Category Archives: Animals

New year, new shoes

Liz, my wife, has had a pair of Vibrams (black ‘flow’ type, I think) which have been getting a bit long in the tooth.

Happy wife, happy dog!
Happy wife, happy dog!

Not surprising really, since they are well over 4 years old, and have seen quite a few trail based miles, along the river Wey and the Downs around Guildford.

I bought her a new pair for Christmas, but alas they were not the right size and with running shoes in general, it is essential to get the right size, but with the all enveloping form of the Vibrams, it is critical that they are snug. So today she managed to find time to pop into our local running store, Fitstuff, and this is the result.

I’m not sure who is happier, Liz or Adastra, to be finally hitting the streets again πŸ™‚

Enjoy ML x

An Ever Expanding Menagerie

Adastra was not happy.

Europa and Ash
Europa and Ash

All she wants to do is play, but the cats are still a little wary of her ‘enthusiasm’, although recently it has been turning into something a little more like aloof contempt, as you might expect from cats. Still, they both have their reasons.

They have both been pregnant for some weeks (gestation for cats is 9 weeks) so we have been expecting the patter of little paws imminently.

Europa and Callisto are about a year old, but we wanted to give them the chance to have a litter before having them spayed, thinking it only fair to give them that opportunity and also believing that they might ‘mellow’ if given the chance to be mothers! Time will tell πŸ˜‰

Callisto and her four
Callisto and her four

So, as our elder boys have already reported in their blogs (Joshua’s Blog and Morgan’s Blog), Europa gave birth to a single kitten on the 13th Feb, which has (provisionally) been called Ash, since it was Ash Wednesday. She has been a good mother since and been looking after it well, spending the majority of her time with the little one except when she is sleeping, despite our initial panic when she disappeared from her ‘birthing box’ in the evening, and it was not until the next morning and after a lot of furious searching that we found her in one of the drawers under Morgan’s bed.

No such problem with Callisto though as she gave birth early this morning to four beautiful black kittens, very similar to Ash. Black that is, except for one little kitten who has ginger flecks about its eyebrows and forehead, rather like a fleur de lys but which Luke is convinced looks like flames bordering an ‘L’ for Luke, which he is happy with, given he was desperate for a ginger kitten. So we now have a Flame to go with our Ash; hopefully not too much of a pyromaniac theme emerging here πŸ˜‰

Callisto clearly had a rougher time of it than Europa, but the latter has been ‘helping out’ with the duties around the box, cleaning and loving her sister and all the little ones as if they were her own. It is very cute to see.


The New Arrival

We had been thinking about getting a dog for some time, but it still seemed like a bit of an ‘impulse purchase’

We finally got ‘Adastra’ on Thursday 7th Feb after Liz had spoken to one of the other mums at school who was also looking for a puppy for the family, and discovered she had a bitch left, from a litter born three months ago, and hence ‘ready to go’.

Anne and Adastra
Anne and Adastra

About midday I got an explanation and a ‘we’ll have to move quickly on this!’ verdict. As Liz is the one at home, and hence the one who would be looking after any additions to the menagerie most of the time, I agreed it was fine but ultimately up to her to decide, although I would support that decision, knowing full well exactly what would happen next! 😯

Liz was on her way to Croydon, near Cambridge, on a super-extended school run, as soon as the children had finished for the day, but they predictably got stuck in traffic around the M25 on their way to the A1, north of London.

Eventually they made it to the breeder’s house and were greeted with the sights (and smells) of dozens of spaniel, poodle and labrador cross-breed puppies. The children mouths were agog at the vision although the little ones especially were none too diplomatic about the smell and held their noses as Anne showed them through to “the really smelly room” 😳

They had gone to see an apricot cockapoo, a cross between a cocker spaniel and a poodle, with a golden coloured coat and they sent me a photo for my approval. I was quite surprised that other than the colour, she looked very similar to the pictures I’d seen of the dog we had had when I was young, when she was a puppy, before I’d been born, whose name was Sheba. I shortly afterwards got back the incredulous response that the name of the grandmother of the little one they were looking at had also been Sheba πŸ™‚ and as if any more proof was needed that this was the right dog for us, she had been born on Liz’s birthday last year!

Warm floor and foot fetish
Warm floor and foot fetish

And so it was that the rest of my family returned from the borders of east anglia last week with Adastra. They got back just after 9:00pm, so a late evening for all, and I’m not sure who was more excited, my family or the puppy. Liz has definitely been very happy so far, as Adastra seems very intelligent, doing the required tasks every time she is taken outside and seemingly paying attention to requests to calm, sit and stay – certainly not bad for a 12 week old puppy, but it remains to be seen whether that is beginners luck or if she will truly settle into a routine of sorts.

We both have plans to run with her when she gets a little older as although not a working dog, will no doubt need plenty of exercise and hopefully will enjoy the trails that we try to frequent in preference to street runs around Guildford (not that there is an awful lot of opportunity for trail running in the current weather, but that will hopefully change soon)

Watch this space!

The Grizzly Death of the Frozen Mouse

When you have children, it is nothing, if not informative!

Joshua, our eldest, is 11 and animal mad. He had been begging us for ages to allow him to get a reptile of some sort and while happy to do this, the initial expense of setting up was deferred to a birthday / Christmas present. This also gave him the opportunity to firm up on a decision as to what he actually wanted to get.

Having been through chameleons and geckos, and a variety of other scaly, legged creatures he eventually decided on a snake of some sort and after a lot of research which we insisted that he did, he settled on a corn snake as they are quite ‘sociable’ animals and have quite a lot of character – apparently πŸ˜‰

As luck would have it, there is a reptile centre no more than 5 miles or so away, so before Christmas we visited and obtained all the kit he needed, so that he could set it up for his birthday, which he duly did, taking much care over the positioning of the lamp, substrate and log which we hoped would provide his new friend with a nice environment in which to live. After we came back from holiday we went back to the shop and he came out as the proud owner of lilac corn snake.

They are definitely animals full of character as the assistant in the shop informed us; Joshua’s snake, Casian (kay-sian), is more than happy to be held and when it gets bigger will drape itself across your shoulders, should you give it the chance of course. Whenever it is brought out it is interested and sniffs the air constantly to build up a picture of its surroundings and despite only having been with us for less than a month, has already amazed us with its skin shedding and the piΓ¨ce_de_rΓ©sistance, eating a (previously) frozen mouse which seems unimaginably bigger than itself.

We have all heard stories of giant snakes in Africa swallowing buck, crocodiles and the occasional unlucky stray native villager, but to actually see this small juvenile snake devouring a mouse twice the thickness of its own body is a sight to behold.

Maybe next time I’ll try to get a video for YouTube πŸ™‚

A Full Week

So yesterday, with my long run complete, I managed to almost get back on track with my schedule, after some weeks of delay, deliberation, procrastination and general indecision about the direction I should sensibly take.

In order to get a ‘full’ week I still had one more run to complete.

My schedule generally consists of back to back long runs, with the majority on a Sunday, and another run of about 50% of the Sunday distance on a Monday. My running ‘week’ goes from Tuesday and ends on a Monday. This is largely historical, as Liz formerly did her similar long runs on a Friday and Saturday, and although she is not running at present, I have left that window open for her in the future, should it be needed.

So, this morning, a 5:20 alarm call set me on my way.

For the first time this year I needed my head torch so see my way along the trails, although it was remarkably mild for early October as there was little wind to contend with.

Morning Running

I ran up ‘The Mount’ to take me up the the western side of the North Downs in contrast to yesterday’s run and after the initial climb up the hill on tired legs it was a pleasant foray back into the nocturnal world. Rabbits scattered from side to side and foxes eyes glowed in the glare of my artificial light as I ran along and I also had to learn quickly to distinguish the soft mud from the harder ground when traversing the route south down the sandy trails to Compton. The downward sloping alley of trees is a delight when dry and light, but in the dark and wet, the menacing tree roots are a constant hazard and the invisible quagmire of mud at the bottom of the saddle is also a challenge. All good training.

I made my way round and back up the peak of the hill, up ‘Down Road’ and then back along the top of the trail for the final couple of km, but now on very tired legs and with a pack, I was running more slowly than for some time.

The run was shorter than I had hoped, as I had started later and not covered the distance at the speed I had hoped, but since it was the first of my early runs back to back in some time, in the dark, with a pack, and while recovering from a cold, I was predominantly happy with the conclusion to my week of running.

It was not yet over though.

Monday’s for some reason, is my full-on day, since at lunchtime I had a Pilates session followed in the evening by a swimming session. So although the running was over, by the end of the day I was predictably shattered.

God willing,this is the way it will be for a few months though, as if everything hangs together, the distances of the morning run and the swimming will increase following my 5% schedule over the next 6 months!

Hogs and Dogs

This was the first day since last week that we managed to have a bit of a lie in! For some reason, mainly associated with reviewing pictures, writing up diaries and blogs, stitching together panoramic photos and generally not actually getting to bed until 1am, the effects of the jet-lag seemed to be lingering.

Harley Store, Guildford

We, or rather, Liz and the children have been mulling over getting a dog for the last few months (this was part of the reciprocal “we’ll get cats if….” agreement. So yesterday when Liz noticed there was a dog show on at Loseley Park, only 2-3 miles away, it was too good an opportunity to miss up. We went along to have a look at some Wheaton Terriers which Liz and the children fancy getting and had a great chat to some of the owner who were exhibiting their hounds. While we were there we also saw some Alaskan Malamutes, which are kind of like huskies on steroids, and the whole family fell in love with them (although Liz was a bit non-committal on the malamute, husky, wheaton terrier thing. Huskies would be great for running with though – 40 miles plus, apparently, although you have to wait ’til winter for the snow to fall and the roads to be icy, to really enjoy the partnership πŸ™‚

After a couple opf hours of animal magic, we unfortunately πŸ˜‰ had to pass the local Harley Davidson shop, and so, fresh with memories of Route 66 and the long distance cruisin’ across America on our minds, we stopped, to find that there was a gathering of the local (and aptly named) ‘Hogsback Chapter’ of the Harley Owners Group. We all drooled over the shiny chrome, V-twin motors, custom paint jobs, clear fairings and heritage looks of all the bikes on the shop floor, as well as those that were being ‘paraded’ outside by the owners, who were very proud at all the admiring glances they were getting from the impromptu audience.

We got back and after a nice lunch set about doing a lot of D-I-Y and chores that had not been attended to for the last month, including refitted a cover for our letter box, fitting a cat flap, setting up a repeater upstairs for our phones (3 layers of concrete floors to get to the loft and it’s not surprising the signal is flaky!) and finally managing to install the OS on my Mac-Mini from eBay – Β£165 for a perfectly good Mac Mini from mid-2009, now fully up to date with OS-X Mountain Lion and easily serving up my iTunes to my Apple TV πŸ™‚

So in the end a surprisingly busy, but productive day.

Climbing Cats

A quiet day with no running again, but that is normal for a Saturday anyway.

Callisto Climbing

A different matter for the kittens though. They were keen to explore the garden and have been venturing a little further out ever since we have opened the doors to them a couple of weeks back. Today they were running around and hiding underneath the playhouse when they got scared and jumping up at each other. It is hilarious to see how large a tiny kitten can make themself look when they jump up to present their profile, with their fur a mile high, on their tiptoes.

Unfortunately it is such a transitory state, we’ve not been able to capture a picture yet.

Callisto has been venturing up the trees as well.

She’ll be a bit more surprised when the dog next door, a boxer, spots her next time she climbs up to the fence though!

And maybe we should warn the local fire brigade that there are two candidates for likely rescue in the near future….

Vets to Battle

Lots going on today, with kittens and plans to move house.

The kittens were due for their next injections, which (thankfully) will last them for the next year. So after the next week or so, they will be allowed to start venturing out. The vet, Douglas, explained there were two schools of thought on when to let kittens out, but basically, the longer you keep them inside up to 6 months when they would be mature enough to be spayed, the more domestic they are likely to be. Although for Callisto and Europa, having come from a family home, as opposed to a wild feral farmyard environment, this is not really likely to be an issue. The only other thing is to consider is when they are likely to start ‘attracting the attention’ of the local tomcats!

Douglas is a chatty south African vet who has been here since ’92. The treatment for the kittens was over quite quickly, but he noticed Liz’s MdS jumper and we chatted about that for a bit as he has applied for 2014.

I had been randomly selected to carry out a Surrey ‘crime’ survey and the lady carrying out the interview was waiting for us. Lots of perceptual and personal questions and 45 minutes later, I had completed the confidential questionnaire. They had also asked Joshua to complete one as well, and since this was the first time he had been asked to do such a thing, we thought it would be a good experience for him. The police will probably be knocking on the door of his school on Monday morning after some of the answers he gave though πŸ˜‰

The rushing around continued as we packed ready to go away for the weekend as we were going to leave straight after the little one’s swimming.

Battle Abbey

They had a good lesson, Luke first, then Savannah, but then all too soon, we were on the clock again rushing with a lunch on the go, to get to Battle in East Sussex, where we had planned to meet an estate agent to view a house in Westfield at 3:15, before seeing the house we had seen originally, some months ago, in Boreham Hill.

Two totally different houses, the first was a quirky old place with masses of space, 10 acres of forest and farmland on an old dairy farm with plenty of outbuildings with which to play. The view was very limited though, and the area was also not the best. Location, location, location, as they say.

The original house in the area we saw was, by contrast, set in a much nicer hamlet to the west of Battle and was more modern with a better layout and views over the rolling countryside of the south downs to the English channel.

It was quite late when we left the second house, Julian, the owner is quite chatty and we have a lot in common – he used to work for British Aerospace, likes cars and astronomy – so we had quite a bit to chat about. We’ll be talking the conclusions over with the children tomorrow morning, before we see another three houses tomorrow afternoon.

Initial indications are that they like the farm though!

Back to Early Mornings

This morning was a return to early mornings.

Because of the weather recently, I had been been putting off the early starts and trying to fit my training in to lunchtimes and evenings, but since the distances are increasing, that has been more difficult by the week to achieve.

So this morning, to keep my training on schedule, I decided to get up early and get 10 miles in.

Muddy Trail

I ran up the Mount, which is 200m from our home and a great warmup session for a long run. The weather was trying to have it’s final go at me though, as although it was not raining, the ground underfoot, especially on the narrow trail sections, was extremely muddy and slippery and I found myself jumping from one side of the channels to the other and back again, like a motorbike on a wall of death, trying to flout the laws of gravity.

Still, being out so early again I saw a heap of wildlife which reminded me of the serenity of running at this time in the morning, even so close to the city. This morning I surprised a fox (a rather mangy one that I think I’ve seen on several occasions), a number of deer (one of which sprinted the wrong way ‘away’ from me, and then proceeded to spend the next 5 minutes running the ‘long’ way round the open fields to try to escape as I continued running towards her) and then there were the usual plethora of rabbits, and hedgerow birds to brighten my journey through the North Downs trail from east to west towards Puttenham.

My reward when I finally made it to work was a Friday morning scrambled egg breakfast with my team; traditional, but at least I felt like I had earned it.

So all in all a great run and an optimistic return to my schedule, but Sunday an Monday are going to have to be just as early 😯

It was too wet to go out….

Just like Dr Suess’ “The Cat in the Hat”, the rain was awful this morning and I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t face three hours of ‘damp’ running. With a sense of irony, the kittens were equally as displeased, but that is academic as they are not allowed out at the moment anyway πŸ™

All we could do was to sit, sit, sit, sit!

I had planned to get out earlyish and do 22 miles or so, but the greyness and dampness of the outside put me off from the moment I woke up this morning – note to self: It’s not always sunny outside so get real, and don’t be such a woos.

As an alternative, I decided to get down to the gym to at least try to use the indoor facilities for a long run, although the thought of 20 miles or so on a treadmill wasn’t that appealing either. Perhaps that is the difference between ordinary mortals like myself and the superhuman elite ultra runners; they are far more likely to train wherever, whatever!

Having confirmed my London membership would allow me access to the Guildford Virgin Active gym, I ran through the rain as little as I could to the car.

Constantia Uitsig

A new gym is always an unnerving experience but I have to say the staff we very helpful and courteous, so full marks to them in that respect. The different gym equipment is a different matter though. On the occasions that I have used a treadmill recently, I have been spoilt with screens showing a selection of satellite channels, but no such luck here. The screens they did have, although large, were a good thirty feet away, and the selection was premiership football (no), Holyoaks omnibus (errr, no!) or the BBC news (ok, but not for long as David Cameron is on). This was going to be a difficult session. In the end although I managed to figure out how to get the thing to give me more than a 60 minute programme, I was bored after 10 miles, so called it a day and then did some physio exercises, which I felt would at least make the session worthwhile. I still felt a bit grumpy that I hadn’t done my distance though.

It was still tipping it down on my journey home, but I was joined shortly after my arrival by Liz, dad and the others, who had all been to St Nicolas’ church, which luckily is only a couple of hundred yards down the road.

In her previous life, i.e. pre-England, pre-children and pre-me, Liz had worked in Cape Town at a place called Constantia Uitsig, where she had entertained the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Michael Caine, and as a treat she had decided to make a dish for our Sunday meal from a recipe book we have from the restaurant, a slow roasted shoulder of lamb with rosemary and garlic or Abbacchio alla Toscana. We didn’t include the garlic this time, as dad is not keen on the after effects, but did serve it with the recommended spinach, almonds and raisins.

It was delicious πŸ™‚

After lunch the sun came out and with another serving of Eton mess, or simple meringue and cream, for those that wanted it, the afternoon was complete.