January 2015

Dear Irish Terrier Friends,

Before telling you anything about what Libby and I have been up to, I need to apologise yet again for the muddle over the cost of postage for the 2015 calendar. It seems that with Royal Mail and the Post Office now 2 separate companies, it is possible that some A4 envelopes which have been bought, stamped and despatched by the Post Office in good faith, get caught up in the Royal Mail sorting system. They fail as letter post because of the minute variation in the width of some of the envelopes. The average is about 4 in a box of 50 which, when added up, is a considerable number of very cross people having to pay extra money for postage. It took time to understand what was happening and work out a solution and I am so sorry for the inconvenience. Producing and posting the calendar is always a huge task gladly undertaken but this year has been a nightmare. I have sent a freebie calendar to make up for the nuisance involved. It has been, to say the least, a very chastening experience. Anyway, it is a lesson learned, and I am so pleased the calendar is being enjoyed by Irish Terrier devotees all over the world.

With Christmas and New Year celebrations over it seems a long time since the last letter. I’m in the process of setting up a computer here, but am not entirely hopeful that I shall master the procedures. It’s in what we call the garden room, and I’m about to be dragged, not quite screaming, but certainly protesting into, the 21st century. Like all my friends the Micks I so adore, I am not naturally obedient, but this is now no longer an excuse. I must do it and we’re trying to make the website more flexible and easier to set up new ideas. That sounds great…well, I will try, and you’ll doubtless all have a few good laughs at my expense on the way.

Libbs and I are gently stripping the Christmas tree. We do it in stages and she takes a great interest in all the boxes checking everything very carefully. I feel a little sad for the Christmas tree, which looks exhausted by now. We’ll pull it out into the garden in the morning to enjoy the rain. We used to leave it undecorated for a few extra days so that the canaries could play in it, but this present lot are not adventurous and seldom come out of their cage. We do however have a robin who loves to come in. He’s grown very tame and was in my study this morning. He must have flown right through the house and seems to have mastered the fact that glass, in spite of appearances, is solid. I did open a window for him, but even then he was not eager to go. Libby ‘flutters’ in the background but is quite careful of him now – I think she has the message too.

Now, most joyfully, Juno has 4 beautiful puppies – 3 girls and a boy. I was so over anxious for everyone in case it proved more difficult than they’d expected. The beautiful experience can prove elusive, but Juno managed wonderfully well and is being a perfect mother. She is a very charming dog (Miss March in this year’s calendar). When my granddaughter Harriet and I went to visit she gave us a great welcome and we were solemnly lead to admire her puppies. She did place herself very firmly and politely between us and the pups. She looks bonny, which is good as sometimes bitches can lose weight and look a bit worn out managing a big litter. But Juno with her 4 has bounced back very quickly and though watchful, was happy and relaxed. We were even allowed to hold them under her careful supervision. She does love having her own children around. She and Libby are great friends and there’s a walk planned for next week, which will be her first proper outing.

They all came here to see the Christmas tree and Libby loved playing with the children. We finished off the Christmas crackers and played a game with balloons, which got rather wired and noisy much to Libby’s delight. I think she would love a child permanently in residence and Juno of course has 5.

We (Libby and I of course) had a large lunch party just before Christmas – our sole serious piece of Christmas entertaining. Tea parties and family gatherings don’t count. Libby was excited by the little Christmas gifts they brought – I could see her thinking ‘for me of course, how kind!’ She did her splendid dance, whirling around in her snowy collar with tartan ribbon and silver bells. All the dogs have worn these collars but Libby is the only one who hasn’t objected…then she does love an audience.

Remember how disappointed we were when the date of the gathering at the Animal War Memorial was changed, which meant that Derek Jacobi, Richard and Bella would not be there. They were sadly missed by us all and especially the film makers Chris Terrill and Christine Hall (Uppercut Films). All is well however because they most generously consented to be filmed with Bella at home. They talked about their love for her and admiration for the breed. Bella is an old lady now and so much adored. It was an absolute delight as Derek and Richard are consummate performers and wonderful to watch. Derek read a piece from Jock of the Great War and Richard read the prayer we say for the dogs which had us in tears.

‘It is for the war they fought

For a task unsought

For the joy they wrought

And the love they brought

We will remember them’

There was a strange magic in the air and Christine tells me that it has made a moving and valuable addition to their film. I’m not sure yet when we’ll be able to see or buy a copy, but I’ll have some news about it soon. Chris and Christine have a lovely Irish, called Molly Malone, who goes to work in their film studios and almost everywhere else with them. Christine had been desperate for a puppy. One day Chris got out his guitar and sang and played the song Molly Malone for Christine. He then went out and came back carrying a tiny pup saying, ‘and here is our very own Molly Malone.’ Now how romantic is that? Incidentally, you may have seen Chris Terrill’s series on Channel 5, ‘Living on the Edge’, in which he travels to some of the most extreme environments. They are beautiful films and I was riveted by the migration of the reindeer in Norway.

We’ve had some exquisite days on the salt marshes this winter…positively balmy with no wind and clear blue skies. What on earth is happening to our climate? The white jasmine is out in the garden; I’m already picking camellias and bowls of hellebores.

Libby has a new word – geese! She looks up at the sky as they swing by over our heads. They are Brent geese, which are neater and smaller than the Canada geese, and they fly in to feed on the water marshes. They make that marvellous creaking door sound (wimmering) reassuring each other and the rest of us, which almost makes up for the loss of the swallows after they fly south.

Liberty Belle had her jabs and general check up at the vet this morning. She was pronounced in excellent condition, which was a relief as last year they said she was underweight. The vet remarked on her clean teeth and I do think this ‘Plaque off’ is extraordinary. It is powdered seaweed apparently, and comes in a small pot with a tiny spoon. It has to be mixed in with their food and mysteriously it really does keep their teeth shiny white.

I’m not going to the Gambia this winter. It doesn’t seem fair to worry everyone when the political situation seems so volatile at the moment and it is too close for comfort to the Ebola problem. I am sad for the people and desperate for the animals. So many years have been spent supporting and setting up charities to help the dogs, cats, horses and donkeys it makes my heart sink.

I do hope that Christmas was fun. My son Jamie came for a week and Libby and I loved that, even if we did all eat for England.

We spent Boxing Day with Nonny and had a lovely ‘gang’ walk with 2 family Labradors and the small Dachshund, Sybil. Fortunately, we did not have the usual crisis over putting up pheasant and it was a joy to watch them spinning across the winter fields – well except for Sybil who kept disappearing and being pronounced lost!

And the year has turned – not just the date. The days are getting longer or am I imagining…

A very Happy New Year to all and not forgetting our best beloveds without whom there’d be no ‘top of the morning’ for any of us.

With many greetings, and my love to the dogs,


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