Friday, 13 June 2008

Malvern Meandering

Went for a quick spin over the Malvern Hills today in Worcestershire. It's somewhere I've been intending to ride for years now, but every time I'm in the area I get caught up at Eastnor or just end up passing through.

My new dekerf, 'Olive', is urging me to ride though. I can hear it taunting me from the back of the car: "Let me out... let me out to do what I was built to do. Get off your lazy fat backside and justify the astronomical price you paid for all of these shiny new bike parts you flamin' idiot!"

With that kind of motivation, how could I resist! I had to drop some bits off at Back on Track bike shop in Malvern. I should also say a great big thank you to Paul at Back on Track for doing a fantastic job of building my new bike at short notice a couple of weeks ago. And for letting me take over the whole shop for the 2 hour discussion involving four people and three members of staff to figure out what forks and wheels I should have. I swear Posh Spice, Paris Hilton and Jennifer Lopez could have picked an outfit for the Oscars quicker! But you have to get these things right, right? And it does look ace now! (Photos coming shortly by the way.)

So I parked in the car park just above the shop and asked Paul for some route advice, bought the waterproof Harveys map he sells and disappeared into the hills. It's fairly hard to get lost to be honest. The Malvern Hills is just one ridge line a few miles long encircled by roads - you can either traverse along the hill or climb up to the top, descend to the road, then climb back up another track and repeat. When you get bored, you just head back. Though it would be hard to get bored here. Even looking at the map there's a myriad of legal bridleways to be explored, and who knows how many unmapped trails!

A couple of hours playing on a wide variety of trails - gravel, stoney, grassy, rooty, muddy, steep, steady, technical, tight, wide and fast, the Malverns seem to have it all - and I decided to head home. Olive had done me proud again on her second outing and I'd had a blast riding new trails. Can't wait until I have another spare day to get back and explore some more. I think I have one in October sometime...

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Dogs Resemble Their Owners?

I'm dog sitting this week for my Mum who's gone on holiday. I'm actually dog sitting my dog Sox, at least he was my dog when I lived at home. Then I moved out and having a pet when you live on your own is quite difficult, so he stayed. But he's definitely still my dog.

People often say that dogs look like their owners and I've always thought this to be true in a majority of cases. I'm not sure whether Sox looks like me. He's a 16 year old Border Collie, so he's black and white but greying. He's also fairly rounded now thanks to foot & mouth a few years back when the dog walking field was closed. I'll try and get a picture at some point, you can judge for yourself.

But it has been said that he has my personality too. Again, I will let you judge for yourself:
1) When he's fed in the evening, he stands and looks at you with a "yeah, and..." look. Then promptly wanders off somewhere for a while and returns when he's hungry. He does things at his own pace, not when other people want him to.

2)He barks at everyone who comes to the door and will continue to growl at most people who make it into the house. It's only really some family members who can stroke him without him constantly growling with a mad look in his eyes. He doesn't do that thing where he shows his teeth and gets really upset, it's more of a low grumble growl, just to let you know he's tolerating your presence, but doesn't really like you.

3) When you tell him to go down the garden to do his business, he just lies down outside the back door. He lies there and watches you as you walk down to the bottom of the garden, and when you call his name he looks the other way. He certainly has the ignorance to back up his stubborn streak...

4) We thought he was going deaf due to his age. He's not. He's selectively deaf. And brilliantly so. Stand and call his name to get him in, or to send him out, or to move him from one room to another, in fact any kind of instruction, and he won't listen to you. But every single evening, when the truck pulls up outside my Mum's house, just before it pulls into the driveway, he barks. He can actually distinguish the sound of the truck arriving amongst all of the other traffic on the busy road. And he can hear the scraping of his food bowl as you pick it up off the floor. He can even hear the distinct tone in your voice during the word "Sox" that means 'come here I'm going to give you a treat'. He truly is ingenius.

5) Last, but by no means least, and the thing that I most admire about good old Sox, is his ability to hold a grudge. A 15 year grudge. 15 years! The story goes that 15 years ago, only a few months after we got him, there was an incident involving my 5 year old brother. We're not sure what, but they were both in the car, there was a yelp, a bark and then some screaming, then the dog ran off and hid. Sox had bitten my little brother on the cheek, narrowly missing his eye (personally I think he was provoked and was defending himself, but we'll never know. I know). He got the beating of his life as a punishment and never went near my brother again. My brother kept his distance too. It was only after about 10 years my brother could actually get within a foot of him without Sox growling and walking away. And still, to this very day, 15 years on, Sox will growl every single time my brother touches him. Now that's a grudge.

God I love that dog! And all his familiar quirks...