You may remember that, a little over a year ago, I passed my driving test (woohoo!) This has had a big impact on my life, and particularly on my daily walks with Bruce. Instead of just striking out from my front door, I can now drive a few miles, and explore further on foot. One of my favourite walks over the past year has been the circuit from Milarrochy Bay to Balmaha and back, along the West Highland Way, following the shores of Loch Lomond, starting and ending at this tree. The woodland around Loch Lomond’s south-east shores abounds with wonderful oak trees, which, between the 17th and 19th centuries were managed in a semi-industrial fashion for the production of charcoal and dyestuffs. Sessile and English oaks sit side by side in the woodland, aged by time and weather, their twisted roots and trunks defining the edge of path and shoreline. Being a focal point for the particularly lovely view west across the loch, the spindly specimen at Milarrochy bay is probably one of the most photographed trees in Scotland. I am deeply fond of this tree, and can’t help photographing it too. I love its twisted roots and limbs, its distinctive combination of delicacy and sturdiness, its profound resilience. In all seasons it is utterly beautiful: each time I see it it is different, and yet it is always itself – “still, and still moving” as T.S Eliot put it in East Coker. I’ve taken photos of the tree in all seasons and weathers. All of these photographs were taken with my phone, and I think you can probably tell that I upgraded my old model last February. . . The photograph at the top of this post shows the tree last weekend, and here it is over the course of the preceding year.
Hiya! It is I, Bruce. Today I am here to tell you about a delicious and intriguing object: the POTATO.
Also known as “tattie” or “spud”, and, often (for some mystifying reason) prefixed with the adjective “humble”, the POTATO is one of my all-time favourite foods. Together with other wondrous food-objects (for example, CHICKEN, SAUSAGES and HAM), POTATOES are sadly not something I am able to consume on a daily basis. I find this extremely disappointing. Instead of a tasty varied diet of tubers cooked in several different ways (roast POTATOES being a particular delicacy), twice a day I am offered what in this house is designated dog food, viz, a sort of arid, brown space-biscuit. Though I am told the space-biscuits provide me with fully-balanced canine nutrition, I find them frustrating in many respects. . . perhaps particularly the miniscule amounts in which they are dispensed. I have frequently tried to suggest to Kate and Tom that POTATOES would be much preferred to space biscuits by this hungry labrador, but as they are foolish humans, who do not speak DOG, they fail to understand my chagrin. But here is a top-tip, dog friends: if you too exist on a bland space-biscuit diet, you may be able to supplement it with the delicious food your humans prepare for themselves by presenting them with the face known as “GIVE ME A POTATO”.
Sometimes the GIVE ME A POTATO face is literally all that is required to make a POTATO materialise. How well I remember the day I made this face at our next door neighbour, Mairi, and was rewarded with two entire baked POTATOES. How delicious! How fluffy! How utterly POTATOE-Y those POTATOES were! This event was truly the stuff of canine dreams – indeed every time I’ve encountered Mairi since, I’ve presented her with the expectant face of one who anticipates its recurrence. But I digress.
If, after making the GIVE ME A POTATO face you get lucky, and a POTATO actually appears, you may find yourself having to work for your reward. Humans refer to such matters as training, and your successful response to their commands is a simple way of compounding their mistaken belief that they have the upper hand. We dogs know better. And let me tell you, friends, that while some foolish canines regard such tricks as demeaning, there is nothing at all demeaning in the tasty joy of a POTATO. My philosophy is: if you want the POTATO, you’ve got to throw the shapes.
And while I am on the subject, it is worth bearing in mind that cooked POTATOES are always to be preferred to those that come straight out of the ground, or sit in the bathroom performing the mysterious process known as “chitting.” I myself have little idea what this “chitting” involves, but I do know that at this time of year the bathroom becomes a sort of POTATO nursery, a space in which I show much interest but out of which I am frequently shooed. Kate spends a lot of time in the POTATO nursery, and it has to be said that in spring she seems, if possible, even more excited about POTATOES than I: continually fussing and muttering about the correct timing of “getting the POTATOES in”. But the fussing seems to pay off, as by late Summer we find ourselves with a glut of tubers, and as she often reminds me, the best POTATOES are those that are home grown.
Well, enough chit-chat, already. May I eat my POTATO now, please?
See you soon, love Bruce xx
Kate adds: there is indeed much potato anticipation here as my spring planting has been held up by shed-construction and associated landscaping. Hopefully the work will be completed soon and I can get the potatoes out of the bathroom and into the ground!
Finally! A break in the weather. It is beginning to feel vaguely Spring-like at last.
Primroses! Things in bloom on my doorstep again!
Bruce and I have been making the most of the weather on our daily walks.
You can see the water levels of Loch Lomond are rather high – a result of the near-biblical rain we’ve been having of late.
One of my greatest pleasures on my walks is observing the way the weather (of which there is a lot out here) transforms familiar objects. The light, for example, is different every single day. This tree (a favourite) looks different each time I see it. Yesterday it was all but submerged.
Tom has been making the most of the weather too – running the Deeside Way – a 33 mile race in preparation for the Highland Fling. I rather like the lo-fi jam-jar lid ‘medal’. 4 hours 19 minutes! Well done, Tom!
I had hoped to show you some knitting today – but there is honestly not much to see. For the past few weeks I have been working on a garment with an, um, “atypical” construction. Today I had to concede that despite my best efforts it really hasn’t worked out. Now, if you were ever in need of a tightly-fitting woolly superhero outfit that sits on the bias, then what I have created would suit you rather well. Sadly, though, this wasn’t quite the look I was after. Time to rip it out and start again!
Here is another new yoke – this one is named Westering Home
I developed the idea for this design across on the ferry to Islay, one of my favourite Hebridean locations. On my frequent trips there, I often find that Westering Home – Hugh Roberton’s famous 1920s song – pops into in my head, and it seemed an appropriate name for this cosy cabled garment.
If you would like to travel with me to Islay, and hear Norma Munro’s beautiful rendition of this song, press play. Warning: Watching this video may create an instant earworm and / or a desire to visit the Hebrides.
We had great fun shooting the photographs on a westering journey. We began west of our home, in mainland Argyll . . .
. . . took more photographs on the Islay ferry . . .
. . . and completed the shoot at Kildalton, on the island of Islay itself.
. . .where Bruce was keen to join in the fun.
Westering Home is a large, loose, coat-like garment worn with positive ease. To create the wrapped opening, each front is doubled to the same width as the back, and the yoke shaping is accomplished by working decreases between the cable panels.
Carefully blocking and steaming the bottom of the garment more than the top, lends this design some swing, allowing the cable and rib panels to fall in a slightly pleated manner.
The cabled fronts of this cardigan can be worn open or doubled across the body and depending on the amount of ease preferred, can be adjusted and buttoned to suit.
The yarn is Artesano aran – a robust, warm wool / alpaca blend of which I am inordinately fond. It comes in some lovely complex shades and knits up into fantastically squishy cables.
I have to say that this a yoke design I’m really pleased with – the pattern is really simple and logical to knit, it works up all in one piece, and the end result is a cosy, dramatic and versatile winter garment that should suit pretty much everyone.
If you’d like to see more information about Westering Home, I’ve now created a pattern page on Ravelry.
For those of you who have been asking, everything is going to plan with the book, and I will activate the shop for pre-orders as soon as we have gone to print, which is looking like it will be next week.
Hiya! It is I, Bruce. A while ago, we lived in a tall stone building in a city where there were lots of cars. Now we live here:
Where there are lots of these:
And a few of these:
One of the many good things about it round here is that there are many Paths and I get to walk on these Paths with Kate and Tom. Sometimes I get to go swimming, and sometimes I leap about in the long grass, smelling interesting animal smells. But wherever we go, there is generally some water and mud for me to get myself nicely lathered up in. Hurrah!
This particular Path is known as West Highland Way and is frequented not only by dogs and cows and deer but by many human walkers. Human walkers can be forgetful, and occasionally they discard their belongings along Path. That is OK though, because I sniff out and find these belongings, and then I make them MINE. Without a doubt, the best of these found belongings is GLOVE.
Now, I first found GLOVE about three weeks ago by Path. Since then I have played with it many times and it is now sodden and chewed and has a delicious bovine odour. GLOVE seems quite robust though: Kate tells me that it is fashioned from acrylic, and is therefore a sort of plastic which refuses to decay. But though GLOVE is indestructible, and now has a very strong smell about it, sometimes I play with it so hard that I actually manage to lose it in the grass. Tom or Kate will insist that GLOVE is finally lost forever, but then, O joy of joys, a few days later I will always find it again, usually in a completely different location. I suspect the cows to have a hand (or hoof) in its unaccountable movements.
Now, there are many fun things to do with GLOVE but probably the most fun to be had is when the humans throw it for you. Kate describes GLOVE as “a vile object” and is sometimes unwilling to join in the game. But, dear friends, let me tell you a good trick I have discovered: If you present Kate with GLOVE often enough, and stare at her for long enough with your most persuasive expression, she will eventually join in.
Once Kate has capitulated, and throws GLOVE for you, you can retrieve and prance with GLOVE until you are exhausted.
F U N!
But, eventually, it is time to leave and – sadly – to leave GLOVE beind, as for some unknown reason, Kate will not allow me to bring GLOVE home.
This is Gate which leads home off West Highland Way.
Right by Gate there is Old Wall.
Kate instructs me to LEAVEIT behind Old Wall. This makes me sad.
But if I don’t LEAVEIT behind Old Wall we don’t go home.
Well, goodbye, fun GLOVE buddy.
Probably the only good thing about leaving GLOVE behind Old Wall is that, unlike losing it in the grass, it is always there next time, and I am always surprised and happy to discover it once again!
See you soon, love Bruce xx
Hiya! It is I, Bruce. I am here to tell you about a Fun Walk I had yesterday at Braid Hill with Kate and my buddy, Felix. This walk (which is one of my favourites) begins by Golf Course. Golf Courses are very mysterious human spaces: men walk purposefully about them with large bags and sticks, and occasionally a ball flies by which I am not allowed to chase. Also, Golf Courses are composed of large flat, inviting lawns which clearly say “gambol upon me.” Oddly, though, whenever we encounter one, I am not allowed to gambol but am sternly told to walk to heel. Yesterday, though, I was so happy to be engaged upon the business of Walking with Felix that I got away, and gambolled happily about the Golf Course. Then I did something in the middle of the big green lawn which made Kate shout “Oh No! Bruce!” in that way she often does. So I thought I’d cheer her up by rolling in something a horse had left nearby . . . sadly this did not seem to do the trick.
Felix remained in good spirits, however, and, fully fired up with eau de cheval, we ascended Hill. At the top of Hill it was clearly time for a game, and, after rummaging in the bushes I presented Felix with Old Ball.
Come down from there, Felix, it is time to throw Old Ball.
Look at me prance with Old Ball, Felix.
Time to throw Old Ball again, Felix.
What do you mean, its the end of the game?
Please throw Old Ball again, Felix.
Sadly, there was no more Old Ball fun for me as Kate decided it was time to take some pictures of her new sweater.
Such is life.
See you soon, love Bruce xxx
And he asks me
with both eyes:
why is it daytime? Why does night always fall?
why does spring bring
in its basket
for wandering dogs
but useless flowers,
flowers and more flowers?
This is how the dog
and I do not reply.
Pablo Neruda, Ode to the Dog
Hiya! It is I, Bruce. Today I am here to tell you about the place called New Lanark.
As well as being an important World Heritage Site, New Lanark is a place where you can enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Falls of Clyde.
This was definitely the bit that interested me.
Up along the river banks and woods, there is much fun walking to be had. I smelt many interesting smells and went for a swim . . .
. . .I looked after the humans, hurrying them along the paths, and posing obligingly for photographs.
. . . I also heard some sounds that were new to me. For example, these icicles on the opposite bank made an interesting crrrrrrack and crrrrrash sound as they broke and fell into the river.
Then we came to a place called The Hide.
There was much excitement around The Hide because The Egg had just appeared in the nest of a Peregrine. The humans at The Hide had equipment through which Tom and Kate could look and see the Peregrine sitting on The Egg. Kate seemed quite interested in The Egg, but was perhaps even more animated by the colour of the Peregrine’s eyelids, which were apparently a very very very bright yellow. I was not allowed to look through the equipment, but I was very good on my lead and did not snaffle any of the Hide humans’ tasty meat-filled sandwiches while they were being distracted by the excitement of The Egg.
Now, I know and understand many human words — egg and chicken, for example, are two words that make a lot of sense to me. But two words that do not make sense are the words called Monkey Walking, which is what the humans shout at me with glee when I do this on a path with gaps in it:
The naming of things is perhaps the deepest of all human mysteries. For example, why is this crunchy, tasteless, pointless thing called Lichen when there is nothing to like about it at all?
Why is this piece of Scottish hydroelectrical equipment called YORKSHIRE?
Who named this bench BROWN LONG EARED BAT?
And which daft human decided that this fence should be called DONKEY?
Answers on a postcard, please . . .
See you soon, Love Bruce
Kate adds: A shout-out to Laura, the New Lanark ranger, who reads this blog and who we met on our walk today. Thanks so much to Laura and all her colleagues for their hard work maintaining this wonderful landscape for everyone to walk in and enjoy! xx
Yesterday was the third anniversary of my stroke. It is not an anniversary I want to ‘keep’ in any way, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t occasion in me a little melancholy and grief.
Bruce and me have been out walking.
Outside things are starting to grow.
And Bruce found something that really interested him.
Really, it is just another, ordinary, February day.