Sunday, 30 November 2008

Saturday, 29 November 2008


If Bingley had slogan it would definitely be: let’s play!

A typical Bingday consists of three main elements, possibly four:
sleep, lots of that;
eat, just two meals a day, but plenty of (healthy!) treats in between;
and play, which he does whenever he’s not eating or sleeping.

The fourth element would be mischief making which can take place at anytime, even when he’s asleep (but that’s something I’ll tell you about next time).

He usually has three walks a day and we try to make at least one of them a good long ramble. Realistically, of course, the weather or unavoidable demands on our timetable sometimes disrupts that routine; but even without that disruption Bingley’s energy levels are set to high and he wants to have fun.

But that’s ok, he’s just a little boy (and a little boy with allergies, at that) so I’m happy to play with him and between us we’ve come up with some great games. The best of these and long-time favourite now, is our variation of pinball: Bingball!

For this we need a kong, a ball and a Bing. The basic play involves Bingley holding the Kong in his mouth and standing across the floor, I gently puck the tennis ball towards him and using the Kong he stops and holds it with all the skill of a pro hockey player before batting it back in my direction.

He’s a natural but sometimes the ball gets whacked the wrong way and ricochets off the furniture or skirting board, banging haphazardly all over the place.

But that’s alright, we then engage in on the move Bingball and pass the ball backwards and forwards as we run around the sofa. Alternatively, and depending on how breathless I am, I make him dribble the ball back to where I’m slumped in the armchair. He’s got a good sense of direction and usually gets the ball back to my feet, but the ball has a mind of its own and sometimes rolls in the opposite direction; that gives me time to sit still as I watch him dribble the ball every which way except back towards me.

OK, I admit it isn’t quiditch! But we do have good fun and Bingley loves it, especially if we swap the tennis ball for one of the brightly coloured drive-me-mad squeaky balls from Wilkinsons. Those balls are a bit of a distraction though because he’s just as likely to pick them up and run around the house squeaking like a banshee.

In one of the first pet shops I visited I was told that dogs like to play with toys which make a noise. They do! But it can be a real challenge to play with a dog that’s playing with a toy which makes a noise.

The only things that makes more racket than a drive-me-mad squeaky ball from Wilkinsons is a drive-me-mad squeaky bone. These brightly coloured toys are great fun, but sometimes the Kong is dropped in favour of the bone and we have squeaky ball and squeaky bone together: a real recipe for madness!

Bingball isn’t the only game we play but it’s our favourite and the variations can keep us going for a long while, both inside the house and outside. But once ‘we’ve had enough’ there’s never any complaint as I pick up the toys and put them away. And the headache, the pains from pulled muscles, and the breathlessness eventually pass and mean that I can enjoy an hour or so quietly reading whilst Bingley sleeps. Though sometimes I too have to go for a lie down.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Prince Caspian

Some of you have seen our Privet Hedge but for those who haven’t let me explain why it deserves those capital letters. It’s a whopper of a beast: twelve feet high and eight feet thick, it runs round the two outer borders of the garden. Keeping it in check requires strategic planning, a good head for heights, and a lot of energy. But it’s worth it and it now provides a home for a whole variety of wildlife, from hedgehogs to just about every variety of garden bird you can name. It also sets up a Bingley secure perimeter and prevents him from leaving the garden.

Or so I thought!

During what we might optimistically call our summer, Jane enjoyed Bingley’s company whilst she pottered around the garden. She’d be doing the borders; he’d be exploring the smells. He’d enjoy pushing his muzzle into the hedge, but it was way too dense for him to get through. All was well, and safe, and secure: there was nowhere for him to go.

Imagine then Jane’s surprise when one day she looked up from her perennials and found herself alone.

He must have gone for a drink of water, she thought as she padded through the house to check. No Bingley. The house was empty!

Dashing back to the garden, she double checked but he definitely wasn’t there.

Now, the side road is quiet but it is used and cars can come along quite quickly. Charging down the path Jane ran out to the side of the house, heart pounding. But still no sign of Bingley, and as she looked up and down the road calling for him she began to wonder how on earth she was going to be able to find him.

I remember once, a couple of years ago, we were out walking in some woodland down by Durham when we came across a dog (a Labrador, of course) wandering along by himself and obviously on a mission. About twenty minutes later we were accosted by an exhausted and distraught looking woman who asked if we’d seen her dog. He’s back there a couple of miles, we told her. I can still hear the way she moaned as she resignedly trotted off in the direction we were pointing.

Now it was Jane’s turn, but before starting the search she thought she’d double check the garden and house. There was still no sign of him however, and once back on the street Jane desperately tried to decide which direction she should start walking.

But as she was doing that she happened to notice a movement at the far end of the hedge. Then, as she watched, a muzzle gradually appeared; slowly followed by the rest of Bingley. He stood there blinking in the sunlight then, spotting Jane, he leapt towards her like a deer, bunny-hopping around and licking her fingers. ‘Did you miss me?’ he seemed to be saying, ‘I’ve been to such a strange place’.

Daft pooch, he must have pushed himself into the hedge and then realised that he couldn’t reverse or turn around, but only push forward through tightly packed branches full of birds nests.

You’d think that he wouldn’t want to do it again, but a few days later he was at it once more. This time I was waving Jane off to work and I thought that it’d be nice to let Bing have a romp around the garden. He likes to go on a morning treasure hunt and track down the latest gifts left for him by his feline friends. It’s disgusting but there you are! But just as I was about to go and put an end to his truffling he disappeared into the hedge. I’m not sure about Narnia, this was more like Field of Dreams where the baseball players simply disappear into the corn.

Rushing out of the garden I was just in time to catch him as he began to wander off. Like the Pevensie children he clearly can’t wait to get back through that hedge, explore that other world and encounter all the adventures that await.

But this isn’t Narnia and until I get some fencing put up around the bottom of the hedge the garden is out of bounds. Bingley doesn’t seem to mind though; inside the house is like Green Knowe to him and there are plenty of adventures to be had indoors.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Saturday, 1 November 2008