Who’s Scoobin’ Who?

Hola!

Allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Scooby, I am four years old and I was born in Valencia, Spain.  I am what is called a ‘random’ dog; you can also use the phrases ‘crossbreed’ or ‘mongrel’ but I prefer random because it suits my personality.  With regard to my parentage, rumour has it that a flat-coated retriever and a German shepherd dog may have been involved but hey – who really knows? Let’s face it – I am one handsome dog.

For the first three years of my life I was a Spanish dog; I poohed over low white walls, had no need of stairs and chased feral cats to my heart’s content.  That’s how we did things over there. My Spanish Mum taught me how to sit, stay, fetch, lie down and use my paw to make requests.  She also made sure that I had a pet passport and all my jabs were up to date.  I believe that she loved me very much.

In 2011 I came to England.  I don’t remember why.  It was cold though and I got into trouble over a neighbour’s cat.  You have to bear in mind that I was used to cats being vermin – like rats and pigeons and squirrels – there are kind people in Spain who try to look after the feral cats but there are so many that most people see them as a nuisance and don’t make a fuss if you remove one or two.

There was most certainly a fuss once I got to England.  I was no longer a buen perro for doing what came naturally to me. I was the terminator dog. I was in deep trouble. Then I got out again.  Another cat bit the dust. My Spanish Mum could no longer cope with my Spanish ways and she signed me over to the RSPCA.

That was eighteen months ago.

My picture was on the website; a nice man did a video of me running around and playing with a ball, and I became very popular with the RSPCA staff and volunteers.  People came to see me and said how handsome I was – especially when I grinned or cocked my head to one side.  But other dogs came and other dogs went; as soon as people knew about my little problem with cats they turned away.  Many of them had cats of their own, or other pets that they thought I might take a fancy to.  I was an unknown quantity and people – quite understandably – were not prepared to take the risk.

There was a boy – well almost a man – who wanted a dog.  He loved animals and grew up in a house full of cats. His Mum promised him that when all the cats had finally made their way to moggy heaven, they would look into having a dog.  She told him to check the RSPCA web pages but not to fall in love too soon because they had to go on holiday first.  She also told him to put his laptop to some good use and do some research on what it meant to be a responsible dog owner instead of playing games where humans killed other humans.

His Mum spotted me on the web pages and pointed me out to the Boy and to his Dad.  His Mum liked my big brown eyes and the way my ears flopped over.  She could see that I had been at the kennels a long time and that I desperately needed a home of my own.  She told the Boy that if I was still there when they came back from holiday, they would come and visit me.

Right from the start the staff were very honest about my cat issue; from the very first phone call the Mum made, she knew what they were taking on but she and the Boy had fallen for my charms already (they had to work on the Dad a bit because he had never owned a dog before).

They came to visit me on the Mum’s birthday and took me for a walk in the wood outside the kennels.  I pulled a bit.  Well quite a lot actually but they persevered and by the time they brought me back to the kennels it was a done deal.  A deposit was paid and before they had even left a yellow sign with ‘Home check’ was put up outside my kennel. Somebody wanted me at last.

They came again the next day; the Boy was in charge because he was to be my new master – aided and abetted by his Mum and Dad.  I recognised them, and as a consequence began to show off my talents a little. I still pulled but they were impressed by the way I responded to basic commands (and the dog treats they bought me).

Each time they visited we got to know each other better and I began to love the Boy.  He hugged me and praised me – well all three of them did – but his actions were the most important.  I stopped barking when I saw them enter the car park and wagged my tail in ecstasy instead. Kind people cared for me and hoped that one day I would find the right family, and they had their fingers crossed.

One of the visits included a walk to a car; the Mum was worried about whether I would be nervous about cars as I’d been in kennels for so long.  Ha!  I jumped up onto the tailgate, sat down on the blanket and gave my famous grin.

‘Take me home now please?’

Unknown to me, the Mum and the Dad were doing things to make their house a safe haven where I couldn’t get out and chase the local cats.  They put trellis on top of the fence panels so I wouldn’t be able to climb over.  They found a dog-owning fence and gate maker who mended their old gate and made a special new one so that I wouldn’t get out of the back garden. They had loved their own cats and didn’t want to put temptation in my way.

They passed the home check and once the gates and trellis had been put up it was agreed that I could come home.

By this time I had my own lead, half-check collar and a harness which the Boy bought with him whenever they came to take me out.  He always had his Mum or his Dad with him when we walked but on this day he took me out alone.

When we got back to the kennels he didn’t hand me back the way he used to.  His Mum and Dad appeared from the office and they were both smiling.  The Boy was smiling.  They lifted up the tailgate and as the Boy strapped my harness to the safety belt, I smiled too.

We went home.  Mi casa.

To be continued.

Adios.

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Volcan-Toe meets the Volcano pt 2. We’ve never gone away for New Year before – gulp

Read through the V-Toe’s Christmas postings and decided that it had done a good job – so moving on swiftly to Lanzarote! Yay!

I will try to write the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth but it does get difficult when your imagination runs away with you……

Warning – there is a bit of tourist information here but we spent most of the week eating and drinking, and then drinking and eating.

Leaving my Uni Boy at home was a bit of a wrench – but I lent him my debit card and opened an Ocado account so I knew he wouldn’t starve – he didn’t and my card didn’t take much of a bashing either.

So 0900 hrs on 29th December saw Lovely Hub, College Boy, me and my walking stick (plus luggage) huddled in a minibus headed for the home of CB’s friend – known henceforth as the Stoic because of his patience and remarkable tenacity in dealing with CB.  I know his parents are very proud of him – and so they should be.  I liked him when we invited him on holiday with us and after a week in his company I like him even more.  CB is very lucky to have him as a friend.

CB is often quite scathing about the V-toe and the way it hampers my progress; it may have healed up but stairs and long walks can be agonisingly slow – courtesy of one size 7 mock-Ugg boot and one size 9 with a hole cut out of it to stop the V-toe from being rubbed.  I found some gloriously fluffy bed socks which help to pad out the big boot but it still makes me feel lop-sided.  In view of this and CB’s rock-bottom tolerance level, I contacted the airline a few days before Christmas  and was advised that although I didn’t actually need assistance (I had three able-bodied men to support me), I should still notify staff at check in.

So I did.  They were brilliant. Good old Monarch.  The four of us were boarded first, together with a lady in a wheelchair.  Behind us at the boarding gate there were quite a few dour faces, some of which were deeply lined and perma-tanned, wearing clothing that sat ill with the cold and rainy Manchester weather but which would look fine once we got to sunnier climes.

The flight was four hours long.  Hub slept, I was plugged into a Kindle and listening to ‘the Lovely Bones’- not really holiday fodder but a long enough audio book to distract me. The Stoic and CB were plugged into i-things and apart from when CB got the munchies, it was a peaceful flight – well, I say peaceful but the inane chunnerings of the scally quartet sat behind us meant that sleep or earphones were necessities.

So weird –  touching down at five in the afternoon, in brilliant sunshine but with Christmas decorations in abundance. Lovely Hub sorted out our hire car and it was just getting dark as we set off to the villa, some 40 minutes drive away in Playa Blanca.  Driving on the wrong side of the road (for us) through small villages lit up with more Christmas decorations, it looked like December but  the temperature had dipped to 18 degrees.

We hit lucky with the villa; everything we needed, heated swimming pool, barbecue, plenty of room for the four of us to eat, drink, ablute and take time out.  We had a welcome food pack but the person who did the shopping obviously had a very strange idea of what English people  want to eat after a long day of travelling.

I unpacked and the males of the pack went hunter gathering for the real necessities of life – bread, cheese, meat, chocolate, water and much beer and wine.

There was only one problem with the villa – our bed was made of concrete, on an iron bedstead with bolster pillows that had little use other than doorstops.  We coped though because we were knackered, and a day or so later found a warehouse up the road that sold big cushions.

I had breakfast out by the pool in blazing sunshine the next morning; one of my favourite parts of being in a more clement climate. Hub and I were both hobbling due to sore backs and a shell-shocked V-toe.   We hit the local supermarkets and did what most English people do.  We loaded our trolley with a combination of  recognisable foods from home, interspersed with Spanish delicacies we remembered from other holidays and some other things that looked mysterious and interesting (some were and some were binned in disgusto).

If we thought that arriving at the airport in the sunshine was weird, then sitting outside in the sunshine, in 24 degrees and having a barbecue lunch on 30th December was even more weird.  The boys and I braved the swimming pool.  Cold but bearable and CB turned even happier when the neighbourhood cat  joined us for lunch. The V-toe revelled in the salty water and I revelled in the fact that I could wear fit-flops rather than my clompy boots and bed socks.  I missed my Uni Boy but we’d spoken on the phone and he didn’t seem to be missing us that much (a bit jel of the sunshine but he likes to sleep all day and hates sand anyway).

Playa Blanca for dinner; we found a restaurant that looked friendly – complete with bedecked Christmas tree and the world’s most fascinating flambe chef.  Lovely Hub and I introduced the Stoic to tapas but as CB doesn’t do sharing much he ordered grilled king prawns, grumbling throughout because they were such high maintenance to eat.  Flambe banana for pudding – to die for and complimentary caramel vodka with the bill (or cuente – a word we used often.)

Back to the villa; no English channels but I’d bought plenty of DVDs – even stranger to watch Sherlock Homes taking a dive off the Reichenbach Falls (digitally enhanced) while the temperature was still a balmy 18 degrees.

New Year’s Eve and we were off to the Volcano!  The Timanfaya National Park houses quite a few dormant volcanoes but the biggest has a restaurant on top called El Diablo where they cook food over volcano heat.  Hub, Stoic and I went for meat but yet again, CB went for high maintenance and a very bony fish. The Volcano-grilled food put barbecues to shame but the service was dire – not even shambolic.  We were beginning to realise that the pace of life in Lanzarote was much slower, and that we really needed to slow down and not worry about how long it took for the cuente to arrive.  El Diablo staff dropped trays of crockery, wandered aimless and empty-handed around the circular restaurant. They had to be reminded three times about the pudding. We didn’t leave a tip.

We had heard that Playa Blanca pushed the boat on for New Year’s Eve celebrations; it was no lie.  Midnight and after a light dinner (still stuffed from the diabolic lunch) the four of us mingled with hundreds of other tourists and locals on the waterfront.

Fireworks, streamers, hooters and party bags.  Huge grins everywhere you looked and no sign of aggressive drunks or thugs.   All this in 19 degrees – no coats needed.  I spoke to UB and felt a bit choked.  The Stoic phoned home too and his upper lip lost its starch for a few moments. We walked back to the car along with other revellers heading home and came to the conclusion that this was the way we’d like to spend our New Year’s Eves in future.

All was quiet on New Year’s Day – oh no – another barbecue and into PB for a curry – the waterfront there  is truly cosmopolitan.

Tuesday was brilliantly sunny so we headed off to El Golfo; a fishing village with a green lake and absolutely NOTHING to do with boring farty old golf.  We lunched al fresco at a seafood restaurant overlooking the sea and a rocky shore.  It was so hot CB and the Stoic had to put more sun cream on and have an umbrella erected over them (Hub and I had sensible hats on – mine was a light straw trilby from M&S).

The fish was wonderful – a freshly caught and grilled haddock.  CB struck out on his own with breaded fish fillets which bore no resemblance whatsoever to anything named after a seafarer with an avian oculus.  It took a long time to get pudding again but by now we were getting very laid back about eating slooooooooowly.

After a day of driving around the island we stayed home and had – another barbecue  – after the boys had almost emptied the pool with much swooshing and splashing.  Fortunately both CB and the Stoic were pretty good with the tongs once they’d dried off- Hub and I just sat in the sunshine smiling stupidly with wineglasses in our hands.

On Wednesday we hit the north end of the island; hairpin bends, spectacular views, prickly cacti and more Cesar Manrique than you can shake a pointy stick at. Lanzarote is big on Cesare- who was pretty cool actually.  He was more than just an artist; he did buildings and landscaping too.

First stop was le Jardin de Cactus – yeah – full of pricks – already did that one on Facebook.  CB stayed in the car – he wasn’t doing a load of old cacti.

Shame – he missed a pretty magical place.  Cesar’s artistic touch was in abundance and the terraced layout would have been incredible even if the plants had been fairly commonplace but there were so many weird and wonderful varieties of cacti that you had to stand (or sit in my case) still and take stock.  The V-toe and I found a lump of volcanic rock to perch on, whilst Lovely Hub and the Stoic went off and happy-snapped to their heart’s content.

An hour and a half later we returned to old Grumpy-tums in the car.  To his credit he hadn’t phoned or even texted, but he was definitely grumpy – and hungry.

Next stop was another Cesar special – Mirador del Rio – built into the side of a mountain and overlooking an amazing view of La Graciosa island that would be a bit disturbing if you had vertigo.  Luckily we didn’t. Google it – my powers of description wouldn’t do it justice.

Drove home after lunch through more winding roads and heart-stopping hairpins.  SO glad that Hub is brilliant driver – even on the wrong side of the road.

Continuing the theme of multiculturalism, we had a Chinese meal that evening.  Three of us shared a banquet and grumpy CB got grumpier because his dishes had to tie in with ours and we had more courses than he did.  One day he will appreciate the joys of sharing.

At the end of the meal the shot glasses appeared.  Hub abstained as he was driving; my glass had fruit (no idea which fruit) brandy and a naked man at the bottom who disappeared once I’d knocked the brandy back.  CB and the Stoic had naked girls at the bottom of their glasses – which were filled with a lizard-flavoured liquor.  No, honestly, there were two depressed and dead lizards in the bottom of the bottle.  I was goaded into trying some.  It nearly blew my head off.  Staggered back to the car – partlyV-toe and partly lizard juice.

And then it was Friday and our last day.  CB wanted to stay at the villa and achieve a tan so Hub, the Stoic and I hit Playa Blanca and spent a leisurely afternoon browsing in nearly every booze shop in the precinct and trying to work out whether we had enough allowance between us to get through Customs – we didn’t – we had to leave some Limoncello and caramel schnapps for the cleaning staff.

CB was looking slightly pinker as a result of his sun-worshipping and after some half-hearted attempts at packing, we went back into town for dinner at the Restaurant Cervantes again.  My favourite flambe chef was off but the food and the atmosphere were still good.  The Stoic and I had a leisurely stroll and talk (I can only do this if the pace is VERY slow) whilst Hub and CB made another last pilgrimage to the booze shops.

Packing up the next morning was reasonably painless; we had to be out by 1000 hrs but our plane didn’t go till mid afternoon so we decided to drive through some of the places we missed, and to visit the air museum at Arrecife.  The nice lady there recommended visiting Playa Honda for lunch (you don’t pronounce the ‘d’ apparently).  So we set off for this very tiny village and were driven by hunger and the need for a wee to a fairly ordinary roadside bar.

The tapas was to die for.  It was REAL tapas.  Not the sort you get trotted out in designer bars in England, nor the slightly regimented version available in the local restaurants.  The owner spoke no English and our Spanish was limited to Hola, Adios, Gracias and Cola Lite (I can extend to agua con gas and una bino tinto por favor if pushed however).  We ordered a number of dishes off the incomprehensible menu and hoped for the best – and oh, it was the best.  The food just kept coming.  As soon as we finished one plateful it was followed by another and another and each more inventive and fresh than the last. Definitely going there again.

Back to the airport; dropped off the car and headed for check-in a tad early.  It was heaving and it got worse.  V-toe won’t let me stand for long so the menfolk queued whilst my Kindle and I sat.  The queue for security went right the way round the check-in hall and my heart sunk – so did CB’s.  Lovely Hub saved the day and found us an angel called Franco who (after I’d filled out a disability form) shepherded CB and I through security and out the other side in but a few moments.

The wonderful Stoic had saved a place in the queue for Hub so they weren’t too far behind.  The female security staff were harridans with no patience for walking stick hobblers or families with babies trying to hastily repack their changing bags.

By stark comparison the gate staff were wonderful.  We had a separate seating area (us and the lady in the wheelchair and some heavily tanned and gold-chained couples with duty-free bags who didn’t notice the big blue disability sign until after they had sat down and blushed but defiantly stayed where they were despite CB’s tactless comments).

We got boarded first again – with the lady in the wheelchair – annoyed the same perma-tanned people we had annoyed on the way out, and had an uneventful (if slightly turbulent – which I like) flight home.

Our minibus was waiting  when we got to Manch and so was the rain.  We were home though and after dropping the Stoic off and thanking his dad for lending him to us, we walked in our own door at about 0100 hrs to be greeted by UB and the house was still in one piece.

Sunday was spent taking UB back to York, then once we were home again Hub was on the internet planning our return to Lanzarote in time for New Year 2014.

It was a wonderful holiday but hampered by the poor old V-toe, not being able to walk or stand for long and feeling that I was holding everyone back – they deny this vehemently of course – but our holiday was planned long before the accident and subsequent angst.

Let’s hope that 2013 is a better year for us all.

Volcan-Toe meets the Volcano – we’ve been to Lanzarote for New Year and now we are back – the DeVere Grand harbour first though

The Volcan-Toe or V-Toe as it is now known – since it has very kindly stopped erupting – has graciously allowed me to take over the reins of this blog page for a while on the strict instructions that I write about our holiday in Lanzarote and that I MUST write fact – not fiction.  I’ll do my best but there hasn’t been much motivation for fact for the last three months – unless you count OU essays – which I don’t because they are largely regurgitated references to obscure publications by groups of people with unpronounceable names that send your spell checker running for the hills.

I know that the V-Toe has already written about this but my viewpoint is somewhat more elevated.

It may take me a few go’s before I finally get to the Lanzarote bit as I have to do the Christmas bit first.

Back in the summer, Lovely Hub hit on the idea of going away for New Year – going somewhere hot and totally different that we hadn’t been to before.  Christmas without my Dad – and the smelly cat – was daunting enough but New Year’s Eve presented fresh challenges and an impending feeling of fed-upness (not depression – I won’t do depression because it is like sulking – you can’t do anything else at the same time and it gets boring).

My experience of sunnier climes has hitherto been limited to Mallorca but Hub said it wouldn’t be warm enough.  Bowing to his superior knowledge of weather and al things abroad I let him choose our destination.  Lanzarote seemed to fit the bill and many hours were spent trying to find accommodation that would suit me, Hub, Uni Boy, College Boy and two of his friends.  One of the friends had to drop out courtesy of a clashing skiing trip but I found the ideal villa at last with four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a heated swimming pool (UB and CB won’t share rooms any more – CB didn’t want to share with anyone – sharing does not come naturally to him – sometimes it doesn’t come at all).

Hub took the reins after this and did all the arrangements giving us something to focus on – and to look forward to.  In the interim we decided to head South just before Christmas and visit the folks to deliver presents and cards – which would have been a great idea if I hadn’t left a pile of cards on the floor at home.

We collected UB from Uni – with most of his worldly goods and came home to prepare for two nights in our favourite posh hotel and intense exposure to some of the family – couldn’t fit everyone in unfortunately.

Looking back, driving 250 miles the weekend before Christmas and driving back on Christmas Eve may not have been the wisest of decisions but we were feeling slightly reckless and ready to break with all previous traditions.

Talking of which, for some years we have ordered the Christmas food from M&S; braving the onslaught of gold handbags and matching shoes wielded by grey-haired old ladies who descend like a plague whenever you need to buy something in a hurry.   Every year it gets worse as you queue to pick up your boneless turkey (with stuffing and bacon lattice), an alternative to Christmas Pudding and the red cabbage (not as good as Oma’s).  One year we opted for an eight am collection that resulted in the boys being late for school, me being late for work and Hub grinding his teeth in frustration.  We went for the evening collection after that – the queues were just as bad but at least you got a thimble-full of mulled wine (or two – or even three on one occasion) for your pains.

This year we were down-sizing as there were only three of us; CB won’t eat Christmas dinner at the table, he prefers to swoop in and grab a few spuds, a bit of meat and fly back up to his room – or make his own delightful concoction of smoky-bacon flavoured super noodles, hot pepperoni and lashings of Tabasco sauce – both my boys are hot stuff.

Whilst sampling the delights of the new Sainsburys that opened just up the road on the new ‘urban development’ (lots of houses in a very small space) we discovered that they too did Christmas food ordering, with very similar items at a considerably lower price.  We booked with glee and paid with cold hard cash, arranging to pick up the goodies first thing Saturday morning before we made our journey Southwards, so that the food would be waiting for us to cook it when we returned on Christmas Eve.

So eight am-ish on Saturday saw Hub and I arriving and expecting hoards of other Christmas shoppers to be in attendance too.  Nah!  Just us and another lady.  In and out in ten minutes AND I whizzed round and picked up a couple of other essential items as well.

So, food stowed n the fridge and freezer, bags packed, boys in the car and plugged into earphones so that they wouldn’t have to talk to each other – or us, presents loaded and accessible, cards left lying on the floor and we were off to meet up with family at a riverside pub that we remembered from years ago.  Only ten miles from our eventual destination and a good place to bring us all together and swap presents.

I’d been having trouble connecting with Christmas; V-toe had made anything but very brief shopping sojourns almost impossible – especially if it was wet – so on-line present-buying featured heavily.  Yes, it is convenient but it doesn’t have the tangible enjoyment of picking something up and realising it is just right for so-and-so.  Our decorations had been scaled down too; in fact most of the decorations from Christmas Past stayed in the cupboard and garage whilst we went off to the garden centre and bought a three-foot fibre-optic tree with balls on (it takes five minutes to put up and doesn’t require tinsel).  We may decorate a bit in Christmas Yet To Come but – who knows what the fates will allow.

The pub was almost as I remembered it – except that last time we went there it was a blazing hot day in May and  I was heavily pregnant with UB.  Dressed in its Christmas best, with the River Test swollen by the recent heavy rains, The Mayfly took on a whole different aspect.  It was packed with pre-Christmas revellers and we were sandwiched  between a group of very imperious old-money Hampshire folk and a loud, tattooed, perma-tanned bunch of Test Valley nouveau riche (they annoyed CB especially as one of their number – mega loud and wearing a huge bunch of keys dangling from his belt –  kept squeezing past CB to get to the bar – and had the temerity to touch his shoulder – TWICE).

It was a lovely lunch though; full of talk and laughter and good food.  It made me feel like there was a Christmas Present after all.

Gifts and cards were exchanged with hugs and kisses in the muddy car park, and we were on our way to The DeVere Grand Harbour.

When we were young and living in the South, Hub and I watched this hotel being built on the waterfront.  The huge pyramid-shaped glass atrium at the front of the building made it stand out even then and the idea of ever being able to afford to stay there was just a pipe dream.

Hey – here we are living the dream!

We stayed at the hotel when the boys were small enough to still tolerate sleeping on the same sofa bed in the same room as us.  In the intervening years since our last visit this has become impossible and very unwise – getting them to stay civil in the same car is hard enough.  So we had three separate rooms and I dispensed stern instructions about only ordering room service if they checked it out with us first and under no circumstances were they to access the playstation or the adult TV channels.  UB looked at me with disdain because he is a Nintendo man.  CB just looked at me with disdain and thinly veiled disappointment that I had second-guessed him.

Tired and still stuffed from lunch, UB retired to bed.  We had planned to visit the vegetarian nightmare of a steakhouse that we discovered last time we were down but CB was tired and grouchy so Lovely Hub was sent off on a pilgrimage to get kebabs from Zorbas – yes, yes, we ate kebabs in a four-star hotel (used to be five-star but they lost a star when they gave up the valet parking).

Zorbas is a legend.  We have been eating kebabs from there since 1989 and their chilli sauce is one of the reasons our boys are hot stuff – they were weaned on it.  Good to be back home again – again.

That’ll do for today.  We have a new bed being delivered this afternoon and need to dismantle the old one and discover the things that have been lurking under it for many years. Bring on the Dyson and stout (ish) foot wear.  I must protect the V-toe (and myself) from any eight-legged marauders.

Toodle-pip.

By the way – it is my birthday tomorrow 🙂