It’s fun living this close to the beach

Sunday morning dawned grey and dull. We expected another day of wandering around the local lanes with associated scents and squirrel bothering. As we set off we turned away from our usual route and walked up and down the little local road. This normally meant that something was in the offing. I looked at Lenny who glanced back at me, with a wry grin.

We were duly turned around and headed back towards the house, stopping only for the car to be unlocked. We decided we would play dumb and not leap straight into our travel crates. It’s always fun to hear our parents grumble at one another about how heavy Lenny or I have become. They seem to blame each other for “extra biscuits”. I have no idea what this means. Once secured in our travel crates we set off along the main road turning right and left as we made our merry way to wherever we were going. Arriving at our destination we were allowed to scent the sea air and we realised we were back at the beach. Fun times would surely follow. Lenny tried to stick his head over the top of his travel crate only for mum to worry that his head was caught. He’s not that silly, I hope. Anyway we soon found ourselves on our toes and the crunch of the gravel, click of the stones and soft rush of the sand on the beach was under our paws. Mum and dad had sadly remembered that I had eaten something grim on our last trip so I was kept on a very short lead whilst we navigated through the seaweed and associated dead sea creatures strewn across the shoreline. This was most mean and totally unnecessary. It wasn’t like I had needed to go outside five times in one night after I had eaten the previous dead sea creature.

Go on Lenny, I dare you to eat it

We strolled (read pulled and jerked on our leads) along the beach merrily baying at anyone who was in earshot. This would actually have been most of the town as I was baying very loudly. We passed spaniels, terriers, Scotties, a couple of Westies and even a poodle. Then we saw a German Wire haired Pointer which seemed to be wrestling with something large, sandy and quite deceased. Even after witnessing the spectacle of the Pointer shaking the devil out of the dead thing, our parents remarked on how well behaved the other dogs were compared to me. Sorry I mean us!

A rare interval without dogs close by

On the way back, Lenny managed to slip off one of the breakwaters but didnt do himself any harm. He just got up, shook himself down and carried on with a silly grin on his face. We arrived back at the car and positively leapt into our travel crates for the return journey home.

Hee hee, I think he’s going to eat something.

Needless to say we were swiftly sleeping once we had eaten our breakfast and run around our garden like a couple of possessed furs. There had been squirrels so I am not sure what else we were supposed to do.

In any case, we had a good time and it was fun to meet and greet so many other dogs. The beach is open to dogs “outside summer season”. I think we will visit again. I hope so as there are many sea creatures that need to be explored.

Gladstone Star at Valletta

Another photo taken from the archives of my grandad. This ship is, however, a little easier to name.

Gladstone Star – Grand Harbour, Valletta

Gadstone Star was built in Bremen in 1957 for Blue Star Line. She underwent sea trials in late 1957 along the Weser and then was registered in London in 1958. She was a Refrigerated Cargo Liner in the days before containerisation took hold of much of the worlds trade. Her trade route is likely to have been North western Europe to China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand via Suez. Her holds would have been entirely refrigerated and capable of carrying either chilled or frozen cargoes to and from various continents and countries. Upon arrival in New Zealand she would have loaded thousands of tons of chilled and frozen lamb, along with cheese and other dairy products for discharge in the UK.

Blue Star Line was inaugurated by the Vestey Brothers on 28 July 1911. They were predominantly butchers in Liverpool who had traded in meat from South America from 1904, on other shipping companies vessels. The high price of shipping the cargoes with other lines made them think about having their own company and thereby reducing their costs. The import of beef from South America and Lamb from New Zealand allowed them to become very rich indeed. Most of the vessels were requisitioned by the Royal Navy between both 1914 – 1918 and 1939 – 1945. Some of the vessels carried passengers as well as cargoes and the voyages could take many weeks to complete due to the stevedoring (dockers) practices in many of the ports of call. After the introduction of containerisation in the late sixties, Blue Star gradually declined as it was easier and more efficient to carry frozen and chilled goods to more places in smaller quantities. Customers liked the cleaner and more efficient method of carrying their cargo in closed containers.

Gladstone Star was sold for the final time in 1982 and then demolished on Gardini Beach, Pakistan on 13 November 1982. It would have taken more than one day to demolish her! The photo must have been taken in her early days as she retains the original hull colours in which she was painted at the builders. Later photos show her with a grey or white hull.

The photo is a relic of a bygone era. Maybe a window as to how life was around 1958. These ships are long forgotten and are indeed anonymous to the masses around the world, most of whom only know their food comes from the supermarket. They care little as to how it arrived on the shelves. The crew who sailed on vessels such as Gladstone Star likely hold a significant affection for her.

An unexpected journey

Off we go for our walk this morning, little knowing what the day held. Down through the town and back through the little wooded area. I have been on shorter walks recently due to the allegation that I may have overdone my longer walk last Sunday and injured my wrist. What is an eleven year old beagle harrier supposed to do? Walk nicely? Anyway we returned home to have some breakfast and then wandered about whilst we allowed our parents to have some food too.

Suddenly we were re-harnessed, found ourselves strolled up and down a local road and then back to the car. This was different and I was extremely surprised to see Lenny jump straight into his travel crate. Hmm, what did he know that I didn’t? Off we went up the road, turn right, under the big road, left, right and a few more turns we arrived at a multi storey car park. Wow, if this was our final destination, it was a bit boring. Once our parents had worked out how to work the parking meter we found ourselves heading toward another ticket machine. Two tickets were delivered and we pulled our parents onto the train station. As the train pulled in, we tried to get on before the doors opened. We got reminded that this was criminally stupid and we should calm down. There were quite a few people on the train but we weren’t allowed to say hello. Ugh good grief, parents can be really boring sometimes. We whizzed along toward our destination and, all the while, the train filled with more people for us to try and befriend.

Quick sharp you two, we are here, was the call that Lenny and I got. As we exited the train we breathed in and then coughed as we tasted the stale air. London! We are in London. As neither Lenny or I can read we had to rely on the station announcer telling everyone this is London Bridge. Excellent, let the shenanigans commence. As we descended from the platform into the street the number of people increased dramatically. Our parents looked at one another with dread and fear etched on their faces. Anyway Lenny and I had other ideas so we quickly pulled them in the direction of London Bridge itself.

As we crossed we laughed and bumped into one another.

Monument to the Great Fire of London

Turn right at the top and then stroll down Eastcheap and into Great Tower Street.

Past the Tower of London and we strolled quickly across Tower Bridge before finally turning right again into Tooley Street and back to the station.

All too soon we found ourselves on the return train back home and our adventure was nearly over.

The Shard

For some reason we slept all the way home in the car and crashed out on our sofas after we had eaten our food. Sometimes we have good surprises from our parents.

Through the eyes of others again

A ship in a harbour? A grainy image of an unidentified vessel at anchor? Maybe not the most inspiring or interesting of views.

This photograph was taken by my grandad sometime between 1958 and 1960. The ship is in Grand Harbour, Valletta, Malta. We have tried to find out the name of the ship and her purpose for being there but we cannot fathom (see what I did there) either answer. We suspect she is a cruise ship, but may be a troop carrier.

It is a moment in time, something that will never be repeated so surely holds an interest. Time passes so quickly now that small things like this are quickly forgotten. However, for some of those people on the ship on that day, maybe it isn’t forgotten. Sixty years is a long time but maybe people still recall that day.

Hello, pleased to meet you

Five years ago today I was on holiday in the Lake District. I decided that I should take my parents off to a place called Pooley Bridge, at the northern end of Ullswater. It is a lovely spot with views south across the water to the hills in the distance. The midges were out in force that day and there was quite a bit of mumbling and groaning from the parents about being “smothered in flies”.

We strolled about and watched the Ullswater Steamer come into the jetty to discharge its passengers and then make its return journey to Glenridding via Howtown. Smaller yachts bobbed gently on the water whilst, all the time, dad grumbled about the midges and that he wouldn’t need any lunch as he’d eaten so many of them.

We made the journey back to the holiday cottage, strolled about the lanes and byways of Patterdale, made a visit to the local store and then I was allowed to go for a restorative nap whilst the parents fussed about, doing stuff and things that parents do.

I had to insist that they take me to the pub for some food as well as allowing me to continue my snoozing. I got my customary gravy bone from the lady at the bar. I strolled past another lady we had met the night before who had told me I had the softest ears and then I took my rightful place on my settle mat. Cue extensive snoozing, twitching and the occasional snore for a while.

Suddenly I was awoken with a wet beagle nose which had pushed its way through the stair baluster. As I looked up Raffa was stood there with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye. Hello, you must be Dexter? I am, I arooed, much to the amusement of the pub clientele. Whilst the parents chatted, Raffa and I resumed our sleeping poses. She had made the journey from home and I had been on my paws all day. We had agreed that we would go out walking the following day so we knew we had enough time to sleep and recuperate now.

Our friendship blossomed from that moment and we shared many more adventures in the years to follow. I am so pleased I got to meet Raffa, a true and lovely pal to many.

Happy times

I’ve been blogging about sad subjects recently. In order to redress the balance I thought I would see what I was doing five years ago today. It seems like I was enjoying life and being on holiday in the Lake District in the UK.

It was my first trip, my first holiday if you will. We had sat in the car in a seemingly never ending queue of traffic along the motorways. When we arrived it was dark and I didn’t realise the beauty of the area until the following day.

Brotherswater. Stunning.

For a beagle or, I suspect any dog, the Lakes are a wonderful and magical kingdom of scents and sights. I went to Patterdale, at the lower end of Ullswater, for a week. We explored so many places that I could hardly take it all in.

I could get used to this.

It was fantastic.

Well, we weren’t expecting that

Phew, what a scorcher. Again! This is getting repetitive and is far too warm for us beagles. Thankfully our parents take us out early morning so we can avoid the worst of the summer heat which can be extremely dangerous for us dogs.

In any case we managed to wake the parents early this morning and watched as they wandered about the house getting ready for the day ahead. I got told off for shouting at a squirrel running along the fence in my garden. I had no idea that the neighbours might not be awake at 7 am. After all, if I’m out of bed, why isn’t everyone else? Lenny and I had our first part of breakfast and then we got walked a really short distance up a local road before returning to the house. We had suspicious ears as this usually meant something else was on the cards. Mum got some water and our travel bowl whilst dad opened up the car to make sure it wasn’t too hot. Lenny saw immediately what was happening and he cowered a little by our side gate. I decided to show him that this was adventure o’clock and leapt, salmon like, into my car travel crate. He was gently coaxed toward the car and then leapt into his travel crate, to the sound of much encouragement and congratulation. It should be noted that I didn’t get any such congratulation. Off we set, turn left, turn right, down the fast road, stay left, turn up a sharp corner and then park under a big shady tree. Come on you two, out you get was the cheerful instruction.

We were somewhere new. I looked at Lenny, who looked at me and then we both looked quizzically at the parents. What was this sorcery? Dad made sure mum had the water bottle and travel bowl. Off we go onwards and upwards. We strolled along the gravel track and then turned a corner and followed the track up a small hill to another corner with a predominantly chalky trail to follow. We wound our way along the rising path for about twenty five minutes when we were told that we have just conquered Chanctonbury Ring. The views were lovely and we seemed to be so high we could touch the sky. However we were more interested in the critters that live in the long grass and wild flowers along the edges of the footpath. We initially went past the wooded area on the crown of the hill but then returned to stroll through the wooded copse. The smells in the Beech trees were much more interesting than listening to our parents chattering and enjoying their walk. Lenny and I had to regularly remind them that we were still there.

King of the Hill, when Dex allows me.

The sun was getting higher in the sky and we were getting warmer so our parents decided that we should go back to the safety of some shade and shelter, so we didn’t overheat. Returning to the car we were pleased to see that it was still in a cool and shady spot and, this time, Lenny leapt straight into his travel crate without being prompted. We arrived home just in time to see our second breakfast being served. We even managed to sit nicely as dad prepared our food.

We decided that we would return again to Chanctonbury Ring. Apparently it is the site of an ancient Neolithic fort atop the hill. The original fort was thought to originate in the late Bronze or early Iron ages. The “fort” was a low earthen rampart surrounded by a ditch which gradually became unused. In 1760 the local landowner wanted to make the top of the hill more beautiful so he planted a large number of Beech trees. They survived until the Great Storm of 1987 when winds over 100 miles per hour destroyed many millions of trees across the south east of the UK. Subsequent replanting has allowed the hill top to recapture some of its beauty. The hill lies on the South Downs Way so if you’re in the area, try walking to the top and enjoying the views.

The path to the top.

We liked it, and we don’t think you will be disappointed.

Borde not bored.

Phew what a scorcher. It’s been hot and humid around these parts recently. We have been walking early in the morning to avoid the heat later in the day. I knew it was tropical down here when I moved, but this is a bit much at the moment. Apparently this warm weather has a distinct benefit in that Lenny and I seem to be lazier and more likely to sleep for longer.

When we woke up this morning we were quickly onto our paws for a try through the local wood and then along the farm track. Turning round at the bottom of the track wasn’t exactly in the plan despite it being rather warm and humid. We arrived home and breakfast was provided in reasonable order. Suddenly we were put back into our harnesses and the car was opened. This was most peculiar! Off we set for places unknown. Lenny and I looked at each other quizzically. Left and right, along roads and through a town, under the railway bridge and then left again. “Come on you two, out you get” was the command and we of course obeyed. Welcome to Borde Hill Gardens said the sign. It was warm but we were looking forward to seeing what this place was all about. When we were checking in, we each got a biscuit from the nice lady at the entrance. Armed with a map and pulling our parents along we decided to explore the gardens of this lovely old house. We strolled (read pulled and yanked on our leads) along the paths and up to the wooded walk. It was cool and there were many scents of squirrel and deer in the woods. We yelled noisily for a while until we were instructed to sit and be calm. I looked at Lenny, who was looking at me knowingly. They had no chance of anything like calm or sense being forthcoming.

Avenues of Lavender? Where are the squirrels?

We went up hill and through woodland paths, downhill and along manicured lawns. We went to the Italian gardens and even managed to politely avoid getting some tasty morsels when strolling close to the cafe.

I bravi beagle davanti alla fontana

All too soon we were directed to the car for the return journey. When we fell asleep quickly after we got home, it was deemed to be a good end to the trip.

What a great place is Borde Hill Gardens. Very dog friendly and very pretty gardens. We enjoyed ourselves greatly and we would recommend to pals to visit if they are in the area.

Through the mists of time.

I have always had a fascination with the City of London. The history of The City is everywhere for people to see. The City has endured many changes, usually inspired by humans, and sometimes not for the better. Occasions including The Plague, the Great Fire of London and the Blitz have all left their mark upon The City. It has always been the centre of wealth and commerce for traders throughout the world, when once Britain ruled over vast swathes of the globe, prompting the observation that the sun never sets on Empire. Those days of Empire are very much gone, however The City continues to survive and flourish.

You may note that I always call it “The City”. This is because it has a unique history which goes back almost 2,000 years. The Romans arrived and set up on the North bank of the Thames. There were already settlements there, however it was the coming of the legions that sparked the location and construction of what is today The City. It is not a borough and has a separate administration. It is the place from which present day London grew. The Romans set up a port and trade thrived. The area was fortified and surrounded by a wall which enclosed an area of approximately 1.12 miles. It seems wider than it is taller. The boundaries of The City are marked with black bollards showing Griffins or dragons upon them. Over time the area surrounding The City grew and London thus became larger and spread out from the boundaries of The City. Hence London is a city but The City is a distinct, and somewhat separate, part of London. In any case the majority of the history is contained within The City.

Locations such as the Bank of England (set up by Royal Charter on 27th July 1694), Lloyd’s of London, The Monument to the Fire of London, the northern section of London Bridge, St Pauls Cathedral and The Royal Exchange all have a place within the boundaries of The City. Tower Bridge and the Tower of London do not fall within The City boundaries.

It remains the premier location for investment, finance and insurance provision in the UK. Ancient history resides next to modern architecture, albeit sometimes with great unease. The City is continually regenerating and the old is becoming covered in glass and metal edifices which stand tall and dominate the skyline, giving the impression of a global power.

Lloyd’s of London

It is fairly easy to lose yourself, both literally and metaphorically, in The City. The past often returns from the alleys, paths, courtyards and churchyards our ancestors frequented over the previous hundreds of years. On chilly, foggy nights, the ghosts of the past seem to come back and loom large.

30 St Mary Axe

The old City isn’t finished yet, she still has the power to remind us of those who have been here before. Go and visit when you are able, walk down a side street, through the alleys and into the churchyards and feel the old City surround you with her atmospheric tentacles.

Through the eyes of others

I have been struggling to blog recently. I was lucky to have the assistance of Sunny’s mum in writing his story thus far. Apart from that, I have had a bit of a blank as well as feeling that there is little happening to me that is of any interest to anyone. A fellow blogger gave me some sound advice though and I will try to follow her words of wisdom.

Many of you will know that my grandad went to the Rainbow Bridge a while back and we have a large quantity of his old slides which we have been looking through and trying to clean up. They have all sorts of marks on them so we are looking to make them clearer and cleaner. Anyway I was looking at this photo that he took from The Monument to the Great Fire of London and it struck me how much of the landscape and buildings are no longer there.

If you know London there is little narrative I can add to the picture. I think it was taken in the mid 1960’s so will be around 55 years old. The Post Office Tower was topped out in 1965 and should be on the right side of the photograph above.

It is interesting to see how London has changed in the last 50 odd years. This is a vista I will not see as am I barred from climbing the Monument. Also there are a number of tall buildings now obscuring the view. I have walked around the base of the Monument on one of my visits to the Big Smoke but I am not allowed to ascend.

This photo taken in 2019 gives a better impression of the lack of vista. For the purpose of reference, the railway bridge in the first picture is partially obscured by the building to the left in the second photo.

I do wonder if all change is for the good.