Monday, 17 December 2007

Trip to Birmingham: Grieg's Piano Concerto

At last the time had come to go to Birmingham for the long awaited concert.

We left Al and Dennis fitting the new utility room on Saturday and travelled up to Birmingham. It took us about 2.5 hours and we were very glad that we borrowed Dan's Tom Tom as it took us right to the car park in the middle of the city centre!

We had allowed plenty of time in case of delays of which there were none so we had about two and half hours to kill. We were really lucky that it was the big Christmas craft street market so we wandered around and bought a couple of presents. It was a lovely atmosphere with a big carol concert and a street ice rink. We didn't have a camera with us so I took a few photos on my phone to capture the atmosphere.

After we'd wandered round the market we went to find something to eat and had a lovely pizza. Then it was time to go to the Symphony Hall for the concert. As we walked to the hall, cars were streaming into the car parks so we were really glad that we'd got there early and found a space so easily.

The hall is very impressive and I was very excited when we took our seats. I was a bit like a child actually and couldn't stop fidgeting. We had fantastic seats right in the middle of the upper circle so the view and the sound were both amazing.

The Birmingham Symphony Hall (view from my seat)

The concert started with Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite which was really lovely. I hadn't heard it played live since a school trip to see the ballet in London.

Then the piece that I was waiting for: Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor. The grand piano was wheeled centre stage and on came the man himself, Leif Ove Andsnes one of the finest players of his generation. His technique and musicianship are quite stunning. He isn't a showman as so many virtuoso soloists can and indeed love to be, instead he serves the music and the result is just wonderful; certainly to my ears.

As I've mentioned in a previous post, this was an amazing opportunity for me to hear my favourite piece of music played by my all time favourite pianist. I had goosebumps when the piece started and was amazed at how emotional I felt. The whole concerto is 30 minutes but it seemed more like 3 minutes. It was truly wonderful and I am so happy to have had the experience. The concert wound up with Elgar's Enigma Variations which was very stirring. A fantastic evening and one which I would love to repeat!

The journey home was good, just under 2.5 hours. We got back around midnight and the dogs were pleased to see us. They had a long walk first thing in the morning and then had Al and Dennis for company all afternoon until Dan and Mac picked them all up and took them back to their place for the evening. They dropped them back home around 10.30 pm. We learned that the wicked little Kizzle was rather over the top at Mac's; making a lot of noise and rabbit running round their sitting room. They put up with it until about 9.30 pm but then it was pod time!

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Christmas Tree

We put our Christmas tree up and decorated it this evening. Here it is with a couple of extra decorations!

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging;
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging;
Not only green when summer's here,
But also when 'tis cold and drear.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging!

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me;
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me;
How often has the Christmas tree
Afforded me the greatest glee!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me.

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy candles shine so brightly!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy candles shine so brightly!
From base to summit, gay and bright,
There's only splendor for the sight.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy candles shine so brightly!

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!
Thou bidst us true and faithful be,
And trust in God unchangingly.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee! !"

The Elephant Trick - Updated

We haven't filmed Kizzy's elephant trick since she was a tiny puppy so here she is again followed by a real elephant in action ... the Naughty Niamh!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

A lovely present

Today I received a lovely Christmas present from a person who trains regularly with me. Her dog is a rescue collie who hasn't been that easy to train but who is making huge progress using a combination of clicker and toy training. We have had some heartache with Pip and some huge highs but since we started training back in August the lows have subsided and the highs are the norm.

Anyway, Pip came for her last lesson before Christmas this afternoon and when they left her owner gave me a Christmas card and this lovely present which is a huge bag of treats and toys for my own dogs. I was quite taken aback as I didn't expect anything and it was such a nice thought. I can't believe how many toys and treats are in this bag. It's wonderful!

Morning Sunrise

Andy took some photos of the lovely sunrise we woke up to on Monday morning. We looked out of the kitchen window first thing when it was still quite dark and it was just beautiful so he took the photos from outside the back door.

I know it's supposed to be "red sky in the morning; shepherd's warning" but it turned out to be quite a nice day, so it isn't always true!

Fire place - final instalment

The fire place frenzy continued all of last week. Andy finished work at about 10.00 pm on Thursday evening which gave the fire place a day or so to dry out before he and Al fitted the wood burner.

The finished job with new york stone hearth.

Here is a picture of Al hard at work on Saturday (this was at 2.00 pm) and Bernadette and Dennis were due to arrive at about 7.00 pm! I really didn't think we'd be ready. Poor Al was up the chimney on a ladder on Saturday morning pushing the liner down the chimney. It was absolutely pouring with rain and he got soaked. I am very pleased with the end result, it's such an improvement on the previous fireplace methinks!

Al having a sleep in the fireplace!

Hurrah - the final touch my lovely wood burner in place!

It was nice to see Dennis and Bernadette and we had a good evening which finished rather late. Poor Dennis had to get up early to drive all the way to Stansted where he was booked on a photography course. I think he really enjoyed the course despite the late night. They bought us a really nice house warming present which is very apt for our household in more ways than one!

Isn't it lovely!

On Sunday morning I have to confess I had a very small headache from half a glass of red wine too many! Drinking Red Wine

I was booked on a training day but luckily it was an afternoon session so I was just about fit by then! I had a great time. Dennis McCaulay was the trainer and I thoroughly enjoyed the session; he is an excellent trainer with a great eye for detail and a great sense of humour. Niamh and I were exhausted at the end of the session and I can't wait to book on another of his courses.

It was quite a cold afternoon and it was lovely to get home and sit in front of the warm stove, I am just so pleased it's done in time for Christmas!

Friday, 30 November 2007

Fire Places and other stuff

Haven't had much time for blogging this past week so thought I'd do a big update.

I sound like a worn out record when I keep saying how busy we are, but it's true. We have a first phase plan of stuff we want to get done on the house and once we've achieved that we'll take a breather and chill for a bit before starting phase 2!

So, last week after Andy had built Dan and Mac's new fire place we started to discuss if it was feasible for him to re-build our own fire place before Christmas. Andy decided it was possible and so decided he would go for it. More mess to come ... and more on this subject later.

On Wednesday of last week my friend Jane came for lunch. Jane is one of my oldest and closest friends and we hadn't seen each other for a while so it was lovely to catch up. Jane is always very busy and had just got back from a trip abroad. She is always on the go and up for different projects. She and her husband Mark have just bought some apartments abroad (that will be let out) and she also announced that they've bought a pub in Scotland that Jay (Jane's son) will manage. As usual I was out of breath just listening to all the stuff they're up to! Jane had bought us a house warming pressie and she brought this with her. I've wanted these garden geese for ages and now I've got them but as it's not very nice outdoors so they're living in at the moment! Meet Bill and Ben ........... I was going to call them Hex and Zen but thought I might get in trouble!!

Bill and Ben

On Thursday I did a training session with a Ulla and her rescue collie 'Nina'. Ulla has had Nina for only two weeks and we didn't expect too much attention from her. However we were to be surprised. She was amazing and quickly picked up the different exercises we tried. We had thought she might manage half an hour but she kept going for a full hour and a tub full of tit bits! I suggested to Ulla that Nina would probably be very tired after the training session as it was probably the most she had ever used her brain. Ulla e-mailed the following day with this lovely photo of Nina who slept all the way home, when she got home and for the whole of the evening. She is a lovely little dog.

Nina after her training

Nina staying awake just long enough to pose for the camera!

Then on Friday Karen came over for lunch. We did a bit of training to work up an appetite! First of all Karen and I trained Naughty Niamh and Jess. They were good girls and did some nice stuff. We had a run of each others' dogs. I think Karen ran Niamh better than I ran Jess!
Then Andy and Karen had a session with Kizzle and Toddlet. They were brilliant and did some complex little jump combinations and some excellent dog walks with Karen and Andy layering the dogwalk with weaves between. Very impressive! Andy is trying to persuade Karen to have a fire place built, he will not give in and will irritate her about this until she agrees!

On Saturday Al continued with the outdoor wiring. We now have electricity right down to the summer house which is great as I'll be able to use it through the winter for clicker training and stuff.

My usual beginner group came for their agility session and had a really good time as they can now do almost all of the obstacles and the general foundation training is starting to pay off. Then Kate came along with her gorgeous little poodle Tickle. We thought we'd do twenty minutes or half an hour as it was the first training session we'd done together. An hour later she was still going strong having done ladder work, down plank of the dog walk, sendaways to her toy, left and right turn exercises. Kate and I were exhausted but Tickle was still up for more!

Anyway, part of my reason for rambling on about Saturday morning was that by the time I got back up to the house Andy had demolished the old fire place. There was thick dust everywhere but no more horrible white bricks in the sitting room! Sadly I haven't got a very good photo of the old fireplace but you can see a bit of it from the photo below. It was actually made from rather nice sand stone bricks but somebody had painted them white (yuk) and the mantle piece and hearth were made from left over granite from the kitchen work tops (more yuk). So these photos show the original fireplace (partial view) and after it was demolished!

The old fireplace with small pointed thing basking in front

There it was gone! Andy has opened up the fireplace so we have a much wider aperture for the wood burner to fit in.

On Sunday I went all the way to Ipswich for a training day. Well, training morning really. It was taken by Jill Spurr and was good fun. Niamh and I really enjoyed ourselves and got some good feedback on one of our main weaknesses ... the down dog walk! The training session was held inside a huge indoor school so we were in the dry. I was lucky with the weather for the journey. It had been forecast to be really bad but most of the foul weather was further to the west and we missed it. By the time I travelled home the worst of it had passed over. Niamh slept all the way home and fell in her basket when we got home. When we went through to the sitting room all she wanted to do was have a good suckle on her special Prongo toy however she kept being interrupted by a long pointed nose interfering where it wasn't wanted. No points for guessing who this might have been!

Poor Andy woke up on Sunday with a migraine. He got up to see me off to Ipswich but had lots of blank patches and couldn't see very well. This is the first one he's had for about a year. It was a bad one and he couldn't get on with the fire place so instead put together all the flat pack kitchen units ready for Dennis to fit in the new utility room.

On Monday evening we went to the Dartford Agility club to do a training evening for them, we're doing another one in two weeks' time. We always enjoy these as they're such a nice bunch of people.

Andy's headache has lasted a long time and last night (Tuesday) at training he was very sick which is hopefully the migraine coming to an end. He managed to train Kizzy and she did some great stuff. Andy's been working on her turns. She has a tendency to sweep wide out of tunnels and around wings (all that running in circles around the coffee table I reckon!). He's been training her the 'steady' command as he wants his left and right turns for a more general turn rather than wing wrapping. She is responding really well to the 'steady' and you can see her gather her stride and start to turn over the pole. It's most satisfying to watch!

The fireplace is now work in progress (hurrah as we have Bernadette and Dennis coming for supper on Saturday!) Andy decided to take a couple of days off work to carry on with the fire place. This is a good idea as drawing isn't what he needs to be doing with a migraine attack.

Here is a picture of the work in progress. I'll post a picture of the final product in due course (soon I hope!!)

The new fireplace in progress

We're having an oak mantle piece for the top and the wood burner rather than an open fire. I love open fires but the wood burner is far more efficient and Poppy likes it because it's quiet and doesn't hiss and spit like an open fire. Poppy hates loud bangs and I hate the fact that she won't come into the sitting room when the fire is alight. The sad thing is that she loves the heat but is too scared to bask (unlike Kizzle and Niamh who queue up to get in front of the fire). Once the wood burner is up and running then little Pops will be back in the basking queue!

Well think that's enough for now!

Monday, 26 November 2007

All sort of things

On Saturday I got up really early (yes it's true) and took the dogs out while it was still frosty. I had several muddy walks during the week where the tractor had been trimming along the riverbank. I can't believe they picked the wettest time in the month to do this and it churned up the footpaths so I got home with six very muddy dogs. It took me ages to clean them up. But on Saturday it was wonderful, it was freezing cold with a gorgeous blue sky and most importantly after nearly two hours out six clean doglets!

Al continued to work on various electrical bits and pieces during Saturday and then Kate and Paul came along so that Paul could check out all the electrical work in our new extension and sign it off for the Local Authority Building Control Department. While Paul was busy doing this Kate came and helped me with my beginners lesson. It was very nice having some help to place toys and tit bits etc so thank you Kate! The beginners are doing really well and it's fun taking such a nice bunch of people and dogs (ooops still no photos of them!)

After the beginners class I went down to Dan & Mac's and collected their four dogs. We looked after them for the day whilst Dan and Mac visited Terry and Jackie in Suffolk. Ten dogs in the house! Still, they were all really good and got along fine! I cannot moan as Dan and Mac had our dogs last year whilst we were at Olympia for almost a week! Payback time!

On Sunday Andy went off to Dan & Mac's as he'd promised to build them a new fireplace. Their old one wasn't very nice and they've been talking about doing this for ages. Dan had been to the reclaim yard and got some nice (but very mishapen) bricks and a railway sleeper for the mantle. It took Andy all day long but Dan and Mac were very pleased with the result and provided us with a very nice veggie roast dinner!

Man at work

The finished job. The bricks and mortar were still very wet at this point; when they dry out it will be full of lovely colours.

Here are some piccies of the new fireplace. It has inspired Andy to get on with ours. We have a not very nice white brick thing which has to go. So, Andy is going to start on ours next weekend and make it quite a bit bigger so that we (Al) can install our wood burning stove. Yippee, that means I'll get Poppy back into the sitting room. She vacates when we have an open fire as she hates the spitting logs.

Al did a load more wiring for us on Sunday mainly outside, running power down to the shed and log store so we can have lights down there. Next weekend he's going to light up the way to the summer house. Eventually we're going to have power down there and some flood lights!

As Andy was away bricklaying I decided to keep Al company outside so the dogs had a day off walking and instead came out into the garden with me for three hours. They played while I slogged shifting yet more leaves down to the end and onto the bonfire. It was hard work and I could hardly walk today. I am getting so old. Mind you the task was made harder by that bad little sheltie. We have a huge Jewson crane bag which we fill with leaves and then drag down to the bonfire. I wondered why it was harder work than normal and soon discovered why ..... a pesky little sheltie was riding on the back and digging through the leaves. She insists on 'helping' in whatever task you're trying to complete!

It was dark by the time Al finished and I was clearing the last of the leaves in the front yard. Still, I slept well that night.

Tonight I am really tired, Andy has gone out to badminton and now I have to clear up, load the dishwasher, take the dogs out and do everything .... it's just so unfair. I have to wake the sheltie up too, she is very sleepy as she had a long walk; we didn't get back until 4.30 pm and then she has rampaged all evening. Now that I want to go to bed this is what I find:

Lazy sheltie

That's about it for now!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Evidence that this really does happen

This is a very rare sighting so I felt it deserved a post of its own. In case anyone can't recognise what's going on here ........ it is a MAN grooming his dog. I would like to assure readers of this blog that no man was injured during the taking of this photograph.

The result of the man effort is shown below.

Which is bigger, the pile of hair or the little Kizlet? We couldn't believe how much hair came out of Kizzy the other evening, she was already almost bald and after this grooming session, well ..... the result speaks for itself!

Sleepy Heads

Our lot tend to hibernate when the weather is horrible - which it certainly is at the moment. Here are some pictures of them doing their third favourite thing. It comes third only to eating and going for walks and in Kizzy's case it comes fifth after training and playing! When it gets cold at night Abbey and Poppy like to be tucked up as you can see. Frequently we wake up in the morning and they're still tucked up under their little blankets. They are a right little pair of spoiled brats Andy likes to tell me. I've no idea why?

Mummy's little angels tucked up for the night!

Becky snuggled in her squidgy bed (well actually it's Abbey's bed, Andy doesn't buy his dogs nice beds so they have to borrow mine)

Kizzle pretending to be asleep just so she gets in on the act!

Pops in her squidgy bed

Niamh in her favourite armchair after the wicked little termite has worn her out!

Murphy in Kizzy's little bed. He's a twit!

I love seeing my dogs all cosy in their comfy beds, especially after a nice long walk!

This and that

We had a very busy weekend. I did a couple of training days; one for Tenterden DTC and one for Polly. I don't normally do both days but had got a little muddled with my dates. I always find training days very tiring so wouldn't choose to do one straight after another. Anyway, they seemed to go well. On Saturday we were indoors which was nice as there was a bit of rain. On Sunday at Polly's we had a nice morning but sadly the rain started at lunch time and the whole afternoon session was done in the pouring rain. It was also very cold and I took a long time to warm up. I had my heated car seat on the maximum setting on the journey home which helped. The journey home was horrible as it was sleeting when I left Polly's and by the time I got to J8 on the M25 it had turned to huge snow flakes.

Unfortunately for a variety of reasons Andy couldn't come to the training session at Polly's, he was supposed to run Murphy and Kizzy. It was a shame as both classes were good fun. Instead Andy had a real bash at emptying more of the boxes in our attic room and having a massive tidy up. It was well worth the effort as we now have a nice spare room to use. We'll keep it like this until we summon the energy to do the upgrade to this room. We're going to almost double it in size and add an ensuite shower room. Right now we've both had enough building work!
Poppy is a very happy little bunny as she always used to sneak upstairs at our old house to snooze on our bed. She has been looking longingly at the stairs in the new house but because it was just a junk hole full of boxes we kept a gate across so she couldn't get up there. Now she sneaks off as you can see.

Bad Poppy on the bed!

Over the last few days we have had a first - Kizzy and Niamh have started to play together. Kizzy has always been keen but Niamh hasn't wanted to get involved. All of a sudden they are interacting and playing every evening. This is good as once Kizzy has worn Murphy out she turns to Niamh. They are actually playing really nicely. Here are some pictures of them together.

We're so pleased that they've started to play together. They are lovely to watch as it doesn't get rough, just really nice interaction. Some ugly faces from Niamh! Kizzy never bares her teeth she just sticks her pointed little nose into everything instead!