Kent County Show

We spent today at the Kent County Show in Detling. Our dog training club was running dog games there in aid of the Royal Marsden Hospital and we decided to go along.

We’ve never been to a big agricultural show like this before and it was obviously quite the place to see and be seen among the people of Deepest Kent. I understand that over 90,000 visitors were expected over the three days.

Atttactions included traditional crafts; the Kent Police Band; Popchoir; livestock shows; a vintage vehicle show; traction engines. There was so much to see.

It was great to be able to take our dogs along with us for what must, to them, have been a long and eventful walkies. They largely behaved well except for when Oscar decided to bark at a cow in the show ring, which unsettled her; and when he was frightened by a mobility tricycle coming up behind him.

Raffles had a go at the scurry event but was distracted from his pursuit of a tennis ball after jumping three bales of hay by the irresistible aroma of a little girl’s chips. Oscar crashed into a fence by trying to take an alternative route that avoided strenuous jumping, but eventually retrieved a dummy in the correct way despite a bloody nosey. We didn’t think either of our boys would fancy the dash n’ splash: they’re both a bit too cautious for that.

It was a great, relaxed day out, and one I’d recommend, especially for townies like us. It’s still on tomorrow if you’re interested.

Trip to the Chelsea Flower Show


Off to the Chelsea Flower Show which, we are told, was suffering from a lack of sponsors and exhibitors’ gardens this year. Still, it made for a lovely afternoon out in unseasonably clement weather (we have almost given up booking outdoor summer events in London as they are almost always rained off. It’s not much fun shivering in a puddle on a wet seat while you wait to see whether there will be any tennis that day.)

There was a preponderance of lupins and alliums at the show this year, and some beautiful peonies. Plenty of people sneezing their heads off due to the mixture of air pollution and pollen too, but I suppose that it is permissible to do that in these surroundings. Generally the gardens were pink and purple-themed, but the random passing scarlet-clad Chelsea pensioners (I thought it rude to take pictures) blended well with the South African yellow and orange garden.

Though I am no longer the avid armchair gardener of bygone days, this has given me some inspiration so I’m hoping to pop up to our local garden centre in due course.


How I became a Hero

I’m afraid that I have been too busy of late living my life to write about it. I’m going to try and catch up on all the blog post ideas, or the ones that seemed good ideas at the time, over the next couple of weeks.

One of my major achievements since the turn of the new year is to take up running and apply a bit more seriousness and dedication to building up my stamina. An old school friend, who now regularly runs Parkruns ushered me in the direction of the Zeros to Heroes Running Club, which takes complete beginners and, in 10 weeks or so, aims to boost them to take park in their first Saturday Park Run. The OH has run in the Bromley Parkrun for years, occasionally going off to the Dulwich or Crystal palace runs, and now frequents our new local Beckenham Place Parkrun

I’d tried to get back into running since giving up when I moved back from the Seine towpath of Paris to Beckenham’s hills. Sure, I did it for a few years actually but having a fall in the woods knocked my confidence and eventually I found that the hours of psyching myself up before a run and the subsequent slow, slow jog were taking up too much time and I was being rewarded by any increase in fitness. In the interim I’ve joined gyms but I’m no gym bunny and I have dogs to walk every day so that was taking too much time too, and eventually I felt that I was throwing good gym membership cash after bad.

Anyway, I appear to have put on quite a bit of weight in the last year and I re-assessed running as a cheap and efficient way of trying to stay fit and healthy. I’ve never had any stamina, though, and even in the days when I ran more than 25km per week, I always stopped for a break after 15 minutes. A non-stop 5km was the aim, a frightening target.

I turned up at the beginning of the weekly course on January 4th in Bromley’s Norman Park with about 60 others, I think. Zeros to Heroes is a great set up. I think it does receive funding from some source in local or central government but the course itself is free. What they do ask is that you make a donation to their preferred charity and that you buy a club T shirt to do your first and subsequent Park Runs. The point of all of this is to increase participation in fitness activities, particularly for people who have never exercised or are struggling to regain their fitness. Fellow course participants were generally middle aged, although there were a few obviously in their thirties with small children, and several men and women in their seventies. One fabled member took up running in his 80s and is still going with the club.

I’m not going to bore you with all the weekly staging posts but Week One starts with ten sets of 1 minute run and 1 minute walk, and the weeks progress through to  5 minutes run, 3 minutes walk, 5 minutes run, 3 minutes walk, 5 minutes run at Week Five to a full 5km Park run at Week Ten. 

Trained and qualified leaders accompany and cheer you along, and are there for the warm ups and cool down stretches afterwards. Tea and bacon sandwiches are put on for those of us who didn’t have to dash home to walk the dogs and then get ready for a music appreciation course early in the afternoon.

Fundamental to the course is that members also do two corresponding homework runs in the week between the sessions. Leaders from our Zero to Heroes group runs these sessions but I often couldn’t attend because of other commitments. I am proud to say, however, that I completed every session and every homework run, once actually coming home overnight from India, dropping my luggage and going straight out to join the group after changing into my running gear. Sadly I was singing in the Bromley Festival on the date of my group’s graduation run, and struck down by a cold the week after that so I’ve not picked up my Zeros to Heroes graduate medal yet. Perhaps that’s the one that got away. 

The thing about the group is that it’s completely non-competitive and everyone encourages everyone else, in theory, anyway. Once you’ve graduated with your first Parkrun, there are Improvers’ and Advanced groups for you to join to continue the healthy habit. I’d like to join one of these but I’ve not been able to fit it in yet. I’m told I’ll soon be addicted to running but the truth is that I don’t really enjoy running that much and I’m still at the stage where I have to haul my sorry bulk around the 5km, but I can now do it without stopping and I’ve done 2 Parkruns to date, improving my (slow) personal best each time. I’d like to get to a stage when it doesn’t feel like such hard work and I’m determined to keep trying to run three times a week, which is the habit that the course has formed.

The Bromley Parkrun has almost 700 participants every week now, from a wide range of ages and abilities, and most of it is run on tarmac. Beckenham Place, however, is a younger, faster crowd run mostly on grass. Sadly in my second park run last week I could only manage to come in 164th place out of 174. My time is a little below average for all the female park runners of my age group and my aim is to get it up to a 50% average time, which will mean cutting about four minutes off my time, somehow. I’ll persevere for now. At any rate, Parkruns get me up and out of bed with a decent amount of exercise under my belt by 10am each Saturday morning and that can only be a good thing. 


Dad – 10 years

I couldn’t let today pass without saying a few words about my dad, who died exactly 10 years ago today, aged 74. I don’t have many photos of him that have been digitised so I apologise that this one lets MsDD take centre stage, but it shows his delight at being with her. He thought the world of his grandchildren, and made a point of showing his love for them.

This photo was taken a year or two before we moved to Paris which was, I think, one of the things that made him give up a bit on life. In the end he died from Hepatitis caught as a child in India, and that, his blindness and the strain of being with my mum, who was already showing signs of dementia and very difficult to live with, must have been the last straw.

Dad had called me the Sunday before to let me know that he was going into hospital for a minor operation and, while there, he seems to have contracted the infection that killed him. I remember being at Parc Astérix, where I was spending the last day of our summer holiday with the children, and racing back home through the traffic on the Peripherique to grab a ticket for the last Eurostar back to London. As we prevaricated about whether to ask the doctors to turn off his breathing machine, suddenly his blood pressure dropped and he was gone on his own terms.

He came to the UK in 1952 aged 19, leaving his university course and taking the opportunity to join his big brother in the “Mother Country.” He continued his studies for a while, combining evening classes with work on a building site by day. He suffered so much cruelty and racism but he was of the generation that turned the other cheek and assimilated. He was called George by colleagues who could not be bothered to learn “Keshav.”

Having marched to Aldermaston with CND and been active in the Labour Party for much of his life, it was my dad who taught me about apartheid and nuclear disarmament and probably he who was responsible for my lifelong interest in politics. He introduced me to classical music and used to come to our school concerts and conduct from the audience.

It was my dad who taught me that there was always more than one side to everything and that one should not judge people unfairly, that one should always look for the good in people. Towards the end of his life, however, his disability got the better of him. He never acknowledged his poor eyesight and subsequent blindness, as if it was something of which to be ashamed and it made him insecure. At his deathbed I could think only of our blazing rows and bitter words that always came back to his helplessness. The generation gap could no longer be bridged and we lived in different worlds.

No-one seems to remember important dates in our house where we seem to have acquired an almost puritanical disdain for ceremony. But you were in my thoughts today, dad.


Oscar’s 8th Birthday

Today is Oscar’s 8th birthday.

It’s a considerable milestone for a flatcoated retriever, one of the most delightful of dog breeds but sadly with an apparent pre-disposition to cancer. (I once saw an opinion piece in Dogs Today berating people for continuing to breed and purchase these “cancer factories,” – yes, I know – but the truth is that they are among the friendliest, most loving and gentlest of dogs, and that in itself makes it worthwhile trying to improve the health of the breed.) Flatties, for those who don’t know, were the original gamekeeper’s dog and only usurped by the ubiquitous labrador retriever at the end of the 19th Century.


A few years ago, when Oscar had that terrible condition where his nose was eaten away from the inside, both hard and soft tissue, by we know not what, we thought he would not see his 5th birthday. His recovery from his Idiopathic Destructive Rhinitis has, in many ways, been miraculous. The horrid condition left him unwilling to move out of touching distance of is people but otherwise he is as handsome and lovely as ever.

I have been musing recently about our relationship with animals. It seems to me that the world divides into those who love animals and those who could not care less about them and some who actively dislike them. Best to stay away from these latter people, because they’re unlikely to care for you much or show you any empathy.

Of the people who love animals, there is the well-known distinction between Cat People and Dog People. Some people like both but have a preference. Some, like me, start off as one and then eventually see the error of their ways and veer towards the other. Others strongly prefer dogs or cats for their various traits: generally Dog people love the unswerving loyalty and unconditional love of their pooches whereas Cat people admire their companions’ independence and are often disdainful of the waggy, licky muttface.

And then we come to dog owners. I have observed that there are Flatcoat people and then the others. People who have been owned by their flatcoats talk to them in proper sentences as one might speak to a best friend. We make birthday cakes for our lovely boys/girls and wrap up presents for them to open at Christmas or on their birthdays. For a flatcoat does not like to be left out of anything that his or her human is doing and they will be deeply hurt if they are not included.

Hence this scene:


Happy 8th birthday, darling boy! xxxxx


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