Thursday, 30 November 2006

On the Basketball Court

We didn't train yesterday. It was miserable out and, besides, I had a doctor's appointment, and, besides, I hadn't slept well, and, besides, I opted for a sieste. That's a siesta in French.

Today we changed our training ground as I wanted to see how Van-Ly would react to the village. Also, I had to go to the post office. We went to a car park the size of a basketball court. I guess it's the size of a basketball court: there are baskets at either end. The car park/basketball court used to be the children's gardens for the school, but our mayor likes to tidy up. He used to be a high muckety muck in the international division of Credit Lyonnais. When they were still solvent. Moving all the cars into one place was more important to him than the children having their gardens. This is France – worse, this is Provence: no one parks in the car park.

So, Van-Ly and I trudged back and forth across the cement with our usual hit record. I don't care what Koehler says, I did stop and untangle her once. Someone came to dump their rubbish in the bins and she was distracted (hey, distractions!). And then an ambulance drove by. No problem; we have an ambulance service in the village. They mostly act like taxis, taking the sick and elderly to their outpatient appointments. Another distraction. A couple of times she went roving and I turned and ran. She caught on as quickly as if we'd been walking. And a couple of times, I didn't catch her out. I still think we need to up the hit rate.

Once she cried and once she rolled in a puddle. I wanted to cry, too, if for no other reason than for the boredom of it all. I'm pretty sure that's why she was crying. Fields are better.

When Nick came back with Nala, she wanted to run to them. I turned and ran and she followed me. All right, she's not great. But for a Chow: she's great.

No training tomorrow. Press conference in Avignon for the artisan/artists exhibiting in a Salon, including my husband, the artist/artisan furniture maker. That and 1.30 euro will buy you a cup of coffee.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

The Curse of the MP3 Player

Back to the field with Van-Ly and Dickens. The batteries gave out after two minutes, but – aha! -- I had brought spares. Which were already dead. Sigh. I had to put up with training without distractions. And did very well, you'll be pleased to know. Van-Ly wasn't bad, either, but about half the time I feel a brief tug before moving off, so she obviously isn't paying enough attention, yet. And sometimes she walks in front of me, but not too far: only about four or five feet. I only managed to catch her out once with a reverse, so maybe she has eyes in the back of her head? I think we'll do one more day of this before trying distractions. Hope it doesn't rain tomorrow. Is my poor baby ever going to get to play, again?

Training Day

What with two short session in the rain last week, I suppose today could be re-considered as Van-Ly's first day of training. It was really exciting! Oh, not the longe line. The longe line is bor-or-ring. The only thing that gets me through thirty to forty minutes of walking in circles, squares and trangles is my MP3 player. (Two shorter sessions would not be better because there'd be two sessions.) I'm listening to Little Dorrit and it's approaching the climax. Dickens is impossible to read, but wonderful to listen to with a good narrator. If it weren't for, I'd never do any housework. I'd certainly not do dog training.

Anyway, we went into the field and battled the thistles. There are no trees except around the edges; I just walk what I judge to be about 50 feet at a time. Van-Ly is not always right up to the mark, but she puts up no resistance. She's a good girl. As for me, I haven't yet had to use the tape I bought for my mouth (KMODT, page 30).

Monday, 27 November 2006

Nightmare Dog Owner Takes a Vacation

*Training Notes (easily skipped)

15/11/2006 Rémuzat to St.Jean de Losne on the Burgundy canal near Dijon. Six hour drive, what with dropping Parroty off to his other mum and pit stops and lunch. Meet Fluffy, the Rottie-ish, who turns out to be the Pittie-ish.

She and Wendy, who looks like a rag, but is a pedigreed German hunting dog, have the run of the place.

16/11/2006 Fluffy and Wendy are tied up during the day; Wendy because she tends to jump in the canal and Fluffy because she want to eat the postman. Wendy is on a long rope on the terrace. Fluffy has a wire-and-ring arrangement that lets her run around to a limited degree. Years of running leaps at the postman and swinging by her neck have done nothing to decrease her desire to make lunch of him. Come afternoon and no more visitors expected, both are let off their ropes and they take their places in the house, Fluffy on the sofa.

17/11/2006 Six hours to Montigny en Arrouaise near St. Quentin in Picardie to see Mme. Idé, Van-Ly's breeder. She agrees that Van-Ly is beautiful, much prettier than her mother: more robust and with a wonderful coat. Evidently Mummy's coat is coarse and difficult like Nala's. I told her I didn't want to breed Van-Ly without her opinion. Her opinion is “Why not? She's beauiful and she's got her confirmation.” She didn't offer a “mating” (don't know what you call it in English), but said that if we breed her, she wants pictures. We met Mummy. Van-Ly, The Charming, growled at her. I thought the dog in the next pen might be Daddy, grown up and out, but it turned out to be a bitch, the mother of the cutest cutest 7-week-old puppies on earth! O.K., Linda's Akita babies are up there, too. Mme. Idé let them out of their room and all five promptly peed in the dining room. Bwahahaha! I want one! DH, usually known as Nick, thinks they're cuter where they are.

An hour back to Reims to find a hotel whose clerk didn't bat an eye when I said “two” dogs, just charged us 2€ each for them. They were so well-behaved as they walked through the lobby, you wouldn't have known they were mine. I was so proud!

18/11/2006 Find a Speedy and get the front wheel re-balanced – they did it for free; wow! -- and another five and a half hours to Plancher-Bas and our chalet. Turns out it is not a lonely chalet in the Regional Park, but part of a small village, with neighbours, on the edge of the Park. But it's quiet, well fitted out and there must be an acre of land in back, all fenced. :-) Now I know how people feel when the find the perfect holiday location for the children.

19/11/2006 First day of dog training. Van-Ly did well, amazingly enough, since I've always been certain that she never looks at me. Nala. Oh, Nala! She looks at me, but I think it's to make sure I'm following her. I thought I was going to have to give up immediately because I'm not strong enough to pull her when she really digs in, but the book is right: she won't go to the lengths of strangling herself. A few hoarse croaks and she gives in – for the moment. After 15 or 20 minutes, we were doing better, most likely because her shoulder was getting sore and she couldn't fight as hard. Now she isn't speaking to me. This was supposed to be the home where she could have her own way for ever after, to make up for the rest of her life. The rest of us have lives, too, Nala.

Why aren't we doing something, you ask? We are. We have a crate of books and are taking advantage of the rain to read them. We'll go check out the local restaurant later.

  • Lessons may be shorter than recommended this week. I tend to get up late and it seems only fair to leave some time for Nick – even if he does think the puppies are cuter where they are.

    As to Days 3 and onward, the only distractions I can count on are:

    • Van-Ly: dogs to smooch and critters to chase;
      Nala: the beginning of the walk (after passing throught the gate – we know we are not allowed to charge out of the gate) and the sight of the river.

      • These things are at home.

20/11/2006 The local restaurant was pretty with pleasant staff, seriously mediocre food and incredibly overpriced wine. Today, we went to Belfort and saw the Lion. It is a tribute to the defenders of the city when the Prussians laid siege in 1870-1871. Not to take anything away from the gallant soldiers of Belfort, but holding the citadel had to be a piece of cake. Being hungry probably wasn't. The Lion is local sandstone and 22 meters long by 11 high. That's about 70 feet by 35. Big enough to get a great view from below without Nala having to climb the stairs – or us having to pay. It was sculpted by Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, he of the Statue of Liberty.

Ate an agreeable lunch in a pleasant little hotel. Then a nice little museum of cubism and such. Secondary works by Picasso, Braque, Leger, Masson et al. Secondary was an improvement over the many years we've spent without seeing a museum.

We got lost coming back. Just thought I'd mention that.

21/11/2006 Pouring with rain, again, so I decided to get to grips with my new graphics and web design programs. This involves a lot of yelling at Nick as I'm not good with frustration. It lightened up enough this afternoon to have a walk through the woods. Even bad weather doesn't detract from the beauty and peace of the forest.

22/11/2006 Need I say it's raining? Not to mention freezing. Today's outing was to Ronchamp and Le Corbusier's Notre Dame du Haut, the real reason we're here. It's a beautiful church and we – Nick – picked well. Bizarrely, they get no money either from the Church or the town, so they live on 2€ entry fees and donations. We gave the dogs a turn on the grass before we went in. Is there something wrong with the grass where we're staying, I ask myself. What makes the road better? (Fenced, but no gates.) We took pictures of Van-Ly. I can't get over how beautiful she's turned out to be. I'm going to check with the SCC to see if we can get her re-confirmed – by a judge who knows what a Chow is. (You get extra points for being outstanding.) Anyway. . .

A visit to the church gets you discounts at two more museums, so we tackled the Mining Museum. Hardware and tools for Nick. I entertained myself with the Rules for Housing (among the eligibility requirements: “behaviour which leaves nothing to be desired”) and newspaper accounts of the usual mining distasters. My favourite was the guy who lit his Davy Lamp (thank you, Sir Humphrey Davy) to get rid of the gas: 28 dead; 5 wounded. On the first (second) floor, however, there was an excellent collection of art, crafts and miscellany to do with mining. The tapestries, watercolours and photographs of black lung autopsies are unrivalled.

Daily stop at the bakery and supermarket. I cannot believe – I cannot believe! -- how cheap things are up here. You can actually afford to eat fish. Tonight it's tuna steaks. You can fill up your car on diesel for 99.5 cents a litre. That's about $5.00 a gallon – dirt cheap, for all of you who are snivelling in the States. Gasoline is about $6.00 a gallon up here. Up each at least a dollar where we live.

23/11/2006 In 1789, King Louis XVI ordered every city, town, village and hamlet to list their grievances in the “Dolorous Notebook.” Too late considering he was about to be beheaded, but that's bye the bye. In Champagney, a village of 2,000 souls near here, they had just learned about slavery in the colonies. Life without CNN. Anyway, the villagers were mightily confused bcause the only Black they had ever seen was in a painting in the church: Balthazaar, the Magus. Since he was all dressed up and worshipping the baby Jesus, they figured Blacks must be the same as Whites – only black. The villagers met after mass one day to discuss the problem and they decided to use the Cahier de Dolours to petition the king. Nothing happened at the time, for many reasons, not the least being the King was busy losing his head.

Thirty-five years ago, someone was digging in the village archives and found the hand-written petition. The result is the Museum of The World of the Negro and the Rights of Man, for which our third discount ticket applied.

There was a large, glass-covered, scale model of a slave ship set into the floor, giving you a view into the hold with figures of slaves chained to their planks. Not as effective as the description in Roots, but interesting nonetheless. I can't say I learned a lot because, except for the Petition, I knew it all (what else is new, Margot?), so I spent the time thinking about why that is. My conclusion (that I foisted on Nick) is that the U.S. had slavery longer than anyone else (except Africa), had it in a worse form (slaves in South America, for instance, could buy or work out their freedom, sort of like indentured servants) and is still causing us massive problems to this day, so we're all aware of the history. Besides, when your family are Southerners, you're still waiting to see if the South will rise, again For the slave trading countries -- “Old Europe” -- it was just a business and they forgot about it when the business ended. Slavery was far away and didn't affect your average British (English, in those days) subject. For the African colonies, there had always been slavery one way or another and and it still goes on to some degree; they haven't suffered the same social rupture that America did (although what the rupture they got from colonisation is no gift, either.) So there's my thought for the day.

Did I mention it's raining?

24/11/2006 I am progressing with the new graphics and web development software. Nick now gets a few minutes of peace at a time.

*It's only miserable, not raining, so we try another training session.

Margot and Van-Ly: 1 Martha and Nala: 1

*Van-Ly is doing well, although I did have to stop and untangle her from the Figure 8 she made around two trees. Note to self: Aim for single tree, not pairs. Nala, Nala, Nala. . . With her gagging, dragging, drooling and eyes popping, I'm just afraid I'm going to really hurt her. She's too old, too stubborn and too feeble. Feeble! She's stronger than I am (another reason for caution; do I want to get hurt?) But just you wait, Martha, until I have Van-Ly doing agility! (That exclamation point hurt, didn't it?)

After the exercise, you're supposed to let your dog wander for ten minutes, dragging the training line. After 5 minutes of watching Van-Ly stand still, we came in. Nala, when I took her collar and line off, went to the far end of the field, lay down and pouted at me through the long grass. It's evening now and she's still sleeping, trying to recover. We'll skip this step.

25/11/2006 Back to St. Jean de Losne. Haven't the heart to tackle the whole journey home in one day. Anyway, it's pretty on the canals. And, hey! It didn't start raining until 10 o'clock.

26/11/2006 Home at last! Back to the sunshine and the warm. We stopped to see Pam and David and decided that Parroty would be better off with them. Sob! And crap! But he's happy. He's now called Spiked. Sigh. :-(