Friday, 25 June 2010

Happy Birthday Naughty Niamh; six years old today!

Happy birthday to my gorgeous, beautiful, wicked, Naughty Niamh. I cannot believe she is six years old today. The years have flown by since we trekked all the way up to Lancashire to collect her. Thank you Natalie for letting me have this wonderful little dog. I won't lie to you, she has been hard work at times but oh so worth it. I love her to pieces. We share the same birthday and I do believe when she was born, she was meant for me. She is my wonderful Beeby Neebs!

Here are some birthday photos of my special girl:

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Off to Lune and Barrow and Agility for Britain

We'll soon be off to Lune and Barrow. So much to get ready and so little time! We really loved these two shows last year even though it was megga hot! I'm doing some training for Barrow during the week (along with several others), I like doing this as all the money goes to their various charities. Hopefully we'll get to visit the Lakes whilst we're there, last year it was the only cool place we could find for the dogs during our days off agility.

This year I am driving down to the Midlands on the Sunday of Lune Valley as I've decided to try out for the worlds with Naughty Niamh. We will give it our best shot and it will certainly help to give us some focus. Maybe next year I'll do it with Zeki too!

We are lucky to have people looking after the house whilst we're away, that always means peace of mind and that the flowers will get watered!

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Studio Update

Almost the last update on the studio. The shower is now finished and looks very nice. I love the tiles and would like them in our en-suite one day. The ones we have are horrible but as usual it's a question of priorities!

We have a few more bits to do like choosing and fitting some flooring to the toilet/shower area, making the outside steps, fixing the rainwater pipes but almost there.

Oak sleepers that Andy got from the farm across the road. These will be made into steps.

Our friend Andy is good at fixing clocks and he has managed to mend our old Captain's clock. We haven't had it running since we moved here and so it's nice to have it back. It now lives in the studio and looks good against the oak doors.

The new blinds fitted very well by the 'blind' man!

That's it on the studio for now. Hopefully I will be able to report that it is completely finished in the very near future! It's hard to believe that just seven months ago we moved the greenhouse and now this stands in its place!

From this:

via this:
to this:

and finally:

Naughty Niamh at Hinckley

Thanks to Candice for these two great shots of Niamh from Hinckley show a couple of weeks back. I particularly love the seesaw shot. The tunnel shot is also great but Niamh was obviously having a "bad ear" day!


I love Axstane show normally but this year didn't enjoy it as much partly because it was so cold and partly because the show ground has really deteriorated. There are pot holes everywhere (from rabbits I think) but more worryingly there is litter everywhere including glass and other unsavoury items.

We arrived quite early on the Friday to get set up and ready to help them build the rings. Andy, Al and Dan did this whilst I chilled with the doglets. It was good to see Tel and Bill and we all got together for Friday evening to watch the football. Bit of a let down to say the least. Nat and Tracey brought pizzas with them so no cooking. Great.

On Saturday morning we had a bit of a lie in as there was nothing for either of our dogs to do first thing. Although this was nice, I kind of lose my focus when I haven't got anything to walk. Then of course everything came at once. I had all three of Niamh's courses to walk at the same time and frankly I made a mess of two of them but did get a clear in the agility. I think I got a place but not sure where as I forgot to collect my rosette. All three courses were quite tricky and it was too much for my brain!

Zeki was a good girl and we got a clear in the helter skelter but no place. However, she amazed me in the KC Olympia qualifier. I do these as an extra run for her with no expectation whatsoever (for this year, watch out next year though!) Zeki was having none of that and did a really good round in which we were placed 3rd behind Sian and Jazzy and Carol and Marli. This is our best result to date and I am so happy even though we missed qualifying by just the one place. We were 2 seconds behind Sian and just fractions behind Carol. This makes me feel really positive that we are making good progress.

Here is a video of her run taken on our brand new video camera. It's amazing, so tiny but the quality is great. You can put it in your pocket, so much easier than lugging a big camera around which I can't be bothered to do any more. Plus the best thing about it is that although it's described as red it isn't, it is PINK. Perfect. I haven't figured out how to edit anything yet so this is just a basic download from the camera. More reading up to do!

We had another lie in on Sunday as nothing much for us to do. Andy walked the champ class at medium height ready for Kizzy's run. Kizzy was running well this weekend and got a few placings but she was a BAD sheltie in her champ jumping. The course was pretty tricky and she and Andy actually got round the pattern really well. However, Kizzy shot up a tunnel right at the start of the course which got them eliminated. Oh well.

I missed walking one of Niamh's courses so just trained the run but she did a lovely run in her Graded 7 jumping and came 4th. I loved the course as the dogs could really open up and run but it wasn't an advantage to people could run fast. The obstacles came up naturally for the dogs to take and so you could cut corners. Thank you Stuart Carter for a really fun course. Here is the lovely but Naughty Niamh in action.

I only ran Zeki in one of her classes as both her others were right at the end of the day and we were so cold we just wanted to get home. I'm glad we did leave early as it meant we had time to clean out the caravan ready for our trip up to Lune Valley and Barrow.

Last but not least, yet another whirlwind at Axstane. We see these every year at this venue and this year was no different except we were lucky that nobody got hurt when a medium sized marquee was lifted right over the top of the main marquee and landed at the entrance to the first row of rings. The wind held the marquee in the air for a few moments and so people were able to scatter and thank god no-one or any dogs were hurt. Very scary.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Thames - a fab weekend!

Wasn't sure about Thames as when we got up on Friday morning it was pouring with rain. However I was assured by Dan that the forecast was good from lunchtime onwards so we decided to go. I am very glad that we did as the weather did pick up and we had a brilliant weekend.

Andy did an 8.00 am treatment before we left home but we still got away in good time and had the caravan all set up and dogs walked by about 3.00 pm. Very civilised. We all had chili a la Karen for supper together with baked potatoes and some nice red fizzy wine to celebrate Dan and Tig's win into G5.

Saturday was possibly one of the busiest days I've ever had in agility terms. I was quite lucky that most of my runs were in the top area of rings but I was still exhausted by the end of the day. For the first time I had late running orders in the champ class and I find that quite stressful as it means that you have to keep an eye on the ring all the time. Now that I have Zeki running it is even harder because very often the medium classes are over before they've started (or so it can seem!)

I had run Niamh in the first leg of the champ (jumping) and got clear. Of course this meant I was keen to run clear in the agility round but I also had a class coming up for Zeki. I marked myself as late in Zeki's class even though I was drawn last in the class, I just didn't want them to close it before I ran. I had about six dogs to run in front of me in the champ class when I heard my name being called. Zeki's class was about to close and they were giving me two minutes to go and run. I have never been in such a panic as I really didn't want to miss her run as I'm so enjoying her. Thank goodness for friends! Leah ran back to get Zeki, Janet Jackson held onto Niamh and I raced up to the other ring. I literally threw poor little Beeks onto the startline and off we went. She was a star and ran clear and won the class. We exited the ring, Zeki was shoved at Karen and I tore back to the champ ring with just one dog to run in front. Luckily for me somebody (who shall remain nameless) was late and they were doing a 2 minute countdown for that person to arrive (see I am so kind I'm not even letting on their gender.) That gave me the chance to get my breath back before I ran Niamh. Not to be outdone by Zeki she also ran clear. At that point I fell in a heap but not for long as I had another class to run with Zeki!

That was kind of how the day continued and I was very proud of my two girls both of whom ran clear in all their classes. Over the weekend Zeki collected three first places and two seconds. Niamh got into the champ final and this time I didn't mess her up in the final, we just weren't quick enough on the day but we did put in a good round so I was more than happy. Greg won the ticket with Detox with a round that I can only dream of doing. It was an amazing run.

We watched the football on Saturday evening with Dan and Mac and it was very disappointing but hopefully the team will pick up this Friday. They had better otherwise I shall tear my flag down (only joking!) After the football we went across to the live band and had a great time going mad on the dance floor. Unfortunately I had to go before it finished as my ears hurt so much from the loud music. I don't think it's any coincidence that my dizziness came back on Monday. I've still got it now and they say it's connected with my inner ear. I guess the loud music probably set something off.

Niamh ended up on Sunday with a completely clean slate but unfortunately in our last run I managed to get poor Zeki eliminated and it was in her qualifier. Oh well I certainly cannot complain. Niamh did a lovely run in her KC qualifier but due to a slight misunderstanding about releasing the A-Frame we weren't quite as quick as we might have been. We still got 7th place which was good but I would have preferred a slightly higher place. Oh well, onwards and sideways on that front!

Kizzy also had a good weekend running clear in all her classes except one. She had a clean slate in the champ class and got into her first final at only her second champ attempt. She and Andy have a way to go before they regain their previous form but this was a good start.

Here is a video of Niamh's KC run, courtesy of Mrs Bay and also a photo of Zeki with her haul from the weekend.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Catching up ........ Pt VI (the really important stuff)

The final instalment (thank the lord I hear you sigh!)

Going off on one for a moment, someone was quite horrible to me recently about my blog making much of the fact that how sad it is that I blog about my life rather than live it. Well hopefully you can see from my catch up posts that we do live a life (and indeed one outside of agility!) More importantly this blog is for my family and my friends. I have lots of family that I don't see very often if at all but they like to keep up to date with our news and I find this a great way of being able to keep them updated with pictures and videos. So, I will live my life thank you kindly but I also choose to blog about it; other people can choose to read or not to read it! In fact I would suggest that the saddest people of all are those who make disparaging remarks but then still read other peoples' blogs!

That out of the way on with the important stuff ..... my doglets and agility shows!

First of all Nottingham. Well that was an event in itself as I ended up sleeping in my little van for the night. We were due to camp but Andy had a really bad migraine attack where he lost not only his vision but also his ability to put names to faces. This is always scary and we think probably associated with the fact that he had stopped taking aspirin for a few days as he kept getting nose bleeds. Hopefully things will settle down a bit. I don't think the stress of exams is helping but thankfully they'll soon be behind him.

Anyway I desperately wanted to go to Nottingham as it was Zeki's one and only opportunity to win into G6 in time for Lune Valley/Barrow. It was my goal to get her into G6 for these shows as she has a reasonable chance of getting to G7 there as she won't always be up against the more experienced dogs. I would love to get her to G7 so we can have the challenge of more difficult courses.

I knew that Nottingham would be a bit stressful as I wanted that win for Zeki plus Niamh had a champ class. So, it was probably good that Andy didn't come along as I might have been unpleasant company ;o)

I was going to book B&B but then decided this was stupid as I'd already paid out for camping so I came up with my little plan. I didn't think Andy would be too happy but he thought it was a great idea and helped me to kit out the van with a comfy bed and curtains. Here is my little camper van:

Leah and Jay tried every trick in the book to persuade me to stay in their caravan which was very kind of them but I was actually quite excited about my adventure. My dogs always sleep in the caravan at dog shows as I choose not to leave them out by themselves, however I was happy for them to sleep in the van with me. I had Zeki in the bed with me but Niamh stayed in her kennel as she's a little too big to sleep on my feet in such cramped quarters!

As it was the weather was kind to us and not at all cold. We all three slept well and I would do it again for sure!

On to the agility. Well I achieved one goal by 8.40 am on the Saturday morning when Zeki won the G3-5 agility by a small margin of 9 seconds. It was a good course with several pull throughs and some tricky angles and I was very pleased that we had done it so early. That meant I could relax about Zeki and concentrate on NN. Well as it turned out I didn't do well in the champ with poor Niamh. We were clear in the agility but disaster in the jumping when my poor handling meant that Niamh back jumped so we were eliminated. I was very disappointed as my goal for Niamh was not to get eliminated in any champ classes. Damn that one has gone out of the window. To make up for it Zeki won two more classes and came second in another. I think I got a 20th place with Niamh in one of the classes but we weren't really in tune after our champ mishap!

I had a great weekend, thanks to Leah and Jay for countless cups of coffee and good company.

Here is my clever little sheltie with her haul from Nottingham.

Zeki with her win(s) to Grade 6

Last weekend was Hinckley show. I enjoy this show as it is very well organised and always runs smoothly. However I was a bit dismayed that beyond 3rd place all that you got was a card rather than a rosette. I personally don't think this is a great idea. I was really disappointed when I got 11th place in the KC qualifier with Niamh only to get a clear round card, not even 11th place. Bit mean I think.

Anyway I did enjoy the show very much. I wasn't at all stressed running Zeki as we were in with the G7's all weekend so I just concentrated on training contacts and trying different things. She didn't disappoint getting 5/5 clear rounds with two placings. I was thrilled with her. She is just the best in my medium world. Obviously Niamh is the best in my large world! Overall Poppy is the best of course.

Niamh was superb all weekend. We got into the champ final but I am sorry to report that a momentary lack of concentration meant that we had a pole down and that was the end of that. I was quite upset because I hate letting my dogs down in finals. I don't expect to win but I do expect myself to perform well and I didn't. Kick up the butt required! Niamh didn't know and that's all that matters but I want people to see her for the great little dog that she is and not being messed up by stupid handling errors. Onwards and sideways. I guess it's not bad going that we've got into 2 out of 4 champ finals that we've so far taken part in.

On the Sunday we had a great course to challenge us. Leah judged the KC qualifier and it was a fair but tough course. I was very unsure when I first walked it; I liked it but truly didn't think I'd get Niamh round. There was a lot of handling and it was one of those courses that you had to work every step of the way from #1 through to #20 and all spaces in between. Niamh was brilliant. We ran #12 and it was still quite slippery from the night before's rain. We ran clear and for a long time it looked as if we might just qualify. But at the end of the class some superb rounds came in and we finished in 11th which I was not disappointed with. I believe there were only 16 or 17 clear rounds. The course certainly took some prisoners! If only the old system were in place, we would have more or less been guaranteed a semi-final run with an 11th place. Oh well, we will keep trying.

Andy and Kizzy competed for the first time in ages. They have lost their mojo right now. It wasn't helped by the very hot and humid weather. Kizzy really seems to hate these conditions so we're hoping for cooler weather at Thames. That said they got 7th place in their first agility run and then a clear in their first ever champ run. Sadly Kizzy was a very bad sheltie and popped out of the weaves in the jumping leg of the champ. Andy tried to get her back to the start of the weaves but she wouldn't come to him and back weaved = E! Now Andy wishes he had just popped her back into the last weave gap but hindsight and all that!

We very much enjoyed the show but I think if it clashes with Dartford/Keston next year I will probably opt for the more local show as it's a long haul to Hinckley and does seem a bit crazy when there is a perfectly good show almost on the doorstep!

Catching up ........ Pt V (other little projects)

Other than the studio we have also managed to cross some other long-standing jobs off our list.

I have long wanted a gate on the other end of the alley-way which runs alongside the house. We have a gate between the alley and the front yard and big gates on the front but I am forever having to go out to check that the alley gate is shut when I let the doglets outside. We live on a road which can be busy at times and I am paranoid about my dogs being safe. So at last I have my second gate and it's wonderful. It means I can just glance outside and know that the dogs are secure. Andy made it and it's very nice. At the same time I got him to put a new latch on the garden gate as originally it had a bolt and I was forever taking the skin off my fingers trying to open or close it with one hand.

Another nice outcome of the studio being finished is that I get my lovely little day sitting room back. Andy had been using it as a treatment room for the past six or seven months and it's great to have it back. I am not the only one happy about this!

When we moved in three years ago we replaced all of the front windows but couldn't afford to do the same in the rest of the house even though the windows were in rather poor condition. I hated the window in my bedroom but it just wasn't a priority. It was always on a list to be replaced one day but just kept slipping down as other more important stuff came up. My brother Dan has recently started up a new business offering refurbishment of upvc windows so we decided to give him the job. Basically we have kept the frame but have replaced the plain glass with leaded and put on new handles. The difference is amazing. I would really recommend this as an affordable option to anyone wanting to upgrade who can't afford it but also where the basic frame is sound.

The old handle and plain glass

Smart new handle with leaded light glass

The final job (well almost, it will be complete once the Blind Man has visited today!)

Catching up ........ Pt IV (Massage)

As well as dog shows, work, garden, studio build Andy is also studying massage. Along with this comes Anatomy & Physiology (A&P) studies which he has found quite hard. Last night was his exam in A&P and we just heard that he passed with a score of 97%. To say he is delighted is an understatement. His coursework still has to be assessed but hopefully that will all be ok.

Tonight he has the written exam for swedish massage and then over the next two weeks will be the practical exams. In these exams he has to gain 100% to pass. In the hope that he does he will then be moving onto sports massage which will take another year. He has already done a lot of this in years gone by under the wing of a gymnasium trainer but he didn't go on to take the qualifications. Hopefully he will achieve them so that he can start to split his time between architectural work and sports massage.

Hurrah, I am so pleased for him as he has been working really hard for this.

Catching up ........ Pt III (Studio)

It's been a while since I put anything on about the studio build but that's mainly because I haven't time to blog because we've been so busy doing stuff like ..... the studio build. It's very irritating when life gets so busy that you simply don't have time to blog!

Anyway work is almost finished. We have a few bits still to do like tiling out the shower, laying a floor in the toilet/shower area, finishing off the rainwater pipes and building steps outside the two doors but I think all that will be completed quite soon.

Michael did a lot of stuff for us and we are really grateful as his workmanship is superb. He had a hard act to follow in Al but between them they have been brilliant. Andy has also done quite a few bits himself including putting up the oak above the shelf which I think looks really nice and laying the laminate flooring in the main area. Anyway, here are some pictures of the almost completed project:

The back door leading off my dog washing/log store area

The kitchen before the fridge

The kitchen with its new (black) fridge!

The wall prior to oak panelling (darn doglets get everywhere!)

and with the oak panelling (much nicer I think!)

The treatment table in place

The lounge area

Shower waiting to be tiled and for shower door to be fitted ... oh and for the shower to be fitted!

Dinky little toilet and basin!

The day we kitted it out it was so funny to see the dogs. Each one of them came in to investigate the new space. Niamh came in and got straight on the new sofa and curled up. How naughty is that!

Andy has started to use the studio for treatments and so far everyone loves it and finds it a nice relaxing space to be in.

Today the Blind Man (bad English I know but it makes us laugh) is coming to fit the blinds to the french doors and the two windows so that will be the main area complete apart from the step outside the french doors.

He is also fitting blinds to my bedroom and en-suite windows in the house. Hurrah almost three years and I'm finally getting blinds in those two rooms. I hope he can see what he's doing ;o)

Catching up ........ Pt II (Garden)

So after Boot Camp a very busy week with another push on the studio to get it finished; some time in the jungle which had been our garden; studying for Andy; working to keep the architectural stuff up to date and just generally trying to keep up with normal things. We had entered BATS show but I was so tired and desperately needed some time at home. We had a good weekend and got lots done so it really was worth pulling out. It was due to be Zeki's first G5 show but I wasn't too worried as all her classes were combined with the higher grades so realistically not much chance of us progressing up.

We had a really good tidy in the garden; set a new agility course for the first time in ages as all my kit had been put away due to the wet spring; planted up the pots on the decking and also went to IKEA to get some bits and pieces for the studio.

New planting outside the studio. This part of the border had been flattened by building rubble; it's nice that it's all gone away in the skip!

We (well Andy actually) cleared out the summer house as that had become a dumping ground whilst the studio was being built. It had the sofa bed, some arm chairs and all sorts of other stuff inside. I couldn't possibly clean it out myself as there were too many spiders' webs which meant that spiders were lurking within! Now it is really tidy and once again usable. Andy put up a new worktop so I have somewhere for the kettle and refreshments rather than a wobbly old table. Very nice!

Our new fencing took another step forward when we got some hired help to finish the run up one side. It looks much neater now. However we ran out of money before we could get the other side done and only managed to partly remove the rubble pile that has been in the garden since the people before last! So that has to sit on the back burner for a bit longer. The space cleared out looks perfect for chickens but I don't think I'll go down that route as it's just something more to look after. I got quite tempted with Bernadette enthusing about getting her chickens but then up at the yard Sarah's chickens got mites and that was horrible and put me off even more. I was quite keen much to Andy and Michael's dismay but I think they are safe for a while!

Some of the new fence panels finally in place

More fencing to be done; have to wait until the autumn now :o(

Perfect spot for a chicken run and more fencing to be completed

We still have masses to do in the garden. As soon as we tidy one area we look around and something else is out of control. Right now the hedges need cutting; the edges need strimming; the border needs weeding; the yard needs clearing up from various oak tree debris and so it goes on. But I love my garden and don't care that it isn't pristine. Once the grass has been cut it looks tidy and always makes us feel better about it! I had a horrible shock one morning when I looked out at the bird feeder to see a huge grey rat hanging off it. It came back twice after we'd scared it off and the last time Andy threw something at it and so far it hasn't been back. That said I have heard the neighbour's shot gun a few times so maybe he came to a sticky end!

You can see the muck that comes off the oak trees on the top of our shed and next door's stable block. It gets everywhere and is a pain. Shouldn't really moan though as it's much easier to sweep up than leaves!

The last thing in the garden that is really proving a nightmare this year is our pond. Since we had it cleaned out last year it has lost its natural balance and we are getting plagued by blanket weed. It is difficult if not impossible to get rid of and I get upset when the fish get tangled in it. We keep removing it and have had the pond company out to look at it. They have given us a natural compound to put in the pond which is supposed to kill the weed but doesn't hurt the fish. Sadly it doesn't seem to be working very well so we will have to contact them again. Any pond experts out there, your ideas would be welcome!