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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Hayling Island

Walking The Dog 8

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If I was to say that I bumped into Capone on the foreshore posing as a Japanese tourist you’d say I’d flipped.  Were I to propose that some 30 exotic herons were nesting at Langstone millpond you might think I was exaggerating. To say that the maize in the field next to my house grew a foot in the space of one humid Saturday…

Well it’s all true.  Unfortunately, my greedy anticipation of some innocent scrumping in the sweetcorn field has been thwarted.  A previous pilferer assures me that it’s cattle feed and the more you boil the cobs the harder they become.  It does amaze me though, the way this stuff reaches for the sky.  Planted in May as two or three inch shoots it now averages a foot above my head and, yes, on that very hot and humid Saturday it put on a full twelve inches.

Behind Langstone millpond I counted 28 little egrets nesting in the broadleaved trees. This feels more like something that you might see in the African bush but there they are, distracting me as Carla’s beady eyes focus on the coots and mallards taunting her from the pond.  Little egrets were unseen in the UK until 20 years ago but now they seem to be taking over Chichester harbour due, we are told, to the effects of global warming.  I wonder when the ostriches and flamingoes are going to arrive?

As for Capone’s antics well I wish I’d had a camera to record them.  It was in the leg pocket of my trousers, the strap dangling carelessly.

As Capone put in another withering Ieuan Evans style run down the nearside wing he managed to pass his head through the camera strap.  The pocket was ripped clean off my trousers and as he felt the weight he came to a shuddering halt and turned back to look at me, my camera hanging round his neck.  He thought he was in trouble but not for long!

We’ve discovered a truly magical new walk recently.  It’s as close to virgin territory as you can get on the south coast.  I’m pretty sure that there’s no other humans have passed there in many months or even years, perhaps not since some maintenance work was last carried on the Thorney Island airfield approach lights.  Judging from their sorry condition that’s been a very, very long time.  It’s on the right side of the MOD boundary so I don’t think I’m in danger of being shot on sight.  It’s saltmarsh with acres of waist high grasses and patches of damp but parched and cracked mud that sounds hollow as you walk across it.  The dogs thunder across it sounding like a herd of buffalo and there’s a pair of herons, huge cormorants and shelducks always in the same place, vastly offended by our invasion.  Walking here is an overwhelmingly soothing experience.  Cares and worries just evaporate and I find myself returning to the car with a wide, involuntary and peaceful smile.

Only three days after that sweltering Saturday the temperature has dropped 10 degrees and out on the foreshore under thunderous skies there must be another 10 degrees of wind chill.  My two favourite dogs are about 40 yards out squabbling over a stick in the heavy chop that’s thrashing in from Hayling.

Rain or shine, calm or wind, it’s just perfect out there.

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Walking The Dog 6

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So in the fourth week of July, summer has finally decided to show its face and very welcome it is too.  But not for Capone.  When God invented dog he forgot the sweat glands and made do with a long, long tongue and a predilection to pant – sometimes very noisily.

In fact, Capone is far from the worst or loudest in this department although it does seem to be something that particularly afflicts Staffs and similar breeds.  I sat in the vets the other day and this poor animal sounded like it was being slowly strangled, gagging and panting as if on the point of death.

You have to be so careful when you leave them in the car in this weather.  Tescos provides very little shaded parking and even with two front windows left wide open, I have to be in and out in a flash.  The only alternative is to tie him to the hitching post outside (you know, where the cowboys tie up their horses) but Capone, being the superstar that he is, attracts so much attention, so many “oohs” and “aahs” that it can take twenty minutes to break out of the conversations and escape.

Other than the arrival of summer, there is some truly momentous news to impart.  Capone has a friend, a companion, a permanent partner.  She arrived just a few weeks ago and has the same provenance as him, rescued by special forces extraction from the hellhole known as West London.  Only nine months old, she too had spent her life locked in some grotty flat for twenty-three and a half hours a day, released only for a short walk to the fag shop and back.

Allow me to introduce you to Carla.  Yes, if President Sarkozy can have one so can I and she struts and preens and prances as any good supermodel should.

On arrival Capone thought I’d finally found him the teenage sex slave that we’ve both been hoping for but being a gentleman he soon relented and has given her a warm and loving welcome.  It has to be said that this is not always entirely deserved for she can be a right little bitch at times – and I am moderating my language as much as possible within the bounds of accuracy.

After a few weeks proper exercise with a little discipline and training she has developed into a delightful member of the family.  All credit has to go to Capone for his wonderful temperament, forbearance and patience.  Even when they are both exhausted from a lengthy walk, the exuberance of youth still causes her to clamp his leg in her jaws, chew on his cheek or plant her nether regions in his face in the hope of a little playtime.  They playfight and tumble, chase each other and fight endlessly over sticks but they are now firm friends.

At first, when the obligatory rich tea biscuits were handed out, Carla would snatch, grab and my fingers would be in great danger.  Now she accepts these sweetmeats with all the delicacy and elegance of Madame Sarkozy taking a spoonful of foie gras.

Capone has taught Carla to swim.  At first she would try to jump on his back, then after a few frantic paddles she would panic and return to shore.  To Capone’s consternation she has now become a faster swimmer than him and she delights in letting him set off then plunging in and overtaking him to retrieve the stick first.

There is a remedy for this which has to be applied regularly.  It involves a trip to the end of Hayling Island, out of the calm waters of Chichester harbour, to where the surf thunders in and for my best boy and girl, the waves are twice or three times their height.

Here Capone’s great bravery and strength triumphs.  He will go out through anything, rising and falling in the swell, capturing the stick and returning to the shore through the white water and massive undertow where a frantic, near hysterical Carla promptly steals it from him while he recovers.

Just like a woman – but she is our little girl.

Capone has a good laugh as Carla gets her first real swimming lesson

Capone has a good laugh as Carla gets her first real swimming lesson