems go. I’ve got my first regular customer. I’ve agreed to dog-sit a wee dug for 8 – that’s EIGHT – weeks from June. I’m going to hoof it round the neighbourhood this weekend with flyers and bombard folks at a dog show on Sunday with cards etc. I’d say I’m definitely on my way to my first million … So, yay for me.

Oh and in the midst of all this, I’m busy planning and organising the Glasgow leg of Debbie & Fran – the nuptials. Hence yesterday’s flying visit to Glasgow to sort out booze, boogie and butties.

And now that’s all done too, so the only thing we have to do now is turn up on June 4 and have a fabulous party with all our friends and family. So, yay for us.

It’s all been a little bit frantic but a great deal of fun, too. And the good news is that, having been away in London, then Glasgow over the last five days, I now have the mother and father of all ironings to do.

Well, a girl has to have some me time …

A tentative toe in the water

So, this is the blogosphere – welcome to me!

I can’t believe it’s now 4 months since I made the move from Glasgow to the Brighton area but it’s taken me until now to get my butt in gear and 1. set myself up in the dog-walking business I’ve been planning for months; and 2. write the blog my mates have been urging on me since the move.

In my defence, I have been a wedding planner extraordinaire in that time

(me and Debbie had the best day ever on April 23 for our civil partnership) and I have unleashed my inner domestic goddess – I can now bake bread and the missus’ clothes have never been so regularly laundered and ironed.

A loaf, yesterday

But sheesh, aint housework tedious, hard grind? And there are only so many episodes of Homes Under The Hammer one woman can watch before she’s planning to take a hammer to Lucy and Martin.

So all good things must come to an end and now, once my van is kitted oot, I’ll be Fran Fran the doggy fan. Oh yeah and I need some customers. All in good time, all in good time.

So, over the course of the next few weeks and months, I’ll be using this space to – hopefully – entertain you with my tales (and tails) of doggy and non-doggy life here on the south coast.

Along the way, I’ll pass comment on any damn thing I like but probably limited to telly (Homes Under The Hammer notwithstanding), home-baked bread and how Tefal genuinely is the Ferrari of irons. Exciting eh?

Next time: resisting the daily urge to walk into Shoreham Dogs’ Trust and take ALL of the mutts home