This is not really the best way to start a blog that you’d like people to read but I’m cream-crackered and can hardly keep my eyes open to write.  Also, I’ve just sent the fortifying red wine flying over the adjacent jigsaw puzzle – 1000 customised pieces, unique, unobtainable anywhere else; a bit like defiling an original artwork.  A less committed blogger would give up the ghost and head to her bed but I’ll plough on.

Also, there’s the last-thing-round-the-block-pee-and-poo dog walk to undertake.  Whatever the weather, however frail the trainee dog-sitter is feeling after a few days in charge of the sainted Alice, out we must go.  It took three circuits for Alice to do the business the first night – we came in after two, frozen, then tried again half an hour later.  Whenever owner Sue is in charge it’s one circuit max but Alice knows when there’s a novice at the end of her lead….

She’s sweet, she’s delightful, she’s very well trained – and she’s running rings round me.  “You’re like the grandparents or the baby-sitter,” a sympathetic friend said, “you’re there so she can push the boundaries.”  Alice, a lean, speedy working lab, isn’t interested in chasing squirrels, ducks, swans, gulls or pigeons – and, sensibly, she also drew the line at a monstrous cat we encountered on one of our nighttime sorties; it was almost bigger than both of us put together and even in the dark you could see that it oozed attitude.

Alice, ball in mouth, examining the new lake flooding Beacon Park.

Alice’s thing, whenever she’s with owner Sue, is to chase the ball and bring it back, drop it and chase it again, time after time after time…..With me, Alice might retrieve once, perhaps twice, just to tease, then head off, ball in mouth, wherever the scents take her.  She’ll check every now and again to see that I’m trailing in her wake and zigzag to the far reaches of the park, giving me the heebie-jeebies as her nose takes her ever nearer the dreaded A51, a busy road that is no respecter of distracted dogs who are off the lead.

Is it any wonder that I’m a nervous wreck, emotionally exhausted?

I’ve tried the “I’m in charge” farrago/Farage/fraud – no dictionary to hand to check correct usage, sorry and when I picked up what I thought was Roget’s Thesaurus, I found it was a novel by Rosie Thomas, called Lovers & Newcomers.  Might be worth a read though:  “…..beautiful, effortless prose….shows a rare compassion and a real understanding of the nature of love” according to The Times;  Marie Claire called it “a treat”; Emma Lee-Potter (Express) said, “I read it in one delicious go, tears pouring down my face.  You cannot fail to be moved.”  To such tributes does the blog aspire.

Anyway, back to Alice, who dismissed my attempt at assertiveness and kept going her own way.  Distraught – and blooming tired after a week (a slight exaggeration but it was at least two days) of early morning walks, afternoon walks and the strain of evening trots – I sat down in the middle of the park and put my head in my hands wondering how I was going to explain the whole sorry saga to owner Sue.  Would emigrating be the only answer?  I looked up to see Alice hurtling towards me, perhaps anxious that I’d fallen or was ill or whatever but, hallelujah, she came close enough for me to grab her collar and put on her lead.  We lived to fight another day – though whether that trick will work again, who knows?

Dog-training Sue (there are a lot of Sues in my life) is a no-nonsense woman who clocked me at once for the dilettante, dithering, will-I-won’t-I?, it-might-be-nice – possibly – would-be dog-owner that I am but I think I’ll brave her scorn and see if she’ll train me up sans chien.  If this week’s taught me anything, it’s that I need to know more about dogs!!

Alice, sniffing out the unwary.

Mind you, this hands-on stint has been an eye-opener, a bit of a crash course in canines and I now know, for instance, that Alice, who loves carrots, is also a fan of McKenna bread (oats, pumpkin seeds and yoghurt), two slices nicked when my back was turned;  I may be dozy but I’d just put the bread back in the fridge and the knife was beside the bread board, so, no, it wasn’t my imagination.

Alice also likes a cuppa after her afternoon walk but it has to be at the right time.  On Wednesday, because I had an appointment with the osteopath at half past three, we had an early afternoon walk and I made us both a cuppa when we came in about two o’clock.  I drank mine but Alice looked at hers, turned up her nose and left the bowl alone.  Wrong time.  Yesterday, presented with a bowl of tea about half past three or just after, she lapped it up with gusto.

Another must is never to leave the house without at least three poo bags in your pocket and a couple of treats – just in case.  Life is one long learning curve.

Alice checking on the blog and the jigsaw.  Isn’t it bedtime yet?

Alice takes top billing this week but I’ll pay proper tribute next week to the great Mickey Wright, who has died at the age of 85.  The Californian was widely regarded as one of the best golfers ever to play the game, with a swing to die for – Ben Hogan was an admirer – and she won 82 tournaments, 13 of them majors, before leaving the stage in 1969, at the age of 34, although she did come back to win the Dinah Shore in 1973.

If anyone was a legend, Wright was but although she never sought the limelight when she retired, she was kind and courteous and not averse to talking.  I rang her once, about what I now know not – Annika perhaps – and was so captivated by her voice, deep and mellow, that I barely took in a word she said!

The Wright swing that had the purists in raptures.  Even blurred it’s a thing of beauty.

Imagine how chuffed Maureen and I were when Doug Forde, a man of golf and a friend of Mickey’s, said that he used to send her our blog every week and that she loved reading them…..Gobsmacked; chuffed; astounded…..No words begin to cover it.

Apparently Mickey sometimes had to reach for the dictionary to check a word or two, so, in her memory, here’s a word, from Wordsmith’s word of the day.  I doubt Mickey would have known it because it’s the antithesis of how she was.  It’s ‘fanfaronade’, meaning either bragging or blustering behaviour or, more simply, fanfare.  She certainly deserved the latter – and perhaps that’s why she retired so early, worn out with all the expectation and adulation.

Our condolences to her family and friends.