Tuesday, 26 February 2008


By this stage Bingley has been exposed to just about every style of music you can imagine, from early polyphony to the latest from Bruce. I’m not going to pretend that he actively appreciates any of this, but different music definitely affects him in different ways.

Contemporary electronica is something that I simply can’t get away with listening to whilst Bing’s around: most of the magnificent Raster-Noton catalogue sends him into paroxysms of non-stop head cocking and ear twitching as he tries to work out where all those little noises are coming from.

He also sometimes has the same reaction to the television, and will scrutinise the box trying to work out how those little people got in there. Of course these days I often try to work out the same thing myself, though for far more critical reasons.

I’ve already mentioned that jazz is a constant in this house; but so is reggae, and thankfully Bing seems to love it just as much as we do. I could add that his favourite album is Bingy Bunny’s charming 1982 recording Me and Jane, but Courtney Melody’s awesome Bad Boy would come closer to summing up this lad’s character!

I keep having to remind myself that Bingley is still a puppy; and similarly it’s easy to forget that despite its breadth of styles, reggae is still a young music. But one of the constants throughout reggae’s short history has been the hypnotic rhythms of Nyahbinghi which began to drift down from Wareika Hill in the late sixties, before going on to provide the heartbeat for much of the roots movement in the seventies.

Nyahbinghi is the music of Rastafarianism; and though I’m not certain whether Bing can tell the difference between Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus or Count Osie & The Mystic Revelation Of Rastafari, both are enjoyed immensely. After a heated dancehall & play session we both like to wind down with some of these wonderful sounds; and when Natty Bing picks up his kong, it’s easy to believe that he’s thinking of a bong.

Of course Bingley’s not really a natty: his lack of dreadlocks make him more of a bald-head rasta. But for sure, at times like this the Mighty Bing is definitely Irie.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Bingley consequences

No, this isn’t the name of one of our new pastimes, though there have been a few of those which I’ll tell you about later; but I thought that it would be interesting to reflect on some of the ways in which Bingley has completely changed our lives.

Our routine of course has been turned upside down! In fact it’s had to be utterly redefined. Jane’s always up early, but until Bingley arrived those three or four hours before setting off to work were used for writing letters and personal email. Now of course those few hours before work are spent Binging, and as some of you will have noticed those early morning emails have been replaced by late night emails, or no emails at all since by the evening we’re both usually too exhausted!

Bingley’s pretty independent but he still can’t be left alone all day, so at least one of us needs to be on stand-by. He’s down to two meals, but lunchtime is still Bingtime and one of us has to be here to take him out for a walk and toilet stop. So gone are those footloose times when we could, on impulse, pop down to York and stay for just as long as we wanted.

My nice & tidy work on the dog house has also been affected: it now no longer resembles anything like the place you saw in that early photo last year. Bingley’s a chewer; in fact he’s a dissector – he enjoys nothing more than assiduously dismantling one of his toys, especially if it’s meant to be ‘indestructible’. We’ve worked hard at discouraging him from chewing anything he shouldn’t, and that’s been pretty successful. But his dog house has taken a hammering: the skirting board and panelling have been well nibbled and the old kitchen units have bite shaped chunks missing – they look like something out of an episode of Tom & Jerry.

In order to channel this phenomenal need to chew (and to prevent our furniture being eaten) we’re spending a small fortune on toys, some of which only survive a few hours. In fact we’ve had to start rationing the amount of time he has with any one toy simply I order to extend the length of time it lasts before being turned into confetti.

Kong’s are the only toy which make it through the day intact. A year ago I had never heard of a Kong and when I first saw one I thought that they looked daft. Now we have a collection which I would never be without and I think that the person who invented them should be given the Nobel Pet Prize.

Toys aren’t the only expense we’ve incurred. A new vacuum cleaner became an essential purchase very early on. I can’t believe just how much hair Bingley sheds, and it gets everywhere! Before Bing, I could get away with a weekly vac & dust (hey, I had better things to do!). But now vacuuming has had to become a daily routine. It turns out that I might be slightly allergic to dog hair; certainly before replacing the old vac I was getting perplexing hay fever like symptoms which I’ve never had before. But a Miele HEPA took care of all that, as well as sorting out the bunny sized dust balls which seemed to appear on the staircase overnight.

And talking of ways in which my life has been affected by Bingley: without him I might never ever have been chased by a mean pony.

Jane’s been away to North Wales this weekend so I’ve been taking Bing out by myself. We were walking around the fields down by the Tyne early on Sunday morning; it was very cold, but with a glorious sky and a fabulous sunrise (and isn’t the bird song beautiful at this time of year?).

There are always ponies down there, but they’re usually tethered or enclosed. This Sunday however was different, and whilst Bingley was frantically squeaking his Wubba which I’d been throwing for him, one of the ponies wandered over to see what all this early morning ruckus was about. I don’t know much about horses but I know that they’re measured in hands, and this one was lots of hands and getting closer. Luckily Bingley didn’t spot this insurgent straight away, so I was able to call him over and clip on his lead. The pony meanwhile had stopped a short distance away and was sizing us up in a way that I found uncomfortable; but he was also blocking our exit, so I was going to have to go past him to get home.

By this stage Bing had noticed that he was being eyeballed (mean eyes, I thought; full of malice) and started to go into boxing kangaroo mode. Encouraged by this challenge Mean Pony started walking towards us again with a fixed expression: he meant business, I don’t doubt it. Urgently pulling Bingley along I managed to squeeze through the narrowing gap between the fence and this crazy equine and then picked up speed as the brute started to canter towards us. Bingley wanted in and was boxing his way backwards the whole time; but thankfully the pony stopped following us once we’d left his field and we were able to return home safely. It was a close shave though.

Taking my life in my hands, I went back down there today. Thankfully though, the only unpleasant encounter I had was with a slimy slipper which the Bing Bong Kid discovered in one of the scummy puddles. He loved it and took great pleasure in furiously shaking it about, covering me with a shower of green gunk in the process.

However, the biggest change which Bingley has brought about is that he’s encouraged us to think about moving house! At the moment the choice of walks is very limited, and for a long time we’ve been exploring the idea of moving closer to the coast. Bing has made it happen. I’m not going to say much more right now because of that thing called Tempting Fate; but I will add that we’ve found a nice place five minutes walk from the beach….and how much fun would that be?!

House hunting, by the way, is the reason for the lack of entries recently – I can’t believe how much time & energy it takes. But before I go I must mention that Bingley has started cocking his leg! Some of you, I know, won’t be interested in this; but I’m just so relieved that I won’t have to show him how to do it myself.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008


Scientists recently discovered the gene that increases the odds of a person being left handed. There’s plenty of reason to suppose that the same thing applies in the dog world as well, and Australian research has suggested that identifying whether your dog is left or right pawed (or indeed, ambidextrous) can help when it comes to planning their training (and needless to say, much else besides).

Like Stewart Copeland and David Byrne (and I know that at least one of you will want to add Paul McCartney!) Bingley is definitely a southpaw. Leonardo Da Vinci was left handed, and so is Brad Pitt. Bing of course is much better looking than Brad Pitt and nearly as creative as Da Vinci, especially when it comes to devising ways to get my attention.

Not that he has to try very hard: when he stands in front of me holding one of his toys in his mouth and and gently tosses his head in Marilyn Monroe come-on style, it’s difficult to resist him.

I think that Bill Bryson would enjoy Bingley’s company, there’s always something to laugh at; and Franz Kafka would certainly have appreciated some of his more unusual behaviour. Why, for example, has Bing started lying on the kitchen floor with his head pushed under the sofa and then begun to quietly sing?

I think that he must like the way it sounds; though he’s also started eating bits of the sofa as well, so maybe he hasn’t got the acoustics properly configured yet. These artists: they’re such perfectionists!

Bingley can run faster than Steve Cram, catch like David Gower and plays football like Diego Maradona.

Of course when you start looking at famous left handers the list is almost endless (though I must especially mention Julianne Moore…just because). But really there’s only one southpaw who matters to us, and Bing’s left-pawed creative eccentricities are simply one more reason to love him.

Sunday, 3 February 2008