Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Playing catch-up - AKA other excuses for being lazy.

It came to my notice yesterday, and I have been further prompted by a follower, (thanks Angela) that I have let things slide on the reporting front. Indeed, I have noticed that my LAST blog was before Christmas , (shame on me) so, today, as I have agility later, and will therefore not be taking the dogs out for their hour long walk this morning, will endeavour to play “catch-up” . Expect a large burbled novel………..with pictures……lots of pictures.

So, what’s been occurring in La Belle France ?. Well not a huge volume…but, as it turns out, being retired is HUGELY time consuming (who knew). I have had this rumoured to me in the past, but as you are probably drawing the same conclusion as I did, (more like WTF)so  I am not expecting you to believe me. But sat with a cup of coffee, and if I am lucky, a chocolate éclair later, I will attempt to bring you all up to date. I will try the cliff notes” version to start with, and branch off,as and hopefully WHEN, I feel it “all coming back to me”.

Last time I reported in I had damaged my ankle and was feeling pissed off as I remember, nothing like having a young dog to train(the best bit about training)and having to put your feet up for WEEKS. Glad to report Boq hasn’t suffered for his enforced break, he got a bit rusty on his ability to follow commands instantaneously, but as luck would have it we hadn’t really progressed beyond simple groundwork (no “actual” agility, for you non enthusiasts)  so once we got stuck back in, he picked it back up, and I was then able to move on the some “actual” jumping(over poles on the ground initially) My ankle is holding up, I don’t think it will ever be back to how it was beforehand, and there is a certain amount of sympathy being expected from my OTHER ankle which took the brunt of the weight while I hobbled around. Still at my age, I suppose you have to expect this sort of wear and tear, from spending umpteen weekends a year, for umpteen years, careering around in the wet, slippery , and dry, bumpy show grounds.  Getting old !!!! 

My new car ?? going nicely thank you,steering wheel on the correct side….always a plus. Thankfully Bluey,my dear Right hand model,has been adopted by a very good home,and once driven back by my daughter and her friend Emily last month,has started enjoying the countryside of Devon and hopefully will be giving long service and trouble free motoring to my friend Karen. I will miss that car,the new one isn’t “ringing my bells” yet… needs to be full of mud and dog hair,I feel like it’s a car at the moment and not a “dog waggon”. Give it time.

Christmas came and went, it was the first year in …..well forever, that I had the opportunity to make a Christmas Cake, mince pies, sausage rolls, Christmas pudding and stuffing ALL from scratch. I had forgotten what it was like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen preparing Xmas fayre, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. They weren't all absolute hits,I had lost my touch in the Christmas Cake department, overcooked  it fractionally and it was therefore quite dry. I like mine really fruity and moist……duly noted for the 2014 cake. 

New Year ?? Came/went…….. usual stuff,  never was big on the concept…..always thought different year/same shit…..but now I have little or no excuse to “grind my axe” I am aiming at a more positive stance. That having been said ,we are nearly half way through it already !!!!  Geez is it just me, or is it flying by now I am over 50.?

Next : CRUFTS  - Doesn’t really apply in this Blog as it’s NON- Le Tardis related, but while I am here, I have decided that this can be summed up in one word, PROUD. That’s it….. PROUD.  Love my dog, love my daughter, the whole “Crufts” month was one enjoyable BLUR.  An experience I will remember and treasure forever.  Nuff said.

1st pictures for this blog........ 

So, back in France, Lesley and one of her bridesmaids (Emily) came back with me to go look at some French Bridal gowns, and to take aforesaid Blue Doblo back to Britain. They were only able to come for a few days but we all had a hoot. I remember “little Emily” and little “Lesley” like it was yesterday and yet it was “forever” ago. So lovely that Lesley has stayed so close to her original friends, (and added some smashing new ones) she really IS blessed with some fantastic people around her,…..makes it easier for me to worry less..(ME worry lol !!)  Anyway I am told coming to search over here(and looking at some very different styles) allowed her to finally choose "the one". That’s all I am saying…..everyone will now have to wait and see.  In true Lesley style the last day was polished off by a trip to the “Vallee des Singes”…..I didn’t go, but she tells me the lemur sent love….. I love those guys….lets have two gratuitous lemur pictures to make us all feel good inside.

Aaaaaaah lemurs……if they were politicians the world would be a better place…….but I digress .

So, beginning to get up to date. Now for the bit where non-agility folk can go get a cuppa and skip down to the end.

How is Agility in France going ???????  Do NOT get me started !!!! 

As I think I have described before.
Stage One : you get you Carte du Base (Base card). This has to be obtained by passing a test oral and practical (and in French) based, pretty well much, on the Good Citizen Silver/Gold.

Stage two: The Chairman of your then club applies for a licence for you and once granted you may then get your club to “sign you off” to compete at shows. SIMPLES !!!

Problem  and I quote(roughly) from the French Agility Mag site last month.

Blocking applications for licenses
Temporarily, license applications will not be processed because "Michèle Garcia is no longer able to manage the licenses CNEAC." (Agility governing body)
The CNEAC then asked CTRs to block other requests.
A new method of managing licenses is being set up within the CSC. The next applications will be treated through this system when everything is in place. 

Cosmic………just bloody cosmic. I can’t apply for my “carte du base” until Licences are being issued again. And once they ARE being issued again, I will have to apply for my Carte du base, pass it, have my club apply for my licence (waiting time anywhere up to three months) before I compete.  Therefore it is unlikely I will get one this year AT ALL. 

Now colour me a super addicted super competitive agility fan (who likes to enter her OWN shows ta muchly) -but having spent the last 22 odd years doing upwards of 20 shows a year, I find this situation the most frustratingly ludicrous shambles EVER. Thank goodness Boq hasn’t yet reached 18 months old yet…..I would literally be climbing the walls.  Added to this the nice club Chairman keeps sending group emails of all the show “invites”……I say again…. to shows I can’t enter  AAAAAaaaaaaah.

Before I lived here I was lead to believe that there were few shows, but now I live here I have discover within my old 2 hour travelling distance “circle” I could do more than 20 here between March and November. I won’t obviously DO them all(chance would be a fine thing) ,but there is about one per month within an hours radius, one a month sounds reasonable for a retired old girl and her two reprobates….I say again CHANCE would be a nice thing.  Good job I have got a small selection of equipment at home or else I would get severe withdrawal.

Here's an idea of an agility year in my Region for those of your that are curious :

date concours type EXPO Club organisateur lieu Agility
dim. 02 mars CC CCEA SAINTES SAINTES M. PERRAIN / M. VANNIER 1hr 18 mins
dim. 09 mars ?
dim. 16 mars ?
dim. 30 mars CC CRCT LA ROCHELLE LAGORD J. BLANC 1hr 45 mins
dim. 06 avril CC CCEA 16 BRIE  JL. RICOUX 32 mins
sam. 12 avril CC CHERVEUX AEC LA GARETTE M. VANNIER 1hr 30 mins
dim. 13 avril CC + CHF CANICHE N. DELATTRE / Ph. JEANCLAUDE 1hr 30 mins
dim. 27 avril CHRégional HCC SURGERES SURGERES N. RENAUD 1hr 20 mins
jeu. 08 mai CC  AC TERVES  TERVES M. PERRAIN 2hrs
dim. 11 mai CC ROULLET SCC ROULLET R. DUPONT 30 mins
sam. 17 mai sel Trophée par équipe FC POITOU-CHARENTES J. BLANC /M. PERRAIN / S. RAFIN / M. VANNIER
dim. 18 mai
dim. 25 mai CC CEC ROYAN SAUJON R. DIMEUR 1hr 30 mins
sam. 07 juin CHF chiens de Race ANGERS
dim .08 juin
sam. 14 juin CHF Agility SC RHONE ALPES ANNONNAY
dim. 15 juin
dim. 22 juin CC LA ROCHELLE HCC SURGERES (en faveur Solidarité Agility) SURGERES J. VASSEROT 1 hr 20 mins
sam. 5 juil. finale GPF ???
dim. 06 juil.
dim. 13 juil. ?
2/3 août BER PONS 1 hr 20 mins
sam. 9 août FINALE Trophé par équipe St HUBERT DU NORD
dim. 10 août
dim. 17 août CC CRCT LA ROCHELLE LAGORD N. RENAUD 1 hr 45 mins
dim. 24 août
sam. 06 sept. 4 PAT CLUB ST BENOIT 1 hr 5 mins
dim. 07 sept CC S. FELIX / M. PERRAIN 1 hr 5 mins
dim. 21 sept CC A.C.C C 17 / CCEA BRIE  ST SAUVEUR D'AUNIS / MONTMOREAU  E. COURANT  / R. MOREAU 1 hr 26 mins
dim. 27 sept
dim. 05 oct. CC ACCN ECHILLAIS ECHILLAIS M. DURIEUX 1 hr 36 mins
dim. 11 oct CC CHERVEUX AEC CHERVEUX M. PERRAIN 1 hr 34 mins
sam. 18 oct POITIERS
dim. 19 oct
 dim. 23 nov. CC CANIKAZES COGNAC centre équestre BOUSSAC 1 hr

Anyway, frustration apart (still on agility folks  so NON agility folk still keep skipping down) I have decided to attend the local shows with Boq. I haven’t the heart to take Stitch as he would expect to run, but Boq needs the socialization. So, agility show update coming on.

Since my last report I have been to two others. One Montignac (my own club) and CCEA 16 at Brie (30 minutes away) I have said before and I will say it again. French agility is like being in an agility time warp…..but for us “older” competitors out there, that’s not a bad thing. Both our Club, and Brie only had one ring, one Judge, and less than 100 competitors TOTAL.  Small really IS beautiful sometimes, the handling finesse of agility champions wasn’t there, granted, but there was some good old fashioned atmosphere.   No electronic timing, a counted table and as I have said before some good old fashioned “banter” from both inside and outside the ring, Judge, competitors and audience alike. It had a feel good factor that I am comfortable with, the standard wasn’t amazing, the courses rather “strange” in concept, but there was plenty of camaraderie and agility spirit. I wandered around with Boq and many people struck up conversations with me, despite the fact that I obviously WAS an outsider,(hell my dog was wearing a SWAG “halti” that’s enough reason for a good old discussion on equipment……was it a muzzle ??? What did it DO ???)   I find it refreshing that people really TRY and encourage dialogue with you, despite the fact that I am so terribly bad at getting my points across. Whatever I can say about the lack of positive reinforcement(as we know it) and lack of systemic methods, you cannot take away from the French that they enthuse about their agility, and they seem more able to cope with things not panning out in the ring, than their English counterparts.  I watched for four hours, (give or take), ringside and there was not a strop to be seen, and heaven knows the clears were hardly forthcoming !!!!   I await my opportunity to join them with great anticipation and interest.

Here are some photos of our show.   

"proper" barriers

No rosettes- just trophies

Fibre glass contact equipment by the way
Interesting approaches 18 jump to A frame 19 !

Ring side "pop-up" tents
So what do the next few months hold ?? Lot of sunshine if the thermometer in the garden is anything to go by this bright Spring day…had a couple of 28 deg's in the last few days, the dogs are beginning to acclimatize, but me…..not so much.  Boq will be 1 year old on the 12th May. He really is the most incredible little fella,I love him dearly. He reminds me of Tod everyday, there is a gormlessness and an innocence on one hand  and yet the wildness and drive on the other that keeps me wondering(just like Tod) if I get Jeykll or Hyde on any given day. Can’t wait to have him up and running…..he is going to be a lot of fun.  Training my first “distance” dog is rather strange, I was born and bred a runner, to be using deceleration and distance control on a regular basis is ALIEN in the extreme, but he’s the right dog for the task, he loves working away from me, and has a broad knowledge of technical skill for one so young. There really isn’t anything I can’t “do” with him, once he is able to learn the finishing skill like the tyre,the weaves and the full contacts he should be a very handy guy to have with you in the ring. Not exocet  missile materiel yet but I think it’s there. We’ll see, at least he’s stealthy, you won’t hear HIM coming….unlike Stitch lol.

My son Paul will be racing the Isle of Man TT this year on the sidecars, I wish I could go to support him, he has been racing since he was 18(eight years) and although has qualified several times,fate has always “stepped in” and prevented him. Prehaps this year he will get his chance. I might be peeking out from behind my fingers, it’s “well scary”.  

Good luck lads ♥

Well folks, my garden, and my wildlife awaits. Blue tit’s in the nesting boxes, most of the birds in the neighbourhood have “Phee fur” lined nests…I knew her “summer” clip would be appreciated by more than just her. Tomato plants are in, a few bedding plants are braving the slugs, snails (and Boq if I am honest).  Hopefully have a bit of a show later in the year.
I won’t leave it so long next time….promise.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Merde………and other “mot grossier”

Fed up, must keep weight off ankle, foot elevated, …..I feel a blog coming on !!!.
I start by asking, when I have clambered all over the French Countryside, over mud, gravel and rocks, the size of THIS, 

how you can you nearly break your ankle walking down a flat, hazard free road ?.  Well you can, and my first experience of nearly breaking something, in 53 years of life on this planet is that it is, 1)Bloody painful, and, 2) is really expensive if you have not already gained your Carte Vitale, which I haven’t.  Still, claiming on my E111, the process of seeing the Doctor, (23 Euros), having seven X-rays (Free !!!) and getting a prescription (212 Euros, gasp !!!!) was a remarkably quick and simple one, even if it left my Bank Manager gasping. I will be jogging down to my nearest Social Security Office to enrol and get my Carte Vitale, and the compulsory health insurance, as soon as I am able. But at the moment I am stranded on my settee. The dogs are not impressed, but I have already started planning the “moves” I can teach Boq, from a garden chair strategically placed outside, after all, I did WANT distance control, trouble is, my OH can already see me eyeing the door for escape, guess I will have to wait until he goes out shopping, or send him on some other ruse. Mwahhhhhh.

So my blog today is about one of my favourite subjects, and I make no apologies, as, having only just started to get excited about the prospects in the New Year, I now have had water tipped on my little parade, so, to cheer myself up,yes, I am talking about AGILITY . You see, I actually MADE it to a show before my little catastrophe, albeit not in a competitive capacity, but I did go and watch, so I could relay my findings.

Now you already know the problems I have encountered with my local fellow enthusiasts. ie:they appear to be in a handling timewarp from the early 90’s, but this apart, they are a jolly bunch and every bit as competitive as you and I, so I thought I would see what was what.

The Cani’zazes Club of Cognac’s November show (see what they have done with that – their logo is a little Ninja Dog in a Brandy Glass) was at an Equestrian Centre at Broussac, just outside Cognac, about an hour from my cottage. About 5 people I know were going, and much like our shows, the “kick off” was at 8.00am. I decided to trundle along at 10.30am (well I wasn’t running a dog) to get an idea of the setup. This was a National Competition, open to all, so I imagined the place would be heaving with people, so imagine my surprise when I rolled into the Car Park at 10.30 only to find that the vehicular “contents” of the Car Park looked like the line up at a local Community Centre, not a “dog wagon” in sight !!. In fact, upon a tour of the aforementioned Car Park , cunningly disguised as a walk with Boq, who I took, so I wouldn’t blow my cover….(I didn’t take Stitch, as he would have got too excited and couldn’t have run, so it wasn’t fair)  I found my own car was the only one with a crate, or dog guard, of any description. I chuckled to myself at the amount of really flash motors, BMWs and Mercs, with dogs lounging on their back seats. Upon further investigation I found that the Motorhomes, housing the folk from further field, were secreted around the back. This looked more like what I’m used to……….that’s if what I was used to seeing amounted to less than 10, hardly a huge turnout.!

Anyway,having replaced Boq in the car, I decided to go for a quick recce, and locate the toilets, (always an exciting prospect in France, as you never know if it’s Unisex, or a hole in the ground,… the ones on this occasion were separate and very modern) and also the Hot Food Facilities (let’s face it, a Bacon Butty is a MUST on a cold November Show day) The interior of the canteen, looked like a lot of the UKA events I have had the privilege(!) of attending, and was full of,awards ,Officials, and Laptops, being feverishly typed on. Heaven knows why everyone seemed so busy, I had seen the size of the entry on the blackboards outside the restaurant. Total entry: 70 and 7 Juniors  !!!  The food looked “good enough to eat” and reasonably priced, indeed you could “book” a repas ahead of time at twelve euros a head. I however had taken my usual agility lunch, Sandwiches, crisps, chocolate, biscuits, flask and a Red Bull for the drive home. Guess I am going to have to “continental” this up in the future……..

Now from what I gather, if you have Pedigree dog you get more runs, less with rejects like Stitch and to enter you have to 1) belong to a club 2) have your Carte de Base, obtainable by passing a test with your Club, checking your ability to compete, and also your dogs’ temperament. Having received your Carte de Base, you then receive an Annual Certificate issued by the French Governing body, the CNEAC.,then you are “good to go” …..for your Club and region, but as far as I can see,NOT as an individual. Will be checking on this as I go, don’t quote me on it, as I have yet to see the system in action. I have tried to find out at what level my grade seven,(with 65 wins to his name), will come in ?? but as of yet they seems undecided, so I will go where I’m told, it seems only polite, their country, their rules and all that !!!

So the show in action, what did I see.?? Well it wasn’t what I saw, but more like what I HEARD. Apparently “double handling” AKA outside assistance, has not yet been disallowed by our French contingent, heckling and giving folk a “head up” to a broken wait is common practice, indeed the Judge in our ring was kitted up like Madonna, and both hand signaled and commentated on the dog in his ring himself !. Unreal !!. 

The courses, as far as I could see,seemed the same sort of thing for all, heights, FOUR, although I wouldn’t have to worry about Stitch making Medium (B) here….it’s 47 cms not 43. The fourth height (D) is for HUGE dogs, Great Danes and the like. Lunchtime, 1 hour, and a complete standstill in both rings, bang on 12. A relief to me as I’d imagined they would take the same TWO hours they do in the shops everyday. I couldn't get over what a family affair it all seemed to be, most competitors brought their husband,or wife, children and Grandparents, all easily identified by their completely inappropriate attire. Each dog seemed to have a “team” behind them, more “grooms” than I have ever seen at any of our events.

At lunchtime, those that didn't go to the canteen, set up “Club” tables in the Car Park and drank wine and ate picnics, even though it was about -2 with the windchill that day !!! Nobody seemed to be on their own……..well, expect me…I was throwing a ball for Boq in the exercise area, being made very aware nobody else used it for the whole hour……..side note: sings ”All by myself” in a plaintiff voice, little “Guillaume no mates”
Once I finished lunch, I watched another hour of competition, and then made my way back to a warm fire, and a hearty stew, so what was my summary of Agility “the French way” ? 

I attach a copy of the Schedule, and a couple of photos (above) to complete the picture, so you can get the feel. also the results from the show are at:

For the really curious please take a look at the size of the classes and the overall performances. You need 3 “Excellents” by three different Judges to go up a degree(Grade)…so if they insist in putting Stitch in at 1 degree (that will make me popular !!) I guess I will find out how quickly this might happen. Watch this space bearing in mind this was a big show!!

If I apply the same two hour driving radius I used to apply in the UK, (in my early years….coz let’s face it I would go anywhere for a fix in the latter years, lol)and if my club allows me, (that just sounds weird) I could do twenty shows next year, not including our Clubs OWN show, which I have been told you are not allowed to compete in as you are expected to help. Aaaaaah !!!.  But enough to keep this old biddy happy I think you’ll agree, IF and that’s a BIG “if”, I enjoy it. As you may not be aware, I don’t actually like UKA shows(just my humble opinion guys), I much prefer Kennel Club, so if the French show’s are a more like UKA I might find it hard to really enjoy. We’ll see. I will still have my August Holiday in Grande-Bretagne to look forward to. I will have to compete for France at the KCI Festival, though, as my dogs live there one presumes….that’s ok, I fancy a bit of Outside Assistance, now and then. 

So on to news outside of Agility,..... who said that ??? 

Two of the things that typify Frenchness that have been lacking at Le Tardis are: a proper post box and a left hand drive car,these things have been rectified this last week.

When we were cutting up wood for the wood burner the other day,imagine our surprise when Mr "La Postes' " head appeared over the gate waving a rather crumpled packet. He explained in French(no surprise there) that he was somewhat struggling with our postbox. You see, as initially we had this cottage as a residence secondaire,(holiday home) we never bothered to put up a French Box and opted for a small letterbox,this allowed delivery of small letters(a rarity as all our bills went to England),and kept out "PUB" (leaflets and junk mail) Job done.

Now we live here its a different prospect,and French Boxes have a skeleton key,which the postman can use to open all the boxes, and leave small parcels. 

Voila our new box.....sad the things that excite you !!

And the car……. I’m sorry to have to part with my Doblo, I have had it since Lesley had her Transit, and therefore could fit all our dogs in it, allowing me for the first time since my discovery of the sport to have a normal car……with crates of course. Six years on it remains a brilliant workhorse,has sailed through every MOT and done lots of holiday runs up and down to Le Tardis. I love it….so why the change ??? Well the biggest problem, obviously, is having the steering next to the kerb. This can be easily managed with two in the car, as the person on the left can do the job of the driver(if you trust them) when overtaking but if you are in the car on your own and get behind a “Convoi exceptionnel” ie: a combine harvester, you try sticking your nose out far enough to actually SEE whats coming the other way….cannot be done, not safely. On my way to the show the other day I spent 7 kilometres behind one at 18 miles per hour. That was enough to have me looking on forecourts by the following weekend.

At first I was very very tempted to go back to a dog wagon, I saw a smashing 6 seater Citreon Jumpy(a tarted up Dispatch) which was the Modern Fiat Scudo shape, in my price range, good mileage, but could I get it in my gateway easily ???? When I had my Pick-up truck here back in the day, I could get it in, but it was a right pain in the derriere, I spent most of my time leaving it at the end of the road, so something held me back. The garage was closed on Sunday,you do get the impression out here sometimes that no one is actually trying to sell anything. What huge dealership do YOU know that closes from 12-2 daily and stays closed on a Sunday ??? Exactly !

So we did the tour of the other garages in Angouleme while they were closed, and found two Doblo’s that appealed to my other half  at the Fiat,Lancia,and Alfa Romeo garage. He also fell in love with a couple of red Alfa’s but you couldn’t have got any dogs in them.
With these to think about we went home to mull it over. I still wanted the Jumpy(old habits die hard) and my OH wanted the Doblo, so on Monday morning we went back down to test drive them both. Trouble was, the Jumpy had gone,sold not an hour hence, and as a big believer in fate I knew what this meant so……….. welcome our new Doblo. 


Picking it up on the 11th December,although now,ironically,I won't be driving it until after my ankle heals
It makes sense really as I have to admit I am very happy with the one I have,if it weren't for the fact the is was RHD I wouldn't be parting with it and I daresay I would have kept it til the bitter end but hey ho this one has a few "new" bits,rear sensors and cruise control, I will be bringing the other one back in February to find a new home,I will shed a few tears doubtlessly, so if you know anyone whose looking......... 

Well I'm off to watch some trashy daytime T.V.