My First Job

My first paying job for a proper employer was back in the late 70’s. I had done babysitting for friends of the family, but that was infrequent and as there wasn’t a lot of money coming into the home, my Step-Mother suggested that I get a Saturday/holiday job to help with household income, seeing as I was staying on at School.

So, I wandered up and down the High Street, and asked, and asked, and asked and eventually I wandered into the Toy Shop. I didn’t hold out a lot of hope. When you are sixteen with the confidence of a gnat you don’t think you are going to get anywhere.

The old man on the till, looked me up and down, asked me a few questions, said come back for a trial on Saturday – be here at 8.30am sharp. We’ll provide your uniform, no jeans, sensible shoes.

So, I turned up the following week, I hadn’t asked what the pay was, what my hours were, or even if I was going to get paid for the trial! Long story short, I got taken on, given a scarlet red crimplene (yes, really!) dress to wear over my trousers and introduced to the other staff. Shown where the staff room (back shed) was and the loo and left to get on with it.

It was great working in a toy shop, we had to know our stock, what it could do and how it worked. So we got to play with all the new stuff, as well as putting it up in the stick room. I worked there for two years. Did two Christmases. Let me tell you, Christmas in a toy shop is hell. The stock room was groaning from August onwards, and we could have had the staff party in it by the middle of November. The latest must have would have sold out weeks before Christmas, and the bosses would be desperately trying to get hold of more supplies.
The best bit for me was selling the Britains farm animals and Matchbox cars to the children who were spending their pocket money. The discussions over whether to have 2 piglets and a lamb, or one horse and a farmer would go on for ages. The Matchbox cars were in a display and we had to get the chosen item from upstairs.
Eventually, I graduated onto the model trains section and I could discuss Z gauge N gauge, 00 and 0 gauge with the best of them, Hornby trains, Fleichmann, plus the bits and bobs for modelling the sets.

We also had a pram and cot section. The parents would come in to try out the different prams, and we would sell the visivent mattresses, often we got to see the new babies when the proud parents would come back in for supplies of something or another. I remember that Mr Neal would not let a pram go out of the store until the baby had been born and all was well. He would personally deliver the pram to the new family, and I am sure that a teddy was given as well.
I can remember that on Saturday’s when the FA cup or the Grand National was on, the High Street would be dead from about 2pm, but we weren’t allowed to go home, we had to clean the shop, or stock the shelves. One year we entered the town carnival procession. The delivery vehicle was decorated in the yard and driven down the street covered in flags. We had to stay in the shop, but we watched it go past.

It was those days that taught me the value of customer service, something that I have taken with me through out my working life. If we didn’t have an item in stock, we tried our hardest to get it. If we couldn’t, we would tell our customer where they could try instead, and people would come back to us because we cared.

I can’t remember how much I got paid to start with, but I know I finished on a fiver a day. I loved working in the holidays, it seemed like a bumper pay day after a week at work, even if most of it when into the pot at home.

Great days. A Saturday job I loved. Sadly, the shop went by the bye some years later, as shops like Argos and the Supermarkets took their trade. A small family firm, with family values.

 

 

In which Lucky and Tinca show the benefits of training.

When we got the girls, we said we were going to make sure they went to puppy classes. We have had dogs before, and although we do know what we need to do, we did feel rather rusty and our last dog was a terrier with a mind of her own so our confidence was knocked a bit. We wanted dogs who walked nicely on a lead and who came when called (among other things that we are still working on).

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Learning to sit.

So both puppies went initially to puppy classes, Nigel handling Tinca and me Lucky. What with one thing and another Tinca didn’t get to as many classes as Lucky, although she is a quick learner and will do anything for her dried food.

Lucky on the other hand is a bit of a diva. She will learn, she is a clever little dog, but she will only do things for nice rewards – ham, chicken, garlic sausage, proper sausages, and cheese, and if she has had enough she stops. Refuses to do anything.

By keeping her treats and training varied we have managed to get a good solid recall – well, at the moment, anyway. Lucky still goes to training classes and I use what I learn to teach Tinca. Now I have written this, it will all go to pot! and we have been working on Loose Lead Walking, not pulling and walking nicely alongside whoever has the lead. Lucky is doing quite well with this, and Tinca has been a bit slower to pick it up (knowing that we have treats, her mind is focussed on this and not what she is supposed to be doing!) and if we go out together, then it goes wrong. Both dogs want to be together and if that means they have to pull to do it, then that is what happens. Normally. Except today was a lightbulb day.

We took them out together, I handled Lucky and Nigel had Tinca. We went in the car to a local river and walked along the bank, and around a field. There was a fishing match being held so we had the dogs on leads by the river and did some Loose Lead Walking with them. THEY DID IT!! not all the way, not all the time, but enough for it to be a very pleasant walk. We let them off as we walked round the field, they didn’t hare off, they came back when called and it was  fabulous.

Training pays off. We had a lovely afternoon.

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Asleep – what normally happens after a walk

 

 

In Which Lucky and Tinca go on holiday abroad.

When we got Lucky and Tinca, one thing we knew we wanted to do was go abroad with our dogs in our Motorhome. So when the opportunity arose for us to visit family and friends in France at the start of December, we jumped at it.

Both dogs already have their passport, Lucky came with hers, and Tinca had a visit to the vet for her rabies vaccination and they filled out a passport for her. Job done. You have to wait for 21 days after the vaccination before they can travel. We had Tinca vaccinated earlier so it wasn’t a problem to just book and go. We also got two new ID discs with our details on and my sister-in-law’s french telephone number – just in case!

We chose to drive in the car rather than take the Motorhome, for cost reasons. We opted to go by Eurotunnel as we could have the dogs with us all the time.  So, on the morning of departure we set off earlier than we thought, and had just one break in the 3 hour journey to get the dogs out of their crate. They were sound asleep and not really impressed at being woken up to go to the toilet and they didn’t want a drink either!

The crate we use for travel is a fabric one, they have bedding inside it and it seems really comfortable, they certainly go in willingly and settle quickly. It is more than big enough for the two of them, and fits nicely inside the boot of the car, although we actually had it on the back seat as the boot was full of stuff for Nigel’s sister in France!

I was very impressed by the facilities once we reached the Tunnel, Eurotunnel have definitely thought about the facilities needed. The exercise area is large, with poo bags available if needed, water in a bowl which can be topped up with the tap. Shelter for humans and dogs, places to sit, and obstacles for the dogs to use if they are up for it. Plus a separate area (again, fenced) for bitches in season to use. It was later that we spotted the designated parking spaces for dog owners (coloured paw prints opposite the facility).

We didn’t need to show the pet passports on the way out, or on arrival in France.

As we had an 8 hour journey ahead of us, we had already decided to stop lots of times on the way, however, the dogs had other ideas and they slept a lot more than we expected them to. We ended up stopping about 3 times in the end for them to stretch their legs.

We had a fabulous time with Nigel’s sister and her family, and their dogs. They have got a veg plot which was fenced off and became a puppy playpen. Lucky and Tinca met ferrets and chickens, and got on well with them. They liked the rabbits too! Lucky discovered a passion for digging out mole hills. Messy! We took them for walks along rivers and enjoyed good weather.

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Posing on a wall in France

A week went by pretty quickly and we moved on to friends in Normandy. They have a French Bulldog and they have all met before so no issues at all. Lucky and Tinca had a visit to a beach for the first time where they could be let off, and they absolutely loved that. Walks in the French countryside and we had some happy muddy puppies.

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Running Loose on the Beach.

Before we came home we had to visit a vet in France for the dogs to be checked over and for them to be given a worming tablet (required for re-entry to the UK). We registered at our friend’s vet who spoke English and she checked them over. Lucky was fine in the waiting room, but closed down completely when the vet tried to give her a tablet, it took a little while for her to forgive us and regain her equilibrium. Tinca just ate hers quite happily!

At the tunnel to come home, we followed the paw prints to the check in centre. Again as soon as we stepped into the building Lucky closed down, began to shake and I had to pick her up to comfort her (luckily she is small!! can’t imagine picking up a big dog!) it took a bit of time for her to get her curiosity back. We decided to let the two dogs sit on my lap during the trip to and on the train, but back in the crate for the main journey back home!

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Looking where we are going at Eurotunnel – on the way home.

Once again I was impressed by the facilities for dogs, a closed in exercise area by the check in centre and another where the queues are.

Although we had to pay extra for the dogs, we have decided we would definitley use Eurotunnel for our next trip to Europe with the dogs. An easy way to travel.

 

 

Our New Additions

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Since I last put a blog post ut on this site, things have changed a bit for me. We settled back slowly into a routine having been living in the Motorhome for three months, we caught up with household stuff and friends, and began to plan our next trip away.

We co-marshalled an owners club rally, which was great fun, and spent time on the South Coast before moving onto Wales and catching up with my brother who was over from Canada. For the first time in ages, all four siblings were in one place at the same time, and a few photographs were taken!

While we were at Shoreham, we kept driving past the Dogs Trust home that is there, in our little two-seater Mazda, and saying to ourselves, shall we pop in and have a look? Each time telling ourselves that our lifestyle so didn’t suit dogs and that we planned to do much more travelling.

Once back home we drew up a list of all the places we wanted to see in the world, and thought about how we  could do it. We threw our ideas at a travel agent specialising in long haul and round the world trips and we got an itinery back and a cost. Gulp. Six months away, a lot of travelling and an awful lot of countries.

Talking to our sons, one said we could only do it if we took him with us, the other said he would miss us and he didn’t really want us to do it. Why not get a dog instead?

I said that as much as I would love to have a dog, I wasn’t going to make the decision about it, that was down to OH.

Fast forward a few months, and we now have two dogs! Not one – TWO! How did that happen?

Both puppies booked into puppy school and a whole new way of life for all of us.

I suspect this blog may turn into the adventures of Tinca (the Cavalier) and Lucky (the rescue) as in the short while we have had them our lives have been turned upside down (in a good way) as they meet things and people and go to places for the first time. Their different characters make for interesting reactions and it is great fun to help them learn about their new lives.

Tinca is now 16 weeks old (4 months) and Lucky is approx 24 weeks (6 months) and both will travel with us in the Motorhome when we go abroad into Europe.

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He is Not Missing, He is Here.

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I have just returned from an extended trip abroad. One of the things I wanted to do while in France was to visit WWI battle sites, and Memorials to try and get some sense of the scale of things.

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I don’t know much about either War really. When I was at School it wasn’t part of the History I did. To a certain extent in the 60s and early 70s I guess it was still being worked on and history was being researched and written certainly for World War II. After all, when I was born in 1960 that War had only been over for 15 years, a blink really. Our elderly next door neighbour had lost her love in WWI and been a spinster all her life. A whole generation of men wiped out. I have picked up bits and pieces from the TV, from books, even from Remembrance Day programming.

I don’t know if any of my relatives were lost in either War to my shame. I ought to rectify that.

The Cemetaries bear the bodies that were found,  the Memorials bear the names of the missing, as Field Marshall Lord Plumer said at the inauguration of the Menin Gate Memorial – “He is not missing, he is here”. It is soul destroying, numbing, all this, yet it is important. Everywhere I looked I could see Poppies, and Cornflowers (the French symbol of memory and solidarity for veterans and victims of war) and it seemed as if they represented the souls of those soldiers who fought and died. I have extracted some relevant information and thoughts from my letters home to friends, on WWI for this blog post as tomorrow is the Centennial Commemoration of the start of The Battle of The Somme.

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Arriving in Albert, the first thing you can see is the Basilica, and flags of all the Allies hanging from the buildings, here we found somewhere to park the MH in a side street and walked back to the Musee of the Somme, paid our 6.50 ea to get in and we watch the video (in English and 3D)  which gave an idea of what could be seen in the surrounding area.  The Museum itself is underground, and weaves under the Basilica. It was an air raid shelter, as Albert was pretty much flattened in the war.  The Museum gave a good indication of what life was like for soldiers both above and underground.  There was also a section of tunnel which endeavoured to give an idea of the noise of being in a trench while a bombardment was going on. No wonder so many suffered from shell shock.
We surfaced again on the other side of the Basilica and across the road!
The Basilica was built originally in the late 1800’s, but was pretty much destroyed by the Battle of the Somme. The Golden statue of an Angel was leaning horribly for pretty much two years, and legend had it that if it fell the war would end. The Angel fell in April 2018.  The Basilica was rebuilt by the son of the original architect to his father’s plans, and it is spectacular.

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Lochnagar Crater. The photographs cannot convey the scale of this mine crater. It is huge.  91m across and 21m deep it is a relic of the series of explosions which happened on July 1st 1916 at 7.28am and marked the start of the Battle of the Somme by the British. The crater and surrounding land was purchased by a British man, to preserve and encourage remembrance. Have a look here www.lochnagarcrater.org for more information.

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From there we moved on past a couple of Cemetaries at Poziers and towards Thiepval, they told us at the Museum that this could be seen for miles around, and they weren’t wrong! It is huge. It is the memorial to the 72205 missing British and South African soldiers who fell between July 1915 and March 1918 and who have no known grave. Their names are inscribed on the 16 pillars making up the base of the monument under the names of the Battles in which they fell. I found an E.A. Farrow, no idea if he is a relative, but I was shocked to see the name there.  The visitor centre has a very good time line display which helped put things into some kind of order for me.  The Memorial was very busy with parties of students, French military cadets, and Battlefield Tours. They were getting ready for the commemorations for the 1st July, and the vigil on the 29th June, so lots of workmen around, yet it still seemed peaceful. The views were astounding, across the war fields in which these men had died.
Moving on from here, we went to Longueval, and to the New Zealand cemetary, we saw two or three different Cemetaries, they have such odd names, Thistle Down Cemetary is off the main road, appears beautifully maintained, and yet there is an unmade road to access it. We didn’t try to take the MH down it, we stopped at the bigger Caterpillar Valley instead.
Everywhere you look it seems that there are war graves in a little square, or a memorial which if you blink you may miss it. For me, I wonder if these men really are at rest, at peace, do they resent the intrusion of tourists or are they pleased that we remember? The bigger Cemetaries have many visitors, I feel sad for the little ones, the tucked away ones, those who never get visitors, are they any less forgotten or more remembered?

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We wanted to go back to find the Memorials for the Welsh at Mametz and also the Newfoundlanders at Beaumont-Hamel. When you put this type of place into the Sat Nag you certainly see more of the countryside. We passed through agricultural land which was sodden. It took very little imagination to realise what conditions must have been like during the battles.
The Memorial at Mametz is tucked away, and although signed, you would have to be looking for it to find it. A Welsh Dragon, with barbed wire in its claws, it’s tail pointing in the direction in which the Soldiers had come over the hill and its face pointing towards the woods they were aiming to clear. They were canon fodder. Over 4000 men were lost, including 600 killed and 600 missing. I have tried to show the height of the hill they would have come down towards the woods, and also the distance to the woods, where the Germans were waiting for them.

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We moved on from there to the Canadian Memorial, or more precisely the Newfoundlanders Memorial. The battlefield has been preserved and you are able to get an idea of the scale, the trenches and the ferocity of the battle at Hawthorn Ridge. We were greeted by two young Canadians one of whom offered us a guided tour, but once we had accepted this, she was told that it wasn’t possible, because she would miss lunch and they had school parties coming in! So we took the self guided leaflet and wandered off. Funnily enough, she lived not far from my brother in Canada!

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On the way to Saarburg we see a French WW1 cemetery and we stop, I learned that until 1915 soldiers who died were buried together, and Officers had individual graves. This changed after a law was passed.
Further on and we see an enormous WW1 French Cemetery at Saarburg and again we stop.
This time, my flabber is gasted. This is a Cemetery (the only one in France) for all the WW1 French Prisoners of War who died of disease or wounds and who were repatriated after the war 13,389 of them. There are so, so many graves.

We arrived in Verdun to find a town that is holding a massive MH show, and seems to have closed off most of its town centre because of road works. Having tried to drive into the town centre to see what was there and perhaps stop for lunch, we ended up heading out of town, and seeing a sign for the Battlefields. No idea what’s there, let’s go see.

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The Forest you drive through is pitted with holes full of water, and it seems everywhere you look there is a memorial of some sort. Andre Maginot had a huge one, there was the Lion of Soulleville, and little and big ones everywhere you looked.
We came across a very impressive memorial / museum which was well worth visiting, as it explained a lot of what we had seen already. The Battle for Verdun had rendered the landscape a mud scape, villages destroyed and off the face of the earth, and so the Government after the war declared it sacred land, and that a forest should be planted there. The trenches, tunnels, fortifications, shell holes were left as reminders, these were the holes we had seen on our way up.
The Museum had many artefacts, films, displays, all in English, French and German, and we could have stayed longer. We moved on though, and stopped at the Douennement Ossarie (spelling?), I took some photos, but we chose not to go in this time. A tour takes about an hour and we were very hot. The French also have a Memorial for the Muslims who fought and fell on their behalf from their Empire, and on the other side, is one to the Israelis.

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