Thursday, December 27, 2007

A belated merry Christmas

I hope Christmas brought you everything you hoped for and more. All the best for 2008!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Further tales of the Grey Mare

The Grey Mare has been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in one of the bones of her foot. Her treatment was a steroid injection into the coffin joint in her foot to bring down the inflammation, plus an expensive joint food supplement for life. Being the sort of horse mother I am, I have also bought her some magnetic boots.

She has been sound now for around six weeks. She was sound when she went into the vet for her injection three weeks ago. My vet had warned me there were certain risks associated with this procedure, not least the nasty things that can happen if infection gets into the joint because of the injection. I closed my mind to this, and thought happy thoughts.

Fortunately, my Horse and Hound was delivered a day later than usual that week. I think the fates were being kind to me, because hours after the she'd been for the treatment I sat in the bath reading that week's veterinary article which just happened to be a very frightening rundown of what happens when such a procedure goes wrong.

Luckily, it didn't go wrong. Madam is now out in the field during the day and in the stable at night. Last weekend, I started riding her. We will have to walk for around a month to build up her muscles again. Today, we have been for a power walk around the adjoining two fields.

On Wednesday, we had the farrier and because the Hunt was in the area and liable to send her doolally, she only had a couple of hours in the field. Consequently, on Thursday she did go doolally when I turned her out: cantering, squeaking (you should hear her squeak) and bucking with excitement. No one, it seems, has told her that she has arthritis.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


My month's notice was up today at work and I am free. I have felt demob happy for the past week or so, a feeling that has grown as my leaving date approached and the amount of work I had to do dwindled. Today, I have written around eight useful paragraphs; yesterday wasn't much more productive. I feel I would have been better employed staying at home.

Instead, I played a few rounds of word association email with my editor. The final one started with Stalin and ended with golf, meandering via The Ronettes, Rowan Atkinson and Marmite on the way. I then had my own meander round t'internet, starting again from Comrade Stalin, via the Cold War to the BBC's espionage timeline which was a wonderful launch pad into the world of the Cambridge spies (I had an art teacher who claimed to have been taught by Anthony Blunt: "I always thought he was shifty" she used to say), through death by umbrella at London bus stops to David Shayler, who I recalled had recently developed something of the David Ickes.

I interviewed David Icke many moons ago, when he was on a speaking tour. This was when he was in his turquoise shellsuit phase before he decided that the world was ruled by an elite group of giant lizards. Although he had not reached that point, he was on the brink: he didn't once look at me when answering my questions, rather he gazed at a distant corner of the ceiling as though channelling proclamations from the mothership.

However, after setting off on the trail of Mr Shayler, I believe that rather than being touched by the David Ickes, he has been touched by tongue-in-cheekism. His website ('I'm Brian and so is my wife') has convinced me of that. I almost emailed him to thank him for cheering up a turgid Tuesday afternoon.

I then spent a pleasant 10 minutes munching cherry liqueur chocolates and gazing out of the window, imagining my life as a spy. However, I must realistically conclude that after a few G&Ts, I may be as indiscreet as the talkative Mr Shayler.

So, rather than MI5 or 6, it's back to the world of straight journalism in the New Year for me. But now I must dash - Spooks starts shortly .....

Friday, December 14, 2007


I have never had a problem with the Russians. OK, so Vladimir Putin reminds me of an archetypal Bond villain but as a 1980s teenager, I found Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher a more frightening prospect than the USSR. I even wore a hammer and sickle badge on occasion.

But I’ve recently discovered something that has made me rather cross with Russia. It has nothing to do with poisoned spies, but rather a poor little dog that died 50 years ago. I was vaguely aware that the first living creature sent into Space from Earth was a Russian dog, and that the dog died. But I didn’t realise the dog was deliberately sent to her death with no intention of bringing her back.

I’ve missed the 50th anniversary of Laika becoming the first animal sent into Space – that happened at the start of November. In 1957, she was blasted off in Sputnik 2, around a month after Sputnik became the first satellite sent into orbit. That first satellite hadn’t even come down before they sent up another one with a living animal on board. And they seem to have done it so quickly to satisfy the vanity of Krushchev, who wanted a grand gesture to mark the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution.

I can’t understand why the people who trained the space dogs – and there were a fair few canine cosmonauts - didn’t stop and think about what they were doing. How can you justify sending an animal to certain death when you have built a relationship with it? And they must have had a relationship with the little dog. Did no one step back and say: “Hang on a minute, this is inhumane?” Did no one say: “Hang on a minute, dogs’ bodies work differently to ours?”

As it was, Laika didn’t live for the four or so days the world was told; malfunctions in the equipment supposed to keep her alive meant the tiny cabin she was strapped into became hotter and hotter and
she died within hours of stress and overheating.

Now, one of the scientists responsible for sending her to her death says: “The more time passes, the more I'm sorry about it. We shouldn't have done it... We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog.” At least he had a choice; Laika didn't. I hope the guilt never leaves him.