A Motorcycle Odyssey: Segovia to Granada

Segovia to Granada (340 miles)

Day 5

Yawning prodigiously, we rose from our slumbers earlier than usual.  Today, we had a long ride ahead of us.  As we roared out of Segovia the ubiquitous wind continued to haunt us.

Skirting round Madrid, we rumbled across the flattish plain of Central Spain, through the Province of Toledo.  No time to stop and visit this World Heritage Site.  As we travelled further south, the monotonous landscape gave way to the mountainous region of Andalucia.  The inclines and descents in the mountains became more pronounced, but this did not slow us down.  The roads were so good that this was an open invitation for some to treat it as a race-track.  Vera purred along contentedly,gobbling up mile after mile of black-top without any effort.  The smoothness

of the ride was a delight.  The pillion seat, an imported one from the U.S.A. was comfortable.  No numb bum there!

Approaching Granada we could see the mountains of the Sierra Nevade looming in the background.  The density of traffic increased as we entered the city and it was not long before our group became separated.  Four bikers stopped to consult with each other.  Which way do we go?  Nobody had the foggiest idea.  All we knew was that we were staying at the Alhambra Hotel.  Miraculously, a SatNav was produced, one of the very early ones, and we were able to find our way using this.  We were becoming exasperated with our leader, who either clearly did

Central Spain: Segovia to Granada

not care, or had no desire to keep the group together at all times.  This could have serious consequences in the event of an accident.

By the time we reached our hotel it was late afternoon, not enough time to visit the fabled Alhambra, one of the wonders of the modern world.  Sad, but then our journey was essentially Morocco and not Spain.  A shower and a good meal restored our spirits so that we could look forward to the following day when we would would be riding to the ferry port of Tarifa, our stepping stone to Morocco and North Africa.

 


Naomi Flashman

 

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A Motorcycle Odyssey Morocco: Santander to Segovia

Day 4

morocco-007

Honda CB 1000S – Frank’s Bike

Blasting our way beyond customs and onto the Spanish roads, a couple of bikers behind us were left stranded at traffic lights.  Our leader, who seemed oblivious, catapulted along the road, with the remainder of the group in his wake.  We were horrified.  At a crossroads, we stopped to wait for the stragglers.   They roared up to us and with a wave, we were able to point them in the right direction.  It soon became clear that our Leader, along with about three other bikers, was more interested in speed than enjoying the scenery.  It was up to the rest of us to keep up with them whether we liked this or not. So, tearing southwards along the fabulous Cantabrian roads towards Madrid, followed by the inevitable wind, we finally cruised into Segovia, an historic Spanish town situated in the Guadarrama Mountains, some 42 miles or so north of the capital city.

roman-aqueduct-segovia

Roman aqueduct, Segovia

Having booked into our hotel we all trooped out to explore the town centre in the dazzling sunshine.  Nothing could prepare us for the magnificent Roman aqueduct, standing majestically alongside the city centre. Constructed in the First Century B.C. it stands as a proud testament to Roman construction.  Gazing in admiration at this colossus that had stood for over 2,000 years, and has more than 160 arches, I had to marvel that this ancient civilisation had left so many magnificent footprints.  The aqueduct at Segovia reminded me of the one at Pont du Gard, seen some years previously in the south of France.  How could the Romans all those centuries ago, manage to bring water to the populations in far-flung corners of their empire, yet we still have people living in this supposedly modern and more enlightened age, without the benefits of a water supply?morocco_paignton-026

Our stomachs grumbled, demanding food.  Finding what we thought was a suitable restaurant the group entered and seated themselves.  The menu was produced and we all stared at it in horror.  It was entirely in Spanish and not one of us spoke the language.  All we could muster were some expletives and they were in French!    To add to our discomfort, the restaurant staff spoke no English.  Well, we were in a foreign country.  Why should we expect them to speak our language?  Plucking up all the courage we could muster, we ordered various items from the menu and prayed for the best.  The plates were plonked down on the table while we looked at the food offerings in dismay.  Small items of jelly-like meaty substances in sauces?  Offal?  One inspired biker suggested that we might have entered a tapas restaurant, and that the morsels being served were various pieces of meats, the origins of which we would rather not know about. He assured us these could be delicious.  We were all too hungry to care and delved into the dishes like a pack of ravenous canines.  Well, if this was typical Spanish fare,  it was very tasty.

morocco_paignton-036That evening we met in the hotel dining room for dinner.    It was decided within the group that each evening we would all contribute €30 towards drinks.  The Chief Biker and I looked at one another.  We were not able to drink much for health reasons and while normally this idea could work well, we would be subsidising the drinking habits of others for the entire trip.  What should we do?  Eventually we reached a decision.  This particular evening we would contribute the full amount, then after that, pay for our own drinks separately.  Our Leader was clearly not happy about this and we could see from his demeanour that he thought we were being ‘grippit,’ as the Scots say.  However, he had to agree.  In the long-term this arrangement proved to be satisfactory, we did buy other bikers drinks and they, in turn, eventually realised why we had had to make this decision.

church-of-st-millan-segovia

St. Milláns Iglesia

As we dragged our weary way up to bed, the Chief Biker was morocco_paignton-041heard to remark that it was a shame we could not spend a little longer in Segovia, with it’s Alcazar (Moorish fortress), and stunning cathedral and churches.  However,we were merely passing through Spain.  Our main holiday destination was Morocco.

 

Naomi Flashman

 

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A Motorcycle Odyssey: Morocco

 Plymouth to Santander

Day 3

Plymouth with Smeaton's Tower Lighthouse in centre

Plymouth with Smeaton’s Tower Lighthouse in centre


Bay of Biscay – Golfo de Vizcaya

Loud roared the dreadful thunder,

The rain a deluge showers;

The clouds were rent asunder

By lightning’s vivid powers!

The night both drear and dark,

Our poor devoted bark,

Till next day, there she lay.

In the Bay of Biscay O!

Andrew Cherry  (1762-1812)

We had to get to the Continental Ferry Port.  The wind speed was alarming, although the sky was blue and the sea looked calm.   I had the words of the above poem in my mind.    We climbed on board Vera and as we headed to Plymouth, violent streams of air twisted round the bike clutching us in their demonic grasp.  A few minutes later we crawled into the port thankful that we had arrived safely.  Vera was truly a marvel.  Much to our astonishment this part of the port seemed to be sheltered from the wind.

We met our fellow bikers and together, we were shepherded onto the ship where our bikes were firmly sun-room_paignton-011strapped down.  We noticed that cars were being fastened securely, too.  Not a good omen.  As the ship sailed out of Plymouth all seemed well. We had a fantastic view of this famous port, along with the ships from the Royal Navy.  The chief Biker, who loves ships and anything associated with them, was busily snapping photos with his camera, completely unaware of what was to come.sun-room_paignton-029

A few hours later all changed.  The ship began to pitch and roll as the English Channel met the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the cross-currents making us  feel like we were on a roller coaster ride.  The wind howled as the bow end  surged upwards to meet the menacing sky, and then crash down a dizzying watery trough to thump the bottom with a loud ‘bang.’  This settled into a monotonous but terrifying rhythm, up, sky, water, bang, up, sky, water,  bang, up, sky, water,  bang.  Already, there was a significant absence of passengers.  They had headed for their cabins in various stages of sea-sickness.  The Chief Biker was severely affected and was to spend the whole night with his head stuffed into sick bags.  In between bouts of nausea he was heard to mutter that he hoped Vera was faring better than he was.  Yes, he was thinking about his bike before anything else!

It was a long, noisy and frightening night.  Why had the ferry ‘put out’ to sea in such conditions?  Commercial interests?  I admit to having a somewhat jaundiced view where these are concerned.  As for me, I was one of the few people who was not sea sick, although strolling round the boat was not an option.  I once tried to do this but the violent jolts as the ship hit the bottom of the troughs, was enough to send me flying from one side  of the corridor to the other, so, clutching the safety rail,  I beat a hasty retreat back to the cabin.

As we approached the northern coast of Spain, the gales began to diminish and we arrived in Santander in warm sunshine.  The Chief Biker recovered rapidly and when it was announced over the tannoy system that we could go back to our vehicles, he was seen almost running along the corridors and down the stairs, desperate to learn the fate of  his belovéd Vera after that Atlantic storm.  Vera remained unscathed, almost serene,  although the straps had put a severe dent into the leather seat.  A small price to pay for her safety!

Our fellow bikers, most of whom had spent a similarly uncomfortable night,   were only too  grateful that we were now on Spanish soil and that we could now, as a possé, make a dignified retreat from the ferry.

Naomi Flashman

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A Motorcycle Odyssey: Morocco

Birmingham to Plymouth

Day 2

Who Has Seen the Wind?

 Who has seen the wind?

Neither I nor you:

But when the leaves hang trembling,

The wind is passing through.

 

Who has seen the wind?

Neither you nor I:

But when the trees bow down their heads,

The wind is passing by.

Christina Rossetti  (1830-1894)

 

It was not just the leaves that were trembling when we left Birmingham.  Although we could not see the wind we could hear it’s frightful moan.  As for our heads, they were bowed as low as we could safely manage.  I felt sorry for the Chief Biker who still had to navigate us through the dense traffic and foul weather.

The icy blasts continued,  flinging small shards of ice against our helmets.  As we rode cautiously down the M5 towards the south west, the lowering clouds threatened hail stones.  Slowly, but inexorably, we continued our journey, every so often being pelted with sudden showers.  Exiting the M5 at Exeter the heavens opened and a cascade of hail rained down until it exhausted it’s entire load.  We stopped the bike under a bridge on the road while we waited for the storm to pass.

“Where are you St. Columbanus, patron saint of bikers?  We need you NOW.”

The saint remained silent.

What more could we do? We had to continue onwards into Devon.  The miles along the A38 seemed endless. The bike fought the elements until her valiant efforts were rewarded.   We reached our target destination,  my sister’s home in Paignton, where we were to stay the night.  Sadly, we had not been able to take photos of this journey because the weather had been too appalling.

Naomi Flashman

A Motorcycle Odyssey: Morocco

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”

(T.S Eliot)

IntroductionVera Varadero & Self

What stirring words from a poet, better known for his cat poems.  How true they turned out to be.  Our motorcycle trip to Morocco was to test our stamina, almost to the limits.  We were to cover nearly 5,000km on this round-trip,  from our home in East Scotland.  We would brave  storms, blizzards, mountainous seas, sun and sand.  Our journey would take us across plains, through mountains and into the Sahara Desert during a sand storm.

Day 1

sun-room_paignton-013One chilly, rainy, blustery, March day, we climbed on board our Honda 1,000cc Varadero.  The Chief Biker, my other half, had named her ‘Vera.’    We were to meet a small group of bikers in Plymouth, two days’ hence, from where we were all to take the ferry to Santander in northern Spain. A ride through the length of Spain to the port of Tarifa would follow.  From Tarifa we would catch the ferry to Tangiers for the start of our Moroccan adventure.

The weather was atrocious. Most of the bridges in Scotland had been closed to traffic.  The only one open was the Friarton Bridge at Perth.  As we rode towards Glasgow, the wind buffeted the bike and we prayed that we would arrive safely at our first overnight stop in Birmingham, some 400 miles south.  Progress was slow due to the stormy weather conditions, but we had to keep going.  It was a buttocks-clenching ride as we headed to our first stop at Carlisle.  As we pulled into the services we met a couple of female bikers who had travelled up from Essex.  They had had a hair-raising ride over the A66, through snow-storms and strong winds.  At least we hadn’t suffered the snow.  As for Vera, she coped 19b-vera-honda-varaderomagnificently.   Her wheels clung  to the roads like a limpet and she scoffed at the wild weather conditions.  Furthermore, Vera ensured that we had a comfortable ride and ‘numb bum’ just never happened!

Nine tortuous hours later, cold, wet and bedraggled, we arrived in Birmingham.    My sister and her husband greeted us and treated us to the luxury of a delicious hot dinner washed down with  plenty of wine.  A good night’s sleep restored our spirits and we arose the following morning optimistic that the journey to Plymouth could not be any worse than the one we had just endured.

However, like with Odysseus, after the fall of Troy, the gods proved fickle.   So did the patron saint of motorcyclists, St. Columbanus.    After all this Irish monk’s wanderings throughout the length and breadth of Europe during the Dark Ages, he should have taken pity on the tribulations of fellow travellers!  But…..we were forsaken!

The journey continues another day.

Naomi Flashman 

 

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The Stone circles of Machrie Moor and The Strange Legend of Finn MacCumhail

Especially for Bikers

There is a circular road all round the island – the A841 which is a pleasure to

ride. However, it is worth taking a road known as “The String,” the B880, from Brodrick House and Country Park to Blackwaterfoot in the south west of the island. This Map of Arranroad is extremely scenic and finishes to the south of Machrie Moor.

BE WARNED: These island roads are not suitable for speed merchants! We stayed a full day and night on Arran, but even this was not enough time to explore the island properly if you have an interest in history, archaeology or environment.

Introduction: The Isle of Arran

Legendary for it’s production of Scotch whisky, Arran 019this little island jewel, situated off the west coast of Scotland, holds other deep secrets. It is home to many standing stones, stone circles and chambered cairns, a legacy bequeathed to us from the mysterious Neolithic societies. Wherever such ancient monuments exist, so do stories and legends; fables of faerie folk, beasts and giants. The standing stones of Machrie Moor are no exception.

The legend of Finn MacCumhail/Fingal

Once upon a time there was an Irish Warrior God called Finn MacCumhail. One day, he decided to go on a journey. His destination was Scotland. Now, Finn was a blond-haired, amiable, rather gentle giant, but he was not too happy about getting his feet wet. He picked Finn MacCumhailup a large chunk of Ireland and threw it into the sea. The land shattered into lumps. One hefty rock formed the Isle of Man. The rest, christened the ‘stepping stones’ by ancient Irish monks, formed “The Giant’s Causeway.” Finn, later to become known as ‘Fingal,’ carried on his journey, his faithful dog Bran, in tow. Finally, he arrived on the Isle of Arran and tramped his way across the bleak moor-land to Machrie Moor. By now, Finn was hungry. He placed his cauldron on the ground and tying his faithful companion, Bran, to the nearest standing stone, with a hole in the middle, he proceeded to cook his meal, and so it is, that to this day, the stone became known as “The Giant’s Cauldron.”
This story gives some indication of just how ancient these standing stones are. They pre-date many of the legends and fables of the British Isles.

The Standing Stones of Machrie Moor

Standing Stones of Machrie MoorWandering along the pathway from the main road across the moor, we eventually spied three standing stones, rising out of the ground like giant rocky fingers. Laughing and joking about going round the stones in a traditional clock-wise direction, we set off to examine them. As I laid my back against the third and widest Untitledstone, I was suddenly jolted out of my reverie. It was as if a vortex was trying to drag me in and swallow me up. Leaping away from the stone, somewhat shocked, I told myself that my imagination had been playing tricks. I settled my nerves and just to prove that it was all a dream, I leaned back for a second time onto the stone. This time, the feeling of being dragged into a vortex was even stronger and quite alarming. I dragged myselfArran 019 away, yet still I could not feel that what had happened was real. For a third and fourth time I leant against the stone. Each time I had the same experience. Puzzled, I came away from the stone and told the Chief Biker what had happened. He went to the stone, but did not sense anything. I trundled across to the other two stones, but all was as it should be. This was the one and only time I had a strange experience at the site of standing stones or stone circles. It is still an enigma to this day.

THEN:
…..Enter the strange couple from Lindisfarne! (That’s Holy Island located off the northwest coast of England in the county of Northumbria)

Arran 017As we headed back to the bike, an elderly couple made a beeline for us. The Chief Biker was heard to mutter something along the lines of “why do all the weirdos seem to find their way to us?” I had no answer to that one, especially as it turned out to be quite prophetic! The couple stopped and the elderly lady then said to me, “You have had an experience at the stones, haven’t you?” Taken aback, I looked at her fixedly, while admitting that, ye-e-s, I had. “Ah,” she said, “I sensed this as soon as we started walking across the moor. That is why we came across to speak to you.” She was a medium! However, neither could give any indication as to why I had had the strange experience. However, the elderly man then went on to tell us that he was in the process of having a book published. During the War he had been in the RAF and Arran 020seconded to the team at the Ministry of Defence in London that investigated UFOs. At first he was very disgruntled, but eventually, came to realise that there were strange objects being seen in the skies. After the War he worked as an engineer for BAE, (British Aerospace), while continuing the research. He gave us a card with details of their address etc. and said he would let us know when the book was published.
Arran 025One Chief Biker and his pillion, headed back to the machine feeling somewhat shell-shocked. Yet another travellers’ tale to add to the very many we have accumulated!Arran 028

For those of you who are interested, the Isle of Arran is located in the Firth of Clyde and lies between mainland Scotland and the Kintyre Peninsular. It is very beautiful and unspoilt and has the distinction of not only having it’s own distillery, one of the very few independent distilleries in Scotland, but many ancient stone circles, standing stones and Neolithic sites. It is an idyllic place to take a leisurely ride on a motorbike.

Naomi Flashman

www.castlekirk.co.uk/history.html

NB: I have used two photographs taken from the Internet on a free site as ours seem to have disappeared into the aether! As my site is not for profit or for commercial reasons,, and I don’t know who took those photos, if the owners have any objection, then they can contact me. In the meantime, i am grateful for the use of them.

 

 

 

Sir Walter Scott and his Clarty Hole Farmhouse: Abbotsford

Clarty Hole: Abbotsford House

Clarty Hole: Abbotsford House

Sir Walter Scott and his Clarty Hole Farmhouse: Abbotsford

 

“ A flibertygibbet of a house, the “Dalilah of his imagination” and his “Conundrum Castle” that would suit none but an antiquary.”

 

 

Introduction: Sir Walter Scott (15 August 1771 — 21 September 1832), was the best-selling author of his day. His novels included Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, the Bride of Lammermoor and the Waverley Novels. Born in 07 Art for TF to copyEdinburgh’s Old town in a third floor, rather squalid flat, he survived polio at the age of two. Life was tough in those days and during his childhood he lost six brothers and sisters. Sent to his grandparents’ farm at Sandyknowe, between Kelso and Melrose, he became enchanted with the legends, ballads and superstitions of this rural community in the Scottish Borders. Later, he returned to Edinburgh where he went to the High School before entering university, where he studied to become an advocate. In 1797 he married Charlotte Carpenter. His novels were so successful that he became a very wealthy man. However, instead of choosing to live in a wealthy suburb of Edinburgh, or any other great city in the world, he bought up an unexceptional piece of land near Melrose. This farmland was called ‘Clarty Hole.’

Clarty Hole to Abbotsford

“Clarty” is the Scots word for dirty and it didn’t take long for Sir Walter to change the name!

Abbotsford House, home of Sir Walter Scott

Abbotsford House, home of Sir Walter Scott

After all, who would want their house to be thought of as unclean? He gave it the name of “Abbotsford,” which it still possesses to this day. Such was Sir Walter Scott’s wealth that he created a gothic masterpiece which resembles a type of castle. He filled the hall with suits of armour, antique swords and firearms. He even owned Rob Roy’s dirk and long-barrelled gun. Among other artefacts that he collected, was a lock of Bonnie prince Charlie’s hair! However, it did not take too long before he became severely ‘broke.’ Debts began to mount and Sir Walter Scott had to work frantically at his writing in order to earn sufficient money to pay off his creditors.

However, what I most enjoyed about Abbotsford was the library. Sir Walter Scott collected over 9,000 books and his library, with it’s richly panelled walls, overlooks the garden, and boasts a beautiful bay leaded w09 TF and chumindow. It is a peaceful room exuding the quiet ambience that is essential to the enjoyment of reading. He was also keen on art and one of his friends was the great painter, J.M.W Turner. The latter painted a rather delicate water-colour of the nearby Rhymer’s Glen, named after the famous local mystic, prophet an03 Entranced story-teller, Thomas Rhymer.

The gardens at Abbotsford are outstanding. There are three inter-

Abbotsford Arches

Abbotsford Arches

connected walled gardens. As we wandered through the first garden in the gentle rain, we discovered some cloistered arches which overlook a sunken garden. There is also a kitchen garden with a gothic-style conservatory and from here there are some lovely views of the house. There are woodland paths and part of the 120 acres runs alongside the famous River Tweed. The grounds are quite serene and it is both relaxing and enjoyable to wander round in this most peaceful environment.

Sir Walter Scott was very much involved with the nearby Chapel at Rosslyn, made famous in Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” However, that is a story for another day.

Naomi Flashman

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A Tribute to Palmyra: Jewel of the Middle East: Temple of Bel

Temple of bel: Palmyra

Temple of Bel: Palmyra

I am very sad.

In fact, such is my love of archaeology and the remains left to us from the Near East, Ancient Greece and Rome, that I feel tearful. How can ISIS destroy such a beautiful, historic site as Palmyra? How could they decapitate the archaeologist, Kaled al-Asaad, aged 81, who had cared for this jewel in the Orient for over 40 years? What had he done to deserve their wrath other than possibly guarding, what for them, is a pagan complex? How many visitors were converted to worshipping Baal as a result of seeing the Temple of Bel? Very few, if any, I would imagine.

I well remember my first sight of this city, located to the north east of Damascus. We walked to it from our hotel, the Zenobia, which is located perfectly to allow casual strolling around the ancient remains. On first sight one can only be stunned by the magnificence of such a place and it only takes a moment to realise what an important and wealthy city this once was; a cultural centre of the ancient world. It is huge! Stretching into the distance are Roman columns, which were once topped by beautiful carvings; an aqueduct and a necropolis containing more than 500 tombs. The Roman theatre is still in excellent condition and I spent an afternoon just wandering round marvelling at the architecture and building excellence of these ancient people.

The Temple of Bel

Temple of Bel (2)This imposing building stood erect on a mound (a tell, in archaeological parlance). Because it was the main temple in Palmyra, I often think of it as equating to a modern-day cathedral. To the original inhabitants it’s destruction would be like destroying their spiritual and religious home.

It is an unusual temple in that the main entrance was located on the side and not the front. Completed and consecrated in AD32 it would have been surrounded by huge columns, gilded in gold leaf. This site was spectacular when approached from the Syrian Desert. Just imagine how much more it would have been to those caravanserais crossing the arid lands from Mesopotamia to the east. The gold-leaf would have glistened in the sunshine announcing quite clearly that this city was wealthy, extremely important and happy to flaunt itself. It was also the final destination for many of these weary travellers.

During the first part of the first century AD, the Palmyrenes adopted the triad of Ba’alshamin, Aglibol and Malakbel and incorporated them into their native pantheon. They were dressed like Romans, which is a peculiar feature of Palmyrene religious iconography. Ba’alshamin was the angelic messenger of Baal, while Malakel was the Sun God and Aglibol the Lunar God. These sort of relics from the past would be anathema to today’s religious extremists, who I believe, are intent on not only the destruction of such iconic places, but are involved in raising money for their evil cause by selling the relics.Column and relief Temple of bel

During the Byzantine era the temple was used as a Christian church, thus pursuing a policy of the Roman Church adopting pagan and sacred sites for their own purposes.

Relief. Temple of belI am greatly privileged to have been able to see, and experience this exceptional world heritage site and my heart goes out to the family of Kaled-al-Asaad, whose only ‘sin’ was to help preserve this astonishing place for future generations. If this article does no more than to help remember and maintain a record for future generations, then I am happy. In the meantime, I would also like to pay my respects to those Syrians we met who were rightly proud of their country’s unique heritage; the people who were trying to preserve their heritage and encourage visitors from around the globe.

Let us pause for a moment while we ponder this question. Where are they now?

Naomi Flashman

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Caine and Caleb, Two Dogs from Dundee!

CALEB

Caleb Golden Retriever004Caleb was a Golden Retriever with serious ‘attitude.’ Unlike his older “brother” Caine, he was not endowed with too many brCaleb006ain cells. He was a dog who loved water and he was never happier than when taken down to the beach in Broughty Ferry and allowed to swim in the Tay estuary. Such was his lack of intelligence, that whenever someone threw a stone into the river, he would automatically hurl himself into the waves in an endeavour to find the object. Caleb never figured out that stones sink! Muddy puddles were very attractive to him. He would pad happily through them emerging on the other side looking as if he had applied an all-over mud-pack from the Dead Sea. When asleep he looked angelic. How could this recumbent dog ever be the one familiar to us in the day-time?Caleb in the River Tay010

Caleb lived with his older, wiser, doggie “brother,” Caine. Caine was a mongrel, but far more astute, and given to worrying about this younger member of his canine pack; the member who was often in trouble and frequently getting into mischief. Sadly for Caleb’s owners, he died young, at the age of four years, from a twisted bowel. However, in his short life, he packed in many an adventure and his memory will always remain with those people who knew and loved him.

CAINE

Caine was an entirely different animal, intelligent and careful, gentle and thoughtful. His favourite trick was to catch an inflated balloon in his mouth by the tied end. He never burst a balloon and would run around the house holding it in his mouth as if to say “this is mine and none of you are having it!” Consequently, Christmas and birthdays were his favourite days. He had quite a large vocabulary and words had to be chosen carefully when he was around.

Caine was a mongrel but mosCaine009tly “Golden Labrador.” He was a strong, healthy dog, who lived to the ripe old age of fourteen. When Caleb came into his household, Caine was already seven years old and he was none-too pleased at sharing his home with a puppy. However, he realised very quickly that Caleb was “here to stay” so he learned to reluctantly accept the pup.Sleeping Pups Lie008

Caine was a dog who could be taken anywhere. He usually had impeccable manners, although on occasions he could produce wind of the “silent but deadly” type. On these occasions he would slink into a corner and hide while the humans around him gasped for fresh air! His gentle nature endeared him to many people. However, he was no “pushover’ and if another dog showed any aggression towards him or his owners, he would react. Such instances were rare as he liked a calm and peaceful life and he was never a threat to visitors or postmen.

Both Caine and Caleb were good with children and when the baby arrived in their household, they protected her.Caine KJ and Caleb005

These two dogs developed a close relationship. It is because of this and their different personalities that I decided to write some short stories about them for my grandchildren. These tales feature some of the dogs’ adventures; some of the anecdotes are true, others fiction and yet others a little bit of both. I leave you to decide the veracity of each!

Naomi Flashman

The Adventures of Caine and Caleb, Two Dogs from Dundee

Caleb and the Dighty Burn

Caine and Caleb, Water Dogs!

Caine and Caleb, Water Dogs!

Grandpa Tex was feeling grumpy. His arthritis was playing up and he needed some exercise to loosen his joints.

“Walkies,” he shouted.

Two white fur-balls came hurtling across the kitchen towards him. Caleb, the young Golden Retriever pup, was bounding round in circles trying to catch his tail. Caine, the older, golden haired mongrel dog, was leaping through the air.

“Where is your lead,” asked Grandpa Tex in exasperation. It was never on the hook by the back door where it should be kept. Caine ran to a nearby kitchen cupboard. He rubbed his nose on the door.

“Ah! Is it in there?”

Grandpa Tex opened the cupboard door and found the lead lying among tins of dog food. He picked it up and headed out of the back door. The two dogs hurtled after him into the garden and out of the gate.

“I think we will go alongside the Dighty Burn,” said Grandpa Tex.

He took the two dogs across a large grassy area and onto the cycle path by the Arbroath Road. Caine and Caleb loved this place. They could run freely here. There were bushes and trees in which they might play and grassy areas where they could chase and be chased by other dogs. Grandpa Tex strode purposefully along the cycle path stopping every so often to throw sticks for the animals. Caine and Caleb would race after the sticks, pick them up then drop them back in front of him. Their eyes would beg him to throw the sticks again. This game was great fun.

‘Caine, Caleb, Come here,’ shouted Grandpa Tex. It was time for the lead. Two pairs of eyes looked at him warily. They knew what was coming next and their tails went down between their legs.

‘Here boys,’ Grandpa shouted again.

Slowly, they sidled up to him, their eyes downcast. Grandpa Tex fastened the dogs onto the lead and headed towards Claypott’s traffic lights where he stopped. He glanced fleetingly at the castle standing majestically in it’s own grounds, before coming to a halt at the edge of the pavement, Caine and Caleb sitting obediently beside him.

‘This has to be the world’s most stupid junction. Whoever planned this should be shot,’ he grumbled, as they stood waiting impatiently for the lights to change from red to green. “I blame the European Union!”

‘Why does any junction need thirty six sets of lights?’

After what seemed like ages, the lights changed to show the little green man and they crossed the road. Two minutes later and they were walking alongside the Dighty Burn. The burn was in full spate and the water racing along. Grandpa Tex let the dogs off the lead and stopped to listen to the sound of the swirling water in the burn. He loved being beside water. Somehow it soothed his nerves. ‘Yes, I am definitely a water person,’ he thought. Comes from being born under the astrological sign of Cancer the Crab.

‘Splash!’

Grandpa Tex jumped at the sudden noise.

‘What on earth was that?’

Caine was whining and pacing anxiously on the bank of the burn. Caleb was nowhere to be seen.

‘Caleb,’ he shouted, ‘come here,’ but Caleb did not appear.

‘Don’t say that foolish dog has jumped into the burn,’ muttered Grandpa Tex to himself.

Caine was becoming even more agitated and Grandpa Tex felt his heart sink. He dashed towards the edge of the burn and peered over. There was Caleb being carried along with the current. He was paddling furiously in an effort to reach the bank, but the current was too strong. There was no way Grandpa Tex could scramble down to reach the pup and he stood there helplessly for a while as the dog went sailing past. Anxiously he looked round for some means with which he might rescue Caleb, but there was nothing.

‘Come on Caine,’ he shouted, ‘We will have to run along the bank and try to keep Caleb in sight.’

Man and dog raced along but they could not keep pace with the torrent. Grandpa Tex had visions of Caleb being swept along until finally the current dumped him unceremoniously into the Tay Estuary. Worse still, the dog might be injured if he was hurled against some of the rubbish that unthinking people had thrown into the burn. A smell of burning rubber pervaded the atmosphere from the nearby tyre factory, adding to Grandpa’s woes. He felt sick. What on earth was he going to do?

Grandpa Tex and Caine reached a bend. As they ran round it Grandpa caught a glimpse of Caleb pushed hard up against the remains of a tree trunk. The trunk was jammed across the burn and the dog was hanging on with his front paws as if his life depended on it. His back paws were paddling furiously trying to keep pace with the water. The banks were steep and muddy and Grandpa Tex knew that the dog would not be able to climb out. He stopped to think while Caine looked on with mournful eyes.

‘I am an Engineer,’ he thought. ‘I am used to finding answers to problems. There has to be a way to rescue that pup from the roiling waters of the burn.’

His face lit up as a possible solution presented itself.

‘I know what I’ll do.’

Grandpa Tex looked carefully at the lead.

‘Yes, it is long enough,’ he thought.

He dangled the lead over the bank. The end reached just a couple of feet above the tree trunk.

‘Caleb,’ he yelled, to attract the dog’s attention.

Caleb turned his gaze towards him.

‘What was that?’ He could see his lead and it was dangling in the air. His brain told him that anything that was dangling had to be leapt at and caught in his powerful jaws. He hurled himself into the air and grabbed the end of the lead in his teeth. Grandpa Tex felt the jolt in his shoulders as the dog seized the lead in a vice-like grip. However, when he looked down he had to stop himself from laughing as he saw the dog suspended in mid air, teeth firmly clamped on the lead, grimly refusing to let go.

Caleb was very heavy. Grandpa Tex felt his feet beginning to slide as he desperately tried to hold on to the weight of dog and lead. With a sudden feeling of rising panic Grandpa Tex realised he was sliding towards the edge of the burn. Any moment now and he would be in it.

‘Ouch!’ His feet slid from under him and he slithered along the ground, still clutching lead and dog, his body finally coming to a sudden halt within a bush. He swore to himself when he realised that his trousers and shoes were caked in mud. Caine came up to nuzzle him. For a moment he looked at the dog, surprised by the expression on his face.

‘Caine,’ he murmured, ‘You are worried about me.’ Grandpa Tex was beginning to understand that dogs could show feelings, too.

He turned his attention to Caleb, who was still gripping the lead. Grandpa Tex gritted his teeth and slowly but surely, he began to pull the lead in, with the pup still holding onto the end. His hands were sore with the effort but he had to rescue that dog.

‘Bump, bump, bump.’

There was Caleb landing on the bank beside him, his feet sliding along the slippery surface. The pup’s pale coloured fur was plastered with mud but at least he was safe. Caleb shook himself vigorously and drops of muddy water flew everywhere. Caine padded across to him and gently nuzzled his face. Grandpa Tex rose to his feet and put Caleb on the lead. He did not want the pup getting into any more trouble.

As for water, although Grandpa loved it, he had seen quite enough for one day!

NB: Dighty is pronounced ‘diktee’ with the ‘k’ a guttural sound as in ‘loch’

Naomi Flashman