…are those when Gail works at home for an hour or so before she leaves to attend a meeting…
Sometimes I like to help her with her work.
I study the documents carefully and give her my considered opinion.
Hmm. I am not convinced that a repeat seismic survey after one year's gas production on the Tormore gas field will be useful in helping determine whether additional wells should be drilled, and at a cost of £7 million for the survey, one would have to question the value of the information gained…
It is also my view that the undrilled oil and gas prospects presented here are very risky from a geological perspective, and given the low oil price and the high cost of drilling in the harsh offshore environment of the West of Shetlands basin, I cannot in all conscience recommend that they be pursued further. One feels that if the SNP government were able to see and understand these data, they might be less sanguine about the long term future of Scotland's offshore petroleum industry as a source of valuable tax revenue ...
I wonder what my friends think?
I can't help noticing that there is a certain theme to the names of the gas fields in this offshore 'West of Shetland' area: Glenlivet, Macallan, Bunnehaven, Talisker, Tomatin, Laggan, Tobermory, Tormore, Edradour, Craigellachie…
Today we are taking part in Murphy and Stanley's 'Everybody knows Shirley' bloghop, which aims to spread the word about our favourite blog friends, and thus increase the sum total of worldwide blog happiness. (I have even derived, on scientific principles, an equation which precisely calculates the total amount of delight that this event will generate, but Gail has persuaded me to give the maths a rest for today and to get on with the introductions.)
Well of course there are many blogs that you definitely should be reading, but today I want to sing the praises of my friends the Seaside Shelties, aka Ludo and Arran, who live in Cumbria with their Mum and TND.
My predecessor Hamish first met Shetland Sheepdog Ludo an incredible seven years ago, when he was known as Ludo van Puppy. Now Ludo is a very grown up Ludo van Doggy and has a little Sheltie brother Arran, or 'Scamp'. TND stands for The Nice Dad. Originally he was TNP (The New Person), the man who loved taking Mum and Ludo on long and energetic walks in the Lake District hills. Soon TNP wasn't so new any more and so he became The Nice Person. Last year Ludo and Arran got to attend a very special wedding and TNP became, officially, TND.
So why might you want to read the Seaside Shelties blog?
Like all the best blogs, the main characters have a warm, wonderful and distinctive 'voice'. The blog is beautifully written (allowing for Ludo's original take on English grammar…) and photos of their many adventures in Cumbria - featuring some of England's very loveliest landscapes - are simply stunning.
Ludo had an operation to remove a cancerous tumour last year but, paws crossed, is recovering well.
Seaside Shelties do not blog every day, in fact sometimes we don't hear from them for weeks, but we always look forward to their posts and, for those of you who haven't yet met them, you are most 'Shirley' in for a treat if you click here pop over and visit.
So said Gail when as we turned around after less than four miles and headed back the way we came, rather than pressing on to the summit of Pressendye and completing the ten mile circular walk as originally intended.
We had started in the wee village of Tarland, temperature minus 2ºC, but the sun was shining and I felt only a gentle breeze in my furs.
We passed through farmland, slithering along an icy road, with recent flood water frozen over then covered with a dusting of snow.
Ascending the first hill, the powdery snow deepened, but Gail and I were still going strong, and enjoying the lovely views of Morven and surrounds.
After losing the path up a steep bit, suddenly we found ourselves on a broad ridge.
How is that, so often when walking in the Scottish hills, a gentle breeze can transform in an instant into an Arctic blast?
Gail wrapped her scarf around her face, Taliban style, but my blue coat was flapping in the wind, exposing my snowy rump.
As we climbed above about 500 metres, Gail seemed to be struggling, her boots sinking through the thin crust of ice and into snow, by now several inches deep. She consulted the map and to my great disappointment announced that we had better not continue onwards.
Gosh, humans can use up a lot of words in self justification, can't they? I mean, all she needed to say was, "sorry Bertie, I'm a wimp" but instead variously cited: slow progress through the snow; a steep and slippery descent; no torches and it getting dark by 4pm; us being up here all alone with no other hikers in sight, her feeling a bit of cramp in the hamstring as an after effect of a long cold bicycle ride the day before and not being as young as she used to be; dark clouds gathering on the hills in the distance; no water for me to drink on the frozen hilltop; wind chill factor of several degrees below…
So anyway, I got the point and, to be honest, by the time we were back in Tarland, I was more than happy to curl up in the car and be driven home with the heater on high.
Down at Duthie Park on Saturday morning, Gail wanted me to pose in front of the flagpole. I believe the idea was to demonstrate that we had almost clear skies and NO wind. It was also a wee bit frosty.
Now generally, when Gail whisks out the camera, I have learned it's best to sit down and look hopeful. Sometimes, treats are forthcoming.
But in winter there is a problem with this approach, as I'm sure you will understand.
Who likes to get a cold bottom? Not me for sure.
So I find the optimum strategy is to squat in a 'hovering' position. A bit like (I'm told) the more fastidious type of human female does when using a public 'convenience'.
However, this is not a comfortable stance to hold for more than a few seconds…
So at first light, with the skies clear of rain for the first time in a week, Gail and I went down to the Dee to inspect the damage.
What a good thing no-one fell asleep on the riverside (now mid-river) bench!
The boathouse is still underwater, but thankfully nobody lives there.
Our walk took us on to Sainsbury's, where I spotted snow on car roofs.
Gail rejected, with uncharacteristic ill humour, my suggestion that she drive inland to find some snow for me to play around in. "Haven't you seen the pictures in the papers Bertie? If you think I'm getting in the car again any time soon after last night's terrifying journey home from work, you've got another think coming... "
So I had to content myself with a walk back along the old railway line, and saying Happy New Year to my Westie pal Dougie, who seemed mighty proud of his new Royal Stuart tartan coat.
And then in was time to return home, before the rain starts again...
So on the way back from Nottingham to Aberdeen we stayed overnight in 'The White House' - no not THAT one, rather, a modest guest house just outside Penrith. I'm sorry to report that the proprietor failed to recognise my status and so did not upgrade us from their 'too small to swing a cat' single bedroom this time.
There were signs aplenty of recent floods all round Cumbria and SW Scotland, but at least my favourite walk in the lovely little border town of Moffat was dry(ish).
I had been hoping for a nice hill walk in Aberdeenshire today, but for once will concede that Gail was right in decreeing a short stroll around the park to be sufficient, given the weather.
So instead, Gail and I are snuggled up together on the recliner, reading some old letters found in Human Granny's now empty house.
I want to show you a couple of snippets. Gail warns me they won't be as interesting to our readers as they are to us, but I'm going to post them anyway. If your eyes are good, and you click on the images to enlarge, you may even be able to read them.
Both letters, for different reasons, might bring a tear to your eye.
Here's one from Gail's maternal grandfather, to her mother (aka Human Granny, then aged 15), written when he was on active service for the RAF in Egypt at the end of WW2, but describing a trip to Palestine:
And here is one written by Human Grandad to Human Granny in 1955, just a couple of weeks before they became formally engaged. He is away at a work-related conference in Eastbourne, and missing her very much:
Hi, I'm Bertie, a wire-haired fox terrier pup. I live with Gail in Aberdeen, Scotland. An old Westie called Hamish used to live here but he died on 18th February 2010 (exactly the same day I was born). People tell me that he used to have a blog and that I have big pawprints to fill. That's a bit too much responsibility for a very young puppy - and anyway, I intend to make my own mark!
(Gail says that Hamish could certainly have taught me a thing or two about marking stuff....)