As some of you may be aware I live in a place called Chesham in Buckinghamshire, UK. I arrived here just before Christmas 2013 so I am almost part of the furniture I suppose. Given I have explored the town and a considerable proportion of the surrounding area, I would like to regale you with a quick tour of the town that I call home.
Chesham appears in the Domesday Book in 1086 as Cestreham and seems to have been split between 4 Lords or Overlords who all had their own share of the land, people and the agriculture. The total population was 59 households and 15 Geld units. Through the ages the town has grown somewhat and now stands with a population of some 22,000 people. It was known in the more recent past for the 4 B’s – Brushes, Boots, Baptists and Beer. The trade of brush making was rife in the town from around 1829 until it fell away due to cheaper markets overseas. Bootmakers abounded too in the early to mid 1800’s with the tanned leather being moved up from London to be worked on in small workshops. Again the boot makers trade fell away due to cheaper manufacturing methods. The Baptist movement arose around 1640 and a number of places of worship remain to this day. We have even had a person burned at the stake for being a heretic (Thomas Harding in 1532). Moving on to the Beer, I have seen that in 1937 there were 53 pubs, beer houses and off-licences serving a population of 14,000 (A pub for every 264 people). Now there are 8 pubs in Chesham itself (A pub for every 2,750 people). I am basing my research on book called The Pubs & Inns of Chesham & villages (see below) which didn’t include the Black Cat or the Hen & Chickens, both of them being located close by and which are also still open.
Chesham is now a town mainly of small independent businesses some of which have survived through many generations. Our local bakery is run by the Darvell family, who also ran a brewery in the 1800’s. The bakery was opened in 1838 so some 180 years ago and it is still going strong. The hardware store of Pearces was started in 1937 and still thrives to this day. The town is full of smaller shops, mixed in with a few of the High Street names people know better such as W.H. Smith, Cafe Nero, Costa, Waterstones and the supermarkets of Sainsbury’s & Waitrose.
Surrounding the town is a belt of green and pleasant lands. The majority of the town lies in a valley leading out on all sides by hills all accessible by lanes and roads. The nearby areas of Chartridge, The Vale, Ashleigh Hill, White Hill, Waterside and Chesham Bois are all well served. I have been lucky enough to stroll around the entire town in my time here and it is wonderful that there is access to much of the fields, moor, farmland, lanes and byways. The many paths and bridleways allow walkers, riders and cyclists to be out in the countryside, yet be within minutes of the town centre. We live in the lee of the Chiltern Hills so we have access to them, along with The Ridgeway, fairly close by.
If you want a good walk, in the countryside and in easy reach of London, come and see what it’s like around here. I think you will enjoy it.
ISBN-13: 978-0955470745 – Pubs & Inns of Chesham & villages
I have long been an admirer of furs who have special talents or abilities. I thought it might be a good idea to woof with one such illustrious dog who has overcome some difficulties and now is an example of courage, strength, fortitude and overall doggedness. I don’t think Winston will mind if I woof that I suspect these attributes also apply to Winston’s mum (Mumz) who had the never say no attitude to try and give Winston the best life possible.
This is Winston’s story.
Winston, hi. Can you tell us how did it all begin? Have you been with your mum since you were a small puppy? When did you find out that something wasn’t quite right with your legs?
Ok well Mumz didn’t meet me until I was 6 and Bruv was 9, at least we think he was 9. I was ok at that point regarding my walking. I’d had my cyst removed 3 years before that, so I was young when I got it, however it was removed successfully. But then I started scuffing my toes on my back legs, so she took me back to specialist centre who did lots of tests and found scar tissue at operation site. The scar tissue was attached to my spinal cord. There was no choice but to attempt to remove the scar tissue but it was risky. The day before I went in Mumz made sure I had THE best day at the seaside. The operation released scar tissue but damage had been done. Mumz was told I’d be completely paralysed within the year and would be “easier” to put me to sleep. She was so shocked because she didn’t expect that response or recommendation. Through her tears she asked if I’d be viable for a set of wheels or hot rod to support my back legs and thus allow me to get around much easier. They reluctantly confirmed it was possible and Mumz was still really upset when she took me away.
However she then got cross and I mean really cross. She started doing research and hopefully try to get a second opinion. This proved to be quite hard as people in the profession don’t like to step on each other’s toes. Eventually she found somewhere in Birmingham who would see me. It’s a 3 hour drive but we did it. They were brilliant. They explained exactly what was happening inside me, and they even drew Mumz an “idiot proof” picture to demonstrate what was going on. They explained the spinal cord has no pain receptors so I wouldn’t be in pain. The only pain I would get would be muscular as my front end would be working so hard. They even recommended the best hot rod wheels for me. She was elated as they also recommended I find a physio and hydrotherapist. We took action straight away. As a result I stayed upright for 5 years. I didn’t walk normally but I walked. I needed my hot rod wheels after a year or so when we went out but I could still get round the house and garden. Of course I had my man mobile or chariot. It’s been hard work, I have physio once a week and hydro every couple of weeks and a lot of work at home as directed by physio but it is worth it. She has to massage my front end every day as I get muscle fatigue through pulling myself along on the wheels. As a result, my front muscles are larger than they ordinarily would be. She also researched mobility aids, my special “help em up” harness (I think that’s what it’s called) and then also an off roader hot rod wheels. She’s made good contacts with people in the know – in fact the hot rod people are the ones who got me the Alan Titchmarsh show a while ago on the television.
I took to everything without complaint. It took a couple of goes before I realised my hot rod was a good thing but once I realised it meant I could run in it, I was fine! I’ve done all my physio without any complaint, however I think this was probably because food was involved. I’ve adjusted with each step of this journey. It’s Mumz who found it all upsetting and has cried buckets over the years but I’ve not dwelled on how I used to be. As long as I can get where I wanna go, I don’t care how I get there. I don’t mind saying I have been an inspiration to Mumz and everyone in the family. I’ve not changed one bit from the waist up. My zest for life has always been strong and I’m always wanting to be up and at them. I’m not gonna lie, I’m not cheap to look after but I’m worth every single penny and I’ve got a really close bond with Mumz because I rely on her so much. I’m quite fond of her despite her being a bit needy. I can’t walk at all now but we knew this would happen and it’s now 8 years since they told Mumz to put me to sleep and I’ve had a great time! I have had lots of fun, holibobs, trips to seaside and so on. I’m 14 and a half now so I’ve done brilliantly. Me being disabled hasn’t made me any the less of a great pet and friend – if anything the opposite because I so enjoy life it makes it all worth while. Every owner has a special bond with their pet but I think the bond you develop with a disabled pet is a very special one, and who wouldn’t want that.
Thanks Mr Winston sir for the clear and extensive answer. May I ask where you were before you picked Mum to look after you?
We came from a somewhat broken home. Bruv and I had been living together so Mumz got to adopt us both. Bruv and I were the best of buddies, we always knocked along together and were a strong unit.
Did the hot wheels make you and Mum feel that, actually, dogs with disabilities can be super powered and inspiring to others?
Mumz was shocked almost beyond words at how easily I was dismissed as a lost cause by the people who did me op. In the very same meeting when she was told that it would “easier” if I was put to sleep, the specialist asked if we were doing anything nice for fireworks night! I mean, talk about priorities. She now understands better how other places didn’t want to step on their toes but she wasn’t looking for that. She just wanted to see if anyone had any other ideas except euthanasia, but they wouldn’t listen. She couldn’t quite believe how some people who make a living out of caring for animals could be so uncaring. She also changed vets cos my vet wasn’t great in time of crisis too. I think that’s a very important point. If you’re not happy with what you’re being told, try your hardest to get more info and a second opinion. The internet has taught Mumz so much in respect of stuff like this. For instance, like how to help with me toilets as sadly the nerves dealing with that area were affected but it’s all very manageable when you know how. My vet didn’t know how and wasn’t interested. It’s very important to get the right team around you when you have a dog like me with very different needs. They are out there, the experts, you just need to find them.
So, Zombiesquad was a direct result of your combined thought that pets with disabilities can be super powered and inspirational?
Yes, exactly. This is why I’ve taken on hunting zombies cos I knew I was the best candidate. The whole point of starting zombiesquad was exactly that, to inspire others and to let them see my journey, and how brave I was (I can hunt zombies after all) and the fun people can still have with a disabled pet. We wanted to make my twitter page fun. She wanted everyone to see how happy I am. Obviously she had no idea it would grow so big but she’s thrilled she’s got such a large audience who can see how good my life is. People have approached her for advice with a newly disabled pet or on behalf of friends with a newly disabled pet which has made her very happy because without Twitter / ZS they wouldn’t have known me. She was able to reassure and offer advice and point people in the right direction at a very scary and daunting time.
Thanks. I think everyone agrees that the twitter page is indeed fun and inspirational. May I turn to something a little sadder. When Bruv went to the Rainbow Bridge, this was clearly a very large loss. Did you and Mum have an idea to get you another friend or apprentice soon after.
She didn’t want another dog after Bruv. We loved him so much, still do, the thought of someone else and going through that again was not something she was prepared to do. It felt very disloyal to him. But then I got depressed. Very depressed. Mumz did her best to cheer me up and even spoke to an animal behaviouralist but I missed him so badly nothing helped. So her solution was to allow the Kid to move in. We’re not best pals like I was with Bruv but he’s a companion and someone to do things with. He cheered me up.
Mr Winston, thank you for allowing me to interview you. I think everyone can see that being a pet with disabilities isn’t something to hold you back. The zest for life, for fun and for chasing zombies clearly allows you to live as full a life as possible. Thank you also to Mumz for pursuing the alternative option, for not taking the first advice as final and wanting the best in life for you.
Wake up, it’s time for a walk. I don’t mind that it is only just above freezing, there is a world of dexplorations out there.
We set out for a brisk walk around the fields at Mayhall Farm. We are lucky as there is permitted access kindly granted by the farmers.
The sun was still fairly low in the sky and the woods cast their shadows across some of the fields. The early morning frost covered the still shaded grass. To me it is ideal as all the scents are held on the surface and my nose is filled with the aromas of the wildlife I wish to meet. I don’t think the wildlife wants to reciprocate however. I am raring to go but my hudad is still a bit slow and takes some time to get into his stride. It is a lovely crisp sunny day however so we march on.
Every now and then we take time to stop and look around at the lovely views we have from the tops of the hills. We wonder where everyone else is? These are ideal walking conditions and even I am a little confused as to where all my fellow dogs have got to. Anyway back to sniffing the paths and fields for the rabbits, squirrels, deer and foxes which are all hiding away from me. As we continue our walk, the Chaffinches and Great Tits scatter ahead of us from their perches within the hedgerows.
Within a couple of hours we have strolled around 6 miles and find ourselves heading home to a hearty breakfast. My brain and nose have been filled with the sights, sounds and scents of the local fields.
I am a lucky Beagle Harrier. All this on my doorstep and I can walk it whenever I want. Rain or shine, I love it.
As the year draws swiftly to a close I wanted to reflect on what I had encountered through the last 12 months. It appears I have enjoyed myself greatly with the assistance of my Personal Assistants and quite a number of my friends and their pawrents.
It was quite a cold month and I spent most of the time either running around to keep warm or trying to complete the crossword puzzle. January was quite a sad month as my pawrents had to go to my grandad’s funeral so it was fairly subdued to be honest.
I was lucky to get a trip to Blandford Forum in mid February and I took the opportunity to have a really good sniff around the River Stour. Thankfully the weather stayed fair. Back home it was essential that I continued to ensure that the fields and byways around my house were clear of squirrels.
Brrr. Much of March was cold as a result of the Beast from the East. Not that it stopped me from patrolling every day through the snow and chill wind. There was a stark beauty to the countryside near my house as I strolled the fields and woods.
The sun made an appearance and continued to shine for the majority of April. This was the signal for a hearty rendition of the “song of the beagle” on regular occasions. I even managed to get in a surprise visit to the Beagle World Record walk in Macclesfield. I am proud to be part of the world record for a single breed of dog walk along with over 1,000 of my friends and their pawrents. Sadly I did not realise it would be the last time I saw my wonderful friend Charley Beagle who went to the Rainbow Bridge early in September.
The merry month of May. The sun continued to shine, the rain clouds stayed away and the grass grew. Flowers proliferated in the garden and the meadows making for some wondrous smells on my daily patrols. I was nearly half way through another year and I sometimes took a moment to reflect on my lucky situation.
Still the sun refused to be hidden by rain clouds. This was what summer should be about. Warm days, bright evenings getting longer and all with the beauty of the flowers and shrubs in my garden surrounding me and making me so happy. The lanes, fields and woods near my house grew drier and dusty. The shade from the trees was welcomed as the temperatures climbed and walks became earlier each day. My June was saddened by news that a good friend Nellie the Beagle had passed to the Rainbow Bridge. Everyone loved Nellie.
With the sun still showing its face from early morning to late evening we were all getting hot and bothered. We decided to take a few days in Dorset to take in some views and some sea breezes. West Bexington and Puncknowle were chosen and we enjoyed being away for a few days. Back at home the early walks continued so we could avoid the hottest part of the day.
Patrolling in the parched fields around my house had become the norm recently. Whilst the scenery is wonderful at all times of the year, I certainly missed the greenery of the growing crops to run through whilst sniffing out critters. We managed another trip to Dorset for a day. This time we were in Christchurch and I made sure I got a walk along the beach. Sadly another friend, Tommy, from Argentina also crossed to the Rainbow Bridge.
With the summer pretty much finished it felt like a good time to think back over the shenanigans I had got up to this year. I was happy to recall all the fun I’d had so far. Little did I know that there would be a wonderful trip to London for me, courtesy of my hudad. I got to travel on the train, the tube and I saw many of the sights of London. Apparently I behaved impeccably. Very sadly Charley Beagle went suddenly to the Rainbow Bridge and everyone was sad for he was a great friend to all.
We met with my good friend Raffa Beagle on top of the northern Chilterns at Dunstable Downs. A lovely day was had by all as we strolled and watched the gliders floating silently across the skies. Not content with one outing I managed to wander around Ashridge Estate. This was great fun as the long grass held many critters and smells which were intriguing to me.
We lost a great friend in early September 2018 and a large number of friends all chipped in to buy a permanent and wonderful reminder of Charley beagle. We were lucky to be there when the stone bench was delivered. Later in the November I was lucky enough to get another tube ride and this time it was with both my pawrents.
December arrived and the cold chill of the Arctic wind made the grass frosty and bleak. The low sun played its rays across the fields turning them into gold. Walks around the woods and fields were done with the usual gusto albeit also with a view to getting back home into the warm.
My year has been wonderful. I have been to places I could never have dreamed of, I have met friends and had great fun with them too. I have had a year of dexplorations which I have thoroughly enjoyed. I feel reassured that I am safe and loved. I know I have a great life. I am very lucky.
Happy New Year everyone. I hope 2019 is good for you.
My grandad did the best ear tickles. He always told me I was ‘andsome. Whenever I saw him, I always knew that I would get many fusses. I saw him just before Christmas 2017 and he was happy to give me tickles and tell me to be a good boy. I love getting tickles and cuddles. He told my pawrents that I had become better behaved as time had gone by, that I was more attentive to them generally and I had learned more instructions. This made me happy and proud. I also got more treats when I was good.
Nanny & Grandad had a lovely Christmas Day and then celebrated 59 years of being married on 26th December 2017. They were born in 1937 and got married in 1958. They had five children including my uncle David who passed away in 1974. They worked hard to make sure their children always had food on the table, shoes on their feet and honesty in their bones.
Grandad suffered a heart attack in 2001 and had to have a very big operation to save his life. My dad went to the hospital with nanny to see grandad the day after the operation and said that grandad looked like an alien all wired up to machines. Thankfully the operation was a total success as it allowed him to live for many years after 2001. He was able to enjoy doing many things such as seeing England play cricket at Lords & the Oval, go again to the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show and even go hot air ballooning.
Last Christmas, the phone rang on 28th December 2017 and my auntie called to say Grandad had fallen over in the shopping centre. Then she called back 25 minutes later to say that Grandad had passed away. I looked at dad and he was looking sadly at mum. He knew there was nothing he could do to bring grandad back and he would never speak to my grandad again. His heart ached and he wondered what to do. However he knew he had to go and see nanny as she would need plenty of support now that Grandad was gone. Grandad was nannies rock and helped her do everything. Grandad would try to cheer her up when she was sad. He would go shopping, do the cooking and generally help to make nannies life easier as they grew older. He was always at his vegetable allotment growing so many vegetables and fruit that they always had plenty of healthy food to eat. He would say that he had grown enough beans and carrots to feed an army.
Grandad Chas was a good bloke, he loved all his family and all his friends. He worked hard, really hard, to make sure that he could look after my nanny and ensure that his children grew up safe, secure, loved and with a sense of responsibility for what they will face in the world. He wanted his children to have good morals and were thoughtful and lived their lives with a free thinking and positive mindset. I think he succeeded. He said he was proud of his children and that was one of his main goals in life.
My dad tells me to always say what you feel when you can to the people you love and cherish. One day it will be too late and you mustn’t regret not telling those people dearest to you, that you love them. I miss my grandad so much so often. I miss the ear tickles and the back scratches. I miss the belly rubs and the head massages with his long bony fingers. Mostly I miss him not being able to lean into his shins and look up at him and tell him, with my eyes, I love you Grandad.
Within the world of dogs in which I find myself, there is a date that arises once a year and is a cause for celebration, thanks and thoughtfulness. Whether the fur concerned is a pup, re-homed or rescued like I have been, the day in question is the Gotcha Day. It represents the first day we wandered into our new forever homes to start our new lives.
I arrived in my forever home on 19th December 2013 and I really didn’t know what to think, let alone what to expect from this new house and these new pawrents. I had been in a home before and for one reason or another it hadn’t worked out. So, here I was in another new home and it looked nice, it was warm and there were plenty of beds and places to sleep as well as a crate with blanket covers so I could retreat there if I felt anxious.
Fast forward five years and I have a great life. I am safe, loved and I know that this is my forever home.
I can celebrate my luck in finding the right pawrents to look after me.
I can give thanks to them and all my friends who welcomed me and made me feel loved and wanted.
I am thoughtful for the other furs who remain in kennels, pounds, rescue centres and worse still are unloved and abused all around the world. If I could wave a magic wand and give them all a loving home, I would do without a seconds delay.
Occasionally I hear of people and I sit up and listen to every word. In this vein, there was someone born on 13th December 1963 who was bright, intelligent and funny. He was good at school, was a great son and brother along with a good friend to all. He looked out for his siblings and was always there to ride his bike, play games with his brothers and was forever seeking to listen and learn about new things. At school his teachers all said he did well in his lessons.
Then on Good Friday 12th April 1974 he went into hospital and doctors found out he wasn’t very well. There was an initial diagnosis of pneumonia. When they found out the real cause the doctors said he needed to have treatment which would be painful and might not work. This made his family and everyone else worried. They all wanted him to be better and able to do well at school and grow up to be a fine man. Sadly he spent a long time in hospital having the painful treatment and he couldn’t keep up his school work. He couldn’t have fun with his brothers and sisters, as well as his friends. He went back to school in September 1974 once the chemotherapy had been stopped and radiotherapy commenced. He couldn’t walk the mile and a half to and from school as he was so weak, but he was determined to live as full a life as possible. He had been on holiday to Cornwall with the family, in the summer.
On Sunday 8th December 1974 my nan & grandad were crying when my dad got out of bed. My uncle David died of lung cancer. Apparently it was genetic.
The funeral was on his 11th birthday on 13th December 1974. All the family were present. His entire school class was there. Everyone loved my uncle David and everyone misses him so much now. I know my dad and Minnie da Minx’s mum miss him every day, as do his other siblings. My nanny has a quiet time to herself every year. I will give her special leg leans when I next see her.
Listening to my dad, I miss my uncle David. He is the uncle I will never meet.
It was the dead of night and my parents were out of bed and making ready for the day ahead. After weeks of chicanery and subterfuge with various friends, we were at last on our way to rural Shropshire to make Charley’s parents cry, albeit in the nicest possible fashion. They were blissfully unaware of our impending arrival and this was the way it was supposed to be.
We met up with Raffa Beagle and her mum, and thence on to Charleys house. “Oh my, what are you doing here?” asks Charleys mum, whilst his dad expressed similar surprise from an upstairs window. “Who, us? Oh we were just passing and thought we would drop by to see you”. Griff the Beagle and Boot the Cocker bounded out to greet us and the humans settled down for coffee, buns and chatter, all the time waiting for the unexpected delivery.
After an hour or so, panic sets in as there is no sign of the delivery truck bringing the unknown gift for Charley’s M&D. Off we set on our walk with Raffa and her mum having to turn back as it is feeding time. After phone calls it appears that the delivery will arrive, however not until later in the day. “Do you not realise we have people from London and Liverpool who have taken time off and driven for hundreds of miles to be here?”. The rest of us kept going around the fields and arrive at Charley’s final resting place. It is a place of contemplation and maybe some sorrow but also of great beauty, looking out over the fields where he would run, roam, laze and watch the world go by, all in the shadow of the Shropshire Hills.
“Who’s that at the door?” – action stations and all hands to the pump time. Charley must have known something was up for, as soon as the unknown package was removed from the truck, a wonderful double rainbow appeared over the house with one end landing close by Charley’s last resting place. To see the look upon the faces of Charley’s M&D when the bench was removed from the crate, of joy mixed with reminiscence of some long held thoughts, was strangely comforting to us all. The culmination of a plan to honour Charley had borne fruit, and the fruit was mellow and welcomed. Griff explored the bench quizzically. Boot strolled in his nonchalant fashion toward the bench. Charley’s M&D sat upon the bench and looked at the rainbow stretching over the house and toward the fields and hills.
A suitable tribute, a timely reminder and a place of contemplation. All considered, it was a good day. I could return home content. I am not sure that we made Charley’s M&D cry, but I hope we made their hearts feel full of the love of their friends.