Friday, December 31, 2010

A Wish...

If the day before yesterday was the hardest day that we have gone through as a couple, since our eighteen and a half years together, then yesterday was the second hardest. We sat and talked of our loss, both smiling and crying at the many of Lucy's memories that we’d been left with. We both know that we’d done the right thing by her in her all too short time here, and that no dog could have given more love in return. 

If I am to take one thing from the gift of having Lucy as my companion it is her spirit for life. Lucy would not give up on the trail, on us or on anything that she attempted for that matter. She lived her life right until the end with joy, love and perhaps with just a touch of the devil too. To some she was just a dog perhaps, but to all who grew to know her she was so very much more.

I left the house early and loaded up the car heading towards the trails around Moel Famau, every action, from opening the tailgate to looking at the empty space in the rear view mirror brought a pang of pain and by the time I’d arrived my eyes were stinging with the salt of yet more tears. I walked for more miles than I have for a long time, passing so many places which brought visions of a thundering bog monster and her joyful spirit. The trials were foggy but there was no ‘spook game’ to creek my neck, just the silence such weather brings, with only some bare trees paying witness to my despondent passing.

As I came to the trail’s end I felt an easing, however slight, in my heart. I had not been alone after all upon the paths for the memory and spirit of Lucy had strolled along side of me, pushing me when I wanted to turn back, stilling my tears as I cried from the despair in my heart. She’s gone has my little girl, but her spirit remains out there on the trails where she waits until it’s my time to leave this world and once more tread new paths together, and until that time she’ll never, ever be forgotten.

This time of year we are asked what are our wishes and aims for the future ahead. I have only one; to live my life with the same spirit, joy and love with that our Lucy lived hers. 

We both would like to offer  heartfelt thanks for all the comments left upon the news of Lucy’s passing, each one helped a little and made myself and Clare understand a little that we are not alone in our love for Lucy – thank you all.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lucy 2001 - 2010

This is the hardest piece that I have ever written for today my beloved Lucy has passed on to new adventures. An exploratory operation this morning revealed a massive tumour and secondaries in her lymph glands and I made the heart rendering decision not to prolong her suffering. I would just like to thank all who grew to know and love her through my pale words and pictures. I do not believe that I’ll have the spirit or will to walk the trails or write again without my bog monster at my side, it will just not be the same.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Seasons Greetings

       Just a quick post to let you all know that Christmas may well have come a tad early for this bah humbug, the news about Lucy improves day by day and it looks as if the crises is about over. Apologies for being a tad reticent over posting and also leaving comments on you fine peoples blogs but as we all know life does get in the way. I'd like to offer my thanks once more for all your kind words and support for Lucy.

    Not sure that I'll be having too much time over the coming week to post so I thought that I'd get the goodwill to all my friends here in the blog worlds done afore I forget. 

So a very Merry Christmas to each and every one of you and may the New Year bring you everything that you wish for.

  See I can be nice

Your friend, John

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Edge of the woods?

A heartfelt thank you for you comments upon the previous post, from both myself and from ol’ stinky herself. The last few days have been traumatic to say the least but all your words of support have been a huge help.

As for Lucy’s present state? Well the news so far is encouraging to say the least. The most recent visit to our vets, following a steroid injection, was anticipated with a sense of dread. Our vet, Mr. Evans, called us through ahead of others as soon as we entered the building. He repeated his previous examination of her abdomen with due care and attention. Now Mr. Evans is what you’d call ‘old school’, a vet of many years experience, totally trust worthy, he barely cracks a smile and his conversation is short and always to the point. Bearing this in mind his expression as he rose from Lucy’s side was most unexpected and could only be described as bemusement! His face slowly creased into a smile as he calmly stated “well that is surprising”. Expanding further he explained that the ‘thickening’ had reduced by a large amount, although there was still some to be felt, Lucy showed no sign of discomfort this time around (t,other day she nearly had his wrist on his first touch of her stomach) and was in much better spirits. He felt that an operation at this point would be unnecessary, although not yet out of the question depending upon her progress. More steroids and anti-biotic were prescribed with a new appointment this Friday.

Now I’m fully aware that the old girl is certainly not out of the woods yet, but there is a sense of tempered optimism here in our home. So with everything crossed that we can cross we wait for Friday. Once again I cannot express my thanks for all your kind words and support.

As an aside walking Lucy on the trails is not an option at the moment so I’m really not to sure what to post about for your perusal at the moment (any ideas welcome), so my postings may well be a little infrequent. Although I have opened up my other blog once more ‘Tales from the Fish’ to while away these cold evenings, so if you’d like me to attempt a story here, feel free to let me know of your ideas.

Again many, many thanks to you all my friends,


Monday, December 13, 2010


I have tried writing this post over and over but whichever way I try the words do not in anyway describe the inner turmoil and emotions twisting my stomach into knots this evening. So I’ll just lay down the facts and that will have to suffice;

Tomorrow Lucy, after a few days of illness, is been taken to the vets for a third examination within a week upon a ‘thickening/growth’ in her abdomen. This will determine if a steroid injection has made any change or whether an operation will be required to determine what action (if possible) may be taken. We are hoping for the best although it’s difficult with this cloud above us.

I hope that you’ll all understand if I give the blog a miss for a while, just finding that, without the wind in my sails, it’s losing its relevance and that writing is neigh on impossible..



Thursday, December 2, 2010

Between shifts

As most of you know I spend considerable time lamented ‘the grind’. Well nothing has changed there but just to explain ‘the grind’ consists of two 12 hour day shifts, 6am to 6pm. Which are then followed by two 12 hour night (ghost) shifts, 6pm to 6am. Then, according to the arse holes above er powers that be, 4 days off. Now I’ve tried telling them that finishing at 6am and then not getting home till 7am on the firsts of these does not really constitute a day off but ‘cause they don’t have to do this rota they don’t give a rat’s arse. Coupled to the fact that there is no way that this rota allows your body to get in any sort of rhythm, you know eating, sleeping, going to the toilet and that for the first couple of days off you feel like crap you may now kin while I’m not keen upon the grind (apart from the idiots in charge).

But this is slightly off tangent (again) and the real purpose of the post is to show you a couple of pictures from today’s walk ‘between shifts’. The walk was down at loggerheads, along side the river Alyn, not to far to travel. It’s a good place in the week when there are few people around, just to stretch the legs and clear the mind, and also get rid of a certain individual’s pent up energy.

Really fortunate this time as I managed to witness two adult buzzards feeding a juvenile (poor pictures – right at the range of my camera),  and a robin who managed to literally get under foot in his quest for anything my size eights may have churned from the snow.

On the way home I managed to spot a Curlew flying along side a hedge as we neared home, tis been over twenty years since I’ve seen one (sorry no picture).

Right now I’m going to tuck into a cider, apple and pork casserole that I’ve had bubbling away whilst out (must leave some for Clare), and then off to the first of the ghost shifts. But you know what? I really don’t mind, it’s on days like these that silver lining is a damn site bigger than its cloud.

Till next time,

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

One I'd like to forget....

Avert your eyes.....

OK just for the OBN photograph prompt here's a photo that perhaps shouldn't see the light of day;-

Taken last year in the caravan over at Llyn Brenig not long after a 9 mile hike (well more like 15 after taking a short cut!), and a rather large glass of whiskey. I think Clare just about caught my better side as I arose from slumber!! Oh and doesn't Lucy just get every where?



Monday, November 29, 2010

Don't be disappointed - avoid the rush.

I guess you could say that we have been fortunate here in North East Wales when comparing the recent snowfall at the end of last week with other parts of the country. As usual here in the U.K. the slightest smattering of the white stuff has produced the expected wailing, cursing of the gods and gnashing of teeth as areas become gridlocked by incompetence; both with the usual lack of preparedness by local authorities and by the usual huge amounts of ineptitude and stupidity shown by drivers who really should know better.

I tend to leave the roads alone at times like these, only venturing out when lady necessity dictates. So for the weekend I left the trails alone, knowing full well that with this thin layer of snow hoards of unprepared folk would be swarming to envelope the trails that I’m targeting in my labours  to become a tad less rotund. As I may have mentioned before there is nothing that I love more than walking alone on the trails, alone that is apart from ol’ stinky and the diversity of nature that envelopes you if you allow it too.  My good friend from across the pond Casey Harn summed up this feeling with two words when talking of this feeling in a mail to me the other day; - “Walking meditation”. The more I sat back and thought about it the more it seemed to fit with what I feel when I’m ‘out there’, that’s one of the reasons I think that a strong friendship is building between me and Casey, we feel the same way about the outdoors in so many ways, its just that Casey manages to capture the feelings with words far better than I.. Anyway enough of the back slapping, ‘cause that’s certainly what Casey is not about, and back to the narrative.

Now where was I, ah yes the multitude of once in a blue moon outdoor survivalists usually accompanied by an extremely overweight ‘hard’ dog on it’s once a year walk complete with studded collar, or if not these it’s the city guy with extended family thinking that walking on icy, snow smattered trails would be absolutely super (plays havoc with the loafers and pram wheels this white stuff). Ok maybe I’m just being a tad too grumpy about this, after all I’m no expert (remember my last walk?) when it becomes to being geared up and other folk have just as much right to the trails as I, just wish that they’d be a little more prepared and also take their picnic and food detritus home with them, it’s less heavy when you’ve ate/drank the contents – honest. And yes I don’t really like folk to much, I make friends slowly and carefully and I just cannot get use to all these Reebok clad wanderers greeting my passing with a cheery ‘hello’ and ‘is it far to the top?’(usual replies include ‘grunt’ and ‘oh not far, after all you’ve just left the car park’ and ‘can you pick up that wrapper you’ve just left on the floor’ and of course the ‘if I have to stop your dog from biting me again we are really going to have words’). Please don’t get the wrong impression of me, inside I’m just a cuddly teddy bear (ask Clare) it’s just that I’m not a people person.

Right now that little point has been cleared up you now know why I didn’t go a wandering this weekend and left it till this morning. This time I was a little more prepared than last, with ample layers, (onion springs to mind), neck snood, Berghaus wind stopper hat, water, re-waxed boots, bite to eat, mobile, Opinal locking knife, Leki walking pole and of course not forgetting Lucy.  Ah ‘how ol’ tight arse claims to be poor when showing such an abundance of kit?’ I hear your disgruntled mutterings. Well truth be told my still meager, yes meager, collection of gear is the result of presents, charity shop finds and e-bay with new stuff only bought in the sales. Take the Leki Makalu pole for instance; bought for a miserly £5.00 when an outdoor shop was closing down at the local retail park the other year (and then forgotten about for a while!). Once I adjusted the height and hardened the shock for my weight (no comments here please) I’ve found this to be an excellent piece of kit with definite positive results for the stress on my knees. So £5.00 for easier knees equals further miles able to be walked – result. And then there’s the Opinal; found on a walk last winter discarded besides a fire, just required tempering and sharpening – two nil to the fatty on the trails!

So with myself feeling amply prepared, we cruised to the hills with just a tad of Iron Maiden strumming the fun cruisers sound system.  Checking the temp readout upon landing the outdoor temperature was reading a positively balmy -5 degrees centigrade, bloody hell thought I, tis a tad sharp out there. Unperturbed we dismounted the cruiser and set forth, our breathes expelling clouds of what could be called steam of engine like proportions, each breath reaching to the bottom of my lungs searing all my shivering alveoli. Ah well the way to warmth is through activity and effort, so sally forth did we, at a good pace though not the mad dash of last week, prudence John boy, prudence. Evidence of the weekend’s multitudes was everywhere; the trials flattened by uncountable footprints (loafer treads included), dog tracks of various sizes (most deeper than what Lucy’s 66lb could produce!), sled tracks (oh great lets make the trail a cresta run), mountain bike tracks and the odd pram track (honest, I’m not making this up), and the usual wealth of discarded food wrappers and empty bottles oh and not forgetting the carefully bagged dog poo, thrown into the bushes, ho hum.

But these signs couldn’t dampen our mood (well just for a short while); the air was crisp and clear, the views spectacular and the silence? Well here’s a thing, usually when upon these trails there is always an underlying hum of natures song; the buzzards mewing call, the twittering of the tit marshes, blackbird’s shrill warning, the scamper of tree bound squirrels eluding Lucy’s mad dash, even the wind was still and silent. All that reached my ears was the crump, crump of my boots in the snow and Lucy’s ragged breath as she expended the weekends pent up energy. I’m not complaining (that’s a new one then) it kind of made the walk, er… special. Just standing there alone, silent and drinking in the view of natures beauty well only two words came to mind “Walking meditation”.

As we traipsed further the sign of other folk filtered down to just the odd set of walking boot tracks and ‘light weight’ hound prints. The snow had developed crystals making the snow resemble miniature forest ferns. Also in the ever dipping temperatures the snow retained its powdery texture, just a joy to walk through.

Lucy had no patience for my paltry photographic efforts today, going from disdain to a mad hurtling attempt to get my arse into gear and pick up the pace. She really does know how to raise a smile, makes you move and forget her age.


Lift off
Thrusters on
Touch down......Bugger

I hope that these few pictures below convey the mood, though they don’t really do this time out doors any justice what so ever.

We finally landed back in the cruiser, alone still apart from just this robin, the only other animal besides us seen upon the trails, now that’s what I call walking alone.

Thanks for taking the time to read this far, hope that you don’t mind my grumblings too much. Oh and the blue print? well it's bleedin' cold you know!


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Heads up

Probably my shortest post ever, just to give a heads up (if you have not found it already) to a young lady's blog "hunt like your hungry", don't give heads up often 'cause blogs are a personal choice but the latest post on this one just made me smile and warm inside, and that's something for this grumpy height challenged Welshman!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Walk with me...

I have come to realise that I have not really fulfilled too many ‘out there’ goals this year, blaming a host of reasons for my lack of fitness, stamina and strength. It was whilst crafting a mail to my friend across the pond, Casey, that it finally dawned upon this here dimwit that I had been making all manner of excuses for my woes, but that’s exactly what they were excuses. So switching to computer off, leaving Casey’s mail unfinished, it was time for a change of tact. I’ve noticed that within my last few posts I have drifted away from my usual thread, that is primarily rambling on about the walks that myself and ol’ stinky take together and sharing them and their seasonal changes with anyone who may care to read my simple musings. This was also partly prompted by a delightful post from Claire at "Are we nearly there yet?”. So without further ado, put on your walking boots, grab a coat and come along with myself and Lucy for a stroll if you’re so minded, that is if you can stand the stench of the odourfull bog monster!

My walking lately has been lacking in distance and any real sort of gradient, although it has taken me through some soulful and enchanting woodland. So it’s time to stretch those leg muscles and get the heart pumping a tad harder me thinks, it’s time we headed back to the hills. We start off early morning and as we load ourselves into the Fun Cruiser the cold, frost laden, air can be felt deep in our chests as we draw each breath. Lucy seems to feel the new sense of purpose, there’s no dawdling to sniff out who’s crossed her front garden in the night, no it’s straight into the back of the car with a shiver of anticipation coursing through her muscles. The journey to the lower car park at Moel Famau is swiftly over, no music this time, just the hum of the tyres on the road. We disembark; taking a moment to let the cold air wash over us, the crisp smell of this cold autumnal morning is something that I cannot describe with justice, just that it says that we’re back where we belong. The low autumn sun has not long risen and it won’t find the slopes on which a lot of our path is to take us at any part of the day at this time of year with its lowly trajectory.

We set off at a good pace, a little too good I’m to find out later on, and the gradient away from the car park is enough for us to forget about the chill air as our muscles warm to their task. Half way up the slope Lucy hesitates, looking back at me foe support. Sure enough there, in the gloomy distance, is something smack bang in the middle of the path. I call Lucy to my side as we ease our pace, trying to make out in the low light what’s there ahead. Without warning a bird launchers itself off the trail towards the canopy of the now bare larch branches, a raptor! Knowing my camera’s limitations (and my lack of skills) we’re still too far for a picture and I’m still puzzled as to what type of raptor it is. As we near its position it heads off up trail once more and alights again upon the path, tis strange goings on indeed. It’s smaller than a sparrow hawk and its behaviour is puzzling us. We slow the pace further still becoming more aware of where we are placing our foot steps, a gentle hand on Lucy’s neck keeping her alongside of me. Again it lifts itself, this time landing upon a power cable support. This time we’re close enough to see what has so far eluded our attempts at identification, a kestrel! A rare sight indeed up here, only the second one that I can ever recall seeing on these trails, it seems that this is a good omen for the walk ahead. Again he heads through the larches canopy, allowing us just one more distant picture before he slides off beyond our vision.

We pick up the pace once more, Lucy springing along, happy to be given her head once more. As we crest the first of the hill’s shoulders the path darkens, the sunlight only glimpsed through the occasional gap in the dark, looming pines that now dominate the trail. The crunch of frozen surface water under our feet is like a quiet gunshot going off in this crisp air. The only other noise is shrill cries of warning from flitting mobs of Blue Tit-Marshes as they urge us to move on, move on through their patch of hillside. But even here, in the gloom of these tall trees there are splashes of beauty and wonder to behold even if only on the smallest of scale.

Lucy is now in full flow, her bursts of energy belying her age as she blasts back and forth within the run off ditches along side the trail. I reach for the camera to capture her madness when an almighty racket stops us within our tracks; Lucy’s only gone and flushed a cock pheasant from the undergrowth. His alarms cries shatter the stillness of the morning as he heads at full pelt through the pines down the valley side with Lucy doing her best to give chase through the tangled undergrowth, her hind quarters overtaking her front in her excitement. Camera forgotten, I stand there, grinning like a fool, as she clambers back up through the mass of dying ferns and deadwood, a more than sheepish look upon her face. We walk for while longer on these darkened pathways, our pace not yet slacking with only the odd break in the tree line opening out to reveal some stunning views on these few miles covered.

As we turn westward the trees begin to give way to a barren landscape where the remains of once mighty trees now stand witness to our passing like so many bleached bones from ancient battles. As the vista opens out even further to our eyes the felling comes over me as we pause to drink in the views that we are nothing more than fleeting shadows upon this ageless world and that when we’re finally gone it’ll heal itself as if we’d never been.

The trail starts to even off now, the hills and slopes around use tempting us like sirens seeking to bring sailors of old to their grief. I’m tempted to turn towards them in my heart but head wins the day. I know that I’m not yet ready to climb the slopes yet, so with a slightly heavy heart I turn to follow our planned route dreaming of walks to come.

The sun on this expose ridge, our pace and to be honest my lack of preparedness is combining and are beginning to take their toll upon me. I thought that in the cool of the dawn that I’d little in the way of gear and provision, a basic mistake! I should have kitted up with more care and foresight for now I’m becoming overheated and my muscles are starting to feel the strain. Fortunately I had done one thing right, and that was to consider bail out routes if required. But if I’m honest I was thinking of Lucy and had not considered them necessary for myself. If fact Lucy was doing more than ok, she’d remembered water stops that she hadn’t seen for over twelve months and watching her cavort through them all thoughts of her age were dispelled.

Another mile and we come to the bail out path, swiftly heading downhill on a steep gradient it would soon bring us back into the shade and cool air that I need.

Once descended the path again became dark and where the sun would fail to reach here, leaving frozen surface water and frosted leaves crunching under our footsteps once more. My eyes are drawn to a frozen track meandering across our path, I wonder if any of you good readers would care to have a stab at identifying the culprit of this finger wide track shown in the bottom of these three photos, perhaps a small prize would be in order?

We draw ever nearer to the car park, my over heated body now back in kilter, my lesson learnt. the next time I'll be far better prepared, with my walking kit in order, perhaps a post about what I'm (should be) carrying would be order? As we approach the car Lucy hangs back, reluctant to leave the hills. I crouch down to her, rubbing her ears roughly. “We will be back soon my girl” I whisper to her, very soon……

I hope that you enjoyed our foreshortened stroll, maybe next time we'll get that bit further. Oh and that mail to Casey? done and dusted.

Best regards, your friend,