Pride and Prejudice – by Rufus

Just over a week ago, I scratched an itch. Just the once. Well, maybe twice, possibly a little more. Who’s counting? Little did I know what it would lead to.

Dave spotted it and for some reason, decided I needed to go to the doctor. So with little warning (and certainly no chance to get myself looking my best) I was in the car and in the waiting room. There were lots of other dogs there, all shouting and making a fuss. I like to keep quiet and listen when I’m there. After a bit of a wait (what is the world coming to?) I was taken in to a small room with a high table. I’ve been here before and I find the best thing to do is wag my tail and look happy. Sure enough, I was plonked on the table. At least Dave couldn’t complain because when I’d weighed just before going to the room, I’d lost over a pound!

Next thing I know the vet is prodding me and poking me and squeezing me. He stared into my eyes (I stared back into his), he stuck a cold metal thing into my ears and hummed and aahhed. Then he… well, I won’t say where his finger went but I’m afraid I considered it most unnecessary – I have my pride you know! The upshot was that he found that I have environmental allergies! I have long suspected that I am allergic to Dave in the same way that he is allergic to me. Clearly this was the proof I needed.

The vet gave Dave some medicines to give to me – Dave tried to keep them hidden but I saw the tablets. Tablets mean only one thing – chicken. He thinks I won’t notice if he wraps them in chicken. I play along because… well… it’s chicken. He also had some stuff for me ears and for my eye. I’ve found that with the ear and eye drops, if I make a deal out of it then Dave will make a fuss and give me a treat once he has succeeded in administering them. You may begin to understand why I like going to the vet, despite his errant fingers.

I made sure I didn’t scratch much when Dave was looking and to be honest, I did feel better. But out of the blue, today, he took me to the vet again! This time, it was a nice lady that looked at me and she was much kinder, keeping her fingers to herself. I may have behaved myself more because she was nice but I’ll never admit that to Dave. She gave me a steroid injection to help with my skin, which she said was looking good. Maybe I did stand a little straighter when she said it. So what?

When I got home, the injection had taken effect and I felt the need to bark at everything for a while. I also eyed up Dave’s weights and thought it might be a good idea to work out for a while. After all, I may go back to the vets again and I may see the nice lady vet. I want to look my best for her. I have been told a steroid injection will have this effect. But not long after, we went for a long walk on Cefn Bryn and I walked, ran and sniffed the need to visit a gym out of my system. After all, there were sheep and horses around and Dave needed me on top form to protect him from them.

I always know when Dave has a new lens for his camera, because he invariably points it at me. Today was no exception and for most of the walk I was staring into the front of a fisheye lens. Surprised I know this? Living with Dave, I know just about everything there is to know about photography. If nothing else, listening to him go on about this bit of kit or that bit of kit helps me get to sleep. When we’re preparing to go out I know I have at least 10 minutes to get ready as this is the length of time it takes him to decide which camera and lenses to take with him. I indulge him his little eccentricities as it usually means a longer walk.

Once again, I am grateful to Dave for the use of his photos. You can tell the ones taken with his new lens because they look all bendy (I believe the correct term is ‘distorted’ but bendy is a better word and it makes him scowl).

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How does the sun cut his hair?

Eclipse!

Sorry. Over the last few days, the weather has been good enough and the evenings just long enough for Rufus and I to head out to Cefn Bryn after work for a stroll. Every time, there has been a beautiful sunset. I love sunsets (I love sunrises even more). In many photographic circles, they are considered cliched and unworthy, but I don’t move in those circles and so I keep taking my cliches, and enjoying them too.

At sunset, things start to calm down.  Apart from traffic noise, which isn’t intrusive on Cefn once you are out of sight of the road, it gets quiet, and usually still as the wind drops. The light is less intense, shadows are longer and the orange glow makes things appear warmer than they really are. There has been a haze on the last few evenings which has the effect of softening colours and turning everything into pastel shades. And when the sun finally reaches the horizon, it is a deep red colour.

Staying with the sun, there was an eclipse on the 20th, and where I live the moon covered around 90% of the sun. With the help of a welder’s mask and a variable density filter (thanks Pete), I was able to view and get some photos. It was eerie as the skies slowly darkened and when I went to the window in the office, there was a great mix of people all standing to witness the event using a variety of filters, some of which seemed distinctly dodgy. But more importantly, it brought a load of people of all ages and roles together more effectively than any scheduled meeting.

Outside, it was chilly and the shadows were odd. Being used to sunsets coming from the west, it was odd to see the different direction of light as it faded. I can just imagine what the people from thousands of years ago must have thought when their source of heat and light disappeared. And the relief when it started getting warmer and brighter again.

Today, as a reward for behaving at the vet when he had his vaccinations (he always does, but today he had a couple of compliments on how well behaved he was and how healthy he looked), Rufus had two walks. We started off at Broadpool where we were watched intensely by a solitary Canada Goose, who called over and over again. But Rufus didn’t want to play. Then we headed on up to the River Tawe, where despite my best efforts to fall in the river while jumping across between rocks, we climbed up to the waterfalls on the west side of the valley. Compared to last week, when I could barely move from the sofa, I felt so much better. Add to that the warm sun, which made it feel like a summer’s day, and watching Rufus bounding between and over tufts of grass or paddling in the water, and it was a most enjoyable morning.

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Dust

As a bloke, I am expected to deny the existence of dust. It is a fiction, a construct created by ‘another gender’ to make us feel guilty.

Alas, as a sufferer of asthma, I am only too aware of the existence of dust as it is one of the things that can (almost literally) bring me to my knees. The irony is that to get rid of the dust that causes me problems, I have to disturb the dust and that act causes me problems. Even the best filtered vacuum cleaner throws out some dust. When I empty the filter chamber, I have to cover my mouth and nose. When I clean the filter, I have to do so outside and even then I will feel the effects and have to use my asthma pump.

Yesterday, after Rufus and I had taken the air on the hills above Pontardawe, I decided to risk all and clean the house. Despite taking my time, vacuuming a room at a time and being ultra careful when depositing the dust in the bin, I quickly felt the tightening of the chest and wheezing and within minutes, I was struggling to breathe and coughing. In all, I used the inhaler three times in the afternoon. The last time I felt like this was the first time I had a serious asthma attack as an adult in 2010.

House dust is dead skin, dust mite faeces and in my house, animal fur. If there is any damp in the house, it can also be formed from spores of mould that you may not even know is there. There is nothing to be done short of living in a smooth plastic bubble. So I resigned myself to a wheezy, coughy afternoon of rugby and dealt with it. It makes me miserable; it stops me from being able to relax but at least sitting quietly on the sofa didn’t disturb any more dust and slowly, far too slowly, my chest untightened until at around 7pm, with the aid of one more sniff of the inhaler, Rufus and I went for a second walk of the day. The fresh air was most welcome and we took it easy walking the streets around the house.

This morning, after a much better night, we went out again onto Cefn Bryn to take advantage of the morning sun. I suspect part of my chesty problem is a bug that is doing the rounds in work. Nevertheless, a call in to the doctor is on the cards next week.

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Fun Wednesday

I knew it was going to be an eventful day when I woke at 4am with cramp in my left leg. Proper, painful, grunt-out-loud cramp. Although the pain subsided after a few minutes, the dull ache in my calf muscle stayed there are threatened to become pain again with every movement. By the time Rufus popped his head around the door to remind me it was time to get up, it felt better but once I put my weight on it the cramp started again.

Accepting no excuses, Rufus insisted I let him out in the garden. I hopped downstairs and hopped to the back door. Rufus charged out into the white garden, undaunted by the snow that had fallen during the night. I paced up and down the hall, as the movement was easing the ache.

Minutes later we were both back in bed for a lie-in. Today, Rufus was having his hair cut and I’d taken the day off, as the timing meant I’d either have to leave him at the stylists for too long or spend a couple of hours travelling back and forth.

By the time I’d had breakfast, my leg was better and we set off for a walk on Cefn Bryn. The sun was still shining but a cold wind made it a little uncomfortable. Nevertheless, I hobbled and Rufus ran and we did a circuit of the top of the moorland.

The it was off to the hairdressers. I dropped the hippy off and set off for the Neath canal. I’d wanted to take a stroll down there before the weather closed in but I wasn’t sure how far I’d get with my still dodgy leg. I ended up doing about 2 miles and every step eased the aching muscle. I was disappointed at the amount of rubbish in the water; the canal runs right by an industrial estate and a lot of it must come from there. The built up land on which the estate sits seems to have been created from landfill, as where it has eroded, old tyres and other crap are poking through. But typically, on the return I managed to slip on a bit of loose gravel and twist my ankle. On the opposite leg. At least I was now hobbling evenly.

Next, it was shopping and lunch and I decided (just to be awkward) to tackle them in reverse order. But while I was enjoying a chicken salad sandwich (I weighed this week and it wasn’t pleasant reading), the phone went and it was the groomer to tell me Rufus had been styled and was ready to be picked up. I raced through the shopping and sped up to get him. With rough weather forecast for the afternoon, I wanted to let Rufus have another little walk before it got too stormy so we drove down the road to the old engine house of Scott’s Pit. It’s all that remains on the surface of one of the many little collieries that were scattered throughout the Swansea valleys.

Rufus wasn’t keen to stay out long and he turned around to head back to the car when the rain started. He was feeling the cold. Back in the house, he flopped out on the sofa and was soon snoring away. It’s a hard life being a hound, and more so when you have to keep your appearances up!

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Here, there and everywhere

If you’ve been following this blog then you may have picked up that I’m trying to capture an image (or many images) of trees in the mist. The forest I’m counting on to provide the goods is Brynllefrith Plantation, and it has featured in the blog several times. This weekend, the weather conditions seemed to be favourable for a nice early morning mist and as a bonus, we’d had some lovely sunrises too. The temptation to catch both was too good to miss.  We dragged ourselves out of bed and fuelled up with coffee, toast and, for Rufus, a ragout of beef and vegetables (he has better taste than I, and expects a different level of cuisine). Then we were out of the door and off to the woods.

Plans rarely survive first contact with the enemy. Ours didn’t. The sun rose behind a grey wall of cloud and only at the very last minute did a small, pinkish patch of sky appear briefly. The mist that should have been delicately entwining the trees didn’t materialise either. Instead, the grey sky produce a flat lighting that was very uncomplimentary. But it was ideal for macro work, so that’s what I started with.

As we walked into the forest along the rough track, cows called to one another from somewhere ahead. But their calls were strange and very unbovine-like. The still air and the tress made them sound alien and immediately reminded me of Jurassic Park. Who knows what dinosaurs really sounded like, but it was easy to imagine being in a world of giant monsters as the cows continued to call out.

The grey skies cleared and between the trees I could see hints of blue which very quickly became larger patches of blue. There was no chance of mist now, so I decided to move on somewhere else and give Rufus a change of scenery. He’s probably getting tired of Brynllefrith.

We ended up in Ferryside and by now the sun was shining and the day had become a lovely, almost summery one. We walked along the narrow stretch of sand that was all that was left as the tide came in. I tried checking on my phone whether the tide was turning but there was no signal. One look at the way the water was getting closer was all I needed and we had to make a rapid retreat back to the car park or risk getting stuck and having to walk along the railway lines, which follow the curve of the estuary.

On Sunday, I was determined to have another go at the mist and sunrise. So slightly later than Saturday, we set off back to Brynllefrith. This time we were rewarded with the latter stages of a beautiful sunrise over Cwm Clydach. There was a vague hint of mist but not enough for what I wanted. I like to pre-visualise photographs as it helps to concentrate the mind. In the past, photographic expeditions have degenerated into snap-shooting sessions with no direction or purpose. The danger with pre-visualisation, though, is that you can miss other opportunities in the quest for the one image.

With no sign of mist, and no likelihood either, we set off to explore the head of the Upper Lliw reservoir that snuggles up to the edge of the forest. It was mirror smooth in the still air of the early morning and although the colours were muted by the clouds, which had appeared after the sunrise, it was tranquil and beautiful. Rufus and I had fine time trying to find a path to the water’s edge without getting too muddy, or cut to pieces by the thorn bushes. Rufus was able to sneak underneath the bushes. I had to crash through them. We both survived and made it back to the car.

By now, the day was warming up as it had yesterday. So rather than head home, we set off for more adventures in the wilds. After a brief stop on Fairwood Common to get some photos of the mist rising in a small river valley, we headed on to Broadpool for a quick circumnavigation of the pool in the now warm mid morning.

Finally, it was back home for a belated breakfast and a snooze on the sofa.

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Weekend

Both of us have been feeling under the weather this weekend. Rufus woke up on Saturday with a bad belly – I knew there was something wrong when he wouldn’t have any breakfast. Not even a morsel of scone. I felt as if I was coming down with a cold – sore through, headache and a bit of a dodgy tummy too. Being blokes, these were no ordinary, mild illnesses and so we decided to have a poorly lads day in.

All morning, Rufus’ belly rumbled and squeaked and he struggled to find somewhere comfy to settle. Eventually, my bed seemed his favourite spot, so apart from occasionally checking on him, I left him be. I spent the morning channel hooping and doing some housekeeping on the PC.

After lunch, Rufus had picked up a bit – the test is always will he eat a piece of chicken. He did, and after he’d eaten some dog biscuits as well, I decided we should go out for a breath of fresh air. We headed out for a quick wander on Fairwood Common. Neither of us was feeling particularly energetic but we had half an hour of fresh air, during which time we watched two lots of parachutists drop from the sky, whooping and screaming. I was surprised at how quickly they descended once the parachutes were open.

Back in the house, the inevitable consequence of a bad belly started. There’s no delicate way to say that Rufus started farting and didn’t stop all night. By now he was eating  properly but this didn;t help. By the end of the night, I had to be careful not to accidentally create a spark or the whole house would have gone up in a flash of flame and smoke.

This morning, we were both feeling a lot better so after breakfast, we set off for a walk on Cefn Bryn. It was a lovely morning and everywhere I thought of going, there were sheep, horses of cattle. In many of our usual spots, there were combinations of animals. So we ended up walking out to Arthur’s Stone. The view across the Loughor Estuary was fantastic and still air meant that the sound of the countryside – dogs barking, sheep and cattle and birds – were clear and sharp.

About half way around our routes, I crested a little hill to see a herd of wild horses galloping towards us. They were far enough away to allow us time to get out of the way, but for a few minutes there was some urgency to our walk. It turned out they were being scared by a quad bike that was coming up behind them. At first, I thought it was someone deliberately herding them, but the quad bike turned off after a while and left the horses alone. By now, they were following us although without the influence of the bike, they were no longer galloping. Nevertheless, for the last 20 minutes of our walk, they followed us at our pace, some 50 yards or so behind us.

In the tradition of lads sticking together, it would be wrong of me to mention that one of us tried to steal a bar of chocolate from another one of us, unsuccessfully.

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It’s all relative, really.

In between the showers today, we managed to get out to Broadpool for an hour’s walk but the whole time we were there, I was watching the dark clouds massing over Cefn Bryn, waiting to drench us. No sooner had we got back to the car than the heavens opened again; we were fortunate to miss getting soaked.

The rain continued steadily for the next few hours but a few minutes ago, I noticed the sun shining through the curtains and sure enough, there was blue sky above and the sun was quite warm. So out into the garden we went, eager to take advantage of any break in the rain. Rufus explored the garden, checking for intruders, and I grabbed my camera and went in search of things in the tiny world.

Bored with photography, Rufus left me to it and headed back to the sofa. I found two spiders remaking their webs, and started snapping away. It got me thinking though. My thoughts when I saw the rain this morning were around avoiding the inconvenience and discomfort of getting wet. The big garden spider I watched remaking it’s web was more concerned about getting it’s source of food set up again after it had been destroyed by the wind and rain.

The last photo I took was just after the spider got fed up of me snapping away and retreated under a leaf. I decided to leave it alone after that, to give it a chance to complete it’s housework before the next shower.

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