A post that involves dogs but not what I had in mind!
Last Saturday I published a post The burning of our forests! that included a photograph of the nearby Klondike fire.
Then last Sunday I was speaking to Maija, my daughter back in England, and she was asking how the fires were and I distinctly recall saying: “Sweetheart, I think we are over the worst!”
That same Sunday evening, around 9:45pm, in other words two evenings ago, one of our neighbours, Margo, who lives on 60 acres adjacent to the west of us, called with real alarm in her voice:
Paul, have you seen the fire that is burning just to the North-East of us?
I replied that I had not but immediately went to our deck that runs the whole Eastern length of our house. Mount Sexton is just a few miles to the North-East of us.
This is what I saw!
Apparently, a short while previously the wind had blown down a tree that had fallen across some high-voltage power lines causing sparking that had, in turn, ignited the extremely dry grassland.
The fire was between Oxyoke Road and Three Pines Road and roughly 2 miles from us line of sight.
That explained why some thirty minutes before, in the last of the light of the setting sun, there had been a number of helicopter flights come across us en route to dropping fire retardant close by. It hadn’t occurred to me that it was an incident so close to us.
Many of us living nearby then called each other to spread the word.
Jeannie and I, in turn, drew up an evacuation checklist and started getting things ready. More importantly, getting ourselves psychologically prepared to have to vacate the property at very short notice: Jeannie and me: six dogs; two horses; two parakeets; three cats; two chickens!
Thankfully an order to evacuate did not come during the night.
So yesterday morning I grabbed my bike and rode to Oxyoke Road. On the way I stopped to photograph the smoke in the air.
Once at Oxyoke Road I chatted to a search and rescue volunteer on duty controlling the traffic.
His report, as of 11:30 on September 3rd, was that the fire was just 15% contained, was “pretty active”, and that they were keeping an eye on the winds that were expected to be rather gusty later on that afternoon. I am writing this at 13:40 on the 3rd and the present winds are 6 mph, gusting 12 mph, from the North-West.
I rode back home to brief Jeannie and found her working her way through an idea for evacuating the dogs!
H’mmm! I am not sure Pedy is getting the message!
But a few words from Sweeny seemed to sort things out.
So there you are my good people, a post about dogs! Sort of!
Fingers crossed we will speak again tomorrow!
Assuming we don’t have a repeat of last night’s spectacular sights!!
We were in Reggie and Chris’s villa in the village of La Croix des Luques inland from the Cote d’Azur, Southern France.
I quickly realised that their villa was not far from the world-famous sailplaning airfield at Fayence. Or LES PLANEURS DE FAYENCE as it is known. Reggie gladly offered to take Jean and me across to the airfield.
Many years ago, when I was living and working in Colchester, Essex, I became a very keen and active pilot with the Rattlesden Gliding Club in Suffolk eventually qualifying as a gliding instructor. So when Reggie suggested that I see about getting a dual flight at the Fayence Club I didn’t need asking twice.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t accommodate my wishes before we had to leave France so that opportunity had to be let go.
Another opportunity, this time for Jeannie, was taken advantage of. Chris was a member of a local art class and while we were going to be there the class would be meeting at the villa. Would Jean like to take part?
Jean is a good amateur artist, as many of her paintings and sketches around our house attest to. So that did take place and it was a wonderful afternoon for all concerned.
Then on a subsequent day Reggie and Chris took us for a drive along the beautiful coastline that is the essence of the Cote d’Azur.
To reach the coast Reggie took a route that went down towards Frejus and Saint-Raphael and then joined the coast road just west of Le Dramont.
I found this was stirring up very old memories. For my father, a Chartered Architect, had a passion for this part of France and every summer back in the 1950s took the four of us (Mum, Dad, me and my sister Elizabeth) for a month’s holiday. Thus many of the coastal town names had echoes from over 60 years ago. (Father died in December, 1956 of cancer.)
As we drove along, I reminisced aloud to Reggie and Chris that when I was 15 my mother decided that it would be a good thing for me to do a student exchange with a French boy. It was arranged and in the early part of the summer of 1959 in to our house in Preston Road, Wembley came Philippe, whose home was in Paris.
Then in about 4 weeks it was my turn to accompany Philippe back to Paris. It was a very ornate apartment with an air of luxury living and I felt very lost in the place. Apparently, Philippe’s father was a director with Air France.
Anyway, the father announced just a couple of days after I had arrived that all the family the following day would be flying from Paris to Nice airport, (with Air France, of course!) to then spend a month at the family’s French villa in the coastal town of Antheor.
On me mentioning Antheor Reggie immediately exclaimed that we were just a few miles from going through Antheor and that we should stop there. I wondered if I would remember anything of the place.
Well I did!! To my amazement when we stopped to look down at the beaches below the level of the road I thought that we were very close to the beach in front of the villa at Antheor where I used to swim, frequently on my own, every day that I stayed there.
I told everyone to stay where they were and ran on to the next beach.
It was the same beach that I now recalled so clearly.
Even more amazing for me was that the iron gate and steep stone steps down to the beach were still there, albeit no longer being used as a more modern set of steps was in place.
By this time, the others had arrived at the head of the new steps and were looking down at me as I became truly lost in days so very long ago.
I have no recollection why back then the rest of the family so rarely came down to the beach that was so close to where their villa was. Indeed, it was just a case of crossing the coast road, much quieter in those years, and descending the steps to the beach.
But for this London boy it was bliss beyond measure. Maybe at some level it reminded me of family holidays for our, as in sister Elizabeth and me, father’s death was still a painful memory.
I stood still and just looked at the beach and at the sea and was transported so very clearly back to the times when I swam around the rocks, wearing a face mask and snorkel, just lost forever in what one could see underwater.
Then it was time to return to the car and resume our delightful drive.
Soon after we stopped at a small beach cafe for an afternoon drink of something cool.
Everything, well for me at least, still seemed a little unreal; a little larger than life! I think that’s what inspired me to take the photograph above of the cafe proprietor and her cat!
Then we moved on again.
In due course, to another delightful evening meal somewhere local. The French expression “en famille” says it all!
These wonderful days were going by far too quickly!
In a flash it was Tuesday and Jean and I were being driven to Nice airport for another easyJet flight. But instead of returning to Bristol we had booked an easyJet flight into Gatwick. Because the last 36-hours of our vacation were being spent with my daughter’s family.
Maija’s husband, Marius, who is employed by The Royal National Theatre, near Waterloo Bridge on the south bank of the River Thames in London, frequently is working evenings but in order to spend time with me and Jeannie he had taken a day’s holiday on the 25th.
Our last day of our vacation dawned bright and sunny. It was a school day for Morten and after he had left for school Marius and Maija suggested going for a walk along the South Downs. Perfect!
For those unfamiliar with the South Downs let me quote a little of what may be read on Wikipedia.
The South Downs are a range of chalk hills that extends for about 260 square miles (670 km2) across the south-eastern coastal counties of England from the Itchen Valley of Hampshire in the west to Beachy Head, near Eastbourne, East Sussex, in the east. The Downs are bounded on the northern side by a steep escarpment, from whose crest there are extensive views northwards across the Weald. The South Downs National Park forms a much larger area than the chalk range of the South Downs and includes large parts of the Weald.
The South Downs are characterised by rolling chalk downland with close-cropped turf and dry valleys, and are recognised as one of the most important chalk landscapes in England. The range is one of the four main areas of chalkdownland in southern England.
It is a beautiful place to walk.
It was a magical way of spending our last day.
Again, I was aware of stirrings in my old memory box from many years ago, possibly when I might have taken young Alex and Maija for a walk along the Downs, or something along those lines.
But today it meant so much for Jeannie and me to be with Maija and Marius for this gorgeous walk.
A couple of hours later we found a place to have a late lunch and asked the lady serving our table to take a photograph of all four of us!
Obviously, we had to be home in time for Morten’s return from school.
Those last hours of that day were focussed on keeping Morten company. What else mattered!
So the last photograph of the whole vacation is the one below. A picture taken of Morten planting some seeds that were bought while we were out that day.
We arrived back in Portland, Oregon around 6pm on the 26th and too late to drive all the way back to Merlin.
So after we had collected the car from the long-term parking we stopped off at the first motel that we saw heading though southern Portland.
Then around 11am on Friday, 27th April we pulled up in front of the house to be greeted by six very loving and contented dogs. Well done, Jana!
That evening those contented dogs demonstrating their happiness did more than anything to communicate a precious message.
Alex drove us across to Bristol airport mid-morning on the 18th April for our flight, courtesy of easyJet, from Bristol to Nice.
The days with Alex and Lisa had been so wonderful yet had gone by so very quickly. Thank goodness that Alex and Lisa had already made plans to come and see us again in Merlin sometime during August. It made the parting a little less painful.
Our flight was a good one and departed on time and quickly climbed into a beautiful Spring sky.
Looking down on the beautiful planet underneath us I tried very hard not to think of the 8,000 or so litres of aviation fuel that Alex estimated our Airbus would burn on this 90-minute flight. (Alex is a Commercial pilot flying for an airline out of Bristol.)
But no time to get too introspective about the wake we humans are leaving on the face of Planet Earth because before Jean and I had really got our heads around the fact that we would shortly be seeing Reggie and his wife, Chris, our aircraft was positioning itself over Nice in readiness for landing at Nice airport.
Reggie and Christine’s house was situated at La Croix des Luques, about an hour’s drive from Nice and up in the beautiful countryside that lay inland from the Cote d’Azur; that famous coastal region to the East of Toulon that boasted such places as Cannes, St. Tropez, Monaco and, of course, Nice itself. It was glorious countryside and in some ways familiar with the forested country back in Merlin, Oregon.
By 5pm French time we were at the house and Jean and Reggie were catching up in earnest!
I had a very strong sense that the next six days were going to be very relaxing and very entertaining.
Plus Reggie and Chris had two dogs; two wonderful dogs. But talk about the fickle finger of fate. For their two dogs were named Merlin and Hugo! And, I should hasten to add, named before we moved from Arizona to Oregon in 2012.
To put that into context for any new readers of this place, where Jean and I live in Southern Oregon is on Hugo Road, Merlin!
Tomorrow will be the last day of sharing the details with you all of our vacation.
It will cover the balance of the time that we spent with Reggie and Chris in the South of France, a most amazing ‘blast from the past’ for yours truly, our return to England and another stay, just for 36 hours this time with Maija, Marius and Morten, then on the 26th our return flight to Portland.
Our recent vacation to see family in England and France.
Dear friends, I have my fingers tightly crossed that today’s post and the posts for the rest of the week aren’t going to come across as too indulgent!
For what I have planned this week is to share the experiences that Jean and I had when we flew from Oregon to Europe, leaving on 8th April and returning on the 26th.
Come the day of our departure the morning presented low clouds and persistent rain. It was a four-hour drive North on Highway I-5 and our plan was to be away by 8am. Our home-sitter cum pet-sitter, Jana, would be arriving around 9:30.
Inevitably, I couldn’t sleep that well and it was not long after 7:30am that Jean and I drove down our driveway to start the journey to Portland International Airport. It was rain the whole way and not an easy drive; to say the least. Especially when overtaking the many trucks when the spray was pretty grim!
The Portland skies were just as wet and dreary as the drive up had been.
Anyway, we had arrived without any hitches and it was time to forget about the car for nearly three weeks and start getting ourselves into holiday mood.
Then on the very dot of the scheduled time for departure, as in 15:40, our Icelandic Air flight FI664 rotated skywards en route for London Gatwick via a short stop at Reykjavik.
To our great amazement the total flight time of over ten hours passed reasonably smoothly and before we knew it we were catching a taxi from London Gatwick to my daughter’s house in the village of Lindfield just 20 minutes away from the airport.
By mid-day on Monday the 12th we were at my daughter’s house and sitting down to a lunch snack with Maija, my daughter, and Morten, my seven-year-old grandson.
The plan was to spend a few days with Maija, and her husband Marius, and above all with Morten and I will cover what we did over those days in tomorrow’s post.
Jean and I were invited to Chicago this last weekend, actually Friday through Sunday, to support a charity that does a great deal of work saving dogs in many countries. (Will write more about this great charity soon.)
So we flew out, via San Francisco, from our local Medford airport last Thursday returning on Monday. The long week-end was not without a few challenges!!
I hadn’t been back to Chicago in nearly 30 years and found it a bit of a shock to the system.
So going to leave you for today with two photographs of the other side of city life!
Unexpectedly, the plane was diverted to Sydney along the way. The flight attendant explained that there would be a delay, and if the passengers wanted to get off the aircraft the plane would re-board in 50 minutes.
Everybody got off the plane except one lady who was blind.
A man had noticed her as he walked by and could tell the lady was blind because her Guide Dog lay quietly underneath the seats in front of her throughout the entire flight.
He could also tell she had flown this very flight before because the pilot approached her, and calling her by name, said, “Kathy, we are in Sydney for almost an hour. Would you like to get off and stretch your legs?”
The blind lady replied, “No thanks, but maybe Buddy would like to stretch his legs.”
The pilot duly obliged Kathy.
All the people in the gate area came to a complete standstill when they looked up and saw the pilot walk off the plane with a Guide dog!
The pilot was even wearing sunglasses.
People scattered …
They not only tried to change planes, but they were trying to change airlines!
It is a true story!
Have a great day and remember … THINGS AREN’T ALWAYS AS THEY APPEAR.
Apologies in advance for this being possibly of limited interest to others.
A couple of years after I left IBM UK and formed my own company, Dataview Ltd., based in Colchester, Essex, I formed both a personal and business relationship with a Roger Davis.
That relationship exposed me to gliding, or sail-planing in American speak, for Roger was a volunteer instructor at Rattlesden Gliding Club in Suffolk that flew from an ex-wartime aerodrome of the same name.
Thus on the 7th June, 1981, I was taken up for two air-experience circuits in a two-seater glider known as a ‘K7’. I was immediately hooked! Those experience flights leading to a 4-minute flight (flight number 46) on the 6th September, 1981 that has the remark in my pilot’s log book: Solo!
Now fast forward to October, 1984 and my log book shows me attending a gliding instructor’s course at Lasham, resulting in me being issued with a British Gliding Association (BGA) Assistant Instructor Rating on the 14th October. (105/84).
A few days ago, Roger sent me a link to the following video.
It’s a compilation of photos, cartoons from the pen of dear Bob White, and videos. A little over eleven minutes long I do hope some of you find it of interest.
Published on May 29, 2017
Slide show produced from photos and images produced by Mark Taylor for Rattlesden Gliding Club’s 25 anniversary in 2001. Shows a collection of members involved from those early days, including some cartoons produced by Bob White whenever there was a notable event, or incident as well!
Let me close with this photograph!
(All those years ago, Roger and Sheila had a beautiful Old English Sheepdog. His name was Morgan and he was a wonderful, loving dog.)
So is there anyone reading this who has experienced gliding?
I have a good understanding of the commercial pilot’s world, both inside and outside of my family. For many years as an active private pilot I held a British Instrument Rating (IR) that allowed me to fly in the commercial airways. Studying for the IR required a good appreciation of the safety culture that was at the root of commercial flying especially surrounding one’s departure and arrival airports.
So when I read a recent item from the Smithsonian Magazine proposing that airline pilots were more depressed than the average American my first reaction was one of disbelief. I forwarded the link to Bob D., an experienced British airline Captain and a good friend for years. Here is that article:
Think Your Job Is Depressing? Try Being an Airline Pilot
New study suggests pilots are more depressed than the average American
Being a pilot for a commercial airline has its perks—travel to exotic places, a cool uniform and those breathtaking views of the sky. But that job can come with a side of something much more sobering: depression. As Melissa Healy reports forThe Los Angeles Times, the mental health of airline pilots is coming into sharp focus with the revelation that nearly 13 percent of them could be depressed.
A new study of the mental health of commercial airline pilots, recently published in the Journal of Environmental Health, suggests that depression is a major problem for pilots. The first to document mental health for this particular field, the study relied on a 2015 web survey of international pilots that contained a range of questions about their condition over the prior two weeks. Questions included whether they felt like failures, had trouble falling or staying asleep, or felt they were better off dead. (Those questions are part of a depression screening tool called the PHQ-9.) Other questions involved pilots’ flight habits, their use of sleep aids and alcohol, and whether they have been sexually or verbally harassed on the job.
Of the 1,848 pilots who responded to the depression screening portions of the questionnaire, 12.6 percent met the threshold for depression. In addition, 4.1 percent of those respondents reported having suicidal thoughts at some point during the two weeks before taking the survey. The researchers found that pilots who were depressed were also more likely to take sleep aids and report verbal or sexual harassment.
Airline pilot organizations and occupational safety experts assure Healy that airline travel is still safe. But the study continues a conversation about pilot psychology that has been in full swing since a German pilot committed suicide by crashing his plane in 2015—an incident that inspired the current study.
Since then, calls for better statistics on pilot suicide have grown louder. As Carl Bialik notes forFiveThirtyEight, those statistics do exist—and do suggest that the number of actual suicides among pilots are very small. However, limitations in data, the possibility of underreporting, and infrequent data collection all challenge a complete understanding of that facet of pilots’ mental health.
This latest mental health study has its own limitations, including the fact that it relies on self-reporting and a relatively small sample size compared to total pilot numbers worldwide (in the U.S. alone, there are over 70,000 commercial airline pilots). The cause of the reported depression also remains unclear.
But if the depression rate for commercial airline pilots really is nearly 13 percent, it’s almost double the national rate of about seven percent. Though future work is necessary to confirm these results, this study provides an initial glimpse into the health of the people who make the nation’s airlines tick and emphasizes the importance of figuring out ways to improve their mental health and quality of life.
As I explained yesterday, I am distracted from all things blogging right through to the end of this week-end.
So I’m republishing a post from June, 2013 that, hopefully, will be a fresh read for many of you.
More on Pharaoh’s life.
First published June 4th, 2013.
What a wonderful relationship it has been.
Years ago if I was ever to own a dog, it had to be one breed and one breed only: a German Shepherd Dog.
The reason for this was that back in 1955 my father and mother looked after a German Shepherd dog called Boy. Boy belonged to a lovely couple, Maurice and Marie Davies. They were in the process of taking over a new Public House (Pub); the Jack & Jill in Coulsdon, Surrey. My father had been the architect of the Jack & Jill.
As publicans have a tough time taking holidays, it was agreed that the move from their old pub to the Jack & Jill represented a brilliant opportunity to have that vacation. My parents offered to look after Boy for the 6 weeks that Maurice and Marie were going to be away.
Boy was the most gentle loveable dog one could imagine and I quickly became devoted to him; I was 11 years old at the time. So when years later it seemed the right time to have a dog, there was no question about the breed. Boy’s memory lived on all those years, and, as this post reveals, still does!
Pharaoh was born June 3rd, 2003 at Jutone Kennels up at Bovey Tracy, Devon, on the edge of Dartmoor, South-West England. As the home page of the Jutone website pronounces,
The Kennel was established in 1964 and it has always been the aim to breed the best German Shepherd Dogs for type and temperament. To this end the very finest German bloodlines are used to continue a modern breeding programme.
and elsewhere on that website one learns:
Jutone was established by Tony Trant who was joined by Sandra Tucker in 1976. Sandra continues to run Jutone since Tony passed away in 2004. Both Tony and Sandra qualified as Championship Show judges and Sandra continues to judge regularly. Sandra is the Secretary and a Life Member of the German Shepherd Dog Club of Devon.
Turning to Pharaoh, here are a few more pictures over the years.
The next picture of Pharaoh requires a little background information.
For many years I was a private pilot and in later days had the pleasure, the huge pleasure, of flying a Piper Super Cub, a group-owned aircraft based at Watchford Farm in South Devon. The aircraft, a Piper PA-18-135 Super Cub, was originally supplied to the Dutch Air Force in 1954 and was permitted by the British CAA to carry her original military markings including her Dutch military registration, R-151, although there was a British registration, G-BIYR, ‘underneath’ the Dutch R-151. (I wrote more fully about the history of the aircraft on Learning from Dogsback in August 2009.)
Anyway, every time I went to the airfield with Pharaoh he always tried to climb into the cockpit. So one day I decided to see if he would sit in the rear seat and be strapped in. Absolutely no problem with that!
My idea had been to fly a gentle circuit in the aircraft. First I did some taxying around the large grass airfield that is Watchford to see how Pharaoh reacted. He was perfectly behaved.
Then I thought long and hard about taking Pharaoh for a flight. In the Cub there is no autopilot so if Pharaoh struggled or worse it would have been almost impossible to fly the aircraft and cope with Pharaoh. So, in the end, I abandoned taking him for a flight. The chances are that it would have been fine. But if something had gone wrong, the outcome just didn’t bear thinking about.
So we ended up motoring for 30 minutes all around the airfield which, as the next picture shows, met with doggie approval. The date was July 2006.
What a dear dog he has been over all the years and, thankfully, still is!
As if to reinforce the fabulous dog he still is, yesterday it was almost as though he knew he had to show how youthful he still was.
Because, when I took his group of dogs out around 7.30am armed with my camera, Pharaoh was brimming over with energy.
First up was a swim in the pond.
Then in a way he has not done before, Pharaoh wanted to play ‘King of my Island’, which is in the middle of the pond.
Then a while later, when back on dry land, so to speak, it was time to dry off in the morning sunshine.
Long may he have an enjoyable and comfortable life.
Long may we all have enjoyable and comfortable lives!