Thursday, 20 July 2017

A gneiss lecture for Yvonne

Hey Gail! What is this stone doing on our kitchen floor?

Well Bertie it's a present from our friend Yvonne. She picked it up on a beach on her recent trip to the Isle of Lewis. It's nice isn't it?

Oh ha ha very droll. Of course I know it's gneiss. Lewisian gneiss in fact. But really, isn't there something a bit coals-to-Newcastle about giving a lump of rock to a geoscientist?

Bertie now, we must learn to be more appreciative. Yvonne told me she wants in return a lesson on the whole topic of the Lewisian gneiss - she is keen to be taught some geology and this should be encouraged. Maybe you could put on your Bertie Boffin hat and help me prepare something for her?

OK then, that's a great idea. Well let me see.

First off, the Lewisian is very old. Even older than Yvonne. Archaean in fact! It is the oldest rock formation in the UK, although if you go to Australia or Greenland or Canada, you can easily find rocks which are even older.

Secondly, it is a metamorphic rock, which means it has been changed, i.e. metamorphosed, from its initial state. Originally this boulder was probably a granite. Just like the stone from which our house, and Yvonne's, are built.  Perhaps Yvonne could imagine our houses were somehow buried tens of kilometres under the earth, where the heat and pressure are so intense that the granite minerals very slowly recrystallise into the type of rock we call a gneiss.
In general, we explain how rocks get deeply buried in the earth, and then rise up again, by applying plate tectonics theory, as in the image above. But way, way back in the Archaean era (when of course there were no houses as there were no humans nor other life forms excepting maybe a few bacteria) the plate tectonics thing was only just getting going and the earth was a whole lot hotter than it is now, so the favourite geologist's dictum, 'the present is the key to the past', is a bit hard to apply to this phase of Earth's history.

So around 1.7 to 3.0 billion years ago, when the Lewisian was forming, geologists now believe that rather than the current set-up of tectonic plates, there were all these 'terranes' crashing into each other, and, truth to tell, it was a long time ago (did I say that already?) and it all gets very, very complicated.

Gosh you know what? I've just remembered. The son of one of our Torridon neighbours, a fine young chap called Dr John MacDonald of Glasgow University, is a proper expert on the Lewisian formation. He has written papers with titles like:

Temperature–time evolution of the Assynt Terrane of the Lewisian Gneiss Complex of Northwest Scotland from zircon U-Pb dating and Ti 

I am thinking we should invite Yvonne over to Torridon (where, after all, we have a bunch of Lewisian rocks just around the corner) and if Yvonne asks nicely, then John, a real bona fide lecturer, can tell her all she would ever want to know about Scotland's most ancient rock formation. And possibly more...
Lewisian rocks (pink): distribution in NW Scotland

Fine Bertie, but in the meantime I expect Yvonne will want to learn about the pretty pink bits in our rock. 

Oh yes of course. The pink splodges are in fact a mineral called potassium feldspar. It's the same mineral that gives the granite buildings in the Deeside town of Banchory their pinkish tinge. Although in Aberdeen the granite is grey because it crystallised from a magma of slightly different chemical composition.

Er Gail, I am feeling a bit tired. This teaching business is hard work isn't it? 

Also, could you please tell Yvonne that a better present would be one of those delicious chewy things from the 'Pet Comforts' shop, rather than some random old rock? 

Or should I, next time she pops over for a cuppa, tap in to Yvonne's own area of expertise and demand a Jungian analysis of that dream I had last night about chasing sheep? 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The price you pay

So finally the skies over NW Scotland cleared, and on Sunday Gail and I went for a most agreeable stroll along from Incheril to the banks of Loch Maree, at the foot of that fine mountain, Slioch. (We decided not to climb up Slioch as it is a steep and rocky ascent and Gail thought that after all the rain on the previous day it would be too slippery underfoot).

Gosh the views of the surrounding landscape were stunning as we gaily trotted along together through the luxuriant bracken.

It does seem a bit unfair that the flattest bit of this glacial valley floor has been commandeered by sheep, and so the footpath along the edge is harder going than one might expect as it traverses the uneven surface of the lateral moraine. 

At one point Gail stumbled and fell into the bracken, and then had the cheek to criticise me for using the opportunity to try to run off up the hill rather than rush over to comfort her and lick her (very minor) wounds - fat lot of good that would have done...

Oh yes it was a glorious afternoon, and I must agree with Gail that if downpours such as we endured  the previous day are a necessary condition for having such lovely soft meadows and heathland, all delicately spattered with tormentil, buttercups, self heal, heath spotted orchids, bog asphodel, cotton grass, heather and sundew, then it is a price worth paying.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Not necessarily a compliment...

Did Shakespeare get it wrong?

I mean, to say:

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"

Is not necessarily a compliment in Northern Britain.

Hmm. The delights of July in Torridon. (And I haven't even mentioned the midges yet.)

You know what? I think I'll stay indoors...

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Today - something a bit highbrow

Never let it be said that videos of pets on YouTube represent a dumbing down of our culture.....

Fine speech by WFT Hamlet, don't you think?

Monday, 10 July 2017

Tour de Tedium

It may not come as a surprise to you that I find watching the Tour de France highlights on the telly considerably less enthralling than does my owner Gail.

Gail says I should consider myself lucky that I am not named after one of her cycling heroes, which is the fate of her friend Jo's cat, Cavendish, affectionately known as Cav.

Truth to tell, I was secretly hoping that after Mark Cavendish crashed out on Tuesday's stage, the race might become less of a preoccupation in this household.

However, I guess it was too much to hope that Gail's fascination with 'Le Tour' would fade so easily, given she started following the event on TV  back in the 1980s, in the era when Stephen Roche from Ireland won in fine style and  Scotsman Robert Millar took the 'King of the Mountains' title.

Of course, one has to feel sorry for any long-lived pet who was named after Robert Millar, given that this always highly individualistic former cycling champion confirmed last week what has been long rumoured, and that he has now fully 'transitioned' from male to female and is henceforth to be known as Philippa York.

Let's hope there are no parrots or tortoises belonging to middle-aged cycling fans somewhere in Glasgow, having to deal with a late life name change. Or worse...

Friday, 7 July 2017

A bad idea...?

Do you ever get tired of your furstyle?

My facial furs have fallen more or less symmetrically either side of my snout my whole life, more or less.

So last night I decided to ring the changes and experiment with a side-parting, just for once.

But after Gail told me the words that came to mind when she saw the result were "comb over", "Bobby Charlton" (you have to be of a certain age and nationality to appreciate that one, apparently) and, horror of horrors; "Donald Trump", I realised that it might not be such a great idea after all.

What do you think?

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Aberdeenshire highlights

Gosh I am sorry I haven't been around much these past few days, but between you and me, I must say I have been run off my compact little paws showing Gail's friend Janet (the Nottingham one) around all my favourite Aberdeenshire haunts.

Every visitor to these parts has to go to Dunnottar Castle where I was delighted to discover that, in addition to all the interesting (to some) history about hiding the Crown Jewels of Scotland from Oliver Cromwell etc. etc., they also now have a kiosk selling yummy ice cream.

A tour around the gardens of Crathes Castle is also a must, so I dutifully allowed Gail and Janet to wander off to look at all the flowers while I waited patiently in the car.

Rules for dogs are not so strict at the Forvie Sands Nature Reserve. The regulations are clearly stated on a noticeboard at the entry point, which I think is polite.

No trip to this part of the world is complete without ascent of Bennachie to inspect the Pictish hill fort, and I am pleased to report that, once I had gently reminded Janet that quality tour guides expect rewards, she duly delivered the goods.

Finally, back home in the evenings, I was able to show Janet the correct way to relax after a nice day out in my home territory.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Oh deer, what a spoilsport!

Hmmm, Gail, why have you just clamped on my lead? Surely you know that we are on a stretch of our regular Torridon walk where I am normally allowed to range free?

Well little Bertie, I am most surprised you even need to ask. I just spotted a deer in the distance, before your super sensitive nostrils picked up the scent, it seems. Maybe some of your eagle eyed readers can also see him in this picture?

A deer! But how can that be? I do believe we are walking through part of the reafforestation project area, which is surrounded by deer-proof fences. 

You are quite correct Bertie, but it seems one canny fellow has found a weak link in the fencing. Or maybe he is particularly adept at the high jump. 

This is shocking. Quite outrageous in fact. That deer is trespassing! He should be chased away immediately, before he has chance to chew up the precious saplings. Gail, given that the last wolf in Scotland was supposedly killed in 1743, I think it is your duty to release me without further ado, then I can show him who is boss around these parts and he will not dare show his face again.

Gail, my lead is still attached. How ever did you come to be such a spoilsport?

Monday, 26 June 2017

The right kind of visitors...

...will drive all the way up from England to visit Gail and me in Torridon.

They will accompany us on intrepid walks through the forest, 

And venture up and down steep paths,

Not minding that it is rather chilly for 'midsummer' and looks like it will rain any minute.

And when we return to the cottage, they will not be selfish and will be prepared to share. 

I am pleased to report that Gail's cousin Sue and her husband Martin have this weekend proved themselves the very best kind of visitor. 

Friday, 23 June 2017

Can a dog issue a fatwa?

This all came about 'cos I overheard Gail say she was a wee bit embarrassed at having to give a presentation to some Iranian clients while her face was still all bruised and grazed from last Saturday's bicycle accident.

She mentioned she'd recently read an article in the paper about women being banned from cycling in Iran.

Gosh it seem to me these Mulllah types are onto something here.

Long time readers of this blog will be aware of all my trials and tribulations surrounding Gail's passion for two wheeled transport and exercise.

I had no idea that one could simply issue a decree stating that females are just not allowed to ride bikes. Problem solved!

Come to think of it, maybe we could extend the ban to human males too. Especially the sweaty mid-life crisis types that wear unwise lycra and often nearly run one over in the park of a morning.

Of course I would make allowances for those folks riding bicycles with baskets, trailers or other adaptations to enable transport of one's pet.

Oh, it seems that you only get to issue these decrees if you are some kind of a high heid yin of the Muslim faith.

So where do I sign up for Ayatollah School?

PS Gail apologises to her Muslim friends for any offence caused by Bertie's sketchy theological understanding...

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

It serves her right

Really, our humans, you can't let them out of your sight for one minute.

Well I say it jolly well serves Gail right for leaving me at Janet's house on Saturday and heading off on her old bicycle (without me) to visit Human Granny again.

So Gail returned eventually, looking a bit sheepish and mumbling something about a large twig getting stuck between the mudguard and the wheel of her bicycle causing her to take a tumble.

But you and I know that the accident was all about people who abandon their pets getting their just deserts, don't we?

Believe me, the photo above is the most flattering one you can take of Gail just now. Oh my word that bruise is beginning to look more colourful than I'm guessing Gail's language was when she picked herself up off that bike path.

But anyway, I'm pleased to report that things improved on Sunday, when Gail and Janet took me on a lovely walk in Derbyshire.

Clever Janet found a route that was mostly in the shade, which helped me survive the thirty degree heat.

But to be honest, on Monday both Gail and I were happy to be boarding the train back north to cooler climes.

And of course you will want to meet my new friend from Hong Kong, on a month long holiday to Europe with her family, to celebrate her graduation. You do run into the nicest people on the East Coast line to Edinburgh.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

What to do about Danny?

I am so put out I can barely compose myself, even a day after discovering the shocking news.

Can you believe it? I went to vist Human Granny yesterday and found there was ANOTHER DOG in residence at her care home.

In residence you understand, not just visiting! Danny, he's called, a ten year old Shih Tzu, and he's been there for a month with his owner Doreen.

I went to say hello to him and he just growled at me, guarding his bowl of food. And I was only trying to be friendly. And then, to cap it all, it was ME (innocent little me) who was banished to Human Granny's bedroom while Danny boy continued to lord it over the communal sitting room, where the treats are to be found.

What's to be done?
PS Pleased to report we found Human Granny in good spirits. She moves ever more slowly and has become rather wobbly, but Gail says her positive attitude and refusal to feel sorry for herself sets an example I would do well to follow should my paw problem recur...

Thursday, 15 June 2017


Have I ever introduced you to Edward Elephant?

This somewhat inanimate fellow shares the bed with Gail and me. Apparently he has been around since Gail was a wee girl.

If you are wondering about that hand-knitted dark blue thing covering his trunk, let me explain.

Edward has the large ears typical of an African elephant. He is built for the savannah, not the perennially chilly climate of Northern Scotland.

This is why, now that he is getting on in years, Edward wears a trunk warmer.

It is totally logical and scientific, and not at all silly.

(At least that's what I promised Gail I would say on this blog.)

PS We are heading off to Nottingham today to check up on Human Granny, and are looking forward to some warm(er) weather Down South. So it's goodbye to Edward for a few days.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Decisions, decisions….

You know how it is when you go for a Sunday afternoon walk with friends...

You pose nicely amidst the buttercups and speedwells...

You pose patiently while they text pictures of you to daughters in Denmark...

You pose gracefully beside the loch...

You even pretend to admire the water lilies while cooling your paws...

Then when they stop for a breather and a bite to eat, you are faced with a most dreadful dilemma.

Is it best to target Neil for treats...

Or will Yvonne prove the softer touch?

Tell me, how would you choose?