Thursday 26 March 2009

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's a.......

Wednesday, March 25th approx. 3.10 pm. North Devon. While staying at a friend’s house, witness saw creature in friend’s garden, running across the lawn with what looked like a dead rabbit in its mouth. It was big. It was black. It went hurtling across the lawn, jumping over the garden walls across the rose beds and proceeded to go round in circles. The witness said it looked as if it was really enjoying itself. He described it as being as big as his friend’s dog – a border collie.

Ah, wait a minute. Did it have four white socks and a white tip to its tail? And, on closer inspection was it not, in fact, a cuddly toy rather than a dead rabbit?

Yes folks, Biggles had his first run in the garden in the sunshine yesterday. Richard F suggested it might be a good idea to see what happened. It was the first time out of the house without a lead so he could run around and burn off some energy. Trusting in your relationship with your puppy so you can let it off its lead and rely on whistles and calls to call him back, is one of those rites of passage during which every dog owner takes a deep breath and hopes that their charge does not run off into the sunset, without the merest hint of a look back to see the concern etched across its owner’s brow.

I have been looking for a suitable field - in which to let him off the lead - for quite some time, but unfortunately there is always at least one gate open, either allowing access to a road or to another field in which sheep graze contentedly while their offspring gambol in little groups like schoolchildren in the corner of the playground. So, to know that he can be let out into the garden – albeit still under supervision – is a great relief as it does give him a release to the spurts of energy he has throughout the day. He has, of course, yet to discover fully the fences around the perimeter of the garden, but for now he seems content to play within their confines.

I am sure the day will come when the thought ‘that grass looks greener over there’ will cross his mind, but we shall cross that one when we come to it.

Sunday 22 March 2009


Following on from my previous blog, Jon received an email today that again made his blood boil. He received a request to go and speak at a `Psychic Adventuring Conference` to be held up in Cumbria the weekend before the Weird Weekend. He would also have to cover all his own travel and accommodation expenses, and the other three speakers on the bill were people of whom Jon cordially disapproves. Apart from the fact that they were going to be holding it at a rather insalubrious venue (motorway services I believe) Jon wrote back declining as, of course, he would be rather busy with the run-up to our own annual conference. The young lady then replied saying that it didn’t really matter as they had been able to book a certain member of the big cat fraternity (who Jon had publically fallen out with recently) who was much better than he anyway. She wrote that “He seems a little bit more committed to things than you. You looked like you would be fun but he is a more serious researcher than you rather than doing it as a hobby or a laugh.”

Well you can imagine Jon’s reaction to this reply – he came ranting and raving into the dining room (where I was on the telephone at that moment to Shosh) and was most offended, as indeed, he had reason to be under the circumstances.

Richard F is staying with us at the moment, and he and Jon are busy putting together the film of the Russian expedition, which has had to be put on hold due to the enormous amount of other work we have had on lately. He came into the dining room at that moment too and Jon repeated his horror and disgust to him. I do not know quite what it was that sparked the remark, but Jon then announced very loudly, ‘It was you wasn’t it Richard?’ to which came the reply ‘Yes’, and Richard started to giggle.

So it seems that Richard played an April Fool a week or so early. He had used a made-up email address to send the communications to Jon and had managed to keep a straight face when Jon had read them.

Biggles could not really understand what was going on when Jon proceeded to ‘duff’ Richard up. From the look on his face and the uncertain barking with intermittent wagging of his tail, I don’t think he could make up his mind whether this was play or whether he was supposed to defend someone!

Tuesday 17 March 2009

One man with a head on his shoulders is worth a dozen without (QEI).

As you will have realised by now, Jon is suffering from a bad cold and has taken to his bed for the last few days. He has been getting up to do the postings and then has been retreating between the covers, and the relative peace and quiet of the bedroom. I am not sure whether it is because he suffers from diabetes or because of his mental illness, but when he gets colds they do seem to hit him more virulently than other people.

To keep the CFZ going needs many hours dedicated work. Most people go out to work and do an eight, or eight and a half hour day, with half, or an hour, off for lunch. Jon never has time off for lunch, but eats while working (whether or not that is a good thing is beside the point) and usually works at least a twelve-hour day, sometimes up to a fifteen-hour day. Occasionally he has a Sunday off. So, as I am sure you will agree, it comes as no surprise when he gets upset when people (who are even CFZ members) openly state on a forum chat that ‘he has plenty of time on his hands’. How dare they say such a thing! Moreover, they cannot even spell his name correctly either! Well, that is just plain ignorant.

The first few months of 2009 seem to have been a ‘let’s get at Jon and the CFZ’ period. Turncoats abound in the undergrowth. School playground antics seem to be the name of the day. If it were females partaking in this little game, it would be attributed to jealousy. Well, as a female of the species, I contest that sexist drivel. There are certain males of our ‘acquaintance’ who are just plain jealous. Or is it, perhaps, that males of the species rename this as feeling threatened? They make up lies to suit to reap sympathy from their own circle of acquaintances and friends. Some of this circle encompasses some who are, or were, friends of the CFZ.

I am not going to name names (although if I did, I would at least spell their names correctly. I mean, if you are going to have a pop at someone, it is only decent to do so). They will all know who they are if they read this. But, those who ask for help and then turn this around into accusing Jon of trying to steal their glory is a bit rich. Especially as, on two occasions, they could not even be bothered to turn up for their own event. If it had not been for Jon stepping in and offering to help, there would have been no event. Did he get any thanks? Erm ...... if you call accusations of trying to take over ‘thanks’ well yes I suppose so – he got a veritable cornucopia of those.

I am actually sick to the back teeth of blokes and their testosterone problems. How about just growing up a bit boys? How about putting away those short trousers and donning a pair of grown up ones? Marks & Sparks sell some quite nice ones these days. How about just researching your facts before you just follow blindly on, on the say of other people?

It was not that long ago that the glove would have been swept across another’s cheek for less. One of my heroines, Queen Elizabeth I, said: “Monarchs ought to put to death the authors and instigators of war, as their sworn enemies and as dangers to their states”. Even further back, whole villages would have been put to the sword for less. Those days are now called barbaric, and, although when one’s blood is boiled it does seem like a good idea, I suppose I would have to concur that they were. The ‘my dad is bigger than your dad’ syndrome has now evolved into the world of the internet – it has developed into a war of words and petty insults to satisfy male egos.

And, while there are those who are trying to prove their manhood in the modern world by spreading untruths across cyberspace, there are those who turn the other cheek and refuse to be drawn into this world of insults. I, however, am fast approaching the point of drawing blood in the true sense of the word. Though the sex to which I belong is considered weak you will nevertheless find me a rock that bends to no wind – my god that woman was good.

So lay off boys. Don’t get involved in the world of men till you become one yourself.

Monday 16 March 2009

Biggles in an adventure with suture removal

Biggles went back to the vet last Thursday, five days after his escapade with the cat flap, and our fears were realised when the vet told me that the repairs to his injury had ‘broken down’. Basically, although he had - at first - been healing nicely, as well as knocking off the scabs, the stitches had given way and the wound was open again. It was decided to leave him until today to see what would be the next course of action. There were, perhaps, two choices: if by today the wound was healing nicely they would leave it and he would just have the slightly lop-sided look for life, or they would try and stitch him up again (with the added surgery of having his future prospects snipped at the same time while he was under the anaesthetic). So we were dispatched off home with a further supply of anti-biotics to last until his appointment today.

We saw a different vet today, and after consultation with one of his colleagues, it was decided that nothing can really be done. Re-stitching is not in reality an option as the wound is too wide to sew up again and, of course, there was a small chunk of flesh missing in the first place so there is a small dip. He has been given some more anti-biotics and we are treating it as an open wound. It is hoped that it will granulate, and he has another appointment next week to see how it is getting along. The vet then removed the remains of the last two stitches that were hanging in an ungainly fashion and off home we went.

It will be interesting to see how many different ways I can think of to get the tablet down him as he has realised that it does not taste particularly nice! I had been giving it to him crushed between a couple of pieces of bread and butter, but he has cottoned on to that one. Yesterday, I went back to basics and mixed it in with his biscuits, but did that fool him? Oh no! All his supper disappeared apart from one solitary pink tablet at the bottom of his bowl, carefully spat out and eaten around. I can see that it will be a test of wills between us both, but I can assure you - and him - that I shall be the resounding winner at the end of the week. He can dodge it as much as he likes, but that tablet will find its way into his innards whether he wants it or not. I guess saying it is no skin off my nose is a bit under-the -belt, but ........

Saturday 14 March 2009

Who is Biggles?

It has dawned on my grey cells that some of this blog's readers may not realise that the CFZ canine, Biggles, is named after a certain Major James Bigglesworth of literary fame. Those readers of a certain age will be familiar with the name, but some of you young 'uns, and perhaps some of you from abroad, may not be. Hence, below is an explanatory introduction by Graham, who has long been a fan of the heroic pilot, who has flown through the imaginations of many a young lad in the past.

W. E. Johns, the creator of the Biggles character, was himself a World War 1 pilot. Biggles was a fighter pilot in that war, joining up in 1916. He soon established a reputation for bold and never-say-die flying and fighting.

In the years between the two world wars, Biggles and his gallant comrades, Algy and Ginger, undertook a series of private ventures and some escapades for the British Secret Service, foiling various criminal plots. Sometimes a good, old-fashioned, British punch on the jaw was sufficient to bring a villian to book - but a recurring protagonist, Erich Von Stalhein, was more elusive.
Von Stalhein was also a major opponent during World War 2 (as a Nazi of considerable ingenuity) and during the Cold War that followed.

During the 1960s, Biggles books became an early victim of political correctness, as the character was seen by some as racially prejudiced. The books were withdrawn from many libraries, but survived in my town, in the local shop where I bought them as a child.

Here, by way of example, is how one Biggles adventure unfolds:

The Second World War is over but one German submarine is on the loose, carrying Nazi gold.
Air Commodore Raymond asks Biggles to assist in the hunt. Its captain, Von Schonbeck, plans to keep the stolen gold. Biggles establishes a base at Kerguelen Island, near Antarctica - in the vicinity of the last sighting of the U-boat.

Schonbeck promptly sinks their supply ship, and the hunt is on in ernest. While attempting to depth-charge the submarine, Biggles and Ginger are shot down and, marooned on an ice-floe, are taken prisoner by Schonbeck.

Ginger saves Biggles from a firing squad before they manage to escape. With the help of some imprisoned Norwegian sailors, the submarine is trapped in Schonbeck's secret harbour and its crew takes to the island. Biggles and his allies pursue them and Kerguelen Island echoes to the sounds of heavy gunfire before Von Schonbeck meets a nasty fate in a bog. Thus the gold is recovered.

The stories usually are uncomplicated contests between good and evil, and the British qualities of pluck and decency win through every time. Biggles the Dog has much to live up to, but doubtless he'll win through!

As an interesting close to this introduction, Jon's grandfather was an insurance salesman and one of his clients was, in fact, W.E. Johns, and Jon's father used to get a copy of the pre-releases of his books way back in the 1930s. As a tantalising piece of crypto-literature -ology, my late father-in-law remembered reading an adventure which never seemed to appear in book form. He used to tell Jon that he remembered it was one of the best he had read of the ace's adventures - I wonder why it was never printed?

Sunday 8 March 2009

Biggles in a mis-adventure with cat escape routes

As you will have read on the CFZ blog, Biggles outdid himself late yesterday afternoon by letting his excitement get the better of him. Graham was tinkering around with our new back door, which involved the necessary, if not rather loud, use of various power tools. Biggles tends to think that anything that makes a loud noise, be it a vacuum cleaner, drill, TV, hi fi or similar, is something that needs his undivided attention, accompanied by loud noises of his own.

Therefore, as Graham was doing what he had to do, Biggles was doing what he felt he had to do. Unfortunately, sticking one’s head through a cat flap is not the best outlet for undivided attention, but this is what Biggles had discovered he could do, and was doing it with gusto.

It so happened that Jon and I had visitors yesterday afternoon, and after spending a good few hours in the kitchen preparing the evening meal, I had at last managed to get into the sitting room to sit with our guests and relax a bit before the time for supper arrived. Well that is what I thought at any rate.

I had been sitting for about 5 minutes when Ross came in and said that Biggles had cut himself badly on the cat flap and was bleeding everywhere. Upon reaching the kitchen, there was the unfortunate hound sitting dejectedly under the kitchen table with Oll administration first aid by stemming the flow of blood that was dripping from Biggles’ nose. On closer inspection, it was evident that Biggles had lost the top layer of skin and more besides.

It was clearly a job for veterinary expertise, made even more obvious when he began to lick his wound after given those parts of his anatomy, which we don’t mention, a thorough investigation. It was clear that he would need a course of antibiotics, and I had the sneaky suspicion that stitches under general anaesthetic would be required.

While Jon stayed with our guests, Graham took Biggles and me to the vet. She confirmed my thoughts about the stitches, so we left him on the understanding that he would probably be able to return home in a couple of hours if all went well.

And, thankfully, it did all go well and we were able to pick Biggles up later yesterday evening, together with some antibiotics and pain relief. As was to be expected he was extremely dopey – and, to a certain extent, still is today – but he has been half-heartedly chasing the cats, so presumably once he has got over the ‘excitement’ of yesterday he will be back to his normal self. The vet did a marvellous job on his wound – she has stitched it up beautifully, and reckons that a faint pink scar should be the only sign that remains of his escapade with the cat flap. I must add here that he has eyed up the offending gap in the door several times today (the broken offending article was removed last night). I am not sure whether he has been trying to work out what the hole is or whether he is planning some kind of retribution.

I am not sure, either, if it has marred his boyish good looks in the eyes of the ladies of his species – who knows, perhaps they like their blokes with the odd scar?

However, something tells me that Biggles and the local veterinary surgery will become very familiar with each other in the coming years.

Friday 6 March 2009

Fond farewell

Sad news today. Ichabod Grimm the jackdaw died. As you will know, he was hand-raised by our friend Beth, after he had fallen out of his nest as a chick. When he came to us he was on a diet of dog food, a tin of which arrived with him. However, being a contrary little bird, as soon as he arrived here he would not touch the stuff! It was always baffled me how, being the species he was, he could be so fussy as to what morsels he would eat or ignore. His palate was tempted with various concoctions and, in the end, we discovered that among the delicacies he would eat were such things as scrambled egg, cooked liver and cheese, but his favourite were those big fat juicy mealworms. No more tinned dog or cat food for Ichabod! The little terror also had the habit of tipping over his water whenever you replenished it, even after having his water bowl replaced with a heavy duty affair.

However, although he was like a naughty toddler that turns his head to the side with mouth firmly shut and arms crossed with ‘won’t’ etched across his forehead, he was a dear little soul. Whenever you walked passed his aviary he would caw and he and I often had odd conversations in jackdaw language. Well, let us just say that he would say something and I would reply in like fashion. Goodness knows what I actually said in his language!

Being a rescue, and having such a strong imprint on humans, Ichabod would never have been able to freely fly with his own kind. Now, at least, he can spread his shiny wings and fly to his heart's content.

Goodbye Ichabod.