Trip to Oban

The nice thing about receiving rubbish news was that we had already booked a long weekend getaway to Oban. Or, more specifically, to Loch Melfort, about 17 miles south of Oban.

So we let it go and piled the family, the luggage, and the dog into the car.

Wait, we don’t have a car.

Fortunately it is possible to hire a car in Scotland. Angie finished off the packing while I caught the bus to Falkirk to pick up the rental car. I chose Mitchells Hire Drive, Scotland’s favourite vehicle rentals. Scotland must love low levels of service and product quality.

The next cheapest company was double the price of this bunch, so perhaps I expected too much. Most people probably don’t think they deserve to receive a clean car and full tank of petrol when they pay £40 a day for the privilege of using a Ford Ka. Yeah, it must just be us uppity immigrants. The dirty looks I got when I raised some objections. Sadly there wasn’t a lot of competition nearby, otherwise I would have walked out and tried to rent a vehicle somewhere else.

The beaten-up grubby car acquired, I travelled home and we loaded in all the gang.

Weather was our friend on this trip, and Scotland is a really beautiful place on sunny days.

The drive was beautiful. The place we stayed, Melfort Pier and Harbour, was beautiful. There was a tiny beach and Jethro loved splashing in the water. Bean had her first experience of a beach, and I had the impression that she approved. She seemed to say, “Surely, such holidays are fitting for a dog of my high status, and why have I not been treated to such things previously?”

We travelled a bit around the coast, visiting Oban and taking a boat ride around the seal island. Also got a look at some salmon farms up close.

Other short drives took us to the tiny villages along the lochside. Beautiful little spots like Craobh and Ardfern received our custom and appreciation.

Then we returned, and on the drive back we found a most wonderful spot for lunch. The pictures belong tell you more.

And if these were not enough photos, there is a larger collection available on Picasaweb.

Bean Liberation: First Run Next to the Loch

Bean and Jethro walking next to the Loch

When I let Bean off her lead as we went passed the palace, Jethro became very concerned that she would take her new-found liberation and run with it. And not stop running.

He charged after her calling out for her return. Of course this just encouraged her to explore at a greater distance. In the end, i managed to persuade Jethro that she would follow us if we just kept walking.

Jethro loving the walk too

Linlithgow has a Palace So We Moved There

Our Palace that needs repairs

They wouldn’t let us into the Palace. Not to live there, at least. There must be some sort of mistake, so we’re living in a semi-detached two-bedroom place until we get it all sorted out.

Mind you, the place we’ve moved to is rather nice. It has double-glazed windows while the Royal Palace has no windows at all. Sure, there is a lot more space at the palace than the house we’re in, but imagine the palace heating bill in the winter?

We moved because the costs of living in Edinburgh were too taxing. Other than the palace we should rightfully occupy, we chose Linlithgow because of its strategic geographic location. It’s about half-way between Edinburgh and Glasgow, along the railway line, increasing the markets in which we can look for employment. Nursery school teacher and telephone call centre human are not our life-long ambitions, so having a broader range of places to look for other work is an important consideration.

Unlike the place we rented in Edinburgh, our new place in Linlithgow didn’t come furnished. Fortunately, second-hand furniture from charity shops (like British Heart Foundation) is super-affordable — and they deliver! Unfortunately, on the day we moved they delivered only half our bed. And not the soft, springy half. The floor that night was not in any way comfortable.

Bean Dog’s emancipation from quarantine coincided beautifully with our move to Linlithgow. A few days after we moved home, it was up to me to fetch Bean from the Milton Quarantine Kennels, in Strathclyde, west of Glasgow. Angie was off at work, so I had to take Jethro with me on the journey, which complicated matters somewhat.

The SPCA appeared to have a No Fur Cutting Policy, and as a result Bean was a rather massive canine ball of fluff. I told Bean this, and Jethro overheard me. He still hasn’t stopped telling people that Bean is “a ball of fluff.”

Bean was, understandably, excited about leaving solitary confinement and getting her first sniff in six months of the outside world. Bean has neither travelled on a bus nor a train, and both means of transport would be required to get her back home. Jethro, although having travelled on buses and trains, had not travelled on them with Bean. He was rather excited about it all too.

Their excitement was my trepidation. I had terrible visions of dogs and children running off in opposite directions, and falling in front of buses, trains, and other heavy machinery, as I scurried desperately after them. Surprisingly everyone was rather well behaved, with one exception. Bean sat quietly panting while every bus passenger embarked and disembarked. That was until a black person stepped on the bus. Then she let loose with her growly-yap-growl-yappity-yap! Another passenger sitting across from us remarked, “Your dog is racist.” I couldn’t really argue with her, but attempted to deflect the implication of my inherent racism with a story about dogs barking at white people in South Africa, when the dog owners were black. If seemed a flimsy defence and I’m not sure it worked.

With Bean living with us again there is a sense of belonging. A sense of place. Although nothing can ever be truly permanent, we feel relatively certain that we’ll be here for a number of years to come. Our stay in Edinburgh felt transient and incomplete. A rented flat we were not allowed to decorate didn’t feel like home. We are living in a home now, and that’s an important step on getting our life back on track.

Having a home gives us a base to operate from. We’ve found Jethro a playgroup to attend and a child-carer to watch over him while we attempt to rekindle our careers. Although “rekindle” may be a poor turn of phrase, considering we already cast our careers into the bonfire of [clever metaphor I’m too lazy to think of], and scattered the ashes to the four winds.

Moving on to some pics of the new place. Enjoy!


The new fluff -- apparently a Yorkie cross who-knows-what
The new fluff -- apparently a Yorkie cross who-knows-what

We have another. Angie’s colleague is getting divorced and Harry needs a home. Yes, Harry. We didn’t name him, so I take no responsibility.

He is a strange beast — somewhat larger than the Yorkshire Terrior ancestry he supposedly holds.

He also likes to bark at things. Nothings.

We’ll sort him out. At least he fears the Vuvuzela (but not the water adversive — actually enjoys swimming and barks incessently to be admitted to the pool) which seems to quiet him when waved in his general direction.

Things got worse, but then got better

More internet silence from my side. More good excuses.

After posting the last post on the woes of my dogs, I received a call from my mother telling me that my dad has prostate cancer.
Last week really wasn’t the greatest week in my life. I estimate that it pretty much rates in the bottom 3.

Serious depression set in by Friday, and so Angie and I decided to skip work and go through to Welkom to visit the parents. This was an excellent decision.

On seeing my dad for the weekend it became clear that he was doing fairly well and the prognosis in general was good (and that they weren’t just saying that over the phone to make me feel better).
He’s going to undergo brachytherapy, which I believe involves inserting radioactive pellets into his prostate, thus transforming my father into Strontium Dad! I wonder whether it’ll give him X-ray eyes?
We know for sure that he won’t be able to sit next to pregnant women or small children for extended periods.
My dad goes radioactive  on 16 November. Please keep him in your thoughts.

Then, on our return from Welkom we went to visit Kelty and he stood up for us. He wasn’t totally cured, but he was now standing! Unfortunately, vomiting and diarrhoea, reminiscent of the Bean dog had set in.
Even so, we were greatly relieved. And today I brought that Kelty home from the hospital. Walking, barking, mildly bouncy. A very happy, healthy fluffy beast.

I’ve reported the issue to the Pedigree petfood people. They seem to be handling things quite well so far. Once the issue is resolved, I’m sure to provide a full report. Today a courier came to collect the suspicious food to be tested for toxins. I’ve been promised feedback on the issue, and possibly even reimbursement of costs.

Hospitalised hound

The promises of a picture of me in Jedi knight mode and extra instalments of that non-linear holiday tale are looking a little empty at the moment. For a change I have a valid excuse.

We took Kelty-dog in to the vet yesterday because he suddenly lost all strength in his hind legs. First he was walking funny, and then he just stopped walking altogether.
We rushed him to the vet whose diagnosis was grim. The vet suspected that one of Kelty’s discs in his back had ruptured, creating a build-up of pressure on his spine. He still had all of his reflexes, they were just quite depressed. His superficial and serious pain receptors were all working. These were good signs, but things could deteriorate fast.
X-rays and an MRI scan were needed and potential spinal surgery could follow. Depending on recovery times, the bill could reach up to R20,000.
Kelty is now competing with Bean for the title of most expensive dog.

Bizarrely the X-rays and MRI scans haven’t indicated what the vet was expecting. This is good because spinal surgery is bad, and spinal surgery will now be avoided.
This is bad because the vet doesn’t know what’s wrong. We are currently waiting for news.

Of course it doesn’t stop there. On top of Kelty developing an undiagnosed nervous/muscular condition, we appear to have inadvertently poisoned both of the dogs.
Bean had been refusing to eat the new batch of Pedigree chunks we bought for her and Kelty. This wasn’t necessarily weird. She’s a fussy little princess and sometimes holds out for chicken breasts or some other tastier faire.
Kelty had been eating them, but hadn’t been finishing the food (which is unusual). He also had developed mild diarrhoea (which has stopped since his admission to the hospital).
Last night we added tasting gravy to Bean’s food and she finally gave in and ate the whole bowl-full.
This morning, at 4:30 we discovered darkly coloured vomit.  She proceeded to vomit another three times between 5:30 and 6:15, at which point we rushed her to the vet.
While at the vet, extreme diarrhoea ensued. It was unpleasant for all people involved.

Bean is back home at the moment, and hopefully doing okay. Needless to say I’ve bought another brand of dog food. Looks like I’ll be phoning the Pedigree customer-care line in due course. I’ll do my best not to take out my fragile emotional state on the call centre person who has had nothing to do with the manufacture of the dog food. I’ll try, but it might be hard.