Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A dog's understanding of trousers

Murdoch understands trousers. Now I don't mean to suggest that he is some kind of fashion guru or anything silly like that. He's not lying in his bed weighing up the relative merits of bootleg jeans (good) against harem pants (bad) and wondering whether a pair of high waisted slacks really is the best option for a long, slim silhouette (like a little furry Gok Wan). I just mean that Murdoch understands trousers insofar as they relate to his own life.  Specifically, he knows that if I put on a pair of trousers it means that I am leaving the flat at some point in the near future.  

As a result he has learned to recognise the sound of me putting some on.  So when I get up at stupid o'clock in the morning to walk Murdoch, he remains curled up in his bed, all comfy and snug until the exact moment that I pull my walking trousers up over my knees.  At which point he comes hurtling into my bedroom to see what's going on. From then on my morning becomes dedicated to the avoidance of an excited dog dancing around my ankles, looking up at me with a hopeful expression on his face.  "Are you going out?  Are you going walking? Can I come? CAN I COME?!?!".  

I'm sure you understand why I leave it till the very last minute to put them on before going for a walk.  Otherwise he'd combust with the excitement of it all before we even got to the front door.

Isn't he a clever boy?  I wonder if other pets have similar abilities......

Tuesday, 23 August 2011


When Murdoch and I started on our latest adventure in dog training, my biggest hope was that we would be able to get Murdoch walking calmly on a lead without lunging to attack other dogs while we were out and about.  However within a matter of days Murdoch had progressed from lead, through long line to being off lead with a muzzle on.  We'd already exceeded my expectations and I thought we'd reached the limit of what we'd be able to do.  And I was so proud of my boy.  I can't describe the happiness that I felt every time I saw his fat little staffie bottom running away from me with his tail in the air, making his crazy little noises as he ran about with the other dogs.  

The one downside was that I couldn't see his staffie smile as he ran back to me; it was covered by a muzzle.  And he just couldn't let that muzzle be, he was dragging his face along the ground, using branches to try and hook it off, nuzzling his face against peoples' legs (bruising them in the process - you should see the state my calfs were in!).  It was starting to damage his face, which had constant red marks where he had rubbed the muzzle, desperately trying to get it off. 

Last week, as we neared the end of our Friday morning walk at the Dog House, G suggested that I take Murdoch's muzzle off so that we could see how he reacted.  I nervously agreed and my boy did not let me down, he was just great.  Veered a little close to his arch nemesis Nico a couple of times, but was corrected and didn't do anything stupid.  He then did the remainder of his walks that day without his muzzle and was the very model of a well behaved dog.  Had a good chat on Friday evening and G made it clear that I couldn't use the muzzle any more, otherwise I risked setting Murdoch back.  

I'm not going to lie.  This makes me nervous. Murdoch's behaviour is still a bit of a worry to me; he behaves much better at the Dog House than he does out and about alone with me.  This is because I get nervous and he feeds off that energy, so I need to build some confidence to make sure that we continue to succeed.  To help me get started with this, I spent quite a lot of time with the Dog House guys over the weekend, walking Murdoch without his muzzle, both in the usual walking location and in a couple of new places.  On Saturday afternoon we did a walk at Blackheath near Wonersh.  This is a regular walk, but it was our first time there.  I knew some of the people, but most of the people were new to me, so Murdoch didn't know their dogs either.  At the end of the walk, G confiscated the muzzle.  I am not allowed to have it any more.  I don't need it.

We also did a Sunday morning walk at Ockham Common which we've done before.  This walk is very German Shepherd heavy and Murdoch had issues with this breed after his run in with Nico so I thought it would be a pretty good test of his behaviour.  On both walks he was a perfect gentleman and had a great recall too.

This morning I did my first solo walk without the muzzle.  I took Murdoch to one of our local haunts in Farncombe which is part of the Surrey Wildlife Trust's McAlmont Reserves.  It's a mix of fields and woodland and we usually encounter other dogs there.  Today was no exception.  And when he saw a dog ahead of us, Murdoch did his usual full pelt hurtle towards it.  I didn't much like this, as by this time we were at the corner of a field and I couldn't see what was going on.  So I really don't know what happened, but when I called Murdoch in, he came back to me and the other dog walker waved at me as I entered the next field, so Murdoch clearly hadn't tried to eat his dog!  We encountered another staffie as we headed back towards home and Murdoch again went hurtling off.  Both Murdoch and the other staffie came running back to me and she jumped up a bit which made Murdoch a little hackly and growly.  Instead of correcting him, I grabbed his collar and guided him away from the dog.  That wasn't the right thing to do, but I didn't panic and I'm learning on the job here, so bear with!

I can't adequately explain how happy all of this makes me.  I never thought that we'd be able to achieve this and while I'm still a little bit nervous, we're just going to keep at it and take each situation as it comes.  Life is good.

Also, today is weigh in day.  Over the past two weeks I've managed to drop 3.5lb.  Huzzah!  This is very good news, especially with my holiday less than two weeks away (GAAHHH IMPENDING HOLIDAY WEIGHT LOSS PANIC SPIRAL OF DOOM!).  I have bought a new bikini, but I don't look very nice in it - too much podge and not much I can do about it in the time available.  But it doesn't really matter.  I'll do what I can in the next two weeks and then I'm going to go and enjoy my holiday, which I've been looking forward to for ages.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

An odd dream

Had another really weird dream last night.  I dreamed that I was in France with my family and it was the day of my sister's wedding (she didn't get married in France).  She got into a car to take her to the wedding venue.  I was about to get in the car but realised that I'd forgotten my fags (I don't smoke), so I did a dive and roll manoeuvre (in my bridesmaid dress!) through the automatically closing garage door to get back into the house to find them.  I eventually located them down the back of the toilet.  

I came out of the house again to find my parents waiting outside.  They had sent away the car that was supposed to take them to the wedding venue as they didn't want it waiting around.  This meant that we had to go and find a car to take us to the wedding, so we walked out front and waited on the street.  Within minutes we were surrounded by crowds of people; they appeared from everywhere.  Unfortunately, French people don't understand the concept of queuing, so every time a taxi pulled up someone shoved in front of us and got in it.

Then I saw that mum and dad had got into a child's toy car but it wasn't getting them anywhere, especially when I jumped on the back to hitch a ride.  I was trying to explain to all the people why we needed to get into a car - we were going to miss my sister's wedding! But I couldn't remember the French word for wedding.

The End

All this and I didn't even eat any cheese before bed. Sometimes my brain confuses me; is this what it's like to be Karl Pilkington?

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


Monsieur, wiz zis second post in one day you are really spoiling us!

I just had to share my super delicious dinner with everyone - mostly courtesy of my dad and the excessive crop of runner beans his garden has produced this year. Seriously, he's drowning in them, especially with mum away in Costa Rica and therefore not doing her share of bean eating.  He's had to put about a hundred weight of them into the freezer.  However, I digress.

According to my calorie calculator each serving is about 535kcal, so it doesn't break the bank as evening meals go.

Runner bean & parma ham risotto (courtesy of tastes of summer)

Serves 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20-25 minutes


250g runner beans, topped and tailed, side strings removed if necessary and sliced thinly on the diagonal 
1 tablespoon olive oil 
25g butter 
1 medium onion, finely chopped 
350g arborio rice (or other risotto rice) 
1 – 1.2 litres hot chicken or vegetable stock 
6 slices Parma ham, cut into ribbons 
75g Parmesan cheese, grated, plus extra to serve 
Small handful of basil leaves, shredded 
Salt and pepper


1. Bring a pan of water to the boil, add the prepared runner beans and cook the beans for about 4 minutes, or until just tender. Drain and set aside while you cook the rice.

2. Heat the olive oil and the butter in a large heavy-based saucepan. Add the onion and gently fry for a few minutes until softened but not coloured.

3. Add the rice to the pan and stir for a couple of minutes. Have the hot stock in a separate pan and keep it at a gentle simmer. Add a couple of ladles of the hot stock to the rice and cook over a gentle heat, stirring frequently, until the stock has been absorbed into the rice. Continue to add the stock to the rice, one ladle at a time, stirring after each addition until it has been absorbed. After 18-20 minutes the risotto should be cooked – it should be creamy and the rice grains tender but retaining a little ‘bite’. You may not need to use all the stock.

4. Add the cooked runner beans, Parma ham, Parmesan and basil to the cooked risotto. Add a little more stock, if necessary, and season to taste.

5. Serve the risotto with shavings of Parmesan and black pepper.


Comme Ci, Comme Ça

Went to physio again on Monday morning and despite a great deal of stretching throughout the past week, my calf extension has not increased one bit on either leg.  Curses! I swear the more I stretch them, the tighter they get.  Am hoping that it is a "it gets worse before it gets better" type scenario otherwise I'll be on crutches by the weekend*

I tentatively asked her whether it would be possible for me to do the Hever Castle triathlon at the end of September.  She said no.  I winced and asked her whether I might, possibly, be able to do the Great South Run (10 miles) at the end of October.  She said hell no.  Curses!  I'm now starting to wonder whether I'll be able to do the London Marathon next year (assuming that I even get a place).  I shall worry about that if I get lucky in the ballot.

She did however give me the go ahead to start using the cross trainer again, so on Monday lunchtime I headed to the gym and did 25 minutes on it, followed by some strengthening exercises that the physio gave me, followed by yet more stretching.  And yesterday morning I woke up with even tighter calf muscles than ever before. WHHHHYYYYYYY?!

I also woke up feeling very pissed off.  At 4am.  I can't remember exactly what I was dreaming about, but whatever it was, I was quite incredibly cross about it.  Then I slept through my alarm and had to choose between washing my hair and walking the dog.  I dragged the somewhat ungrateful mutt around the block and got ready for work.  Got into the car and the leaky sunroof pissed rain water all over my head.  At that point felt glad that I had not chosen to do my hair.  Got to work and my drink bottle exploded all over my desk. WHY GOD? WHHHHHHHHYYYYY?!  To make matters even worse, I felt quite ropey all day yesterday - I've had a cold floating around me for ages and I can't quite seem to get rid of it.  Yesterday started with a sore throat and by the time I went home it had progressed to a sinus throbbing stinker of a head cold.  Yesterday was not a good day, cheered up only by rereading this old blog post which made me cry actual tears of laughter.

And yet today I feel pretty much back to normal again in terms of the cold, although throat is still a little scratchy.  Don't know what that's about.  I took Murdoch to the Dog House for our morning walk and as we walked to meet the rest of the pack, the unthinkable happened.  As we reached the edge of the field, Murdoch caught sight of a deer and he was off!  Full pelt!  I've never seen him chase something like that before, usually he sees a rabbit, goes after it a bit halfheartedly, loses sight of it and gives up.  Meh.  But this time he was hot on the trail and determined to get that deer.  Hot pursuit Flash!  Not entirely sure what he would have done with it, bemuzzled as he was, but after a few minutes of crashing through the woods, he emerged, looking quite pleased with himself.  Naughty boy had to go straight on the lead. That'll learn him**  

I meant to go straight to the swimming pool for a quick pre-work swim, but forgot my wallet and once I'd gone home to retrieve it, I didn't have enough time.  Might go after work instead.  In any event I went to the gym at lunchtime again but had even less time than usual to workout because of an illtimed callback from my pet insurance company.  Useless bastards couldn't process a claim properly if lives depended on it.  Christ, sometimes they probably do depend on it. Awful.  Anyway, I did 20 mins on the bike and then stretched out my calf muscles.  They feel much looser now; long may that continue.  

You may notice the renewed enthusiasm for exercise.  This is partly because I really needed to get on track and partly a panicked reaction to the fact that my holiday in Madeira is actually a week earlier than I had thought.  So it's now only 3 weeks away.  I am therefore involved in a frantic "Jeeeeeeeeeeezuz I've got to fit my giant ass into a bikini soon" desperate spiral of DOOM.  Well I may not be able to make myself a size ten in the time available, but I can sure as heck drop a few pounds between now and then so I don't frighten the other tourists ("Looooook mummy a beached whale" "Don't be unkind sweetie, that's just a giant fat lady").

*Possibly exaggerated for comic effect
** It won't

Friday, 12 August 2011

*WARNING* Boring blog post

I've sat and stared at this blog post since Tuesday and have been unable to think of a single thing to say to make it less boring. So here it is. Sorry.

It's been two weeks since I last posted and quite a bit has happened in that time (both personally and in the world generally!). I guess the biggest personal news is that I have now returned to work for the company that I left five months or so ago. I was in a really frustrating situation with the new job - I'm not sure that they were ready for someone in my role just yet - so when my old company contacted me and asked if I'd like to come back, I was really happy to do it! I've had a bit of a promotion and given that the company has been bought and is now part of a wider group, there is more room for advancement, which was my only real gripe with the company in the first place.  I'm sad that I won't be seeing some of the lovely new people I met on a daily basis anymore, but this is the right move for me. 

It's been quite a stressful time and as a result the diet went completely off the rails. In all honesty, I've not been giving it the focus that it deserves since I got started. Frankly I've had much bigger things to worry about. Now that I feel so much happier and more settled it's time to get the rest of my life in order!

I weighed in on Tuesday at 13st 0lb. It doesn't take a maths genius to work out that I gained 3lb over the past couple of weeks and that I'm now almost back to where I started.

But this is a fresh start and I'm going to give this some welly. In addition to more focus, I also have more time again now that I'm not commuting to London every day. The downside is that I am officially not allowed to run at the moment. Have had two sessions with a physio and I'm not currently allowed to do any weightbearing exercise, including things like the crosstrainer at the gym. My problem is that I have very poor range of movement in my calf muscles - they are very tight. Apparently the usual range is 10 - 20cm and I had 6cm in my left leg (the one with the ouchy heel) and 8.5cm in the right. Oops. So for now it's only gentle walking, swimming and cycling, core work at the gym & many, many calf stretches for me. I'm also going to try and fit in a body balance class - that should help with the stretching.