November 2014

Dear Irish Terrier Friends,

We’re all very excited (those of us in Lymington who know about Irish Terriers) because Juno is in whelp. She is Miss March in the 2015 calendar and a dear charming little dog. She makes Liberty Belle look like an elephant. No-one seems to mind and they share a dog walk twice a week and are great friends.

She’s very well and I am hoping and praying the whelping will be the ‘beautiful experience’ everyone seems to be expecting. Having been married to an obstetrician for many years I am only too aware that any birth can be a fraught adventure. I keep chunnering on about the hazards of having winter puppies; the need for warmth and quiet (in a household of 5 children) but no-one seems in the least perturbed. I hope to goodness their confidence in the miracles of Mother Nature, whilst ignoring the perils, proves justified. Never has a litter been more eagerly awaited so we’ll all say a little prayer.

Setting up the stand for Discover Dogs proved interesting. It is the last hurrah for Earls Court as the whole site is up for demolition and re-planning.

Libby and I rocked up very early with the car packed to the gunnels with the green, freshly painted photograph boards, folding tables, cards, books and leaflets. We were waved into an enormous space the size of several aircraft hangers. There was time to take her for a walk and we set off for the old car park only to find that it too is being redeveloped.

We discovered however, a beautiful little park, one of those oasis of green with paths and enormous old trees for which London is famous. An Irish Setter appeared, an absolute Adonis of a dog, and Libbs lost her heart at once. It was lovely to watch them playing amidst the autumn leaves, he the colour of wine red mahogany and Libbs in copper gold. I had to drag her away…if there could have been tears…

The stand (always called a booth by the Kennel Club) was at first glance not a great success with only one wall at the back on which to put pictures and information. Ian and Carol Bamsey and I were rather daunted but we managed somehow to pull things together and it proved a very effective working space and looked very jolly too with flags and banners. Rosemary Smart, the Chief Executive of the Kennel Club, came round especially to say how good it looked.

The crowds were immense for the two days that followed. It is hard work and one needs to stand for hours and most exhausting of all, talk very loudly. But the dogs are a joy and manage so well. We had Tollo the Great, who is a stylish, all time Agilities Champion. He’s got to the top and we’re so very proud of him. All the dogs were wonderful and the two puppies had great fun but I do think the older dogs are tired by the end of the day and one can hardly blame them.

It’s always so touching when there has been the loss of a dog. One simply cannot over-estimate the grief and it is hard not to join in the weeping and contrive to send them away smiling and hopeful.

Equally moving is to watch people falling in love…oh yes, the old Irish magic is as potent as ever. I always enjoy the children too. One little girl came round dressed in combat gear, some sort of camouflage outfit, complete with safari hat. I said something about school and she replied, “No, no, I’m home educated and we’re off now to see the ceramic poppies in the heart of London. Did you know they’ve been floodlit?” She was the most erudite six year old I’ve met in years.

The cover picture for the 2015 calendar is a beautiful painting by Arabella Doorman of her beloved Zorba. She is ‘one of us’ and understands the soul of the Micks. It is an exquisite portrait of her wonderful boy. She is a distinguished war artist and invited me to the opening of her exhibition in the Pall Mall Galleria of paintings done in Afghanistan. My son Boo (John Julian) and I are meeting her for lunch next week hoping she may paint Libbs for me.

The gathering at the Animal War Memorial was a trimmed down affair this year with fewer readings. Most notable were two poems read with great competence by the authors, a boy and girl of about ten. I was bewitched…it was so heartfelt and completely charming.

The Household Cavalry were there looking splendid and the pack mule Rosie who’s beginning to look very plump and prosperous in her retirement.

There was a little band of Irish Terriers and their devotees and we laid our wreaths – there’s always one from ‘us’ for the Airedales and Collies and horses, mules and donkeys.

Christine and Chris Hall, who make films for the BBC (Uppercut Films) were there with Molly Malone. With incredible generosity they have made a film which will be up on the website in due course.

Some really good news is that next Saturday Derek Jacobi is going to read a piece with Bella beside him which they will cut into the film. We are so lucky to have such kind and generous friends.

Liberty Belle bounced around the War Memorial. Fortunately the gang of Micks liked each other though there was a bit of the ‘who are you’ at the two enormous Akitas who appeared again this year. It never seems quite right to me, which I know is an opinion shared by many. They were used in the Japanese prisoner of war camps and I, for one, am very aware of the lifelong dismay the horrors of Changi jail caused my husband, who was a very young doctor at the time.

The King’s troupe were firing a salute for the Prince of Wales’ birthday. We dashed across Park Lane into Hyde Park to watch the Cavalry charge. I think it must have been the whole regiment with several gun carriages. I’ve never seen it close up before and it was magnificent. I’d never quite realised how like a fox hunt it is, with a bugle instead of a hunting horn. It is ‘choreographed’ on the bugle calls from a mustering to a walk, trot and into a full tilt gallop. On this occasion with several guns in tow. It made my heart beat and Libby’s too as she suddenly spotted them and leapt in the air. I only just managed to hold her back and am still shuddering gently at the thought of her crossing the park leaving the ‘irresponsible owner’ quaking on the side-lines. She was furious with me for spoiling the fun and took up with a friend of ours perching on Jackie’s wellie boots to keep her derriere out of the mud and wet. She kept giving me the ‘slit eye’ until the firing began and I was back in favour as we made a run for it.

By all accounts the calendar 2015 is a joyful comment on the lives of our best beloved. It is a real help if I can despatch them sooner rather than later as it does free up the Christmas rush and avoids the looks of dismay in the busy Post Office when I appear, yet again, with a bulging suitcase of calendars.

With many greetings, and my love to the dogs,


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